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Review Sat Oct 25 2008

Review: Secret Machines @ Metro, 10/24

Secret Machines, Dears Metro

Secret Machines (photo by Kirstie Shanley)

If the Secret Machines didn't have such a strong reputation for putting on dynamic live shows, one would be inclined to believe that their stage setup at Friday's Metro show was just an elaborate distraction to keep the attention off of the music. But as they've proven at numerous Chicago shows over the last few years, they bring the heat on stage. However, what would be the fate of their music live without Benjamin Curtis, who left to concentrate on School of Seven Bells, and in support of their weakest release yet? Luckily, newcomer Phil Karnats fills in very well as Curtis' replacement. He is not just a hired gun; his play certainly fits the Secret Machines' style of psychedelic pop music.

Secret Machines, Dears Metro

The Dears, who opened and were neither exciting nor terrible (photo by Kirstie Shanley)

What was troubling, though, was the stark contrast between old and new material. When the band drew from old songs, they appeared energetic, even if they hardly moved from imaginary boundaries in their ribbon enclosure, and the audience was in their corner. Selections from 2004's Now Here is Nowhere, especially "Nowhere Again", were full and vibrant. The polarizing Ten Silver Drops' tunes sounded like powerhouses. On the other hand, songs from the new self-titled album were received with a smattering of applause and what seemed like general disinterest from much of the crowd, at least compared to everything else. The easy low points were "The Walls Are Starting to Crack" and the horrendous "The Fire Is Waiting" - an overblown homage to tedious 70s psych-rock that endangered life in Metro. Momentum that had been built between audience and band was gone three minutes into the dragging riffs and meandering percussion. Chatter all over Metro sparked up and minds wandered ("Why do they have far more amps than instruments?", "Is it raining outside again?", "Why has this guy just taken the same shot 50 times?"). It continued on and on, probably for fifteen minutes, even though it felt like much longer. And a show with a fast-approaching curfew leaves little time to dick around. When they mercifully stopped, the trio walked off the stage as if that was a suitable end.

Secret Machines, Dears Metro

Secret Machines (photo by Kirstie Shanley)

Now, I'm absolutely convinced that the roars that followed weren't for what had just happened but instead for what was about to happen. As bad as the set had ended, the inevitable encore was its perfect counter. "Alone, Jealous and Stoned", "Lightning Blue Eyes", and "First Wave Intact" (all old, of course) were amazing. It was like in the two minutes they were off stage they remembered how to excite a thousand people. They were heavy without trudging and meticulous without boring. Josh Garza had direction while brutalizing the drums. Phil Karnats and Brandon Curtis looked to be enjoying themselves. The audience was ecstatic as they rocked out. And that's how to end a performance.

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tankboy / October 27, 2008 9:45 AM

Dude, were we at the same show? that was by far the most energetic I've ever seen that band. And the new stuff killed live.

James / October 27, 2008 9:59 AM

I just didn't feel it from them like I once did, though it's also been a few years since I last saw them. First song from the new album did sound pretty good, yes, but no way those back-end clunkers should be played live, or at least in full.

Cirex / October 27, 2008 1:26 PM

I wasn't disinterested for a second.
I agree those were some long tunes...but not 15 minutes.
If you are wanting 3 minute pop tunes then yes, you will be disappointed.
It was Rock. It was Rock at it's finest. If you came to jam, then you left happy. If you came to hear your personal favorites...maybe not.
I left smiling ear to ear....I wanted no more....I spent my time and money well.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
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Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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