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Event Tue Dec 18 2012
For what promised to be one of the better local outings for Chicago independent rock this year, garage-rock upstarts Outer Minds more than made good on the heaps of positive attention surrounding their pair of 2012 releases at Saturday night's stacked quadruple-bill at the Empty Bottle. Enlisting local peers Bare Mutants and Radar Eyes as openers, each of whom have been making noise of their own as of late, Saturday marked a celebration of the physical release of Outer Minds' latest LP, Behind The Mirror.
Blizzard Babies, a ukulele-toting punk outfit, set the night off at 10pm, blasting through a tightly coiled set of tunes indebted to "New York in the sixties, England in the seventies, New Zealand in the eighties, the Northwest in the nineties" according to the Babies themselves. Taking liberally from the punk/surf/garage feel of everyone from X to The Cramps to Vivian Girls, the group served as the perfect opener for a night of drunken stage banter, affectionately sloppy introductions and killer hooks.
Radar Eyes were next, affixing their Clean-indebted rock to the rafters and effectively raising the volume knob for the remainder of the night. Hitting a sweet spot between the Kilgour brothers' legendary washed-out jangle and the fangs-out power-punk of Jay Reatard, Radar Eyes had the place totally packed by 11pm. Standing (or gently moshing) shoulder to shoulder, the crowd was never too rowdy, as many were undoubtedly transfixed by the psyched-out barrage of sound coming from the stage. With earplugs readily available behind the bar, the Eyes' set gave more than a few reasons to snag a pair (this writer included.)
With two bands down, Bare Mutants hit the stage to offer up their blend of San Francisco psych-garage, reprising their seemingly go-to role as the Chicago independent rock scene's opening band of choice. Easily the most moody act of the night, and arguably the most eclectic, frontman Jered Gummere led the band through a variety of slow-burning psych tracks and a song he admitted sounded "like a Spin Doctors cover", with his downtrodden baritone evoking equal parts Matt Berninger and Ian Curtis. Flanked by former members of the 1900s and Mannequin Men (along with a smoke machine and a Farfisa organ), Gummere was mostly stoic and static on stage, letting the group's smart and affecting tambourine-aided ballads speak for themselves.
Last up was Outer Minds, whose rise over the past year can't really be underestimated. After releasing two LPs in 2012 alone, and with a confetti-blasting appearance at Pitchfork last summer, Outer Minds hit the stage a little after midnight and left little doubt a few minutes later that this was anyone's night but their own. Frontman Zach Medearis, hirsute and denim-adorned, has a slew of near-perfect psych jams to his name already, and brought a few of them out in Saturday night's set: "Charlemagne" takes as much from Nuggets as it does The Wipers, while the epic "We Are All Stone" was about as perfect of a closer as I've seen in a while. The band was in top form, with Mary McKane's deafening organ battling with Medearis's 12-string Danelectro chime throughout the night to towering effect. Running the gamut between the spazzed-out psych of Thee Oh Sees and something like a speed-addled Jefferson Airplane, Outer Minds offered the most memorable vocal hooks of the night, with the majority of the crowd shouting along to standout cuts like "Pleasure Cruise" and "Look Behind the Mirror." Wrapping up around 1am — with just over 3 hours of solid jams all told — Outer Minds left the stage with well-deserved grins. They killed it up there, and they knew it.