Chicago is a city that has been churning out some of pretty great bands in the recent years. There’s a definite sound and style to the music coming out of Chicago and The Orwells have been at the forefront of this. It’s a breed of Americana rock all it’s own with no shortage of youthful energy and reckless abandon. I first saw The Orwells at Lollapalooza, in their hometown, a few years ago. Back then, they were kind of chubby, awkward dudes who definitely loved to party. Last night The Orwells were that same band I fell in love with in Chicago a few years ago, but man they have grown up. “When these started playing they were like baby faced, now their like these handsome men,” a guy in the crowd remarked. For those who’ve followed The Orwells for a while it was fun to see how far these guys have come as a band. They just released their third studio album Terrible Human Beings and are on tour in support of the new album. They played to a sold-out crowd at The Triple Rock in Minneapolis last night, just one of many sold-out tour dates.
The Orwells brought along fellow Chicagoans – The Walters to warm up the stage. I first listened to The Walters when I saw they would be heading out on the road with The Orwells. However, after a quick listen on Spotify and a scroll through their Twitter, I was hooked on their catchy tunes and off the wall sense of humor. They have that same no-f’s given attitude as The Orwells. They are self-proclaimed “hunks,” with everything they do cloaked in about ten layers of sarcasm and irony. Although there is that element of humor and irony to their entire “brand,” underneath that they are an all around solid band and after last night’s performance it’s clear this band is much more than dudes just goofing around, but rather a band that is well rehearsed, focused and polished. They played a roughly 40-minutes set which featured songs off their previous EPs Songs for Dads and Young Men. A standout track was their most recent single “She’s Gonna Leave You.” There was no lack of dramatics from frontman Luke Olson, complete with twerking and rolling around the stage complete with suspenders and dad jeans. The drunk, underage girls stumbling around in the front row were eating up every minute of it. The Walters take their name from their lead guitarist Walter Kosner, who kept a pretty low profile on stage last night. Bassist Danny Wells hails from Minneapolis and gave his a dad shout-out last night. Vocalist and guitarist MJ Tirabassi also kept a relatively low profile on stage leaving the dancing and dramatics to Olson, but his vocals were solid. Finally, Charlie Ekhaus was holding things down on on drums. Overall, The Walters infectiously catchy sock-hoppy tracks transferred super solidly live, making for an all around feel good set. After this tour with The Orwells I think we will be seeing plenty more from The Walters.
The Orwells took to the stage shortly after 10:00 pm. Again, for those that have been following The Orwells for a while, it was seeing a band that is all grown up but they haven’t lost their signature youthfulness and party boy attitude. Frontman Mario Cuomo took to the stage rocking his Randy Moss jersey, a nice nod to the Twin Cities. The Orwells set, though chaotic at times, was still just as solid as the previous times I’ve seen them. They experienced some technical difficulties but overall managed to power through. Drummer Henry Brinner powered through the set like a seasoned pro, again despite some technical difficulties. Henry Brinner’s brother – Grant Brinner held things down on bass, and Matt O’Keefe and Dominic Corso supported Cuomo with vocals and guitars. Cuomo’s live performance are always a bit on the edge, often walking to the back or side of the stage and singing in the corner for a few bars. When he was front and center he was chugging a beer or calling out a guy in the crowd for not dancing. “Fucking dance man, you paid $20 to be here, the least you can do is dance,” Cuomo said at one point. The line The Orwells toe between psychotic and iconic (to borrow a Drake lyric) is a fine one, but that is what is so infectious about them. You really can’t look away during their set because there’s no telling what their next move will be. They played to the packed Triple Rock with a contagious energy and though the set again bordered on chaotic at times, The Orwells still managed to put on a hell of a set. We hope it won’t be long before their back in Minneapolis.
Set List: Black Francis / Fry / Dirty Sheets / Creatures / Vacation / Body in the Bayou / Hippie Soldier / Buddy / Let It Burn / Got to Get Down / In My Bed / Who Needs You / Blood Bubbles / Heavy Head / Southern Comfort / Double Feature