Written by Kora Elms Fleming
Friday, June 24th started as any other Friday summer would–sleeping in, grabbing an
overpriced coffee, and me texting my favorite concert buddy to join me for Fran’s show at the Empty Bottle. Embarrassingly, I have never been to a show at the iconic, intimate, Ukrainian Village venue. However, I knew this would change the second I saw a photo booth tucked in the corner.
Peg, the cat, greeted us (not enthusiastically) as the patron saint/guardian/gargoyle of the bar. The crowd was conversing in little circles made up of openers, friends, family, fans, and neighborhood locals. The Empty Bottle creates an atmosphere of a house show, with the music slowly covering and creeping up on conversations–giving the feel of being in a bathroom while hearing the muffled sound of music coming through the sharpie-covered walls.
The first opener, Brent Penny gave a beautiful start to the show. Their sound was Midwest emo meets the Bleachers. They were cool, collected, and perfectly whiny. To my surprise, this was Penny’s first show. We beamed on the stairs unknowingly sitting close to the next openers, Ethers. Ethers came on with that classic Chicago sound–garage punk, grungy, with a pinch of new wave charm. They were high-energy, yet seasoned pros, and the bass player had an amazing power stance. After the openers, my concert buddy and I tucked ourselves in the front row waiting excitedly for Fran.
Lead singer of Fran, Maria Jacobson, came in with a Liz Phair shirt (a sign of a good show to come) and her tight-knit band behind her. All three of the bands that night were Chicago bred, and that Chicagoland attitude was definitely in the air. Everyone was slightly swaying and head nodding together. Fran’s indie rock sound is similar to Angel Olsen. Jacobson uses a mix of her serene voice with heavy drums, bass, and guitar while transitioning to just her and her guitar–letting her sweet and creative lyricism speak for itself.
“Palm Trees” from their newest album, Leaving, was one of my favorite tracks of the night. The drums came in with a similar beat to Elliott Smith’s “Waltz #2 (XO)” making me fall immediately in love. Yet, “Palm Trees” is a track about wanting to live and last in the natural world. Hoping to see the “Palm Trees” thriving instead of decaying “Do you hear what they say/how can I give it away/wanting it to last another day.” Every song was followed by sweet smiles exchanged with the band, and the rise of conversation from the crowd–all to be covered once again, by Jacobson’s dreamlike tune, transporting all of us into a lullaby state.
Jacobson’s song “Company” was my favorite track of the night and showcased their flawless transitions between heavy and soft. “Company” is about craving intimacy once held. The grungy instrumentals in the chorus reflect the feeling of the touch your skin has been longing to feel. “Company” mirrors the contrasting thoughts of speaking up and staying quiet in your wants and needs. “So, put your right wing over me/I’m begging for some company.”
At the end of the day, If you’re needing an escape from the commotion of a Chicago Friday night, catch a late-night show at the Empty Bottle. Fran’s show acted as the Americana, folk, indie oasis of my Friday dreams.
Follow Brent Penny on Instagram!
Follow Ethers on Instagram!
Follow Fran on Instagram and Check out their spotify below!