Article and Photography by: Sarah Cline
After walking down a nearly silent street on a Tuesday night, stepping into the iconic Thalia Hall you’re surrounded by a noticeably electric atmosphere. The night kicks off with performances from two local Chicago artists, a neo-country set from Andrew Sa, and a bold alt-rock performance from Ohmme. The floor is packed with people in costumes, the band having asked fans to dress up for a costume contest they’ll be holding at the end of their set.
Donning their own Halloween costumes Shannon & The Clams make a playfully dramatic appearance on stage (Will Sprott as a classical composer, Cody Blanchard as a witch, Nate Mahan as a can of spam, and Shannon Shaw as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz). If the way people are jumping and being thrown around is any indicator, the crowd is decidedly amped.
Shaw prefaces their performance of the titular track, a standout on the group’s most recent release, “Year of the Spider” talking about the year of isolation we collectively endured. Many artists have attempted to capture the experience of the pandemic and social isolation in music, and many of those tracks come off as kitschy or pandering. “Year of the Spider” is a refreshing exception to that rule. The song is an uncomfortably familiar one and the group’s performance of the track to a live audience after a year of sheltering in place felt like an especially poignant moment.
Seeing a group whose sound has evolved as many times as Shannon & The Clams makes for a performance that spans across time and showcases each individual member and the group as a collective. Playing a couple covers of some traditional Halloween songs, the group crafted a spirited spooky ambiance that lingered for the rest of their performance.
“All of My Crying” is another standout from the group’s 2021 release and it comes alive in a live performance setting. There’s something comforting about dancing around to songs you love surrounded by strangers you seem to have an abstract connection with. The crowd responds almost too well to the group’s performance of their 2017 hit “The Boy” jostling around and sending people straight for the floor. Shannon & The Clams aren’t a group I’d immediately associate with moshing, but this Halloween crowd proved me wrong several times.
After they’ve finished the track, they crown an audience member dressed as Pee-wee Herman as their costume contest winner and offer him a signed record, several skeletons in the audience are left disappointed.