In one of the more unusual year-end concerts that I've seen, acoustic blues rocker William Elliott Whitmore headed a deceptively diverse bill at Thalia Hall on Dec. 15 and managed to both confuse and excite his passionate audience.
First up was Raye Zaragoza, who opened the show with a quiet set that included the love song "Heroin," "American Dream" and "Fight for You." Just as the audience was falling into a folksy acoustic lull, local hard rockers Tight Phantomz hit the stage and literally tore the roof off of Thalia Hall with a blast of their "death boogie," served with Pete Croke's numbing bass chords and guitarist/vocalist Mike Lust's raging bark.
After that set, audience members were good and ready ( and wide awake ) for Whitmore's hard-edged acoustic blues. Offering a set of old ( "Hell or High Water," "Johnny Law," "Diggin' My Grave" ) and new material from the recently released Kilonova ( on Bloodshot Records )which features reworked covers from his favorites ( "Don't Pray On Me," by Bad Religion;"Fear of Trains," by Stephen Merritt; and "Lean On Me," by Bill Withers )Whitmore didn't disappoint as his very vocal audience pelted him with "I love you" and "you sexy motherf*cker" the entire set.
On Dec. 18, local DIY rockers Bleach Party headlined at The Sleeping Village for what has become one of the most popular nights at the venue, with its $1 night.
Before the band hit the stage, the lively crowd was treated to an energetic set by poppers The Runnies, who wowed the crowd with old as well as new material ( including "Lost on Me" and "You Can't Hide" ). After a set from Bev Rage and the Drinks, Bleach Partyone of the hardest rocking bands in Chicagotore through a set heavy on mirth and shrieking guitar and light on nuance. Vocalist and guitarist Meg McDuff proved again that she has one of the strongest voices in Chicago ( only Cathy Richardson comes close ) on rockers like "Tom Cruise Control," "Lunar Moods," "Shopping is a Feeling" and "No Vacancy," from the new Nola ( available via Bandcamp ).