Live Review: Sound Team @ Schubas 2/9/06
The backwards, lame and/or bizarre rock show crowd phenomena I witness in Chicago always seem to happen at Schubas. Bands can go an entire set without one person standing, they can play to a group that seems embarrassed to clap between songs, or they can play to virtually no one at all. You can tell as much about a band by how it handles imperfect situations as you can by what it does at its summit, when it’s surrounded by high energy and ravenous fans. One such phenomena and one such tell surrounded the Sound Team show on the night in question. We’ve all witnessed and participated in the ignoring of the opening band. It’s not an uncommon event. What is more rare is when the opening band garners more attention than the headlining act, and a packed club that seems to promise intensity and insanity fizzles out by the time the fellows with the name in bold font on the concert poster take the stage. Local buzz act Bound Stems provided the warm-up for the Austin sextet and also stole its sweat; a wall-to-wall crowd thinned out and Sound Team took over the stage with little notice and opened its set to a crowd that seemed less motivated and more lingering. But I’ve seen worse crowds in my days of concert-going, and if this slight exodus was somewhat insulting Sound Team was unfazed. With six members the band has multiple personalities, multiple ways in which to express its passion and the result is somewhat intriguing. By the end of the opening tune it was apparent that the loiterers were going to be won over. The sound wasn’t perfect but Sound Team’s demeanor was spot on. We could have used a little more volume on Matt Oliver’s mike but his charmingly modest disposition made his presence as a front man quite tasty. Outside wet flurries had accumulated to maybe an eighth of an inch on the cold sidewalks of Belmont, and this Texas boy confessed, “I think this is the fourth time I’ve seen snow fall. Thanks for coming out. You’re very brave.” While the “blizzard” outside was perhaps daunting, inside Schubas Oliver maintained a rock ‘n’ roll coolness; with his curly hair, rolled-up sleeves and rigid but sexy stance he could have been Buddy Holly incarnate, sans cat-rimmed glasses and goofy grin. Trying to upstage him was bassist Bill Baird, who with his happy dance would have been quirky enough, but adding the tissue sticking out of his ears and his stare-downs with nonchalant guitarist Sam Sanford, he seemed nothing short of bonkers. Sanford himself spent the entire evening propped up against a pillar, and behind this spectacle was the wild Jordan R. Johns, banging his long hair around as much as his drumsticks, and also the new wave virtuosity that is the dueling tambourines and electronics of Michael Baird and Gabriel Pearlman. The Schubas stage is small and it’s difficult to imagine that so much could be going on during one performance, but Sound Team seemed unrestrained without appearing cramped, except perhaps on songs like “No More Birthdays” when Oliver had to climb back to his electric piano and sing hidden behind his band mates. But his enthusiasm never waned, and the set gained momentum as it progressed through tracks from the band’s various e.p.s, ending in all-out Moog pop rock with closer “Movie Monster.” The crowd inched toward the stage, and at the end of the forty minute set Sound Team had at least one new obsessive fan who, by the sound of his hoots and the look of his pointing finger, was convinced of the group’s possession of all that is real and necessary in rock ’n’ roll. I don’t think the alcohol was impairing his judgment. Sound Team might not have the capability to reinvent anything in the modern indie music scene, but it does appear that they have the will and energy to put on a tight little rock show, as long as there’s a stage and electricity and a person or two willing to give them the attention they deserve.