Well…what a night. After almost getting hit by police squads who were making a blind turn, like a scene out of the Blues Brothers, (and who still managed to bluntly curse at me), a copious amount of adrenaline pumped in my bloodstream as I made my way to the Double Door.
Strolling across the always bustling Wicker Park neighborhood, the rumble of the Damen Blue Line train on the “L” tracks above my head welcomed me to the Double Door entrance across the street. A former tavern, before a litany of rock luminaries would grace its stage, this unmistakable wood adorned venue has become a rock haven in Chicago for decades now.
Ushered in by the friendly staff at the main entrance, the pounding bass tones buzzed below my feet as I entered the dimly lit venue. With the stage submersed in lights, a sizable crowd wearing black clothing was flushed along the bar with a few stragglers conversing in front of the stage.
Chicago band, Valo, headlined the night for a release show for their new EP Rituals. As the quintet warmed up, the crowd gradually huddled in front of the stage trying to find a good view. The PA music cut-off, and the band launched into their set as a sea of smartphones lifted in the air snapping pictures.
Playing behind an ornate black and white canvas featuring their band name, (lead vocalist) Collin Patrick, (drummer) Duane James Harris Jr., (bassist) Stephen Mueller, and (guitarists) Mikael Vincente and Andre Miller plunged into a set of polished rock music.
With searing guitar riffs launching out of their Marshall amps, the crowd, possibly already working on their second or third round of vodka and cranberry, bobbed their heads right along. The cheerful and thirsty Thursday crowd fit right along with Collin Patrick’s request for some whiskey a few songs into their set.
The mood swayed a bit when bassist Duane James Harris Jr. told the crowd they would “bring it down a bit.” With the Woody Guthrie inspired sticker “This Machine Kills” stamped on Collin Patrick’s acoustic guitar, their acoustic numbers lead to a sing along with their most ardent fans.
The band, also playing songs from their first EP Preface, allowed the crowd to continue singing along to their earlier songs “Disappear Me” and the catchy chorus of “An Answer.”
But, flaying hair and screams from the crowd became the norm toward the end of their set as the band set their tone of melodic reverb heavy guitar grooves (nearly reminiscent of Modest Mouse). The thudding drums of Collin Patrick powered through their new song “Foxholes” and crowd couldn’t be happier.
The band was clearly having fun on stage and the crowd reacted in the same manner. With the crowd clapping and cheering the band on to end the night, the whiff of Jägermeister lingered in the air…the universal sign of a mischievous night.
As the house lights came on, I walked out of the Double Door through a haze of smoke and the sound of laughter as satisfied concertgoers smoked outside the venue. It was a fun Thursday night for $7.
Finally, a shout-out must be given to local band Gunner’s Daughter who played a loud and frenetic half-hour set before Valo. With punk overtones, the band infused the Double Door with some serious tangible energy. Look forward to seeing both bands again.