LIVE: Homeshake, Divino Niño, and Pixel Grip Incite Déjà Vu to Past Generations of Music at The Empty Bottle
The Empty Bottle was a low-fi circus of sound Thursday night that showcased energy plucked from the musical influence of past eras — and a little of the future.
Pixel Grip’s debut at The Empty Bottle lived up to the darkwave disco hype with a sound crystallized somewhere between Sylvan Esso and LCD Soundsystem. Lead singer Rita Lukea gained confidence as the set progressed, doing away with the mic stand and commanding the space in towering white platform boots with razor-sharp black eyeliner and undercut to match. At her side, John Freund steered the synth ship through waves of 80s bubble-pop and sinister crunch, and Tyler Ommen joined the duo to hammer out drums.
Lukea’s syrupy sweet vocals and doll-like movements offset the sassy, backhanded lyrics of songs like new single “Right Side"; “You’re always so right, right /Always on the right, on the right side /I’m on the wrong side then, feeling left-minded.” And when the singer started quasi-rapping in French, the already-writhing crowd lost its shit. For their first show at the Bottle, Pixel Grip did more than hold their own in a star-studded lineup.
It was the second set, though, that stole the damn show. A Chicago favorite, Divino Niño lingers between the pop sound of a hip, Latino version of The Four Seasons and a seductive, psychedelic garage band.
The entire set felt like a dreamy island vacation, perhaps a wink at lead singer and guitarist Camilo Medina’s thigh tattoo, a little line-drawing of a sunset/palm tree on the ocean, that peeked out from his tiny, denim cutoffs. Medina’s a whammy master with a warm honey voice who romanced the crowd by pairing some seriously sexed-up hip manipulation with a quick thumb’s up and thank you after each song. Not to mention the English to Spanish and back again lyrics that oozed heartache and nostalgia.
The swaying harmonies from Medina, bassist Javier Forero and guitarist Guillermo Rodriguez on songs like “Uruguay” and “Tell Me” could heat up the prom slow-dance scenes of any cult classic in the best way. And the percussion was intricate to say the least, with the quartet’s drummer, Pierce Codina, flanked by two guests — one of which was Paul Cherry. Divino Niño’s sonic nod to the 60's that they refer to on their Facebook as “bootleg-ass-pop” felt more like floating on a cloud.
Just before midnight, the lights went down and the crowd fell in love all over again when Homeshake took the stage. As a bucket-hatted Peter Sagar began his synthy serenade of “Every Single Thing”, the packed space took on a collective groove. The former guitarist for Mac DeMarco definitely shares a sound with the artist, but adds his own low-fi spin with effects like warping his voice — even when talking to the crowd he sounded like a cartoon kitten or an anonymous source on Gangland. Sagar’s playful this way in his interaction with the crowd between songs, jumping from thanking to shushing them and met with laughter.
The Montreal-based quartet poured a thick molasses over the crowd with the R&B tropes found in latest release Fresh Air and stoner synths of previous works “Midnight Snack” and “In the Shower”. The sensual energy only intensified as what seemed like the entire crowd sang lyrics “kissing hugging making love and waking up and getting high” while head-bobbing in unison.
While each act incited definite déjà vu to past generations of music, they successfully — and seamlessly — spun exciting new webs of sound to encapsulate the crowd.
Thumbnail Photo Credit: Salina Ladha