YFE Concert Group Photos

Outside It’s America: Chicago Show Review

Note: This was originally posted on my music blog. I’m reposting here…with my own permission. ; )

As promised, I’m covering one of my favorite band’s, Your Favorite Enemies, that has just begun their first U.S. tour. As soon as news broke, I was searching for Chicago on the list. When I saw it was, and that tickets wouldn’t break the budget, I had them ordered within ten minutes. A month later, I’m sitting in front of the laptop with a permanent smile on my face.

I arrived at Thalia Hall a good 15 minutes before the doors opened. Having taking classes in Pilsen over the summer, it was an opportunity to discover yet another hidden gem in the area. Stepping out of the taxi, I hadn’t taken two steps before I realized Miss Isabel (the band’s keyboardist) was walking in front of me. “Is that…Miss Isabel?” We both shrieked and hugged–it was a great sense of awe, happiness…and almost a victory.

Photo with Miss Isabel (YFE)

I thank my mother, whom I invited out, for the “blurry finger in the corner” detailing on this photo. Makes it truly one of a kind.

You see, this was a band I had followed since college when I was gaining most of my musical preferences from Myspace. They do everything themselves–and I mean EVERYTHING. The entire community that was evolving helped me through many personal hurdles. Direct conversations of support and witnessing the personal struggles each band member discloses is a very unique relationship. And yet, in all these years, we had never met face to face. There’s sometimes a stigma of online relationships. But if you know how to read the situation, there are beautiful people you just don’t want to miss out on.

While we waited the last 10 minutes to be permitted into the building, I started up a conversation with a fan who was looking forward to another band on the tour, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. More on them later. We were all curious what the crowd was going to be like, the acoustics of the venue and just the general energy of the show.

Sipping on the free water inside (which I think every venue should make a tradition), we took some of the available seats. Eventually, the opening band took the stage. Boyfrndz, hailing from Austin, Texas, were quite cool to discover that night. Although their history is nothing to brush off, the excitement in which they shared over performing in Chicago was adorable. Yes, that’s the word I’m sticking with. Click here to watch one of their music videos.

I’m a pretty easy critic when it comes to music. The drums have to be on point. Those have always been my favorite instrument, so my ear picks them up first. The bass is a close second. After that, as long as (applicable) vocals are pretty good–you’ve won me over. Each of the band’s yesterday either met or exceeded my likability gauge. The audience overall seemed to gradually build its presence and engagement over the course of the night.In the midst of tapping my feet and letting the mohawk take over, it was time for YFE to take the stage.

Don't let the handful of bodies fool you. I snapped this during the stage swap. Most of us were sitting in the chairs along the perimeter of the venue and/or the giant crowd at the bar. As the music started, the bodies trickled back into the main standing area.

Don’t let the handful of bodies fool you. I snapped this during the stage swap. Most of us were sitting in the chairs along the perimeter of the venue and/or the giant crowd at the bar. As the music started, the bodies trickled back into the main standing area.

You know that feeling when a good friend is realizing a dream and you get this deep, deep sense of pride? I’m running out of adjectives to articulate it now. This has been a band I’ve watched for years–be that music videos, interviews, articles, etc. I know how much this tour means to them as well as every other fan. When I saw that list of cities on the tour poster, it was as if my journey was changing.

The lights dimmed and the voiceover track started. I could feel the goosebumps slide over my arms as the drum beat vibrated through the floor. Each band member was visibly slipping into their zone, while a smile took over each face. For a second, whether they realized it or not, they stood in a line just taking it in. Slowly everyone took their place and Alex started singing.

The set was a good 60-70 minutes. But I was so busy singing, moving my head…closing my eyes and just existing. My favorite part of music–I should say, my favorite part of live music–is getting swept away. The lyrics keep digging inside and you have a hard time separating moments. I would gaze on each band member for a second and then flicker around the audience.

Even those standing in place were paying attention. Camera phones were gradually coming out, before being put right back. I’ve been notorious for taking photos nonstop and yet I couldn’t take my eyes away. This was a community’s dream being realized. The smile just kept growing and I kept tearing up as the songs continued. One of my two absolute favorite tracks was in the set list, “Midnight’s Crashing”. Singing the lyrics out loud, there’s a stanza that always touches me:

When dreams are filled with hopeless dawn/Millions of stars without a shine/I keep my head close to the ground/Waiting for God, whispering you’re mine

Hearing that, I just want to sit and process for a while. It’s a great representation of how the band floats between the surface of different genres while reaching out to you in a personal way.

Photo with Alex & Jeff YFE

Proud to count these guys among my friends and family.

Between popping over to the merchandise table to say hello and get some cool apparel (the Sef/Darth Vader mashup made my t-shirt collection that much sweeter), everyone was kind enough to let me get a few quick photos.

We made sure to head back in and catch a good chunk of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead‘s set. Talk about a fantastic way to end the show. You can see why that band’s been around for 20 years. I also appreciated seeing members of the other bands among the audience. You can always learn so much about the camaraderie and general work ethic of an artist by how they treat others. Musicians supporting each other is such an important aspect of the industry to me.

This was a powerful experience to me, if you didn’t catch on already. I was able to be there for people I’ve always believed in. Learned about two bands that should have already been under my radar. Left with memories and inspirations for the next time our paths cross. Check everyone out. Let me know what you think. Hopefully you’re as impressed as I’ve been over the years.