Bad Bad Hats Opens for San Fermin at Thalia Hall

Photos and review by Morgan Ciocca

Chicago is one of Bad Bad Hats’ “golden pin cities.”

Kerry Alexander, the indie rock trio’s lead vocalist and guitarist, said that she and her bandmate and husband Chris Hoge hang a map of the U.S. in their Minneapolis home, marking each city they play in with a push pin of a certain color corresponding to the amount of times they’ve played there. Chicago, a “gold pin city,” earned its stripes as one of the band’s favorites over the years; they have now played in Chicago upwards of 10 times and enjoy the city more every time.

Bad Bad Hats, an indie rock band who call Minneapolis, MN, home, is made up of Alexander, Hoge and drummer Con Davidson. The group released their debut EP “It Hurts” in 2013, followed by 2015 full-length album, “Psychic Reader,” and “Lightning Round” three years later. Most recently, Bad Bad Hats released their three-song “Wide Right” EP this past March.

Alexander’s honest lyrics reflect her genuine personality both on and off-stage. The sincerity Alexander evokes through her whimsical and elaborate lyrics sets Bad Bad Hats apart from the often synthetic stereotype which indie rock has appeared to accumulate.

Bad Bad Hats arrived at Thalia Hall for their eleventh Chicago performance as openers for Sam Fermin on Friday, Oct. 25. 

“We’re gonna play all the hits!” said Alexander as the band played out their short opening set.

Drawing inspiration from many different genres, Alexander notes many songs played on hit radio are about love and drugs. Though she herself has never been high, Alexander wanted to write a comparable song … but one more suitable to her own experiences. The product was “Nothing Gets Me High” – a title which, according to Alexander, “is literally true but also a metaphor.”

“Nothing Gets Me High” is Bad Bad Hats’ take on the realization that love can feel different throughout your life. She likens the song to the feeling of “listening to your mix CD that your crush made for you with nothing but Modest Mouse on it,” and noticing that something feels changed.

Taking a moment aside, Alexander explained to the audience the background of a song named after the major Chicago airport, “Midway.” She spends her fair share of time at Midway Airport, usually flying Southwest Airlines. “Midway,” which could be described as an ode to the airport, is a poignant reminiscence about the last place Alexander saw an old boyfriend.

Alexander’s clever lyricism is exemplified in “Midway,” most prominently in the repeating lines, “Midway between the end and the start, I cried like a baby, I tore you apart,” serving as both a nod toward the airport itself as well as a description of her past relationship.
Chicago is on Bad Bad Hats’ map, as they should in turn be on Chicago’s. A Thalia Hall security guard described the group aloud during the set as a “power trio.” This view is undoubtedly shared by many music listeners and critics alike. Alexander’s sincere and eccentric vocals paired with the band’s unique instrumental patterns stick in listeners’ heads. Pitchfork aptly describes Alexander as “an expert at translating her own experiences into poignant, universal stories.”  It is only a matter of time before Bad Bad Hats returns to Chicago, hopefully on their own headlining tour.

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