It was a bitter cold Chicago night — in fact, the whole United States was experiencing a punishing freeze. The last week’s snowfall gave way to blistering freezes that solidified the sidewalks into sheets of ice fit for a zamboni. Luckily, the roads were clear enough for show-goers to make it out to Schubas Tavern in Lakeview on a Saturday night. This show was scheduled as the third date of Short Fictions’ ‘Don’t Start a Band Tour’, but following cancellations in Detroit and Columbus, Chicago would actually be the tour’s opening performance.
The show consisted of an emo-centric bill, with each band representing different phases of emo’s recent history. Short Fictions is a band on the rise, recently signing to Southern California’s Lauren Records (also housing releases from Chicago natives Nectar and Avery Springer of Retirement Party). When Short Fictions was thinking about who to work with on this upcoming run, Chicago transplant Your Arms Are My Cocoon was their top choice. YAaMC is the bedroom screamo project of Tyler Odom. The release of their self-titled EP in 2020 garnered online attention which has sustained to this point for nearly 2 years. The opener is Mush — you might know frontman/guitarist Erik Czaja from his other projects, such as Dowsing or emo-supergroup Pet Symmetry. This bill is an exciting cast of familiar and new faces on the scene.
The show began before a single note was played when Mush started their set by bantering among themselves. It’s always great to see a band having fun first; it serves as a reminder that music is supposed to be, well… fun. Mush’s sound is reminiscent of the sonic bigness of aughts emo legends Jimmy Eat World and Taking Back Sunday. Czaja’s yells peak over his singing voice as songs crescendo. Fast strummed, distorted guitars and a clobbering backing rhythm bounce heavy off the venue walls. Their songs beg for a stadium-sized trampoline fest which, in a “post-COVID” concert environment, is a hit and miss occurrence, especially if there is room to distance. Nonetheless, Mush delivered a tremendous performance in the opening slot. The crowd was definitely feeling the energy in the applause breaks between songs, which were extended and loud. For an opening band to bring such comfortable energy is a testament to their apparent performing experience. Mush’s playful dialogue and big sound connected strongly with the crowd to start off the night.
Since the success of Your Arms are My Cocoon’s debut EP during the 2020 lockdown, there has been a lot of anticipation for what Tyler Odom, the project’s creator, would do next. Fans were treated to new music after a relatively long break with the release of a split with Colombian band Basuraastillada entitled Our Little Trains. Far from the bedroom origins of his debut EP, Odom brought his songs to life with a laptop and his guitar. Besides a friend who helped Odom place stuffed animals around the stage, the songwriter himself was solo for the performance. Dressed in pajama-bottoms, a Christmas sweater, and an ascot, Odom presented the songs with full-force in his most comfortable clothes. The plushy presentation was harshly juxtaposed by Odom’s powerful screams, which crack sharply from time to time. Even when there were lulls in the set, the audience remained encouraging until Odom started the next song. Towards the end of the set, energy picked up when Odom invited the audience to mosh. Before the last song, Odom triggered a track and joined in the moshing himself. With Odom in the mix, the lofi drum machine emanating from the Macbook left onstage was enough to swirl the crowd into a final frenzy. YAaMC held their own in the pit and on stage, putting on a purposeful and vulnerable performance.
Short Fictions closed out the show, and they deserved the hearty applause they received upon taking the stage. Their unique blend of emo is reminiscent of bands like The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, and labelmates Algernon Cadawallader. Much of their music contains multiple “switch-up” parts, like on “Property of Pigeons” where in the middle of the song the band rips into a Deafheaven-esque blastbeat section subverting expectations of where they will go next. With a trombone to boot, Short Fictions delivered interesting arrangements to a style that can at times be predictable. Sam Trebor is an amicable frontman, relaying his Malört experience to the usual jeers and cheers, and praising a former hockey player from Pittsburgh who now plays on the Chicago Blackhawks. After a tumultuous day, getting to see Short Fictions ripping through their intricate songs was a perfect close to the night.