Around this time last year, I had never heard of or heard anything by Le Butcherettes until I found myself at their show in Chicago at Subterranean. The venue was packed and all I could see was a red shrouded figure, who seemed to be 80% legs, alternating between playing the guitar and the keyboard. That was the moment I fell in love with Teri Gender Bender, lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist/goddess of Le Butcherettes. When Riot Fest announced that the band would be headlining at Cobra Lounge on March 31st, I knew that I had to be there. Despite not having a concrete site to place any coverage at the time, I begged and those fine folks at Riot Fest took me at my word and let me cover the show.
The evening opened with Deanna Belos’ project, Sincere Engineer. Deanna did a marvelous job of handling the somewhat drunken crowd’s shouts and comments with awkward hilarity as she navigated from song to song. Sincere Engineer consists of an acoustic guitar, husky vocals, and wit dripping with slight self-loathing. The lyrics are at times sad and heartfelt, lonely while somehow making you feel less alone. While a sole singer/songwriter onstage opening a show could easily be lost in crowd’s intoxicated murmurs, Sincere Engineer’s lyrics commanded the audience’s attention throughout.
The second band of the evening was local indie rock band, Valaska. The fact that they had just returned from tour did not deter them from putting everything into their set tonight. Their songs are ambient and fragile with ebbs and flow of musical builds. While each song was performed with the whole of the four piece band, they still somehow retained the intimacy of a solo artist with merely an acoustic guitar. The whole set was so dreamy that it left the audience with a feeling of floating.
It was time. My reunion with Teri and her ferocious stage antics had begun. The band took to the stage with a massive wave of applause and shouts. They opened with “La Uva” and moved seamlessly into “Burn the Scab”. Teri ricocheted between the keyboard and her mic at front of the stage. She stomped, shouted, stared, and swayed all in 3″ (maybe 4″?) fire engine red heels. While she began to shed her olive green jumpsuit and reveal the red dress I was hoping to see, I found it hard to figure out where to focus my attention. The drummer hit the kit like she was punching some asshole in a bar fight. She never eased up. On the far side of the stage, the bassist hopped and bobbed while he also rotated between keys and bass. While I have only seen the band live twice now, what I have found is that Le Butcherettes’ live performances are similar in unpredictability to their songs. They weave when you expect them to be stoic. They duck when you’re sure they’re the one throwing the punch. The only thing that I have come to expect is to walk out of the venue in sheer awe.