BY DIVINE RIGHT with THE M'S and SINGLES at Lee's Palace, March 26. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 300. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Couldn't help but shed a guilty tear for being at Lee's Palace while the final Blow Up raged on over at the El Mo.
Of course, this could also have been the effect of my eyes adjusting to Lee's new fluorescent-red hallway entrance, which is so brightly lit, the security guys are looking more tanned every week.
Inside, a modest crowd of folks in low-key threads gathered around the perimeter of the empty pit. Onstage, Chicago's the M's revived late-60s, early-70s UK garage rock in the spirit of Marc Bolan with strokes of the Kinks, playing songs off their self-titled debut LP.
Despite their retro rock styles, the M's have a grungy Midwestern ennui thing that sets them apart from the revivalist glut. The four-man-band's hard, catchy riffs and left-field arrangements, juxtaposed with their gentle words, congruent harmonies, whimsical vocal stylings and non-threatening looks (singer/guitarist Robert Hicks has the prototypical face of a Disney knight) make for a quality half-hour set.
Before a much bigger throng of cheering fans, many of whom looked like they'd been enjoying the headliners since the 90s, and a strobe wave of camera flashes, By Divine Right picked up their instruments. With little ado, they ripped right into the buoyant stoner pop rock like it was 10 years ago - or two weeks ago at SXSW - all over again.
Their token claim to be excited to be here came as a monotone statement, repeated by gangly lead strummer/singer Jose Miguel Contreras , guitarist/backup singer/total babe Colleen Hixenbaugh (in a hypnotic black-and-white dress), bassist Dylan Hudecki and drummer Cam Giroux in overlapping voices.
Trippier still, the stage was decorated with a glowing Easter bunny and a number of lamps, one holding many strings of (what I'm hoping were) Mardi Gras beads, which Hixenbaugh later threw into the full pit of dancing people.
"Less talk, more rock" was the motto of the band Feist used to play bass in, as they careened through the bright but hefty garage pop of their latest, Sweet Confusion.
The sounds left me craving the radiance of a sunny July afternoon. I settled for a second bask in that new hallway.