Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Illinois’s publicity photo, courtesy of their MySpace page.
Pennsylvania natives Illinois — yes, you read that right — and the Extraordinaires played the semester’s first show at Olde Club last Friday night. Illinois, whose music is relatively standard indie with country influences, made for an entertaining show, though there was nothing about the show that was overly exciting.
Illinois’s frontman switched between playing the banjo, guitar, and keyboard; he also occasionally switched from a regular microphone to one inside of a phone handset. Despite these quirks, Illinois seemed generally to subscribe to the doctrine that “more is better”; the majority of the songs featured all the band’s members playing essentially non-stop at full volume. The songs were all different, of course, but most of them — especially when you factored in the standard Olde Club inability to hear vocals — sounded more or less identical. Not that they were by any means bad, but the band needs to exploit the differences in their material and instrumentation in making the music actually sound varied. There’s potential there, if the band is able to take advantage of it.
The biggest indicator of this potential was one song, Nosebleed, which stood out as having a different sound and significantly more polish. Weeds fans might recognize the song as being from “the scene where [the main character] dances for a brick of weed,” according to the banjo-wielding frontman. Nosebleed made better use of the banjo and effects, as well as, shockingly enough, moments where some of the band members didn’t play at full volume. Basically, the Weeds executives made a good choice. Illinois has toured with the Hold Steady, who also played at Olde Club last year.
The Extraordinaires, who opened, say that they “would describe [their] music by saying ‘swoosh’, or with a picture of Shaq slamming a dunk.” Personally, I would lean more towards describing it as “generic indie rock.” Again, there was nothing in particular wrong with their show, but there was also nothing particularly exciting. It made for an enjoyable Friday night, but I’m not going to buy a CD.