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CONCERTS No Men and Absolutely Not; The Aces; Arkells; Christian French
by Vern Hester

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CWith the iron grip of 2019's polar vortex finally weakening, spring and sold out concerts made a strong comeback in the month of March.

First was a double bill at The Empty Bottle on March 2 with hot buzz trio No Men opening for one of Chicago's hottest bands, Absolutely Not. Out frontwoman Pursley led her band—which also includes Eric on drums and DB on bass—and ripped through a set of new music from their upcoming EP while smacking her own Tom-Tom and starting the evening with a blast of rhythm and mayhem. Absolutely Not was not only celebrating its new full-length release, Problematic ( on No Trend Records ) but also displayed a thicker, more luxurious sound thanks to Chris Sutter ( of Meat Wave ) on second guitar. With out frontman Donnie Moore tearing through riffs, yelping and squeaking with abandon, his sister Madison Moore on keyboards adding a barrage of retro sci-fi figures, and Santiago Guerrero bashing his drumkit with a vengeance, Sutter's melodious fire managed to elevate Absolutely Not to a new level.

On March 11, fast rising up-and-comers The Aces hit Lincoln Hall for a rowdy sold-out show and managed to summon the ghost of great girl bands like The Bangles and The Go-Go's while displaying a fresh pop appeal. The bonkers twentysomething audience howled and screamed through most of the show and the vibe of euphoria bordered on hysteria.

Next, on March 14, Canadian rockers Arkells headlined a sold-out show at The Bottom Lounge with opener Addie Sartino and her band, The Greeting Committee. Bounding out in what looked like a full body yellow raincoat, Sartino not only bounced and shimmied to her bands brand of pop/disco, but also brought the show to a dramatic standstill with the heartbreaking ballad "Birthday Song." Fortunately, she left the stage in high spirits with a rip through the effervescent rockers "Run for Your Money" and "Some Kind of Love." Arkells frontman Max Kerman projected a 1,000-watt smile as he led his band through a jolly and admirably athletic set spotlighting the recent Rally Cry ( on Dine In Records ). Regardless of the band's reputation for being politically outspoken Kerman and his crew were all smiles as they slung guitars, invited audience members onstage to sing along, and hurled themselves into the throng.

Finally, on March 20, Quinn XCII hit The Riviera for a sold-out show in front of a rapturous crowd with Indiana popper Christian French and California rocker Ashe in tow. After finding success with his singles "Fall for You" and "Love Ride," French was making his major tour debut here. Although he was gracious enough to display some proper manners and wore a Blackhawks jersey, the crowd waved arms and squealed through his entire set. ( "He's so cute!!!" they said. ) Ashe came next and displayed her roof-rattling vocal abilities while oddly conjuring the memories of Judy Holliday ( for her giggly nature ) and Billie Holiday ( for her lilting vocal timbre ).

As much as the audience made it clear that it loved the openers, people were at The Riviera to see Quinn XCII—and when he finally appeared atop a stage set of pulsing sheets of light, the theater exploded. Fast tracked as the next "hot" thing and with his sophomore album, From Michigan with Love ( on Columbia Records ), released only a month before, this tour is set to be his last theater jaunt before he starts playing stadiums. With all the hype surrounding him, Quinn XCII did not disappoint and his show was packed with hits and show stoppers alike ( "Sad Still," "Auto Pilot," "Werewolf" ).

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