Up in a little corner on H St, two groups were tuning up for a night’s worth of music 700 miles away from home. On Wednesday, November 30th, co-headliners Friko and The Slaps invited the audience into Chicago’s rising music scene.
The opening act, Violet Evergreen, began the night with a rough and tough set, striking listeners with metal and rock songs. At moments, the strong vocals and instrumentals collided too harshly, resulting in a devolving and discordant clamor. Maryland natives, the quartet set the tone for the night, amplifying the crowd’s anticipation for what might follow from the next group.
Friko was the first headliner, and they took to the stage with guitars, a keyboard, and written setlists in hand. The moment the trio literally stepped into the spotlights, the group’s heart was clear. Embracing in a group hug and perhaps exchanging some words obscured from the audience’s eyes and ears, the band took something similar to a pause before the storm. Still, no moment was an adequate signal for the visceral energy of the upcoming performance.
Wednesday night‘s performance was a testament to Friko’s incredible devotion to the music and what the craft means to the group. Friko was full of improvised shrieks, toe raises, and ardent expressions. Though the performance was technically exceptional, the clear highlight of the night was Niko Kapetan’s vocals . Kapetan’s vocal skill and projection were awe-inspiring; with such a raw yet powerful voice, his presence seemed too large for the small barstools of Pie Shop. His performance of “Half As Far,” an honest and vulnerable song that the band’s frontman wrote in the immediate aftermath of dropping out of university, showcased just how well Kapetan projects a multitude of emotions through a single lyric. With Luke Stamos on bass and Bailey Minzenberger on drums, the band’s recorded discography took on a fuller richness, and the tone of each track’s live execution became more complex.
As Friko thanked the audience and exited the stage, The Slaps prepared to take their turn with the crowd. The atmosphere shifted and cooled; where Friko left the room charged with palpable emotion, The Slaps began to smooth the air into something similar to nonchalance. It was the beginning of the night’s introduction to slacker rock.
An American Generation X-led genre, slacker culture is a mix-and-match label that intertwines the lo-fi and rock genres. As such, slacker rock is characterized by crooning vocals, plunking strings, and a generally blasé performance style.
The Slaps proved an appealing entry point for curious listeners to the sub-genre of slacker rock. With limp wrists and nodding heads, group members Rand Kelly, Ramsey Bell, and Josh Resing stepped along like the songs were leading their body language. Performances of “Being Around” and “Gallons” took twangy turns, and improvised endings left audience members warbling back to the band. The band sporadically broke for comedic exchanges, pausing for conversations implied to be just as important as the songs themselves. The Slaps took each moment in the direction they pleased; as such, the night ended with two unplanned encores. The performance highlighted the droning casualness of young adulthood– a focal point that made sense, considering their formation in college. Simplicity is difficult to perfect in music, but as they gain further experience, The Slaps are coming closer and closer to achieving that elusive goal.
On November 30th, Pie Shop was a microcosm of the highs and lows of musical influence on emotions. Where Friko strung together a frenzied tone of fervor, The Slaps drew out long acoustic strands of atmospheric steadiness. Coming from the same city might have initially meant something– or perhaps it doesn’t mean anything at all. Despite their Chicago roots, both Friko and The Slaps have found the listeners and success they deserve across city and state lines.