Photo from Metropolly Facebook page.
The Halloweekend double dose of tribute bands at The Abbey Pub in Chicago has become one of my favorite new traditions. It tends to draw a lot of the same local musicians who participate in International Pop Overthrow when it comes to town every April. Like IPO, Halloweekend features a lineup of about six bands each night. But in this case, the holiday gives the groups license to dress up while paying homage to well known rock bands. In the past few years, I’ve seen faux versions of The Beatles, early Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols, The Bangles, and Squeeze.
This year, I was only able to make it on Friday, and due to the Metra train schedule, had to leave before American Headlight Noise took the stage as Bruce Springsteen. But it was still quite an experience. While the St. Louis Cardinals were winning the World Series on a big screen TV above the bar, each of the bands in the Halloweekend lineup hit it out of the park.
Metropolly kicked things off in the guise of Hole. I had never heard of Metropolly, and there isn’t a whole lot of info available on the band’s website or Facebook page. But when I saw Holly Senchak mingling in the crowd just before show time wearing a short white dress and tiara, I figured that had to be our Courtney Love for the evening. Lead vocalist-guitarist Senchak immediately proved she had the right stuff when she took the stage. After her initial greeting failed to draw a response, she howled “Hello!” into the mic, and from then on, everyone was paying attention. She led the band through rousing versions of “Miss World,” “Doll Parts,” and “Malibu.” Midway through the set, Senchak gazed out at the Halloween revelers and in a perfect Love voice asked, “So who dressed up?” Metropolly finished up with a perfect take on “Violet.”
I’m almost positive at least a few members of Penthouse Sweets have been at The Abbey in some form each of the times I’ve been there. Not that I mind. This band is a guaranteed fun time, whether they’re playing their own melodic indie rock or dousing the audience from shaken up beer bottles in the midst of performing as The Sex Pistols. This year, Penthouse Sweets took on Nick Lowe and delivered pop masterpieces like “Cruel To Be Kind,” “Heart Of The City,” “So It Goes,” “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding” and “Teacher Teacher” with energetic playing and tight harmonies. There was nothing too off the wall from these guys this year, other than their drummer dressing up as Barney Rubble.
I have to confess I was disappointed when I heard The Webstirs would be covering Chicago this year. They’re such an eccentric and imaginative pop band, I felt someone from the original British Invasion or The Beach Boys would be a better fit. But Friday night, as I saw a trio of horn players making their way to the stage, I sensed The Webstirs were up to something special. With the help of the additional musicians, they nailed vintage Chicago hits like “25 or 6 to 4,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” “Saturday In The Park,” and “Make Me Smile.”
When I reviewed a Bon Mots CD for the Illinois Entertainer a while back, I was impressed with their easy-going, well-crafted indie pop songs. So their decision to cover Alice Cooper was even more of a stretch than The Webstirs doing Chicago. But this was a Halloween party after all, and the musicians, sporting muscle t shirts, jeans, and incredibly long wigs cranked out hard rocking versions of “School’s Out,” “Be My Lover,” “I’m Eighteen,” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” It was hard to tell because of the costumes, but I’m reasonably sure Eric Chial and Lou Hallwas of Penthouse Sweets were also part of the Bon Mots lineup
I wasn’t familiar with singer John Aselin going into last Friday’s showcase, but his plan to perform early 1970s era Rolling Stones was intriguing. Plus, he had singer-guitarist Phil Angotti on board to play Keith Richards. Aselin had all of Mick Jagger’s stage mannerisms down, and even if they were a bit exaggerated at times, he had a strong stage presence and a good voice.With a full band, including a horn section behind him, Aselin tore through “Brown Sugar,” “Dead Flowers,” “Jumping Jack Flash,” and “Tumbling Dice.” Angotti sang lead on “Happy,” and Holly Senchak from Metropolly wailed as a back-up vocalist on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Gimme Shelter.”
Unfortunately, I had to leave before American Headlight Noise as took the stage Bruce Springsteen, but I’m guessing they carried in the same impressive fashion as the Halloweekend acts that preceded them that night.