TNK Night 5: Buck Meek & Others Showcase Talent and Heart at Schubas Tavern

by Allison Lapinski; photos by Morgan Ciocca

Schubas Tavern hosted a folk-centered evening featuring Burr Oak, Bill MacKay, Twain, and headliner Buck Meek on January 19. As apart of the annual Tomorrow Never Knows festival, the four performances drew in an exceptional crowd of Chicagoans who left the doors of Schubas with a little more spirit and cheer than they entered with.

First up was local DIY-ers Burr Oak. Fronted by Savanna Dickhut, Burr Oak  is certainly folk and nature-inspired, with a twist of indie rock. After playing their two currently released songs released songs “Rosemary” and “Southsider,” the band shifted into newer material. Savanna evoked the voice of a young Alannis Morissette behind the microphone, bringing her lyrical power to life and love in the city. 

Next up was Chicagoan soloist Bill MacKay, who mesmerized the audience with his chord progressions on the electric guitar. Although the guitar amp seemed to hum a bit more than expected, MacKay paid no mind as he showcased his mastery over the instrument, ripping through his experimental folk-meets-psych reflections. With his final song “Slow Education,” MacKay paid tribute to the late David Berman of the Silver Jews. A friend of Berman’s and fellow musician signed to Drag City, MacKay made a moving homage to an amazing songwriter’s legacy. 

Mat Davidson, performing under his moniker Twain, appeared onstage with an acoustic guitar and a leather-bound stool. In addition to his impressive falsetto, those were the only two things Davidson needed to sweep the audience into his world of bluesy folk tunes. The Virginia native emoted the humility and passion of a true folk artist; someone who deals deeply in the troubles of everyday life and uses music to share those painful stories. Performing many songs from his 2019 release Adventure, the song “Inner Beauty” was especially striking for its winding verses and melodies.

As the last stop on Buck Meek’s winter tour, Chicagoan fans got to see the live show at its very climax. Alexander Buck Meek arrived with a smile on his face, a beautiful guitar, and an array of truly warm-hearted songs. WLUW Promotions Director Morgan Ciocca remembers seeing Buck Meek claim the stage for a brief moment when Big Thief played the Metro in October 2019. “You could hear a pin drop,” says Ciocca.

Playing the majority of his 2018 self-titled album and some tracks yet to be released, Meek was joined by several instrumentalists, including Davidson, who helped to bring the songs to life. Meek and his live band leaned into the optimism and country twang of his carefully crafted songs. Songs like “Swan Dive” brought the room to absolute silence, urging listeners to close their eyes and consider the music internally. Others like “Ruby” and “Joe by the Book” were more cheery and swayable in contrast. 

When the night came to a close and the last chord was played, the crowded tavern’s patrons felt a little bit better about stepping out into the incredibly cold January weather. 

Buck Meek’s 2019 single “Halo Light” is now available to stream, and his second album is expected to be released this year.

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