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Dollar Signs
Show Review

Dollar Signs, Devon Kay & the Solutions, and Telethon in Chicago, IL

Dollar Signs FOREVER!

Photo: Mat Stokes

Lately, I’ve been trying this new thing where I leave the house and spend time with other people besides my wife, my dog, or my books. However, when I rolled out of bed on Thursday February 7th, I couldn’t wait to not leave the house. It was already freezing that day and only supposed get colder and windier. The perfect time for hearty beef stew and cider followed by blankets and Netflix. That all changed with a simple check of my phone. You see, the show I somehow convinced myself that I would be attending on Saturday was actually in a few hours.


Obviously, I’m not going to miss Dollar Signs. They’re one of the few bands these days who could get me to shift gears and drag my homebody ass away from prime cocoon time on such short notice. This Will Haunt Me was one of my absolute favorite releases of last year, or many of the last 30, for that matter. Plus, it’s been a number of years since someone said that Devon Kay & the Solutions was playing in town and that definitely piqued my interest.

Kicking things off were a band of youths called The Magnifiers. I was babysitting stew on the stove and my ride to Cobra Lounge got super lost, so I didn’t arrive in time to catch their set. I sure did hear lots of folks talking about how hard they rocked, though. Supposedly they have a video doing a really good cover of a Direct Hit song that upon viewing, Devon insisted they open things up. That’s also when I realized this was an All Ages show. That seemed weird for Cobra, but welcome. It seemed like the most intense fans that night came with The Magnifiers. And, by “intense” I mean had mohawks and danced and made the show more fun.

As far as bands I got there in time to see, first of them was Telethon. I didn’t make the connection that night, but I have been spinning their album from last year, Modern Abrasive, pretty frequently lately thanks to a recommendation from Spotify. I checked them out on a whim and was blown away. My first thought was this is what it would sound like if Ted Leo and The World/Inferno Friendship Society got together to write a musical. Not many bands can be described as zany, but that sums up Telethon in a nutshell. My friend Ian who was on tour with Devon, (seen below playing trumpet), told me to keep my eye on them after catching their set the night before. If my brain was functioning that day, I would have remembered I knew some of their material and gotten properly! excited.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to be won over. Telethon’s antics and enthusiasm resonated perfectly with the crowd. So much so that they joined us in the pit for a bit. I’m a huge fan of adding more instruments to punk bands and not calling it ska — Reel Big Fish can have that label. It’s hard to deny the underlying influence the band draws from the genre, but upstrokes and xylophone just work so well together. I can’t tell you exactly what Telethon is, but I do know I want more.

Devon said it best that night when he remarked that it’s been a while since the Solutions have played a show in Chicago. According to Devon, we have Boston and Direct Hit! to thank for that. In the face of all of that, the world has been been graced with Devon Kay and the Solutions once again. Celebrating the release of their latest album, Yes I Can’t, Devon was back with a mostly new lineup and better than ever.

Carrying on the evening’s theme of many instruments while avoiding the S word, the Solutions now feature a brass section! This was a smart move. The songs have so much more oomph behind them. As Direct Hit! continues to push themselves to grow in their songwriting, it’s not surprising to see that rub off on Devon. I felt like I was seeing them again for the first time. Part of that goes to Joram for doing a fantastic job on bass and turning the energy up to 11 the whole set. Really, everyone was having a blast listening to the new songs and singing along to the old ones. I’m pumped about what’s to come for the band. Between this set, Yes I Can’t, and the possibility of another new record featuring this current lineup by the end of the year, there’s plenty to be jazzed about.

There really can’t be enough good things said about Dollar Signs. Their upfront approach to struggles with anxiety, depression, and the every day things that make life way harder than they should make them a band everyone can and should get into. It was Erik’s birthday that night and clearly folks came to party. Some kind soul brought a cake with “Dollar Signs Forever!” written on it which was later passed around and eaten by hand.

Nobody epitomizes whimsy and fun on stage like Dollar Signs and it was plenty infectious with the crowd. Their set was drawing far more from This Will Haunt Me than the last time they came to town as the band and the fans have had more time to spend with the songs. That suited me just fine as I said I am a huge fan of that record and hearing most if it in one sitting can only make that night better. Plus, we got a little taste of their latest EP, I Need Some Space, which caught me by surprise when it came out last month. The night ended with the traditional sing along “Holiday Inn” but this time featuring the additional horns of Jacob and Ian from earlier!

Shows like this are exactly what I love about seeing live music. I always forget how enjoyable it is to watch people having fun doing something they love. I will always be down to celebrate that kind of passion and I look forward to more good times from all of these bands. Ideally, in warmer climates when I’m finally ready to emerge from hibernation.

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