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Review Sun Oct 18 2015

BRONCHO Goes Bananas At Lincoln Hall

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Did I expect BRONCHO to rock? Oh yes. Did I expect frontman Ryan Lindsey to be so endearingly peculiar on stage? Not exactly. But it was fantastic.

Last night's Angry Orchard Bonnaroo Spotlight Series show at Lincoln Hall gave BRONCHO a convenient excuse to visit Chicago and prepare for another tour supporting their 2014 album Just Enough Hip to Be Woman. They put the exclamation point on an evening of carefree CBGB-type music, cheering up saddened Cubs fans and bringing out the blithely rebellious teen in every audience member.

The opening band, though, had the most to gain from the show. Local synth-rockers Sunjacket will get the opportunity to play Bonnaroo 2016 if they can beat out bands from Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, and Raleigh in an online vote, and last night was their pitch to the Chicago music-loving community. In an interview last week, Sunjacket told me they'd be premiering new material at the show, and that it would be far sparser and more electronic than their previous efforts. They backed that up with a set of seven percussive, sweeping songs that felt closer to post-rock than I would have expected. Drummer Garret Bodette, who was celebrating his birthday, emphatically pounded out industrial chirps and complex polyrhythms on a MIDI pad while guitarists/keyboardists Carl Hauck and Bryan Kveton shared vocal duties. At times their harmonies sounded a little off, but for the most part they utilized their voices beautifully as instruments that added to the dense bed of synths underlying the music. Given another eight months to practice--this was their first show with new bassist Jeff Rukes--Sunjacket would fit right in at Bonnaroo. Their sound is festival-level massive.

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Twinsmith, out of Omaha, followed Sunjacket with a set of similar length. They delivered a pleasant, if somewhat generic, indie rock sound with clear textural influence from Vampire Weekend and The Strokes. I found singer Jordan Smith's delivery too staccato to convey any sort of message, though his harmonies with Matt Regner produced some summery warmth. The redeeming aspect of Twinsmith's performace, though, was drummer Oliver J. Morgan. He drove every single song with a relentless positivity, a huge smile stretched across his face as he powered through dizzying fills and his limbs flailed with ecstatic purpose. As a reviewer I try to take in all aspects of a band's performance, but I found it difficult to drag my eyes and ears away from Morgan.

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The first thing I noticed about BRONCHO as they took the stage was that their outfits reflected their music. Guitarist Ben King came out in white high tops, skinny jeans, and a haircut straight out of A Flock of Seagulls, his shades slipping slowly down his nose as he pumped out jaunty new wave riffs. Bassist Penny Pitchlynn sported ripped jeans, an unremarkable black t-shirt, and Natalie Dormer-gone-rebel locks that befit her steady, hard-nosed punk playing. And Ryan Lindsey...well, I'm not exactly sure how to describe it. His shirt stretched almost to his knees, his guitar strap yanking it down to reveal his shoulder. He wore a sort of hemp jacket over it, with pajama pants tucked into socks and black Nikes. In short, he looked like a stoned hobo, and fittingly he played the crappiest-looking guitar I've ever seen played on any stage, let alone such a notable stage as Lincoln Hall. Just before he and the rest of BRONCHO launched into "What," the feedback got so bad that he had to undo his low E string to alleviate the shrieking of the amplifier.

But it perfectly fit the band's sound, which displayed the powerful influence of both classic punk rockers like The Ramones and new wave artistes like Talking Heads. Lindsey in particular seemed to channel aspects of David Byrne with his quirky, clipped vocal style. At times, he was hard to understand, but his body language said more than his lyrics ever could. Lindsey gazed out at the audience with a thousand-mile stare, jittering about like a madman and viciously tearing through guitar solos on songs like "Can't Get Past the Lips." Perhaps the strangest aspect of his showmanship, even more so than his absurd clothing, was his punctuation of the ends of songs with an "ooh, yeah, baby" delivered exactly the opposite way of Austin Powers. Occasionally he'd shake it up with a "ooh, gettin' shweaty, baby" (taking off his hemp jacket) or "ooh, freshen up, baby" (upon receiving a fresh Angry Orchard) or "ooh, Cubs, baby" (stalling as he fixed his guitar) or "ooh, last show with Twinsmith, got the blues, baby." He was absolutely mesmerizing.

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BRONCHO's music itself started within the sublime garage-y new wave sound the band achieved on Just Enough Hip to Be Woman. "NC-17" was among the highlights, with King and Pitchlynn providing stellar backing vocals over the danciest beat we got all evening, and "What" strutted through the crowd like a sexy teacher eliciting class participation in the earwormy chorus. As the show pressed onward, though, things descended deeper and deeper into a punk frenzy. Part of that may have been caused by the textbook punk couple dancing ecstatically in the middle of the floor (nearly ripping my head off with some careless elbows), but the music's increasing intensity definitely played some role. From the chuggy temporal nadir of "Taj Mahal" and its vague wonderment of "Is anyone still having sex," BRONCHO accelerated at a breakneck pace through the rest of the set, Pitchlynn and drummer Nathan Price keeping a tight rhythm as King and Lindsey blasted out chords above them and Lindsey's reedy voice rang out, barely intelligible over the hubbub. Gone was the peppiness of Just Enough Hip to Be Woman, replaced with the basement craziness of six straight songs from the band's far more punk-inclined 2013 LP Can't Get Past the Lips. It was nice to catch a glimpse of BRONCHO's early aesthetic before the band finished with "Class Historian," its biggest hit to date and undoubtedly indicative of where its music is headed.

BRONCHO has the pop sensibilities to craft hit songs, and when more people discover their music and decide to see them live, the band is beyond idiosyncratic enough to stand out and perpetuate the cycle of fandom. As for Sunjacket, playing at Bonnaroo 2016 would help get them on that track. You can vote for them here.

 
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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.

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