Jun 8, 2010

She & Him and Hollows at Millenium Park 6/7/10

A beautiful sunny 70 degree night. Perfect for getting on your bike and riding down to Millenium for a great show. Gotta get there early, or have friends that can, to secure a spot on the lawn. The sea of people already filled the lawn by 6 pm, likely earlier. Locked up the bike and met up with friends already drinking wine and eating hummus and prosciutto wrapped cheese.

You cannot beat the back drop of buildings, the sunset, and Millenium Park's space age design. I have to mention that the Smurfit-Stone Building (the diamond shaped building at 150 N. Michigan Ave.) was lit up to spell "Go Hawks" since it was the playoffs (see photo). The sound at Millenium is really excellent even if you are far back on the lawn and can't see even a slice of the stage. When we arrived, it was still possible to get video near the stage so here is a photo and song from the opening band Hollows:

Hollows, a five member, almost all female band, was formed by organist Maria Jenkins, 26 back in 2008. Like some true love, the band found each other on Craig’s list. Another band member, Emma Hospelhorn (bassist and flutest) was first to answer the add. Emma is a Ph.D student (learning sciences) and plays with the New Millennium Orchestra. Guitarist, Megan Kasten, also plays with Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The 4th female, Hannah Harris is a jazz vocalist with a fine-art undergrad degree. Last, is drummer Jason Davalantes, supplies the bands with its testosterone. Not a bad gig for a 22 year-old guy. Hollows have a lo-fi 1960’s sound, a la Shangri-Las but with darker lyrics. This was their biggest and most important gig yet, supporting She & Him at this Millenium Park event. They had a great sound and I would love to see them at a more intimate venue. I am not sure about the group’s decision to have a male drummer (I like more the look and feel of an all female band better). So all in all, this nicely pedigreed band get’s a high approval rating.

Although I was able to steal a bit of live, unworthy of posting, video of She & Him from way far away, I am embedding here a much better video from MTV Canada for your viewing and listening pleasure. Really closer is so much better (see Imelda May or G Love blog entries for comparison). I was spoiled with these two shows.

I first knew of Zooey Deschanel's (She) vocals from seeing the movies Elf and The Bridge to Terebithia with my kids. She sang "Ooh Child" during Bridge to Terebithia (we all like that song right?). Zooey is known for her films which include 500 Days of Summer, Failure to Launch,, Yes Man, and a personal fave Almost Famous amongst others. M. Ward (He) AKA Matthew Ward is known for his guitar, vocals, and production work. His influences include gospel and country music and his music is decidedly indie folk alternative rock (that covers all bases anyway). He is really a bluesy, sing on the back-porch kind of guy.

Deschanel and Ward first met on the set of the film The Go-Getter in 2007. The end of the film features them together in a duet playing through the credits. Ward was interested in working with Deschanel and wanted her to send him songs. She agreed, resulting in the birth of She & Him (which is mostly She and very little He). Her vocals are the main event but Ward's gravelling low voice really complements Deschanel's sweet vocals perfectly (like PB and J). It is widely known that they are a couple also (how could they not be?). Interestingly, their debut record Volume One was largely written and arranged via email communication since She lives in LA, and He lives in Portland. They first toured in 2008 and have a full round of gigs in the US and Europe in 2010 scheduled. Their second record Volume 2 was released in March of 2010 and features NRBQ's "Ridin in My Car" and Patience and Prudence's "Gonna Get Along Without You Now".

Most of the songs they perform seem like retro radio classics: sparse arrangements with vintage sexual innuendo thrown in for spice. Deschanel has been compared to Loretta Lynn, Dusty Springfield, and Linda Ronstadt in her vocal style and capability. Her sound, in my opinion is jazzy (but subtle), romantic, and coy. She could not be any cuter too. Her big eyes work well with her demure and innocent vocals.

The venue, Millenium Park, is wonderful but not if you want to get up close or if you are claustrophobic (see SEA of people).

You can get there early and sit on seats in the amphitheater but you would miss the experience of the lawn. It is a toss up depending on your goals for the night. I will throw in a video of "My Friends Dancing to She & Him" to help you envision the lawn experience. In contrast, you could be the guy reading "The Art of Dreaming" during the show (seriously?). He did leave early to find a better place to concentrate. Is the following brief video legal to post? Do I need a release? Is mockery a crime?

Random guy reading during show while sitting comfortably in amphitheater (you could do this too!):

Or dance with friends and picnic on the lawn with the great city of Chicago as your backdrop:

At the end of the show, Deschanel whooped some butt with a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put a Spell on You". That was worth staying until the bitter end to hear. I have to give the night a 5 guitar rating for great (did I mention FREE!) music, unbeatable bike to the event weather, and fun friends (but what other kind are there?)!

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