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Review Thu Apr 17 2014
Arc Iris is a well-crafted tornado of musical genres, taking considerable cues from all over the place. One song can have a country twange while the next is a frenzied folk song you've never could have imagined. Jocie Adams, the group's unfathomably talented leader, has been compared to Joanna Newsom, Bjork, and countless others. The comparisons do very little to full grasp what is going on with Arc Iris. Their sound moves around so much that there is no telling where they will go and that is certainly what makes Arc Iris such a please to listen to. I had previously seen the band open for Nicole Atkins and immediately knew that I had to see them again. Luckily, Arc Iris had their CD release party at Schubas.
The Fruit Flies, a local Chicago duo Molly McCormick and Danni Parpan, started off the night quite nicely. I believe they were a late addition to the evening, so I was pleasantly surprised by their really catchy indie folk that one can't help but move along to. Songs like "Summer in the City" required a bit of crowd participation in the form of clapping throughout and It didn't take much convincing. The Fruit Flies have a fun stage presence, throwing out jokes at every possible opportunity. They are instantly lovable as they muse about being a package deal in McCormick's engagement or doing a comedy open mic later.
The Fruit Flies are truly funny. Their songs are peppered with a comic enthusiasm that somehow maintains an inherent sincerity. "Friend of a Friend" plays out an infinitely sweet story of a girl hiding her true feelings behind the guise of a friend. McCormick stops and stutters along, correcting slip ups that happen when trying to keep a secret at bay. Parpan switches between ukulele, wash board, and rain stick throughout the set, doling out quick jokes along the way. "Lies", which they introduced as witty joke of a song written for their mothers on Mother's Day, becomes this incredibly poignant song about growing up. The Fruit Flies are as earnest and talented as they are funny, which is a welcome combination.
Arc Iris came out dressed mostly in white. Drummer Ray Belli and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Rose look dapper while Zach Tenorio-Teller shines in glimmering sequins. Cellist Robin Ryczek wore a golden jacket that matched Jocie Adams sparkling bodysuit. Adams' looked graceful as she went up the steps at Schubas, arriving atop the stage looking like a golden idol amidst the leafy surroundings on stage. Arc Iris doesn't simply sing their songs; they perform them with the intensity of a Broadway show.
The set started with the "Ditch", feature lovely doo-wops from the band that can crack a smile on anyone's face. It takes no time at all to see that Arc Iris work incredibly well together, playing off each other with unbelievable ease. Belli's drumming was precise, Tenorio-Teller's keys were tapped with delight, Ryczek's cello soared, Rose and Adams constant changing of instruments was quick and seamless. Their cohesiveness was best displayed during a moment where Tenorio-Teller and Adam played keyboards in a near embrace.
The setlist spanned old and new songs, but mostly stuck to things that appeared on their great self titled debut. "Swimming" takes Adams' voice to powerful heights. "Powder Train" with its cocaine chats floats along with an unusual confidence, never questioning it's lyrics. "Canadian Cowboy" is a long and inspired song that has an old loving feeling to it. "Happy Thieves" was a nice surprise as it slowly built up into a fantastic folky song. "Sing So Sweetly", the first single of their debut, is the best representation of the band's live aura. It's a song that is filled with so much spirit, bouncing off the walls with and unrelenting jauntiness. I must have listened to that song dozens of times and still can't place it. I've described it with ever sprawling descriptions that never quite grasp its sensational tone. Cabaret, New Orleans blues, parade music that blasts loudly before gently falling to Adams tender voice. Arc Iris is a band that really can't be described simply or quickly. They are too dazzling and outright unique for simplicity and their show at Schubas displayed that.