Ono, Toupee, Erica Eso | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc, Experimental | Chicago Reader

Ono, Toupee, Erica Eso Member Picks Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Thu., Oct. 29, 9 p.m. 2015

Ono’s original incarnation came together in 1980 and fell silent after their second album, 1986’s Ennui, which means we’ve now seen more of this Chicago avant-garde institution since their reactivation in 2007; tonight’s show is a release party for their third postreunion LP, Spooks (Moniker). Ono’s songs don’t traffic in anything as mundane as verses and choruses—their unruly hybrid of organic and cybernetic sounds seethes with odd mutations and surprising eruptions. Their intermittent undertow of programmed groove sometimes drives only barely human processed vocals and sometimes drags in its wake a gleefully riotous cacophony—which might include guitars, synths, piano, horns, sampled strings, electronics, kalimba, harmonica, electric bass, acoustic drums, and voices—that occasionally stays in tempo but often tumbles free. The band’s lineup can be just as fluid as the music: front man Travis and multi-instrumentalist P. Michael Grego, Ono’s cofounders, draw from a large crew of collaborators, among them vocalist Shannon Rose Riley (who also performed with the group in the 80s), drummer Ben Billington, modular synth player Brett Naucke, guitarist Dawei Wang, and keyboardist Rebecca Pavlatos. Travis’s many voices range from a ghostly croon to a sassy baritone growl, and he delivers his sinister incantations, euphoric sermons, and bitter harangues in the buoyant shape-shifting cadences of a poet. He often sings about the long shadow of slavery and racism—slumlords, prison plantations, arrest rides—and the music usually takes an appropriately nightmarish tone. But the affection and generosity in Travis’s onstage persona add another message to these dark and difficult songs: that the most powerful transformative forces we have are joy, openness, and love.

Philip Montoro

Price: $5

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