As Preston Lovinggood took the stage, acoustic guitar and white sweet towel in hand, he did not look the part. I don't know if it was the well-trimmed hair or the clean shaven face or maybe the sweater worn over a button-up shirt, but he really did not fit the look the of the rest of the band. He talked about how they were glad to be back in Chicago, and how they had spent a month here back February playing a residency at Schubas. Wild Sweet Orange then proceeded to play every song in their catalog, and completely blow the crowd of maybe 90 people away. After that I don't think anyone care what he looked. What draws you into the music of Wild Sweet Orange is the passion, energy, and sincerity that Preston brings to each and every song. Through out the performance the emotion was visible across his face and in his voice, and the band matches that intensity every step of the way. The first of two big surprises came as an electronic beat arose just before Preston launched into "Ten Dead Dogs", and it remained through out the song. It served as almost remix version of the original. The second surprise was the closing track. Preston asked the audience if they wouldn't if they closed on a softer note (having just played "Tilt"), and the crowd applauded the opening notes of "Sour Milk". What was interesting is the band joined in in full force half way through the song, and really rocked what it typically a quiet acoustic song. Preston thanked the crowd, and said everyone had made the launch of their fall tour an enjoyable one.
Opening the show was Chicago's Otter Petter, and they were extremely fun and entertaining. I had never fully understood the Ben Gibbard references until I saw Michael Pritchard perform live. The sound is as if Ben Gibbard had moved to Chicago and decided to play dusty bar room rock, and there is nothing wrong with that. After Otter Petter, Audrye Sessions changed the mood lighting with bright white Christmas lights. The California group filled the room with their effects and experiments. Every second of their performance was filled with sound, and some of those sounds were quite exciting. For example, I can't remember the last concert I attended with an accordion player. They were the loudest performance of the night, and for me the most surprising.
Wild Sweet Orange will be on tour with Audrye Sessions through October, and then they will open a few shows for Counting Crows before spending the last leg of the tour with Margot & The Nuclear So & Sos. The tour ends where it began at The Bottom Lounge on November 22nd. Image above by Dominick Mastrangelo (taken at the Bowery Ballroom in New York in May).