Chicagoans know that in January there is a warm hope amid the bitter cold. That warm hope is brought to you by Schubas Tavern, Lincoln Hall and this year The Metro. January 12th marked the kick off of the seventh annual Chicago winter music festival, Tomorrow Never Knows. TNK brings together local and national indie musicians for a truly spectacular five days of music.
Thursday I found myself having dinner with Minneapolis violist Erica Burton, a musician colleague who plays with Jeremy Messersmith. Jeremy Messersmith was only one of the four artists performing that night. The night started out with the dreamy and whimsical melodies of local Chicago musician, Bone and Bell. Followed was Jeremy Messersmith, Sam Amidon and Marketa Irglova of The Swell Season.
Otis Redding’s, “Ain’t No Sunshine” played as the string section warmed up and the rest of Jeremy Messersmith’s band took the stage. Touring with two violin players, a violist and adding cello, Messersmith’s third album, The Reluctant Graveyard is a beautiful masterpiece. Once the seven musicians were situated and tuned Messersmith simply said, “Hi, I’m Jeremy Messersmith from Minnesota and we’re gonna rock for the next thirty minuets.” Rock they did, going from song to song in a beautiful, flawless arc. Starting with the catchy and upbeat, Lazy Bones.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVsxtZRLkaY]
Continuing on Messersmith and his band played eight more tracks from the album. The small string section brought an amazingly beautiful and haunting presence to Schubas sold out back room on “John the Determinist”. With lyrics, Hoping for a ghost inside the shell/But if it’s there it’s hidden well/All we are is ticks and tocks/Seconds in a pocket watch this song live is guaranteed to give you the shivers. By the seventh song Messersmith took a breather to explain “This album is eleven songs about Death and Dying. I guess I had nothing better to write about other than the graveyard across the street.” Don’t let the album title fool you, The Reluctant Graveyard isn’t all sad and depressing. It is filled with upbeat, catchy songs woven in-between simplistic blissful heart breaking ones.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2XdgMFffZU]
In a red plaid button down Sam Amidon took the stage with a banjo sining his beautiful folk/indie/experimental songs. Between songs he joked about how he “used to play in a band called The Swell Season” His voice is warm and enticing. His songs narrative, filled with experimental and abstract vocals. “This is the type of song where you take a walk in the woods with a bottle of wine. You have a friend in front of you and one behind you. And Ryan Seek-Rest is your friend ahead of you and he’s searching for this fluffy pillow for you” he said as he introduced one of his songs.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIIKHFN0svc]
“It’s thanks to your very own R.Kelly that we know truth.” he said as he introduced the song, “Relief”. On which he taught the crowd to sing the chorus with him. It was quite a beautiful treat for the senses to see Amidon on stage with an acoustic guitar, and the packed back room of Schubas all singing What a relief to know that we are one/What a relief to know that the war is over/What a relief to know that there’s an angel in the sky/What a relief to know that love is still alive.
Marketa Irglova and her six piece band complete with trumpet, saxophone, trombone and guest vocalists finished the evening. Irglova has a a beautiful quiet demeanor on stage which sets the tune for her dreamy and whimsical romantic songs.