Spoon, Houndmouth, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear
July 11th, 2015
Taste of Chicago, Petrillo Music Shell
As I said last week, Taste of Chicago’s best gift to the city is its free live music. Spoon headlined the Saturday rock showcase from 93 XRT, the long-tenured Chicago FM station that has been bringing quality rock acts to Taste for 28 years. Spoon themselves have been at it for nearly 20 years, and all that time, delivering time and time again with all eight of their albums. Saturday, was by no means the best Spoon set I’ve seen (technical difficulties and minor gaffes wouldn’t allow for it), but still showed why they are a dominant force in rock today.
The mother-son duo of Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear (Madisen’s mother Ruth Ward) opened the showcase by playing some very tender, down-home roots music that’s hard not to get behind. Madisen’s quivering blues bellow is a lovely compliment to the low-key, nearly percussionless songs which could just as easily be sung around a campfire as in front of thousands in the heart of Chicago. The deep, sage harmonies of Ruth Ward definitely take the band beyond your ordinary folk act: a special connection formed over Madisen’s 26 years.
A shared love of rock ‘n’ roll is clearly what brings the second act Houndmouth together: a Louisville four-piece that share the stage equally. Houndmouth is much like Dawes in that they follow the collective spirit of the Band: all sharing vocal duties, spotlight, and creative input. The band really knew how to boogie down: wailing four-part harmonies, blazing guitar solos and big anthemic choruses. I was especially impressed by drummer Shane Cody who looked the part of Ringo Starr with his mustache and coke-bottle glasses and played with the joy and enthusiasm of him as well.
Finally, Britt Daniel and his fine Texas mates took the stage and got off to a pretty rough start. They opened with “Rainy Taxi”, the ominous piano-led track off of their latest album They Want My Soul, but with a poor mix that pretty much drowned out Britt’s lead guitar and most of his vocal, it made it pretty difficult to really sink into the show. More sound problems followed including a broken string on “Don’t Make Me A Target”, pretty much removing the last solo from the song.
As the set went on the sound did improve, and some surprises began. The band played “The Ghost of You Lingers”, one of, if not, my favorite song in all of Spoon’s catalog, and turned it from a haunting call to a past love made perfect for a set of headphones into an experimental, dance-able crowd-pleaser. The band then pulled out a new song called “Satellite”, a song that employed that spooky silent movie organ they started playing with on Transference to great effect.
Finally, Spoon encored with a cover of “TV Set” from the spooky garage punk of the Cramps. Britt ramped up the echo on his vocal and distortion on his guitar to make the cover into a rockabilly tune from your nightmares. Closing also with crowd-favorites “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and “The Underdog” aided the band on ending on a major note after what was a really tough start. Unlike others, Spoon didn’t let issues get the best of them, and instead chose gratitude for the incredible opportunity to play Taste of Chicago (Britt mentioned remembering his hero Paul Westerberg of the Replacements playing Taste when he lived in Chicago long ago). That sort of attitude and spirit is what keeps a band relevant and respected for 20 years.