The local quintet Van Go was already midway through its set when I arrived at The Abbey last Saturday for the final night of International Pop Overthrow Chicago 2010. Unfortunately, I had missed opening act The Ringles. Erica Loftus, one of the two female vocalists from The Right Tidys, a band that includes Van Go bassist Lou Galassini and had done an IPO gig at Bird’s Nest a few days earlier, came onstage for a few high-spirited numbers. Van Go had four CDs to draw on, and its experience was evident on melodic but hard-hitting songs like “London Underground” and “Ethan.” A cover of Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk” was also impressive, but Van Go saved the best for last with its powerful tune, “Your Three Minutes.”
The Romeros, wearing vintage black suits, opened their energetic set with a perfect version of Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl Of My Dreams.” The band exuded a punk intensity with three, and sometimes four band members joining in on vocals, as it raced through original songs from its Cooler Than Your Boyfriend EP.
As the showcase progressed, the audience continued to expand, drawing local musicians as well as fans. Brad Elvis and Chloe F. Orwell from The Handcuffs mingled with friends, along with Ellis Clark, who performs with Epicycle as well as The Handcuffs. The Handcuffs will share a bill with the psychedelic pop band The Hushdrops at The Abbey on May 15th. Mike Galassini and Marianne Shimkus of The Valley Downs, and Mike Cohen of The Abbeys and Pop Dollys were also in the crowd.
Indie rockers The Backgroom, who were breaking in a brand new bass player, switched easily between energetic and more introspective music during their set, with keyboards figuring prominently in the mix. Some songs flowed naturally into instrumental passages, but The Backroom could also keep things more direct and catchy, particularly on a tune I’m guessing was called “Tonight.”
Sincerely Calvin came on next, using the same keyboards player as The Backroom. Jack McCabe strummed his guitar while using a talky vocal style that added a theatrical flair to long form songs like “Planetarium.” Throughout its set, Sincerely Calvin created an alluring mix of synthesizers and acoustic instruments.
I wasn’t able to stay for more than the first few songs from the Cliff Johnson Band, but it was clear that it was firing on all cylinders. Johnson took a huge risk by leaving Off Broadway, a group that was still extremely popular on the club scene more than two decades after the release of the power pop masterpiece, On. He’s working with a complete new lineup now, and they sounded impressive at The Abbey. I was hoping to snag a copy of his solo debut, Little Crimes, but didn’t see it on the merchandise table. One of these days, I’ll get my hands on a copy.
As he does every night, founder David Bash enthusiastically introduced each band for the International Pop Overthrow Chicago 2010 finale. He obviously has a blast on these tours, and promised to return here for his tenth year next April. Can’t wait.