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Review Mon Mar 23 2015

Schubas Was Entranced By Craft Spells

craftspelle.jpg Craft Spells, primarily the project of Justin Paul Vallesteros, started out with some instantly great electronic pop. But in the three years between his debut Idle Labor and last year's Nausea, there was a shift to a more organic sound. Vallesteros produced a more mature tone than his first album by bringing in live instrumentation and writing songs for the piano. It was a change that showed just how diverse Craft Spells and the genre he operates in can be. Last week, Craft Spells was joined by The Bilinda Butchers and Tiny Fireflies at Schubas, where the three bands showed off how varied and interesting dreamy pop can be.

tiny fire flies2.jpgChicago based Tiny Fireflies started of the night with a set of really bright and beautiful songs. The band originally started out as a collaboration between local musicians Kristine and Lisle, but has grown to a fully formed project with a full length in the works. Although I wouldn't completely place the group under the shoegaze genre, it's had to deny the dreamy aspects in their songs that come fairly close. If anything their songs find themselves nestled in the brighter end of that musical spectrum, looking up toward the twinkling keyboard of Kristine and Lisle's gentle guitar. Songs like "Ghost" boast sad and regretful lyrics but are coupled with some beautiful uplifting music. It's that contrast that really makes the group stand out. Throughout the set Kristine was ever joyful and poppy between songs, charismatically announcing the upcoming track and declaring her enthusiasm for the rest of the bands of the night.

bilinda butchers.jpgFollowing the upbeat Tiny Fireflies were the fantastic The Bilinda Butchers. You would expect textured guitars and tender vocals drowning out in noise with a name taken from the lead singer of My Bloody Valentine and The Bilinda Butchers did not disappoint. Their songs take a very interesting and complex road considering that their debut Heaven is a concept album meant to soundtrack the diary of Nakajima Ume, a young woman living in Japan from 1836 to 1864. It's a heady notion, but one that the band takes on wholeheartedly. "Edo Method" best illustrates the marrying of The Bilinda Butcher's music and the concept, turning the song into a tragic tale of love. Lead singer Michal Palmer's voice has a very ethereal quality to it that often finds itself barely able escape the band's massive instrumentation, particularly Ryan Wansley's drumming. Their set was a consistent barrage of beautiful sounds. At the end of their set I was left wanting more of those immersive sounds.

Throughout the night it was pretty obvious how much the crowd and band wanted to see Craft Spells. Echoes of crushes over Justin Vallesteros during Tiny Fireflies and The Bilinda Butchers dedicated a song to the group. There is something incredibly magnetizing about the group. Vallesteros stood at the front of the crowd listening to the previous bands, wearing a simple jacket and cap and looking completely unassuming. Barely anyone really notice him until the second he came on stage. Thats when the crowd instantly lit up. There was no grand transformation going from off stage to on, instead it was Vallestros genuine and peculiar charisma being cast under Schubas cool lights that simply heighten his and the band's allure.

craftspells1.jpgDespite all the natural charisma behind the group, it didn't take much to get to the first false start. There were a few missteps like that throughout the set with songs starting off a little rough or band members playing the completely wrong song, but it didn't distract from show. If anything it was laughed off by the group and crowd as part of Craft Spells charm and was more than made up for when they were really hitting it off. "Dwindle" and "Your Tomb" hits great highs while their respective lyrics border on extreme melancholically. Craft Spells have a way of binding their wistful soundscapes to their lyrics with a delicate balance that they race through live.

The band is so much more energetic than their albums show them to be. Vallestros rocks out with the best of them and is just a joy to hear him banter between songs. He would utter approvals of the crowd like "You guys are doing really good", dedicate songs to friends in the crowd, and describe "Nausea" as a song about vaping. These quick little gestures were just odd enough to be fun and really endeared him to the already devoted crowd.

The encore came to fruition moments after the set with Vallestros insisting on stay put and just playing another two songs instead wandering around for a while. Vallestros picked two great songs off Craft Spells first album Idle Labor to finish of the set. "Scandiavian Crush" was dedicated to Sebulba, which depending on your knowledge of Star Wars is either off putting or randomly funny. The night filled with all of those little idiosyncrasies ended with the vacillating love of "Ramona". After the set Vallestros had a line of adoring fans waiting to get albums signed, take pictures, and speak to him. He was completely approachable and truly altruistic in giving his fans his time.

 
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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.

Read this feature »

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