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Concert Review: Grouplove/Youngman/Deserters at The Subterranean

By Eric Hehr in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 18, 2011 9:00PM

Deserters at The Subterranean. Photo by Ani Katz
If you were strolling through Wicker Park this past Friday night, you may have noticed a mammoth line outside of The Subterranean, stretching all the way from its entrance on North Avenue and curving around the block to Damen.

Before the large line outside The Subterranean had fully filtered into the venue, the opening act, Deserters, began their set. Deserters is a Chicago based pop/rock outfit, and they have yet to release an EP or LP. Their set at The Subterranean was also their first formal show. Despite the band's state of infancy, Deserters plowed through a half-hour long set with the poise of seasoned music veterans, leaving many in the audience asking each other, “Wait, what was the name of that band again?” Although the band had no merchandise for sale, they encouraged the crowd to check out their Facebook profile, where fans have the opportunity to stream new music, watch candid videos from the studio, and be informed of upcoming shows.

Next up was Youngman, which is the moniker for Minnesota-based artist, Colin Caulfield, who gained national attention after posting covers of his favorite songs on his YouTube profile. These covers included songs by popular buzz artists such as Panda Bear, Ariel Pink, Grizzly Bear, and Deerhunter. Deerhunter bandleader, Bradford Cox, actually stumbled across Caulfield’s cover of “Rainwater Cassette Exchange,” and was so impressed by it he was quoted as saying “…(the cover) is fantastically superior to the original. It actually sent shivers up my spine, especially during the second verse.”

Youngman’s first EP, Boy, was released free of major label expectations but with the nurturing support of Caulfield’s YouTube channel subscribers (and a bit of encouragement from indie label, Frenchkiss Records). Currently, Youngman is gearing up to release their highly anticipated debut LP, Ideas of Distance, on September 27th. This bedroom recording project based around cover songs has now reached the whole world with glowing reviews, all outside of the constraints of the music industry and mainstream media.

Grouplove at The Subterranean. Photo by Ani Katz
While the D.I.Y nature of Youngman's story is redeemable, at the end of the day it all comes back to the music. Youngman's recorded material is praised for its lo-fi quality and unrefined sense of layering. However, these attributes did not stylistically translate live as well as they do recorded, leading to a lapse in the audience’s attention and a muddled-sounding live mix. By the end of their set, it was clear that the crowd was a bit worn out from some extensive jamming, and needed a quick pick-me-up.

Los Angeles-based act, Grouplove, provided a much needed jolt to the evening. Their colorful set, which covered most of the material on their recent LP, Never Trust a Happy Song, included live artwork, costumes and masks, and a consistent flow of optimistic energy, bringing a literal connotation to the name, Grouplove. There was a steady flow of good vibes from the start of their set till the end of their encore, giving the end of the night a sanguine afterglow.