On The John presents…
A night at the Tell Your Friends concert
Originally completed August 16, 2010
Everyone is confused when the concert begins. It looked as if the band was still setting up – and then, without a word of introduction or any instrumental warning, the audience is belted in the mouth with music and lyrics. They hit simultaneously, and you think, “Ah! The show has started.”
When he sings, Schor faces his microphone from the side, as if wary of it, or perhaps squaring up to fight it. He plays toward the crowd, not to them. On this first song, bandmate Brad Meyers takes the lead on guitar, while Schor’s guitar hangs from straps around his neck. He cups the microphone in his hands. He sings to it. When he does start playing, his arms move like the anti-Pete Townshend. Quick bursts from the elbow. His forearm stabbing past the strings on charged-up twists. His upper arm dropping straight down from the shoulder. His right leg kicking at the knee like Elvis.
In the song’s middle, the music slims out and Schor begins rapping, is he, is he rapping now?, and then it’s back to rock and roll, and then the song is over. It’s six full seconds before the audience realizes it is time to applaud.
This is Schor, the enigmatic front-man of an enigmatic band. He talks sideways. His lyrics walk backwards. After the second song concludes, he, for the first time, addresses the crowd at Wicker Park’s Subterranean in slow, half-cocked statements: “We’re Tell Your Friends. We’re from Chicago. We’re probably the hottest band in Chicago right now. We’ve got four or five of the major labels after us. We’re probably going to sleep with all of your girlfriends after the show.” He looks cross stage to Meyers: “And what else.”
“We have cookies!” Meyers says. He points to the front of the stage and a large-size Ziploc bag. “Usually we have regular Chips Ahoy,” he explains, “but today’s it’s white chocolate macadamia nut from Matt’s wife’s friend.” He pauses, examining the bag from afar. “These will be good. I encourage you to have these.”
The band keeps a good pace between songs. They deliver their tunes with spirit, emotion, and accuracy. They jam and wail and harmonize and generally rock the pants off the SubT crowd. Absolute audience annihilation. And always, strange things. Musical self-expressions not expected from a guitar-guitar-bass-drums band. Meyers sings with a Cockney accent. Bassist Jordan Gans plays the Xylophone. Drummer Matt Baron employs what looks like a breathing machine as some sort of wind instrument. “That is called a melodica,” Meyers says. “It is basically a harmonica that is controlled by a keyboard; you blow through a tube while holding one of the keys to make a specific note.”
All the while, Schor’s lyrics rustle with scrappy contradictions, like in the speedily sung chorus of “La Quinta”: “We’re not like you – We’re not like you – We’re just like you.” This is the band’s m.o. – they project a need to be both accepted and elusive, like an eight-year-old boy who wants to be the weirdest thing in the room yet still craves and demands your love and respect. A band that presents itself as “Weird Lounge Music, I mean really weird” on its facebook page, with a lead-singer who, when asked about the themes of his music, responds with a smile, “Loving yourself and hating yourself at the same time. Usually I write the songs when I’m hating myself, but in order to perform them in front of people, you have to love yourself. You can’t always do it that way, but that’s the goal” – and yet, also a band with the ingratiating sunshine to name itself (and a song) “Tell Your Friends,” to record a single and video named “Dance If You’re With Us,” to bring cookies for the audience.
Schor swings his wrist around his elbow. The guitar rips open. New song.
* 3 Quick Minutes interview with Brad Meyers
* More Wicker Park material from readjack.com
And, because you deserve it…
OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO
**Dance If You’re With Us**
Directed by Darryl Miller