Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
Edited by Fiza Javid
You know things are amped for this sold out show with Magdalena Bay on a snowy Thursday night in Chicago, when the main bar and lobby of Lincoln Hall is packed even an hour before the doors open to the main stage area, and Magdalena merch is selling at a brisk pace as well.
Of the three shirts on display, along with cassettes, CD's and a dark tope colored baseball hat to choose from- the winner from my vantage point, was the white short sleeved T- shirt, which is bathed in a cool logo and design that was reminiscent of early eighties, with "Miami Vice" colors- lots of magenta, and lots and lots of aqua.
Then the doors open to the main floor after an hour, and there's a short rush to the main stage, everyone politely jostling for space to get as close as possible to the lip of the stage.
Not that I haven't witnessed this kind of excitement before- have lots and lots of times.
But that's why I got there early at Lincoln Hall, knowing full well by now the popularity of the duo of Mica Tennenbaum and Matthew Lewin, who are Magdalena Bay.
Things for me started with them over mid summer of last year, from Sirius XM's weekly Saturday show "The Download 15"- the past week's most downloaded songs from the internet (My take on that is strictly in house at Sirius XM- it's not like they're scouring Billboard Magazine and other journals that are similar). Sirius XM is looking at the "Cool Factor"- since it's all about Indie Music on that particular channel.
So on one particular Saturday morning, I think in mid June or thereabouts, song number three or four out of the 15 was "Chaeri" from Magdalena Bay, before the album "Mercurial World" was released in early October.
That's why I listen to this show, The Download 15, was for moments like this.
It's a crafty synth pop song, sophisticated as all get out, with a momentous buildup to walloping drums that takes you off your feet.
Had to pull the car over to listen to this song intently, screen shot my dashboard for the title and artist, and let out a "What the fuck is this? Who are these guys?"
So upon getting home, took a deep dive into Magdalena Bay, and wanted more.
Haven't been the same ever since (and that's a good thing).
And to think that they created all of Mercurial World out out of their apartment in LA is mind boggling.
I can think of plenty of solo artists who do the same thing constantly, and then post them to Tik Tok for followers and an online presence. Too many to count.
But Magdalena Bay is different, like they knew in their heads the concept, the overall feel of the tracks they've recorded and produced, polished up their sound a bit to get things just right, and definitely know the word patience, and not the word rushed.
This is my take on things with them, although I could be wrong.
I briefly met Mica in Lincoln Hall's merch area before the doors opened, going over things logistically with her merch guy, and introduced myself.
And she's a delicate yet all so cool gal- very much a down to earth and honest and sincere and has her head on straight kind of person.
You can sense that in seconds.
Which leads me up to their show- and this brief tour of theirs, titled "The Mercurial Tour", which in essence was just six short dates from east to west, with Chicago being the last stop before a brief break, and then four more shows out west before traveling overseas for Primavera Sound in Barcelona in June.
And like their popular white colored band T shirt- everything about their performance is bathed in similar colors- Miami colors - lots of magenta, and lots of aqua.
And a stage setup with an overhead screen with digital images circa mid eighties, down to Mica's ultra high white leather platform boots, and the luminescent dayglo onesi's that they were both wearing.
They added more oomph throughout with a live drummer as well, which in my opinion is far more superior than your typical dialed up drum machine.
Throughout their set, mostly from Mercurial World, the songs are posh, very straightforward, not really "Yacht Rock" as I've heard some people say- it's anything but.
You can tell that with the mid eighties feel of everything, there's lots of influences thrown into the mix, both mid eighties and more modern as well, from a bit of Human League into Heaven 17, with a bit of Grimes, some Charli XCX, and a smattering of Gary Numan swing, not the harsher electronica that was coming out of that decade, but more of the innocent and crafty kind of synth pop.
Blended all together- all you had to do was witness the main floor of Lincoln Hall- from beginning to end, the faithful were dancing in place in revelry, sharing out loud lyrics to each and every song, with both Mica and Matthew looking like they were having a grand old time as well, utilizing every inch of there intimate stage to entice the masses.
Opening with a brief keyboard exchange with their 1980's digital avatar, and then right into the song "The End", into "Mercurial World", into "Dawning of the Season", then the nugget "Secrets (Your Fire)"- and the main floor exploded with dance and amped up revelry.
Their whole set was like this- temperature outside around 20 degrees or so- temperature inside more like Miami weather- around 88 to 90 degrees.
Hot and sweaty, dancing to the beats.
The setlist- 17 songs in total, including the three for their encore.
I left Lincoln Hall that night feeling reinvigorated yet again, with not only discovering a talented duo such as Magdalena Bay, but knowing full well as well that cool and sophisticated synth pop band music is still being created to this very day, that this kind of music will never die, and it's essence of pure escapism is needed now more than ever.
Man- that was a show folks- so sorry that you weren't there to witness Magdalena Bay live.
Nest time they're in town, or touring North America- I think they're opening some dates for Charli XCX in a month or so- check them out. You won't be disappointed.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago
Writing and Photography by: Bobby Talamine
Edited by: Fiza Javid
Such a badass lineup for this North American tour with the mighty Ghost, who are sharing the stage with the indestructible Volbeat, and opening the show with the satanic duo Twin Temple.
The tour, associated with Ghost's newest release, titled "Impera", which started in Reno Nevada back on January 25th, has certainly been picking up steam leading to Friday night's show at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
And they come out of the gates magnificently on the strength of their newest single from Impera, titled "Kaisarion"- which by all intent and purposes is an anthem that's AMPED. Amped with over the top vocals and brashness and confidence. And although a bit confounding and over the top- you gotta give credit to Papa Emeritus IV for giving extra oomph to take the song up to the upper rafters of the Allstate Arena.
God, how I miss these guys.
Their stage production is glorious, with platform risers on both ends of the stage, a runway that protrudes out to the main floor, and is extra wide to accompany the steam punk nameless ghouls without having to crowd and bump into each other, and a backdrop that is jaw dropping, displaying there stained glass cathedral graphic designs that just add extra lustrous valor to the proceedings.
This is a show of shows folks. No messing around- come out to play despite a pandemic.
There are riffs upon riffs to attend to, with a setlist that bangers, consisting of 15 songs in total, with heavy hitters following "Kaisarion", when we plunge straight into "Rats", and of course the diabolically awesome "From the Pinnacle to the Pit".
Such a boxing ring one / two / three punch knockout to open the show.
So as for Papa and his nameless ghouls of Ghost- yes, their are changes as far as costume and makeup, all deliberate and meant to keep you captivated and on your toes with their methodical development, with the ghouls themselves all dressed up and jacked up steampunk style, from the wicked goggled up gas masks, down to the enflamed and puffed up military pants, down to their jackboots.
How do you not sweat bullets in that get up and gear is beyond me, with every song on their setlist not for the faint hearted and dialed up to eleven is beyond me.
The ghouls look menacingly clean and ready to rock, confidently so, making it a photographer's dream to capture the entire spectacle.
As for Papa, he's still performing in his sophisticated three piece suits to start the show, down to the lace ending arm sleeves to the gloves, with face paint worthy of a sophisticated Joker of Batman yore, but without the intentional mistakes and miscues- just with more class and panache.
Yes- Papa has quite a few costume changes throughout the show, down to even some wicked bat wing over the shoulder wear, which when Papa's arms are outstretched, you swear he could lift off the stage at any given moment and fly over the crowd to scare the masses.
The bottom line- Ghost don't skimp when it comes to production and exquisite detail.
The songs throughout?
They just keep picking up steam, from "Mary on a Cross", to "Devil Church", to the formidable "Cirice", and then into another rather new song from Impera titled "Hunter's Moon".
So by now, you get the gist- this a party on a Friday night in Rosemont, leading up to the heavy hitter "Year Zero", and ending faithfully with "Square Hammer".
And guess what? They also blast away on Metallica's "Enter Sandman", which they faithfully provided for Metallica's recent re- release of their Black Album, and meant for the covers version called "Blacklist", which is one of the highlights from that covers album.
Such an amazing time diving into Ghost performing live again, and bringing a stage show and a setlist that's unforgettable, upping the ante at every turn.
And as for Danish heavy hitters Volbeat- a 16 song setlist worthy of being named co- headliners for this tour- tearing first into "The Devil's Bleeding Crown", into "Pelvis on Fire", into the mighty "Temple of Ekur".
And there's no letup from there, with equal use of the stage risers and runway, no relaxing between songs, just trailblazing away on the strength of their latest release- "Servant of the Mind".
Hard to really pin down these guys, what with their hard and heavy metal roots, with some brash rockabilly thrown in and lead by the two guitar attack of Michael Poulsen and Rob Caggiano.
This band cooks on all levels, each and every time I've seen them perform live, making use of their allotted time with memorable and certainly not lackadaisical approach to performing live.
Every song (including the new ones from "Servant of the Mind" are wonderfully crafted, and again when performing- are beefed up with attitude and magnitude, making them worthy of a full on set on a par with Ghost.
As for Twin Temple, which are in essence the husband / wife duo of Alexandra and Zachary James- they came to play and christen the faithful in early attendance as well, what with their ritual of sword bearing, psalm reading and anointing as well, with goblets on their well place mantle rear stage, even before performing a single note.
Such magnificent costume wear as well, both from Alexandra and Zachary, looking like sophisticated demons ready for a night of anything goes.
Although they proudly reject conformity of any kind, they are steeped in certain traits of rock n' roll, clearly making them their own, mostly from rockabilly and doo wop.
And that's just fine by me, considering they faithfully execute their performances by adding drums, some sexy sax and keyboards throughout to punch up their captivating sound.
It's all old school riffs and steeped in Americana, faithfully executed with satanic overtones which that are rooted in ideals and is welcoming, not firestorm and barnstorming to get their message across.
And to see the both of them smile wickedly on occasion throughout their set was inviting as well, knowing full well that even though they're limited in the time for their set, we might as well make good use of it, and leave the crowd with a memorable show.
Alexandra and Zachary accomplished that- no problem at all.
So all three bands- Ghost - Volbeat - Twin Temple: Thank you for a magical evening.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago