The pride of Philadelphia Drink Up Buttercup passed though Chicago’s Subterranean, and QRO was there… in September. Yup, Sunday, September 26th. Unlike good wine and U.S. Treasury bonds, concert reviews don’t generally improve with the passage of time, but there are two critical reasons why every Windy City music junkie needs this belated review all up in their grill. First, the band you already knew rocked, Drink Up Buttercup, will be coming back to town in January as part of Tomorrow Never Knows (link), a toasty little treat of a festival now in it’s seventh year that will warm up the winter months and scare away any post-Festivus blues. Second, the band you didn’t know rocked, opener North Highlands, simply can’t pass without mention.
Headliner Drink Up Buttercup is one of those rare acts that combines diamond-cut precision with a certain air of slop. Most of the set list issued from their stellar album Born and Thrown on a Hook (QRO review). In fourteen tracks, the grizzly foursome takes the listener on a magical mystery tour through the gates and archways of a puzzle-piece musical landscape that delivers with both heart and soul. There’s a homespun quality to this band that allows them to take polished melodies and serve them up with the sweet smell of a small town bakery. Homey kitsch and pop hooks are Drink Up Buttercup’s bread and butter. The kitsch was in full force at Subterranean. The stage was strewn with the cultural detritus of fondly remembered childhoods: a plastic duck, antlers, pink kazoos, and, of course, the accessory that has become nearly synonymous with a Drink Up Buttercup set: the garbage pail percussion. Notable standouts included the raucous, rumptuous "Sosey and Dosey", and the always-endearing "Lovers Play Dead". Catch this act when they roll back into town- right now it looks like they’ll be hitting Schuba’s with Generationals, Pet, and an "unannounced guest". Mystery band be damned, that’s a fine bill right there, on January 12th, so you’ll have had plenty of time to work off that New Year’s hangover.
Finally, the last opener North Highlands has been turning some heads, and was slotted as the opener for Ra Ra Riot’s (QRO spotlight on) upcoming tour. That’s sounds like kind of a big leap for a band that was just another Brooklyn band not so long ago, but when you hear the music and see them live, you understand. A solid, quirky quintet that has a good grasp of long form Americana songwriting with shades of Ra Ra Riot, Arcade Fire (QRO live review), Twin Sister (QRO album review), and more living legends. Add to that an über-talented lead songstress, who dresses like your unmarried aunt and is quickly growing into both her voice and starring role, and you’ve got a band to get real excited about. North Highlands fired up a lot of musicheads at CMJ, don’t sleep on this band.