(Note: I think I’ve found a new feature I’d like to experiment with. I’m calling it what it is: an unplanned review. It could be an older, unheard album, a concert, or anything else musical I listened to or watched strictly for my own amusement. Since the events are personal, I’ll probably write them in first person. Let’s see where this goes.)
THE EVENT: Riverside at the Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 3/8/23*
Let’s face facts: my heart wasn’t in this gig.
My back was killing me (as usual) and I was feeling a little glum (happens more than I care to admit). The last thing I felt like doing was trudging my way to a show to listen to a band I hardly knew.
Still, I had heard a couple of Riverside records and I liked them. I would put them in the same family with Haken: heavy but melodic. (A friend and fellow writer is gonna read this and freak.)
I waited until the last minute to try for a media pass, but that went nowhere. Funny thing is, I bought a ticket the day before, anyway. Maybe I already knew. Point is, staying home would be tossing 30 bucks out the window. So, I summoned my innermost will, got dressed, and made my way to the Bottom Lounge.
It took me longer than usual to get going, So I got to the venue at around 7:30, half an hour after the doors opened. Normally, I’m there an hour before they open, to make sure I have a good spot directly up front. It’s much better for photos, and I have the big, metal barricade to lean and rest my back on. Needless to say, that option was a no-go this time. So, I found a nice, big wall off to the right and about halfway back, and proceeded to lean. The view wasn’t really that bad, considering this is a standing gig. ^
The show started right on time, which is always appreciated. And let me say this: The Cyberiam Duo has some serious game. They’re a Chicago quartet, but — I’m not sure why — this time there were only two of them. No matter, they were great! Keith Semple is a great guitarist and singer. Bassist Brian Kovacs has a tone from the goods that makes me think of John Entwhistle meets Geddy Lee. I’m sure he’d tell me something different. He’s also a great harmony vocalist. Yeah, this band is on my radar now.
Riverside also came on promptly at 9. Perhaps they knew a good chunk of their audience was out on a school night and past their bedtimes. Regardless, it’s a sign of respect and we appreciate it.
SPOILER ALERT: I’m not well versed in the Riverside catalog, so I’m going to do here what I almost never do — I’m posting the setlist. Apologies for ruining the surprise, if any.
- #Addicted(with extended intro)Play Video
- 02 Panic RoomPlay Video
- Landmine BlastPlay Video
- Big Tech BrotherPlay Video
- Left OutPlay Video
- Post-TruthPlay Video
- The Place Where I BelongPlay Video
- Egoist HedonistPlay Video
- The Depth of Self-DelusionPlay Video
- Friend or Foe?
- Self-AwarePlay Video
- Conceiving You(with extended outro jam)
I don’t know Riverside’s catalog (I listened to their new album, ID.Entity, enough to write a coherent review), so my cheers were more for appreciating what was being played. And what was being played was quite wonderful.
The band has great chemistry, which can be heard in the first 30 seconds. You can still see that they’re having fun up there. I don’t know that there’s a dominant focus, instrumentally. I did feel like I was hearing more from the bass of Mariusz Duda, whose also the band’s vocalist and keyboardist Michal Łapaj, whose synthesizer and organ tones cut through the mixing board like a chain saw. (And bear in mind, the main sound I got was coming from the right-side PA speakers.)
As the band’s frontman, Duda did a terrific job of engaging the crowd and assuring everyone enjoyed themselves. His sense of humor toward progressive rock songs was apparent when he said he wanted everyone to sing along during one part of a song, but let us know we wouldn’t be needed “for about five minutes.” You have to set things up, after all!
Maciej Meller is a more than capable guitarist, whether it’s when he steps forward to take the lead, or when he provides his added layer to the overall mix. Drummer Piotir Kozieradzki is as solid as they come, playing with passion and giving us an insane groove.
The songs were melodic, even as they thundered away in odd time signatures. Everyone onstage was comfortable and well aware of what he was doing. It has made me eager to check out the band’s back catalog. Riverside has a new fan!
So yeah … it would have been a real shame to miss this one. Sometimes you gotta listen to the little voice, suck it up and carry on. I’m glad I followed through.
* — For my friends outside the United States, I’m using the American form of day of the month, starting with the month first. I can turn the date around military-style, but I could never get this style straight. Apologies for the inconvenience.
^ — For those of you who just muttered, “That’s why I don’t go to standing shows anymore,” believe me — I feel you. But I moved to Chicago in order to write about mostly up-and-coming bands and concerts, and I can’t do that consistently from the back of the room. One way I can assure myself an up close and personal experience is by attending standing gigs, back be damned. I think some of the photos I’ve taken (unlike those featured here) will back me up.
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I’m in the midst of writing my second book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell
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Gonna def check these guys out!
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As well you should!