If Bryan Ferry Crawled Out of a Tar Pit: The Buttertones Play Beat Kitchen

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Yesterday I ventured out into the suddenly chilly night, early in the is Fall of 2018 that saw the moon high and nearly full so the clouds around it lit like nightly fog. I went to see the Buttertones, from LA, when they rolled through Chicago in support of their 2018 album Midnight in a Moonless Dream. In years past, the band’s output has typically been surfy leaning indie rock with a punk edge and romantic lyrics, but this last record saw them incorporating a bit of a darker tinge – a bit more howling at the moon, which hung nearly full over Chicago last night.

The back room at Beat Kitchen was pretty full – of kids mostly, dressed in their own eclectic punk rock fantasy outfits, which is sometimes refreshing and relieving to see at a rock show today. So you know an extra layer of enthusiasm made the energy more fun and special, complete with dancing that wasn’t so much a mosh pit as it was possession by the slightly deranged rock ‘n’ roll. It got a little hot and one thing I noticed within the enthused fans was a security guard, I guess you could call him, bald, looking like Rob Halford in 2005, hovering over these kids and watching, kicking a couple out – this I did not like.

Wild Wing was on first and played a set of twisted and twangy garage rock, country-fried punk, lyrics delivered with a manic texan drawl behind a swirl of dusty distortion and a fantastically picked bass. Pretty cool, I’d say. Cool enough that I bought their record Doomed II Repeat from them at the merch table. It’s not too bad (I’m listening to it right now).

The Buttertones were next. They weaved through the packed in audience towards the stagw around 10:30, tuned and checked real quick, and started rolling. Allow me to describe their look first. Two guitarists (Dakota Böttcher and Richard Araiza, who also sings lead), a bass player (Sean Redman), drummer (Modeste Cobián, sax/keys (London Guzmån) to finish it up. All dressed in short sleeved, tucked in shirts buttoned all the way to the top, hair slicked back like GI Joes on leave – classic, but coupled with the music the Buttertones play, added was a layer of intensity that bordered the sexual, but ultimately remained fun.

Dominant in the set were tracks from the latest album – “Baby C4,” “Midnoght in a Moonless Dream,” and my favorite from the record “Brickhead.” They played thier modenr classics, “Orpheus Under the Influence” and “Matador” but not their certainly even more modern classic “Darling, I Need More Time” off of the new album, despite it being shouted a couple times from the crowd. Oh well. Their musicianship is top notch – Böttcher’s (who sang lead for a couple songs too) and Araiza’s guitars chimed and sparkled, or skipped and gnarled along with Redman’s pummeling bass that was more like a chugging motorcycle than a stringed instrument. What gives the Buttertones that extra slice of drama is the saxophone in almost every song, played last night like a melancholy screech that was oh so satisfying. Araiza’s voice is another distinguishing secret weapon of the band. It’s heavu with vibrato, it’s emotive – he sounds like if Bryan Ferry crawled out of the tar pits in an Alabamian swamp, joined a garage band to croon at the moon, and he knows how to charm.

Sometimes a show is interesting enough to temporarily take the audience somewhere else. Last night, under the spooky moon and the pink string lights in Beat Kitchen’s back room, we were no longer in 50 degree Chicago, we were in a truck stop, a bar, a basement in the South’s goth rock and roll territory, just for a little bit. It was fun.

   <— Midnight in a Moonless Dream is out on Innovative Leisure.

   <— Doomed II Repeat is out on Mock Records.

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