The Art of Eye Contact with Model/Actriz

Photos and Article by Josie Stahler

Sunday night brought a lot of noise as Model/Actriz and Conjunto Primitivo played The Hideout, a small house-turned-venue in Bucktown. The cozy two-room space was filled with chattering fans ready to dance. As the overhead string lights went down, the crowd knew it was going to be an evening of pure performance.

First to take the stage was Conjunto Primitivo. The duo consists of Chicago natives Cesar Robles Santacruz and Ana Belén Garcia-Higgins, who were excited to be playing their home city. Don’t be fooled by their two-person setup, as their music filled the room on the first note. Synth and bass vibrated over the speakers, overtaking every molecule in the body. Their music is a blend of rhythmic cumbia, electronica, and a multitude of genres, creating this mesmerizing effect over the crowd. Ana especially drew the crowd in as she spun around the stage, moving braided hair and ribbons like party streamers. They played tracks off their album, Morir y Renacer, which felt ethereal and danceable. 

Soon enough it was time for Model/Actriz to take the stage. The band walked on nonchalantly, as if they’d been there all along. Lead singer Cole Haden pulled out a tube of lipstick and started slowly applying it while staring down audience members. It was from that point I realized this wouldn’t be just a concert, but an immersive theatrical experience. They opened with Donkey Show,  the first track on their album Dogsbody. It’s the perfect start to a show because it’s misleadingly quiet until a clattering shifts it into a harsh tune. 

From there the show only picked up in frenetic energy. Haden, backed by guitarist Jack Wetmore, bassist Aaron Shapiro and drummer Ruben Radlauer, put on an interactive show for their audience. Cole got off the stage multiple times, dragging his mic stand and cables with him. He would stare down audience members, sing to them and whisper in their ear. It was almost as if he was challenging them, forcing them to stay in the moment with him. He was electric. It made for an exciting experience for fans and they hoped to get picked out by Haden’s intense eye contact. 

The band as a whole played as one cohesive unit, playing their songs so precisely it felt as if you were listening to the album. Specifically during  Pure Mode, Wetmore consistently riffed for multiple minutes, his hand moving back and forth at inhuman speed. Every song was a unique performance in itself, but tracks that stuck out were the emotional Amaranth and Crossing Guard which feels versatile enough to be used in a fight scene or on the runway at a fashion show. 

Truly, the fans couldn’t believe the show had finished as quickly as it had begun. The room had transformed that night into a dancefloor, a stage and a community. 

Model/Actriz will be returning to Chicago December 16th while opening for The Armed. You can find both Conjunto Primitivo and Model/Actriz on Spotify or wherever you stream music.

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