With the ability to only look on from afar I was really excited to learn about the abundance of talented crop of new bands that were getting buzz out of this year's CMJ in New York. Of course, as many of my friends will probably ridicule me, many bands come with the imaginatively invented names that at times are even a mouthful when mentioning. I then began to scan through many of the band's pages determining when they may be stopping through Chicago so I knew when I would be able to check them out first hand. As luck would have it, I did not have to wait long; Kittens Ablaze out Brooklyn NY were heading to the South side to Reggie's Music Joint as an opening band, supporting their release, The Monstrous Vanguard.
Six seemingly being the new three for a band to roll, KA come armed with keyboards and and a full strings section, the lovely Michelle Young and Jenny Bress. Amid the noisy joint and big screens of Monday Night Football at the bar, the band begins playing in midst of tuning up. Not really expecting it, the vocals came from the drummer, Tim Spellman; off the bat there is a high intensity and playful energy is emitted from the stage. Its intriguing to see how alternate bands utilize a variety of instrumentation and the variety of sounds and genres that are intertwined in their influence to create a truly original voice of the band's conscious thoughts. The band introduces themselves and noting this their first visit to Chicago before hammering right back into the set. Each member plays with such fierceness (if this is a sign of the next breed of music to arrive in this next year, everyone better buckle up and prepare for an excitingly loud and orchestrated celebration of a breed of conceptual indie pop fusion rock). Spellman enjoying accents has now greeted the crowd in a British dialect and thanked us in Spanish. For the next song, Michelle takes a seat at the ledge of the amp to pick away at her cello for the next more slower tempo song, ultimately rising back to her feet as the the speed and intensity pick up to a roof raising high. There are at times these distorted explosions of noise that break into this melodious tune. Grant Rafter, who seemed to be an instrumentalist extraordinaire at times is thrashing about the stage in an attempt to rile up the decent turnout of Chicagoans(side note: the similarly looking Nate Senge and Nick Dalton round out the rest of the band and are worth the mention as there was no unsung band member on stage). At times Spellman's high octave wail of lyrics is reminiscent of a young Conor Oberst overpowering the pleasant streaking of violin.
There is a definite chaotic beauty to the way the band appropriates themselves about stage. With a diligent focus on their music and continuously unveiling another instrument, conversation was almost non existent as the band plays without a breath between song growing in intensity while bouldering through their set. I sometimes find myself taken aback watching each member play to seemingly their own beat translating this disorganized chaos into a harmonious unified beauty. The players switch around and Spellman is now standing before us at the mic, announcing this next song is a new one. Pain and emotion expressed on both girls' faces as they saw through their instruments as everyone screams a chorus, "this will make it better!!" There is a level of epic sound that resonates through each instrument while the band members are eager to sing along, when they're not insanely focused on their intricate play. All of this adds to the pleasant noise of the instruments fighting each other for the loudest presence. The band ends with the reannouncing of their name, " We are Kittens Ablaze from Brooklyn New York, Thanks" and exit stage left.