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Review Mon Sep 28 2015

Destroyer: Dark Lyrics and Bright Melodies in Thalia Hall's Old Opera House


Once Jennifer Castle stepped to the front of the stage, she strummed her hollow guitar and crowed in a country-inflected voice. The audience, sipping their Lagunita's or Oberons, filed into Thalia Hall's old and restored opera house, and at once quit talking. Castle set a calm tone for a Sunday night and brought the listeners back to a quieter time -- and she wouldn't have been out of place at Greenwich Village in the '60s.

A lilting flute and a steady electric bass accompanied Castle's folk pickings. "I don't care about money / I don't care about time / I don't care about reasons," she sang. Castle limited banter and jumped songs quickly, though not hastily. And not long after her group left stage, Destroyer's eight-man band tuned up like the beginning of an orchestra, making the opera house feel electric.

With such a large group, each instrument added texture to Destroyer's ambient wall of sound. A classical guitar, punchy drums, a trumpet, and tenor saxophone colored the songs, but Dan Bejar -- the man behind the moniker -- emphasized his singing above the ensemble.

At the same time, his performance cut out any room for nonsense, with no acknowledgment of the audience, and he cleanly executed each line. Bejar's curly black hair bounced as he lightly stepped around stage, he comes off as a melancholic poet against a very colorful and even at times cheerful instrumental backdrop. One of his guitarists gestured the "OK" sign with his fingers to the rhythm section after slaying the song "Kaputt."

Destroyer performed mostly from his latest record, Poison Season, which he released about a month ago. He also mixed up a few tunes from 2011's widely-acclaimed Kaputt, and the song "Shooting Rockets" from Trouble in Dreams.

The smooth saxophone filled a lot of space at the concert, but Destroyer doesn't play any Kenny G smooth jazz. In fact, the horns sound more like Clarence Clemons of Springsteen's E Street Band. And with a whiskey drink in hand, Bejar seems to be channeling Sinatra with his cool deliveries.

Bejar's a poet who has given up playing guitar onstage to focus on vocals. He does not so much croon so much as he tells stories. He paints pictures of Times Square, Chinatown, Bangkok while showing characters of an old world-weary man or guys chasing cocaine and other thrills. And he works within fiction.

He didn't so much crack a smile onstage, but played an encore and thanked the audience for coming out on a Sunday night. He played "Chinatown" and "Dream Lover," which roared the otherwise calm night into a sonorous chanson.

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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
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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