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Re-Viewed: Tomorrow Never Knows with French Kicks, Headlights, Skybox, Eagle Seagull

By Julene McCoy in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 11, 2007 8:51PM

Last night a bevy of Chicagoistas were at Schuba’s for the Tomorrow Never Knows mid-winter fest. There were about an equal number of bands. TNK is giving us those hardworking bands, like minor leaguers, who are practicing the fundamentals in the hopes of one day making the big time.

Eagle Seagull by Olivia Leigh PhotographieStarting the night off were Eagle Seagull out of Lincoln, Nebraska. They have been likened to Arcade Fire and those comparisons are dead on. As we listened to their lovelorn lyrics with driving chords, all topped off with an orchestral background brought to the limits by the live violin, we envisioned those albums where aging rockers show off their artistry by playing their greatest hits with the London Philharmonic.

A Chicago-via-Phoenix band, Skybox, was the second band of the evening. These boys took the stage by storm with a ballsy cover of Tom Waits’ “Bone Machine” complete with the vocal stylings perfectly aped by Tim Ellis. We thought to ourselves if this was for real and would his voice last, then they burst into a train-chugging country beat for the next song. A song written by a cockroach that started off as a children’s song, but turned into a stoner jam, came next. Very ADD. After that the music was the stuff that great stoner jams are made of — atmosphere, weird sounds and noise without much direction or end.

Tim Ellis of Skybox by Olivia Leigh PhotographieWe enjoyed Headlights the most of any of the bands last night. Erin Fein’s Bjork-sounding voice perfectly complements the happy pop that they play from Kill Them With Kindness. We found ourselves lost in the dreamscape swaying back and forth, but the band added some oomph to the sound, ending the set with stronger beats and volume to almost make the indie crowd dance. Almost.

French Kicks were the headliners, the reason why we were there. The guys eventually got all their gear to the stage, along with beverages, and started playing their set. We listened for the sophisticated layering that they are said to be known for, but all we got was simplistic sounds and by far the most artless percussion we have heard in a long time live. Before we are forced to start freaking out about the Elaine-like dance that lead singer Nick was affecting to convey emotion, we feel it is best to just stop.

These bands are making strides and are out there working their butts off to make it to the majors, but overall we were left with the feeling that they just need a little more time working the fundamentals and waiting for that perfect song that will catapult them to the big leagues. We’ll keep an eye on these bands because each of them tends to play the kind of music we like to have on our iPod for those long CTA treks and, of course, because Tomorrow Never Knows.

Thanks to Olivia Leigh for taking the great photos above. Check out the rest of her pics at her Flickr stream.