The excitement was high as fans lined up outside the Bottom Lounge on November 6, eager to get inside and secure their spot. Passerbys heading to the bar to watch the Blackhawks started, wondering what everyone was buzzing about. They didn’t know in a few hours some of alternative rock’s most promising acts were going to light up the stage as part of Alt Nation’s Advanced Placement Tour.
The Shelters kicked off the night with some good old fashion rock n roll. With a rockabilly style and lots of energy, the band commanded the small stage. They already have a respectable following, with plenty in the crowd singing along to songs like, “Really Wanted You,” “Rebel Heart,” and “The Ghost is Gone.” And if their old school rock vibe didn’t grab you, the hot riffs from Josh Jove most certainly did. He stole the spotlight several times with fiery solos that were more about his talent rather than showing off. By the end of their set, the entire crowd was on their side, clapping their hands and mumbling the words to songs they didn’t know yet. Their performance proved how promising The Shelters are. Be sure to keep your eye on them in the future.
If you didn’t know who The Hunna were before the show, you were ready to sing their graces after. Straight from London, The Hunna are an explosive four piece that perfectly fuse high energy rock with melodic, catchy hooks. Their set was the most energetic and chaotic. From start to finish, they played non-stop rock that pummels you in the chest. Frontman Ryan Potter recklessly attacked his guitar looking like he was going to fall over at any minute. When he wasn’t shredding, he sang with power ripping his vocal chords for some songs, while others found him singing soulfully.
Though their debut album, 100, just dropped this year, they already have a large following. Most of the crowd sang along to tracks like “Bonfire,” “You and Me,” and “Bad for You.” Every song they performed felt like a hit; something you could totally rock out to, yet sing along with at the same time. They fought through their sound issues and put on a blistering performance making sure you wouldn’t forget them anytime soon.
As always, Night Riots killed the show. Playing a mix of fan favorites and material from their new album, Love Gloom, the band got the crowd dancing with their irresistible grooves and charming nature. It seemed like everyone in the crowd knew who they were as opposed to their previous shows in Chicago, so there was a lot of singing from the audience. At times it drowned out frontman Travis Hawley, but he clearly loved it as he smiled for just about the entire set.
What makes this performance so refreshing from their prior Chicago outings is their willingness to try different things on this tour. During songs like “Contagious” and “Oh My Heart,” members ditched their instruments, stood behind large drums, and beat the hell out of them in succession. For an added effect, they turned off the lights to show off the glowing sticks. It was like something out of Stomp or The Blue Man Group. It’s an exciting change of pace and something that made the live experience the more special.
They also fiddled with the arrangement of songs like “Back to Your Love” and “Follow You.” They extended breakdowns and passed the mic off to fans. Hawley remained charming as ever knowing when to flick his hair or shake his hips on cue to get a roar from the crowd. He strutted across stage giving high fives and shaking hands throughout.
Hawley provided an intimate moment sitting alone at a keyboard and singing part of “Everything Will Be Alright” taken from the new album. Again, another welcomed addition to their stage show. But it didn’t take long for Night Riots to bring back the energy with “Breaking Free” and their current single “Nothing Personal.”
When your eyes weren’t on Hawley, they were on Nick Fotinakes and Mikel Van Kranenburg. They often took center stage slaying riffs with attitude. Guitarist Matt DePauw rarely left his corner of the stage, but his playing was intense, making his blond hair shake endlessly. And the way Rico Rodriguez pounded the drums made you think they were bound to break at any second. Fans ate up every minute whether they were playing or taking a swig of water. When their set ended, fans chanted “One more song! One more song,” but the guys didn’t return. They opted to hit the floor right away, taking time out to chat with fans, sign autographs, and take pictures.
The show proved that Night Riots not only love to play on stage together, but they love their fans. They understand how far they’ve come on their own merit and their loyal fanbase who try to convert non-believers. If you weren’t a fan of at least one of the bands when you walked in, you were a fan of all three by the time you walked out. The Shelters, The Hunna, and Night Riots represent some of the best music that’s happening in alternative rock. It won’t take long for them to reach the masses.