Indie-pendence concert highlights new Evanston venue
    Photos by author / North by Northwestern

    Northwestern students got a taste of the local Chicago sound this week at Indie-pendence, a concert celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, which translates to Israel Independence Day. Despite low attendance, the sheer talent and colorful personalities of Dance Marathon star performers Nebula and Chicago bands Shiloh and AyOH, together with the city-like ambiance of Evanston's newest concert venue, made the night a success.

    “Music brings people together and creates a sense of community. I hope that through this event we can begin to create a stronger Northwestern community outside of already existing organizations,” said Communication sophomore Morgan Hecht, an intern at NU Hillel’s Campus Engagement Corps and organizer of the concert.

    And Indie-pendence certainly brought a diverse crowd under one roof. The gritty, carefree boys of Shiloh were stark opposites of the well-polished, charismatic men of AyoH, both of which had little in common with the young resident Northwestern band. Once they hit the stage, however, all three seemed to come into themselves, focusing less on those around them and concentrating wholly on the music. In many ways, it was less a performance and more just watching three bands jamming in their garage, which made the show all the more intimate.

    The crowd consisted of at most 40 people and dwindled down throughout the night, but the numbers failed to kill the buzz of the show. The few attendees turned empty space into an all-out dance floor, and AyOH lead singer Avi Dell even jumped into the crowd at one point to join in the spazzy dance party.

    27 Live, Evanston’s new live performance locale, created the perfect ambiance for this kind of low-key rock show. Still not completely opened to the public, the venue has been booking private gigs for its stage, while it continues preparation to open its accompanying restaurant and whiskey lounge.

    The excitement of a concert venue just a few minutes from campus, high enthusiasm from the attendees and sheer talent present in all three acts provided enough energy to label the event as an overall success.

    The venue

    Just past the Davis Purple Line stop and Urban Outfitters on Church Street is a small, unassuming black awning with the words “27 Live” stitched on in big red and white letters. Within the simple storefront door, however, is a fully renovated, completely decked out new bar and restaurant, complete with a stage for concerts and a 21+ whiskey lounge upstairs.

    “’27 Live’ is a group of entertainers that died at the age of 27,” explained John Tasi, owner of the new establishment. “Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Brian Jones, Robert Jonson, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse – they all died at 27 years old, so this is a tribute to them.”

    While the restaurant and whiskey lounge are not yet opened, 27 Live pursued a separate permit to open up the bar and stage to begin booking shows after they hosted a huge Northwestern party in October.

    Complete with an extensive Wi-Fi system, the restaurant will be open seven days a week until 1 a.m. weekdays and 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturday. The menu will feature American comfort food, plus additional late night options for students.

    The bands

    Check out what the groups that performed at Indie-pendence had to say.

    NEBULA: Northwestern opener, space rock/pop.

    Lead singer Evan Bakker on the band: “We're what I'd like to call a power trio. That means that we only have three members, and we all make as much noise as possible to fill the sound. We kind of called ourselves a space rock band because we just wanted to sound as big as possible with a lot of reverb on the guitars, a lot of heavy drums, high singing, everything like that. Then we found ourselves going more to a pop sound really quickly. We tried to write 'hook-y' songs, memorable songs, because I think that's what people identify with, and that's what we identify with.”

    On the name: “We actually are working on stylizing the name or changing the name a little bit because we discovered there's actually already a band called Nebula from the ‘90s. They actually Facebook messaged us telling us we had to change our name immediately. It’s nothing we're freaking out about. In essence we somewhat regret the name, but I think it does capture our sound. But we don't wanna get, uh, sued.”

    On the music: “The music's really what matters for me. Music's what comes first, you know? I'll write a melody at home on like an acoustic guitar, then we'll bring it to practice and convert that into an electronic band with a more rock sound. So at its heart, I think all of our songs are actually pretty grounded, pretty down to earth. They're all songs that you could probably get away with playing at like a campfire or cabin or something. They have like central melodies that everyone can sing along to, but the exciting part to me is when you put it through a prism of rock sound, and it becomes almost something vicious, something fierce, more than what it was before.”

    On Indie-pendence: “We’re playing ‘One Day’ by Matisyahu … It has a positive message, and I do think it's a song that a lot of people know, whether they like Israeli pop music consciously or not.”

    On the future: “We're between a rock and a hard place. We started this year in October, and I'm already a senior graduating. They’re not seniors … We take things a day at a time, a week at a time, and just try to focus on what we're doing right now. That's been good for us so far, and we don't really want to change that strategy. We're not really looking ahead more than two months out at this point. We want to play at Dillo Day more than any show probably.”

    SHILOH: Chicago opener, scum pop.

    Guitarist Alex Reindl on the band: “We're just a scum pop band playing here at 27 Live in Evanston. I don't know where [the genre name] came from... We were at this show, and the whole audience was like, ‘You guys are fucking scum.’ And we were like, 'No, we're pop...' And they were like, ‘No, you're scum.’ (laughs) “Nah – it came because people called us all these different things that we just didn't relate to. They were like anti-folk, anti-rock, post folk/rock, post-folk/anti-rock. And we were just like, man, that's weird. I don't wanna be called that anymore. So we just decided we'd give ourselves our own label so that nobody else could give us labels anymore.”

    On the music: “I like the [album] name ‘Mrs.’ It was supposed to be spelled differently, but we didn't want people to think we were trying to do an anti-hits record or whatever. (laughs) It's just there's a lot of songs about missing things and losing things and leaving things, but they're not cliche like, 'I miss you and love you and want you to come back.' Just more like thoughts about it, and I don't know, if there was a theme, I'd say it's something like that. It's moving past something.”

    On Indie-pendence: “We support any cause. We're a big supporter of causes. We sometimes support conflicting causes. You see, you wanna be on the side that wins, so you should probably be on every side, just in case one of them wins. (laughs)”

    On the future: “We are writing songs for the new record, and we are going on tour at the end of May to the deep Midwest. Like, heart of corn country."

    Lead singer Ryan Ensley on the future: “Serious hard drug problems, swift breakup, physical violence on stage for sure, probably a lot of heartbreak and our families will definitely be disappointed in the Facebook pictures that will be posted in the future.”

    AYOH: Chicago headliner, rock/pop.

    Lead singer Avi Dell on the band: “We're a rock and roll band from Chicago. We've been a band since 2010, so it's been a long time. We’re in the middle of recording our second EP. It's gonna be called Dangerous Questions, and it's gonna blow your fucking mind.”

    On the name: “Well – you’ll just have to listen and see. (laughs)”

    On the music: “[The EP name] kind of sets the tone for the whole EP, and it's been a recurring theme throughout every song. We try to either directly or maybe telepathically ask questions, challenge things that people take for granted or things that we don't understand. I think for every single song I try, from a lyrical perspective, to challenge myself, to ask questions. So I think from a listeners’ perspective, it's gonna be really interesting to hear that.”

    On Indie-pendence: “I'm not Israeli, but I am Jewish. I wear that shit on my sleeve. It was a total coincidence, quite frankly. HaAtzmaut is Israel Independence Day, and it's an incredibly important day for me, having nothing to do with music or the band or anything like that. The idea that we get to play a show to celebrate that is kind of cool. After living in Israel, HaAtzmaut is like a ridiculous day. It's like the Fourth of July, but imagine living like right after, within a generation of the actual independence war. Everyone in Israel – I don't think that anyone there takes it for granted. I've actually started a project recording Hebrew versions of our songs. I know a lot of Israeli kids love American music, and I think it'd be kind of cool for a secular American band to cater to them a little bit. It'd be a really cool experience.”

    Drummer John Paul Arrotti on the future: “Now that we're getting pretty deep into this next EP that we’re doing, we're really starting to focus on that recording. Don't get me wrong – we're still playing shows, but it really is tough to be in the studio and then all of sudden away from it and then come back and kind of get your head back into it.”


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