Article and Photography by: Sarah Cline
After a year of being cooped up in suburban Ohio, returning to Chicago and being able to experience live music feels otherworldly. Even while standing outside of Subterranean after what felt like the most complex commute on the L, I was almost unreasonably excited for the show ahead. After making our way to the front of the room, the anticipation set in as the venue was filled with the energy of people finding their seats or setting up the stage.
After an energizing indie pop-rock introduction from Chicago’s own The Evening Attraction and Nashville-based musician Gatlin, the crowd was noticeably anxious while awaiting the arrival of headliner Okey Dokey. After the group made their way down the tiny spiral staircase to the stage, the crowd cheers loudly as they set up for the show.
Whenever I go to shows there’s always an inexplicable closeness I feel to the artist, but Okey Dokey’s frontman Aaron Martin went above and beyond. From chatting with attendees between songs to dancing with audience members on his way back from a trip to the bar he takes in the middle of the performance, Martin makes the show a personal one. After bringing opener Gatlin back to the stage to join them for their 2019 hit “Modern Chemistry”, Martin jumps the stage and begins swaying his way through the crowd, ballroom dancing with anyone he passes along the way.
Once “Modern Chemistry” comes to a close Martin suggests a deviation from the original setlist and the group jumps into the 2017 standout hit that put the group on the map, “Wavy Gravy”. Martin makes his way back to the front of the room and sits down at the edge of the stage, a foot in front of me. The crowd is singing along, and Martin sits among us taking it all in, it’s only the second show of the tour and the group seems to embrace the atmosphere of playing live music again.
Once returning to the stage, the crowd seemed to especially enjoy the group’s cover of Tyler the Creator’s “See You Again”. With Gatlin supporting the group on vocals, the track takes on a whole new life. With spacey guitar from Johny Fisher and sparkling keys from the group’s Jeremy Clark the group puts an almost psychedelic spin on the track and makes it their own, the crowd loves it.
After their final song, the group encourages fans to head upstairs and hang out with them before leaving the venue. We headed upstairs where we had the opportunity to meet and chat with the opening acts and Okey Dokey themselves. Going in I wasn’t an avid listener of the group but after a performance where they made themselves unusually available to the listener and cranked out tune after tune, that has definitely changed.