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