photo by Manda Specht
By Justina Cufré
The light up signs and delicious aromas of Pilsen decorated the outside of Thalia Hall, and all I could look forward to was the rat-infested show waiting for us inside. I mean, it’s not every night that bands Rat Tally and Retirement Party (Ratirement Party for tonight, haha…sorry) open for Ratboys in one of the rattiest cities in America, right? I scurried indoors and sat in a corner towards the front, a perfect view of the stage, the frantically excited people around me, and the majestic architecture of Thalia Hall’s interior. Smells of popcorn and fog machines filled our space while the crowd slowly arrived and the colorful lights took over the sudden darkness, and soon, Rat Tally took the stage.
Rat Tally opened the show with their melodic, indie folk rock chords, gentle percussion, and Addy Harris’ soft yet potent vocals. The warm yellow lights hugged them as they performed “Laugh It Off” from their 2019 EP When You Wake Up, and as the tension of the instruments and voices arises, it is released with the combination of explosive guitar, drums, and harmonies. The strangely nostalgic sentiment the music emitted washed over me, and with their performance of an unreleased song, other tracks from their debut EP, and their new single “Shrug”, I couldn’t help but find a melancholy vulnerability radiating from the stage. The band closed their set with a beautifully reimagined version of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag”, sealing a wonderfully emotional performance, and the show had kicked off beautifully.
Retirement Party took the stage next, and they couldn’t have raised the energy higher. The pop-punk band opened with “Compensation” from their latest album, Runaway Dog, filling the venue with their fast-tempo guitar, bass, and drums and Avery Springer’s melodic storytelling vocals. With songs from their first full-length album from 2018, Somewhat Literate, and from their latest album, 2020’s Runaway Dog, there was not a single still body. Everyone was caught dancing, unable to resist the sharp riffs, piercing bass, passionate drums, and nearly conversational melodies. Retirement Party took a moment to announce that this was their last show as a band in Chicago, and the crowd seemed to listen a little harder in hopes to soak in each minute. The band closed with “Meet Me in Montauk” from their 2017 EP, Strictly Speaking, and Passion Fruit Tea from Somewhat Literate, and the minutes that the crowd absorbed lingered on everyone’s tongues, a beautiful aftertaste.
Ratboys took the stage, kicking off their first show of 2022 with “Alien With a Sleep Mask On” from their 2020 album, Printer’s Devil, showered in the pink, red, and purple lights from above. The passion from Julia Steiner’s guitar and vocals, Dave Sagan’s guitar, Marcus Nuccio’s drums and Sean Neumann’s bass and vocals reverberated throughout the building, and the audience had become crowded with exhilaration. In a comedic turn of events, Dave’s guitar string broke during the second song, eliciting a roar of laughter and cheer from the crowd. Ratboys performed a collection of songs from their albums AOID (2015), Printer’s Devil (2020), Happy Birthday, Ratboy (2021), and even a new song, called “It’s Alive!”. The audience headbanged to the powerfully engaging music, and swayed rhythmically to Steiner’s honey-smooth vocals, but nothing evoked a lowder cheer than when they invited Mr. Rabbit onstage to dance while they performed. They spoke about heartbreak, anxiety, college radio, the pandemic, and hanging out with friends, reaching the hearts of each individual taking in the music while nodding gently to the beat. The band closed the show with “Printer’s Devil”, and their indie rock sound lingered nostalgically as if the credits to a coming-of-age film rolled.
Ratboys, Rat Tally, and Retirement Party managed to perform an awe-inspiring show that night, each listener intoxicated by the beautiful music, followed by the enchanting emotions that the evening awoke.