Concert Review + Photography: Sleeper Agent at Schubas (Chicago)

Sleeper Agent (Bowling Green, Kentucky)
June 27th, 2011
Schubas Tavern in Chicago, Illinois

Monday nights are tricky nights for shows. Let us not forget that The Taste of Chicago and free concerts in Millennium Park were among the other options for entertainment on Monday the 27th. I found myself in the backroom at Schubas Tavern and couldn’t have been happier with my decision. The band Sleeper Agent (taken from the Sci-Fi show, Battlestar Galactica) and the small crowd that turned out for the 18+ show rocked Schubas backroom. I don’t think “rocked” is the strongest term, because this band of six blew me away. These six from Bowling Green, Kentucky weren’t fazed at all by the small crowd. They played every song like the house was sold out; with the highest energy I’ve seen in a live show in a long time.

From first listen, to seeing them live their dancy, flirtatious garage pop sound transcends rock to a new level. Tony “Tutone” Smith provides lead guitar along with vocals with Alex “Kidd” Kandel on vocals. The rest of the band is Justin “Keyser” Wilson on drums, Lee “Grizzlee” Williams on bass, Scott” Saga” Gardner on the keys and Josh “Junior” Martin on guitars. What started out as Wilson and Smith a drums-and-guitar duo in 2008 is now Sleeper Agent. It’s hard to believe that only a year ago they played their first show, put out and eight-song-demo and caught the attention of producer, Jay Joyce (Emmylou Harris, The Whigs). Last July they were in the studio with Joyce producing their album, Celabrasion due to be released in August on the Mom + Pop record label.

Opening with the heavy pop rock “Shuga Cane” and “Love Blood”, Smith joked about his accident in the basement. “There are these signs everywhere saying ‘Watch your head’, but I had to pee and…” Kandel raised his bangs back to reveal his slightly bruised, still red forehead to the crowd. The platonic chemistry between Smith and Kandel is hard to ignore. Being the two singers of the group they play off each other, making jokes and playfully acting the most with each other on stage.

Sleeper Agent is a solid gold nugget of a rock band. They took a moment in after “Bottomed Out” to make jokes about Kanye West and Talyor Swift when one fan shouted, “More music!” “Okay, we get it, we don’t make good jokes.” Kandel laughed as they launched into “Proper Taste”. “There are a bunch of you guys dancing, this is awesome.” Smith said to the crowd after “Proper Taste”. Dancing is inevitable when you listen to Sleeper Agent. It’s easy to hear influences of The Strokes in some tracks with the strong guitar and percussion. Excited fans even managed to take mobile pictures while jumping and down on each other and screaming along with the songs. Kandel is a beautiful young lead singer, who looked like she stepped out of the grunge moment in her oversized flannel, skinny, torn jeans and long hair in her face. She may be young, but this girl is an outstanding performer. From tender moments during “Force a Smile” to rocking out like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on “Get It Daddy”.

“Thanks for coming to our recital.” Kandle laughed as the band went into “Far & Wide” and “Be My Monster” while jumping into the audience to close the night out. For more on Sleeper Agent visit Mom + Pop Music or their official website where you can listen to tracks, pre-order Celabrasion and even get a free download of “Get It Daddy”. Big things happened for Sleeper Agent in 2010 and their influence in rock music will change the will you listen to music in 2011.

Thoughts?