Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the Record Low - Chicago, IL

I met the Record Low’s Hank and Robby at a small open mic on the north side of Chicago almost seven years ago. Back then, they were an acoustic duo. I can’t say I was their biggest fan right away, but I saw the potential and talent that was obvious and evident. Through the publication (The Crutch) I ran, I did an event in 2004 called the Best of Chicago’s Open Mics. I chose Hank and Robby as one of the finalists. Then, we became friends.

They eventually added drums and bass – Justin and Markus, respectively. Collectively, they were the Record Low. Hank was beginning to push past his charming Tom Petty-style of writing and seemed to tap the subconscious more often. Robby pulled out his trademark black Gibson SG and showed signs of genius.

They released Here to Stay in 2007. The songs were great – I was now a fan – and they were fun, but one could sense more was to come. They got some local attention and that was that.

Then, Justin and Markus left the band, and the core started deconstructing everything. They experimented with different line-ups, instrumentation combinations, and went into the abyss with I saw as a mission to create something new and potent.

Last year, over two years later, they released Away From Us. They had taken the leap and found their voice.

Robby is one of the most creative guitarist I’ve seen. I’ve seen hundreds from ten feet away and he stands at the top. Hank’s lyrics and vocals are penetrating, yet untouchable. The album has precision, laid over an atmosphere of sound, with Hank soloing somewhere in the cloud. Their live show takes that and turns it all upside down. Busted bottles, stomping on guitars, and screams – there is nothing that can’t happen at a Record Low concert.

This is the beauty of this band. They are ever-changing, and multi-faceted – multi-dimensional. Like some of my favorite people, they’re always looking to better themselves. Both work their asses off in the studio, and all the hard work is now paying off, as they are receiving attention every time they play in or out of town. The Onion’s AV Club has been a fan for some time, and they made a number of "best of" lists last year.

Last summer, they added one of my favorite drummers, Jonny, who is best known for his work with The Changes. I think so much of Jonny’s drumming that I asked him to play on my own record last year. Robby actually auditioned him during that recording session. In the history of rock and roll folklore, this is how perfect matches happen, and Jonny may just be that for the Record Low.

The Record Low is currently working on another album. I was going to do a short documentary on the band, but after one day of shooting, I realized I didn’t have the tools to accomplish what I envisioned. However, I salvaged the day’s footage and created a short film for one of the most dynamic and creatively gifted bands I’ve seen in the last decade.

Go see the Record Low live this Thursday, 3/31, at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. If you RSVP by 11:59pm Wednesday night, the show is free. Send an email to rsvp@emptybottle.com with “the Record Low” in the subject line. Otherwise, it’s $8 at the door. They’re playing with Hospital Garden and F.Y.K.M.A.’s.

Finally, if I had to hand-pick Junk and Howe items for these three guys, this is what I would choose:




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