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Thursday, December 14

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Review Fri Jun 15 2012

Review: Battles @ Bottom Lounge

I didn't know quite what to expect going into Battles' headlining show at the Bottom Lounge last night. I'm not oblivious to the ever-growing cultish following the three-piece has here in Chicago though. So when the show was resceduled from June 2 and my evening was free I jumped at the chance to finally check them out live. I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into the show and I left not quite know how to describe it.

At first glance, Battles' live set up is a simple one. The only thing on stage that seems superfluous is drummer John Stanier's crash cymbal that sits atop a six-foot-tall stand. But you only think that until the beanstalk of a guy in front of you steps out the way and you realize that Ian Willams' keyboard artillery is a little more intense than you first thought. Then you notice the cowbell stashed in the corner. Then the lights go down and the two black rectangular spaceholders sitting behind the band's instruments come alive as full LED screens, swirling with flashes of color and images. Guitarist/bassist Dave Konopka starts interchanging four- and six-string guitars every few minutes. And, all along, everything is ridiculously coordinated, right down to the hits on that six-foot-tall cymbal.

The members of Battles remind me of those rockstars that feel they need to be weird simply because they're rockstars. Guys like Maynard James Keenan and Jack White come to mind. But, the fact that Battles haven't reached rockstar status makes their on-stage weirdness still somewhat earnest, mysterious and charming. There's dancing, inexplicable yelling and not a whole lot of chatter from the band members.

I'm not sure exactly how to describe Battles' live show but I will tell you this: Battles is not a rock band. They rock, that's for sure, but "rock" doesn't sum it up. Don't kid yourself, fans. This is a jam band--and I mean that in the best way. Perhaps if you stopped listening to Battles after their full-length debut, Mirrored, before they lost fourth member and sometimes-singer Tyondai Braxton, the phrase "rock band" might still apply. Once Glass Drop dropped though, the psychedelic overtones truly took hold.

The combined visual and audio experience wasn't lost on me--a first-time observer--for one moment, however, if you missed last night's rescheduled show I do offer some solace. My friend that accompanied me to the show regretfully admitted that this was no different than Battles' set at Pitchfork last summer. If you caught that set apparently you didn't miss much. So sit back and gear yourself up for the next full-length from this remarkable smart and unpredictable New York City-based band. It should be an ever wilder ride, both on record and live.

 
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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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