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Review Mon Aug 31 2015

The Mowgli's Bring the Heat of Love to Subterranean


It gets really hot inside Subterranean. The second-level balconies that line the walls make the main floor seem narrower than it actually is, and looking back from the middle of the fray it appears that people stretch back forever towards the bar. The music the huge, sweaty crowd is there to see holds the key to keeping them unified and distracted from what would otherwise be a horribly uncomfortable state. Fortunately, that's what The Mowgli's have made the theme of their career: sunny California love that brings people together and shines through all situations.

The opener, local act Brother George, set a fine tone for the evening with a forty-minute set of Oasis-meets-American road trip rock, complete with shimmery psychedelic organs, grungy guitar solos, and singer Sagan Jacobson's Liam Gallagher-esque wails. Once they departed and The Mowgli's descended Subterranean's iconic spiral staircase, I was amazed that all seven members of the band were able to fit on the cramped stage. In retrospect, though, it seems fitting that they performed in such close quarters. The Mowgli's dub themselves as a musical collective, a family that you can envision cramming into a modern-day recreation of the Merry Pranksters' van Furthur and singing along cheerfully to the radio as they cross the country. They were just as tightly packed as the audience at the Subterranean, and as a result were able to more completely share the experience of their performance.

Sweat poured down singer Colin Dieden's face from about midway through the set opener "Say It Just Say It" and, despite intensive toweling-offs by a roadie every ten minutes or so, he and his bandmates remained pretty much soaked through the entire time. But that's part of the musician's life, and when Dieden and Katie Earl, the band's other lead singer, shouted out to the crowd about the liquid effort shining on their skin, their sentiments and visible sacrifice united the throng.

Through it all, The Mowgli's were able to maintain the vivacious energy that stems from their penchant for singing in unison. Four of the seven band members--Dieden, Earl, and guitarists Josh Hogan and Spencer Trent--had microphones, and though they occasionally broke into soaring harmonies, they were at their most effective when they joined on the same note and invited the crowd to lift their voices into the effort. So many people chanting the blithe optimism of "Whatever Forever," the desperate yearning of "Sunlight," and the triumphant confidence of "I'm Good"--three standout tracks from The Mowgli's 2015 album Kids In Love--made the songs' messages resonate more powerfully within each audience member's chest. Love abounds on The Mowgli's recordings, which make for an ideal summer soundtrack that combines the carefree poppy melodies of Laurel Canyon folk-rock with modern indie production, but in a concert setting the shared experience between band and listeners tightens the bonds of affection preached in their music.

Beyond the bliss of the four-part campfire-style vocals, the band showcased its formidable instrumental talent. The rhythm section of bassist Matthew di Panni and drummer Andy Warren chugged along, almost completely blocked from sight by the front line of Hogan, Dieden, and Earl but making its presence felt on the hard-driving "Bad Dream" and the throbbing, trancelike "Love Is Easy," the latter of which centered on a single, repeated chord that gave the song the feel of a soothing, transcendental mantra. Keyboardist David Applebaum delicately textured the set, blending with the two (and often three, as Dieden played an acoustic on about half the songs) guitars to manufacture The Mowgli's powerful sound. Little intricacies laced the music from time to time--a shredding synth riff on "Bad Dream," the most pumped-up ukulele playing I've ever witnessed on "Whatever Forever," a pretty wordless melody on "Summertime"--but for the most part the band showcased an aesthetic of bright, swelling chords to accompany the wall of voices and beam straight, unfiltered sonic sunlight into the audience.

Between songs, Dieden and Earl interacted with the crowd to amplify the connection they were building. They seemed to genuinely love playing in Chicago (they had performed at Fashion Fest the previous day, which explains the one-off nature of last night's show), with Earl proclaiming her love for deep dish pizza and its ability to help one persevere through a horrid winter. At one point, she and Dieden got the crowd riled up because Applebaum was going to play guitar. "DAVE! DAVE! DAVE!" everyone chanted, and Hogan handed off his guitar to the keyboardist for "Love Me Anyway," which allowed Hogan and the two lead singers to leap around the stage with increased gusto. The highlight of the set, though, came from "San Francisco," the finale; Dieden, who had spent much of the set clinging to his microphone like it was anchoring him to the world, moved out into the fervor and let the fans do the singing for him as the rest of the band danced about on the stage. The seven members of The Mowgli's ascended off the stage for show, then returned to rowdy cheers and played "Shake Me Up," off of Kids in Love, live for the first time ever. Fittingly, they decided on the song after an impromptu huddle in the green room.

I can't read minds, but I'd guess that most everyone left Subterranean last night feeling happier and more optimistic than they were upon entry. The Mowgli's tend to do that--they're California through a rose-colored lens, and their music represents the undying spirit of love that needs only to be awoken in each person to make life more enjoyable. Of course, escaping to cooler temperatures probably contributed as well.

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dave / August 31, 2015 4:49 PM

Sagan Jacobson sings and plays guitar for Brother George. Daniel is on drums.

Gapers Block / September 2, 2015 8:14 AM

Thanks, Dave! This has been corrected.

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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 »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
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Boxx Magazine
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Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
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Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
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Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
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Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
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Theft Liable to Prosecution
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UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
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