Loyal Divide (one of the bands playing at chicago.com/music’s sxsw showcase) took to the stage of Chicago’s celebrated Metro theater sometime after 8 pm on a warmer than usual January evening. The show wasn’t theirs as they were opening for Felix Culpa, nonetheless it was the first time this up-and-coming band took to the Metro’s stage and you could tell they were excited to do it.
Loyal Divide is a band that really is best understood live, or at least until you see them live once. The five musicians, who all seem to be able to play each other instruments (aside from the drummer, of course), coalesce their talents into a morphing, textured, spacey-yet-determined, quasi-electric, quasi-rock music that just beacons you to listen and dares you to not enjoy it. However, if one takes in just their albums the complexity and nature of their sound might lead one to assume the supplementation of computerization is used, in which one would be in error, and therein lies one of their most impressive traits.
The band started off with “Lights” from their first, self-titled, release. I believe this was a good choice for an opener in front of the substantial crowd of new ears that was present within the Metro that evening. It showcased their ability to groove, as well as to move from a mellow-rock-feelings into a noisy crescendo and back again. Afterward the band moved into a couple tracks from their more recent release, “Labrador” and “Vision Vision,” which I believe are more accurate descriptions of where this band is musically headed.
These songs employ briskly syncopated digital beats, reinforced by the actual drummer, and pivot around hallucinatory-synthesized sounds instead of the electric guitar. Throw in groovy bass lines and harmonized vocals and you have a complete party for your ears. Yes, they are making music that is in step with the current electrification of psychedelic music, but its more than that because their sounds are being created by individuals and because they employ a dynamism within their songs that completely computerized music just can’t cope with. They may use similar ingredients as their contemporaries, but the product just tastes different, and damn good.
The highlight for this author was their 4th song of the evening, a new one that used this unchanging, awesomely-pounding bass line that had this subtle funk to it (like as if you could rap over the beat, if you wanted to), before the band put their instrumented, danceable, psychedelic highlights over it. It reminded me of the new material from the Brian Jonestown Massacre (which was just released, so there is no way the band heard it before writing the song), which to me means this band is substantially ahead of their genre’s curve.
The only bummer about the Loyal Divide’s performance was it’s brevity, but I won’t hold that against them as it was an understandable let-down, as they were an opening act. But rest assured the next time they play a full set I will be there, eager to hear some more of their new material, and if you enjoy either electronic or psychedelic music of any kind… you should be there too!
by sean brna