GAPERS BLOCK REVIEW
Posted Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at 4:20 pm
Alex White and her younger brother, Francis, are known for their relentless touring as the local garage-punk duo White Mystery. It’s not unusual for them to play several shows a week at venues all over the city. They bid an energetic farewell to their hometown Sunday night with an impressive show at The Empty Bottle to kick off an extensive tour of the U.S. and Canada, during which Alex said they would play in “every city in America” for a total of more than 70 shows.
Local psychedelic trio Dark Fog opened the show, entertaining the growing crowd with lengthy instrumental jams filled with spacey, warbling guitars and funky bass lines. They were followed by Boston dance-punk band Earthquake Party, who were on their first tour and played Chicago for the first time. Despite some technical difficulties with a faulty microphone, their keyboard-driven melodies, dual vocals and driving punk-rock riffs made for a good show.
White Mystery opened their set with their self-titled anthem. Brother and sister joined together in the chant of “We Are White Mystery” amid Alex’s bluesy guitar riffs and Francis’ steady, methodical drumming. They followed that up with “Powerglove” and “Blood & Venom,” the songs flowing together into one continuous jam bridged by extended drum or guitar solos.
The energy between the two siblings was palpable. Francis often disappeared into a blur of drum sticks and fiery red hair while Alex jumped across the stage, throwing her head from side to side to the wails of her guitar. Not a song went by without a flurry of the siblings’ massive, curly red hair flying to and fro in time with the music.
They really hit their stride about halfway through the set list during “Birthday.” The back-and-forth vocal structure brought out the natural chemistry between the siblings, with Francis responding to Alex’s verses with enthusiastic gems like “Boogie down in your birthday suit.” It allowed them to riff off of each other and showcase just how dynamic of a duo they can be.
In between songs, Alex bantered good-naturedly with the audience, and it was hard to believe that the woman who had just belted out the “Born to be Wild”-esque chorus to “Smoke” or screamed “I just wanna be bad” during “Good Girl” was the same one who was curtsying and politely thanking the audience in a surprisingly innocent-sounding voice that’s higher than her recordings would lead one to believe.
She displayed a more nuanced vocal range onstage than the echoing garage-punk shouts of the band’s albums, often going from a soft croon to a high-pitched shriek within the same line. As the extended solos and instrumental interludes piled up and the band performed a slower, blues-styled cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” it quickly became apparent that a White Mystery record, while still a great listening experience, is just a poor substitute for the spectacle of seeing them live.
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