Sometimes you see a lineup and just have to pause for a moment and appreciate how good it is. When I found out that Mutts & Murder By Death would be playing together at the Metro, my first reaction was shock that this hadn’t happened sooner. (This was followed immediately by relief that the show hadn’t passed, as is my luck so often). They both take an outlandish, don’t quite fit into a neat little genre approach to their music. Either can (and certainly has over the years) play with almost any band and not be the least bit out of place. It helps that the energy both Mutts and Murder By Death exude onstage is more than enough to make them the high points of any set in which they are involved. Not having caught up with either band in way longer than I realized, I was more than eager to get to the ghost town that is Wrigleyville after baseball season. Fun bonus points because this meant one more last chance to get something from the Taco Bell before it closes. *thoughts & prayers*
The last time I saw Mutts at the Metro was with Archie Powell & the Exports. I was so drunk I thought it would be a good idea to carry Archie around on my shoulders from the stage. It went about as well as you would expect. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. That’s just the kind of raucous spirit Mutts inspires. Picture someone who decided that Tom Waits was fine, but decided he needed to be way more positive, ten times louder, and write piano parts that, when played properly, result in significant damage to the instrument itself. Only then will you have a good idea of singer Mike Maimone’s approach to songwriting. With songs that champion the resilience of the human spirit carried triumphantly on the shoulders of three of the most talented and enthusiastic rockers Chicago has to offer, Mutts were as electric as ever opening the night up. I’ll admit that their extensive catalog has been too much for me to keep up with lately, but the introduction of new Mutts songs is always welcome. The offerings from their latest EP was no exception. Everyone fortunate enough to show up early was rewarded with the biggest smile plastered on their face by the end.
Even after so many years, there is fun to be had explaining to someone you are going to see a band called “Murder By Death” and that their music is way less terrible metal than the name suggests. It was a damn good day once I made that distinction. Who’s going to be foolish enough to pass on an indie folk band that writes dark songs haunted by an ethereal cello throughout? No one. That’s who. Murder By Death was stopping by that night to support their new album, The Other Shore. It seems like they always have a new record out. I guess when you live in Bloomington, IN and people are willing to throw money at you to put out new material, why wouldn’t you be as prolific as possible?
After a quick set change, Murder By Death took the stage and wasted no time getting down to business. They pulled heavily from the new record which can be risky for most bands. But when you are consistently writing at the level Murder By Death is, it’s just another day. I haven’t had a chance to spend a lot of time with The Other Shore, but after hearing the songs live, I plan to correct that asap. The new stuff transitions perfectly into more established jams like “Brother,” “Until Morale Improves,” “52 Ford,” and “Masters in Reverse Psychology.” The whole set felt like a celebration of Murder By Death’s long history of playing shows in Chicago. Touching on every album but their first, the crowd was engaged throughout and welcomed every entry into the set. Even when singer Adam Turla goofed and called himself out on it, the fans were forgiving. It was heartwarming to see so many people out to have a good time and enjoy one of the premier live acts around.
With the last vestiges of summer becoming a memory, I can’t think of a better soundtrack for the impending chill than Murder By Death. At neighboring bar, the GMan Tavern, before the show some people were so excited about what was to come, they loaded song after Murder By Death song on the jukebox. I was a few 10 High deep before I realized why I was enjoying the music so much. One of the nice things about getting older is not giving a shit about silly things like trying not to rush listening to a band an hour before I go see them. A show this promising doesn’t come along often and I didn’t have time to be brought down. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the next time Mutts or Murder By Death appear on a lineup I didn’t realize I needed in my life.
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