Thursday, April 07, 2011

Lost with Roommate

It would be awkward to continue the Chicago music tour and not mention Roommate. Roommate has such a wonderful sense of lyrical lush ideals. Words that drift over air with musical and ethereal sounds; my kind of band.

I had not heard of Roommate before prowling around the web looking for shows to go to. I found that the group was listed for the Empty Bottle, so I thought I would give them a listen and see if it was my kind of sound. Was it ever! Before I had listened to two songs I had bought a ticket to go see them with Dozens and Algernon. Because of Roommate I also gave Dozens and Algernon a listen. I realized that I also loved the sound and lyrics of Dozens, a well put-together little band, but Algernon held no real amusement for me. Too noisy and cluttered, like listening to someone trying too hard to murder an ax in a David Lynch movie; sound that is overbearing and felt incomplete. However, knowing that I would see Roommate and Dozens made it worthwhile.

When the night arrived I hopped on the various trains and buses to get to the Bottle. I’m more comfortable on the train now, more sure of myself. I was more over the events that had lead me to avoid the train for more than a decade; nowadays the train brings me places I want to go to, and I am too sure of myself to let it bring me anything else.

The Bottle was only lightly busy, I grabbed a space at the end of the bar to read my book until someone came along and asked for a ticket. I was sure I was on the will call list, and so when directed I walked back to the door to have my name picked out and get my stamp. After a few minutes of searching it was apparent my name was not on the list. I pulled out the magic box of knowledge and began to search through my email but could not find a ticket. I finally parted with the ticket money again, but did not lament it. I either forgot or I was putting money in the hands of those that needed it. Later I found myself at the merch tent talking to a very nice girl who was selling T-shirts. She hooked me up with a shirt, but then the lead singer came over and asked me to wait.

“The record label is supposed to show up with free CD’s. The new album is out and you get it for free.”


One, I was taken a back by Kent, the singer. He was smaller than I had expected, with shaggy hair and a shaggy beard, but so much authority. His speaking voice was so different from his voice on stage, and yet there was still something magical about it. I promised to wait for the card with the free CD; the girl promised to hold my shirt that I wanted until the label showed up with the cards, and then I promptly went back into the Bottle to wait for the show.

Dozens was on first and they were everything I wanted. They started off with rocky riffs, keyboards and a solid drumbeat. That sort of just-off high-pitched tenor of a voice that spins off the lyrics, and then halfway through a song you get a catchy little riff that throws the sound back to a catchy, almost seventies, fondness.


Their presence on stage was energetic and I found my head bobbing along as I listened to them sing about the doves that do not cry. But they are not all catchy riffs, they in fact do just as much with sound building and lyrical construction as Roommate. A band not to be missed.

Free Music Alert: You can download the entire album for free by naming a 0.00 for a price. However I did drop a fiver on them because, hey, everyone should get something for making great music.

"Cobwebs" shows more of the depth of this band, while "Arrest Yourself" has more of the catchy indie sound going on.

As Dozens broke down I was worried Algernon would be next, but fortunately that was not to be, and I watched with delight as Roommate set up. I had a perfect little spot on the stairs overlooking the stage and I was very happy to stay there where I could enjoy listening and watching the happiness take place. Keyboards, guitars, drums, mellow aesthetic. Words. My gods the words that Kent can weave into a song, with a voice that calls to mind dark enchanters, the kind of Pied Piper voice that would have you blindly following along and dancing, and dreaming, and losing yourself. That voice. Kent has such an easy presence though; even when he jumped off the stage for new batteries he was soft and friendly, but when he sings, you just want to close your eyes and lose yourself in the beauty he spins.

He sings and weaves a song around us, a song composed of words that is neither happy nor sad, but wants to be experienced, to be heard. We fall under his words and we all stand, and listen and clap appropriately in awe, and I feel my eyes stinging, as I am captured by his moments and still. I had been listening to nothing but Roommate for days before this show, so enchanted by the voice and words. As I listened I had this moment of alarm when I realized I recognized none of the songs. This was certainly the band, but the songs were not the ones I had down by heart. Later, in a conversation with Kent I realized that I was getting a live show of the new album. And it was worth it.

When he started with the first lyrics, imploring “Jesus to save the Jesus freaks”…he had me right then. I was happy to follow him from that moment.

There is another story to follow from the Bottle and the dear Roommate; however, you should all go listen to them. Guilty Rainbow just came out. All of their music is on EMUSIC (WIN FOR ME!) and you can listen free online.  "Snow Globe" is a wonderfully well-constructed track that demonstrates the attention to lyrics and instrumentation that I have come to love about Roommate.

"If you are somebody nobody wants to be around, where do you go at night? / When you don't want to be alone anymore, when you don't want to be alone anymore?"

Let's say it speaks to me. "Snow Globe" in particular reminds me of those days in Korea where everything seems like a horrible paradox filled with 45 million Koreans.

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