So this past Tuesday one of my roommates and I went to the Empty Bottle here in Chicago to see Cymbals Eat Guitars. Tickets were cheap, it was a weeknight, why not? We showed up at 8:30, believing that the doors opened at 7, and then CEG played at 9. Boy were we wrong - dead as a doornail at 8:30, the openers hadn’t even started yet. Fuck. I’ll admit that didn’t really want to stand around for two bands I didn’t care about seeing. By the end of the night, I had pulled a total 180 - I was so glad we showed up early, because the entire night’s line-up absolutely rocked.
I didn’t really know what to expect with the first act, but right off the bat I knew one thing and that was that they are LOUD. We went from empty bar chit-chat to tinnitus tests in the time it takes to switch on an amp. It was fantastic. Their music, a mix of shoegaze, 80s pop, and driving, guttural guitar riffs took me back to high school. They were that band that your friends were in, but you were never good enough for (even by high school standards). I loved it. Their stage presence was pretty good, the bass player remained the static rock around which the band was arranged (both visually and musically). The vocals were fantastic, and the lead guitar was great. The guy was just nuts.
Next up was Field Mouse. Again, not a band I had listened to before, so wasn’t sure where it was going to go. But goddamn, they’re awesome. They made me think CHVRCHES turned up to 11. Their music was a little more poppy than Wildhoney, but also brought me back to my angsty teenage years. They really drove home the nostalgia factor for me, and I couldn’t get enough. The music reminded me of something I didn’t have but desperately wanted: musical talent. I have been listening to their latest album, Episodic, on repeat since the show. (I have just started listening to Wildhoney, because if I’m honest, I couldn’t find their music due to a spelling error. Silly me. Got it now!). The music felt like lost romance - missing what you had and knowing it’s gone. Definitely reminiscent of a high school relationship you thought was going to work out, but didn’t last for more than three months, then you proceeded to get real bent out of shape about it and listen to Death Cab for Cutie with your friends chain smoking Marlboro 27s wishing for a light at the end of the seemingly never-ending tunnel (I, like a lot of 17-18 year olds, thought I was a philosopher-poet who was one of the only people to really experience love and loss on a first-hand basis. I was also an idiot.) Field Mouse made me that adolescent philosopher once again.
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Now onto the main event - Cymbals Eat Guitars. What. A. Show. I cannot recommend them highly enough. If you ever get the chance, go see them. They were a fascinating combination of in-your-face but not overbearing. They knew when to back off, and they did. For me, this band will forever remind me of my first semester of law school. Their album LOSE, out in 2014, defines that year for me. My roommate at the time (same one I just saw them with) showed them to me, and I was hooked. As you might have noticed, I associate different albums with different times in my life, and this was Fall 2014 for me. CEG played my favorite song of theirs, “Jackson,” in the middle of their set. Man. Let nostalgia reign over me. They opened with “Place Names,” another great cut off LOSE. The highlights of the music, at least according to yours truly, have got to be the guitars and the vocals. Joseph D’Agostino’s voice is so distinct, you’d be able to recognize it anywhere. As stated previously, their music defines my first semester of law school. The anxiety and stress and fear of leaving behind your friends and family and moving 600 miles away to a new city, new people you couldn’t call friends yet, away from everything you’re used to. I moved from a small city in Tennessee to one of the biggest cities in the country. Everything was changing, and nothing was the same. CEG will always remind me of that point in my life, and how far I’ve come since. My only wish is that they had played longer. They’re a band whose show will leave you selfish, because you will always want more.
To summarize my thoughts on the night, it was all about the nostalgic feelings. Driving guitar, essence of synth-pop, filthy distortion, and ringing vocals. 18-year-old me loved it, as does the now near 26-year-old me. It was a loud, rowdy show in a small, cramped venue full of dad shirts and Weird Al hair. Well worth the ear-ringing and the whopping hangover the next day.
TL;DR Wildhoney, Field Mouse, Cymbals Eat Guitars
Would see again? Yes.
Worth admission? Yes.
Worth hangover? Yes.
Dad shirt game? 100.