Sunset Rubdown
Empty Bottle; Chicago, IL

“Looks like it’s gonna be FULL Bottle tonight.” This barely clever but totally correct statement was made as I stood in line outside the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Hearing it made me excited. It may just be my own perception, but I always thought Sunset Rubdown have never received the full acclaim that their music warrants (despite consistently appearing on year-end lists), so I was ecstatic to see the strong turnout. In fact, I was especially excited to share the Spencer Krug Experience in a venue that seemed tailor made for them. The Empty Bottle is easily one of my favorite places in the Windy City: cozy, inviting, and intimate, in a way that most venues fail to even approximate. There is nary a bad seat in the house.

I've seen Sunset Rubdown a handful of times now, and I've concluded that, for them, the bigger the venue, the less interesting the show. This show did not break that mold. This time, I was close enough to keep my eyes locked on Krug’s eyes the whole show, which created a tension and connection that only venues like the Empty Bottle could recreate. I felt as if he was singing right to me, which, despite the cliché of that statement, is indicative of how engaging the performance was. The inherent nature of his songs almost necessitates this kind of intimacy. One of the highlights of the evening occurred when, after a guitar string broke, Krug played a slowed-down, quiet version of "I’ll Believe in Anything" -- a Wolf Parade song that was originally intended for Sunset Rubdown -- as the crowd sand along with every word. This moment would have been lost in any other venue.

The majority of the set was built around a handful of new songs, but despite the unfamiliarity, they managed to get the audience moving. Although the new songs replicate the elements that make Sunset Rubdown interesting in the first place, they also push their sound into interesting and exciting new territory. The band played them with the pride seen in a new mother’s eyes, yet there was also a nervous energy present: you could tell the band enjoyed playing the new songs, and they hoped you liked hearing them, too.

The remainder of the set was a showcase for the songs that we, as fans, have come to wholeheartedly embrace. "Mending of the Gown" was played with the reckless abandon that it deserves, while "Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days" was presented with the peculiar beauty that most of Krug’s songs possess. However, anticipation had built for a pair of songs that were continually being requested throughout the night: "Stadiums and Shrines II" and "Us Ones In Between." When these songs were finally played, the whole crowd breathed a sigh of relief. They were glorious, nakedly elegant, and gorgeously played. The whole venue shook with drums, rang with guitars, and overflowed with voices. Indeed, this was a good show, loud and raucous, and, unlike so many shows where the audience and artist are clearly distanced, this show felt unmistakably connected.

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