Ever since Curbside Publishing released an oral history of the Empty Bottle a few weeks ago, I’ve been itching to catch a show at the legendary venue. Sure, I’ve been there countless times before, but reading about the experiences of so many others had me anticipating the next time I would be there.
With its intimate size and low frills decor, there’s always a high probability of a concert there having a communal experience if the energy is right. Thanks to Red Bull Sound Select, catching METZ, a ferocious Canadian trio signed to Sub Pop, at the Empty Bottle satisfied my itch as they blasted through songs from their first two albums in blistering and abrasive fashion.
“Who’s here to f****** party with us?” lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Edkins questioned a receptive audience near the top of their set before they went full throttle into one of their signature tunes, “Get Off.” The crowd enthusiastically answered the call as they had to be reminded only a few songs later about Empty Bottle’s no crowd-surfing policy, to which the band pleaded for someone to be let back in as they were escorted out for violating the rules. While there were no more incidents or pauses during the rest of the set, there were plenty more opportunities to bounce around with moments like the pounding riff of “Knife In The Water,” the noisy intensity of “Wet Blanket” and the wildly whipping hair of drummer Hayden Menzies sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The event was put together by Red Bull Sound Select, an artist development initiative that gives a wider platform to musicians who are on the cutting edge of their genres. Once a month, they select an established tastemaker known within a particular city to curate a show. This month was Empty Bottle and in the past, they’ve done concerts with Fake Shore Drive and Consequence Of Sound. The biggest appeal for a lot of folks is how affordable these events are, which is usually $3 with RSVP and $10 at the door. With a deal like that, it’s encouraged to arrive early at these things just to ensure you can get in and enjoy the show.
Aside from a marquee near the stage and a separate sign that had the bands’ social media handles, the presence of RBSS was never overwhelming and allowed a venue with the reputation of Empty Bottle to maintain the grit and charm that’s made it such a welcome establishment to the Chicago music scene. It was tasteful and never distracting.
Also on the bill were Muuy Biien, a propulsive punk outfit from Athens, GA with the stage presence to match and local musician Brett Naucke who kicked off the night with his own brand of dark ambient music that had the atmosphere of a warped 21st century version of a Dario Argento film score. Muuy Biien, in particular, took the aggression up a notch with a sweat-filled fury of kicks, serpentine movements and tambourine accents courtesy of vocalist Joshua Evans.
I’ve never had to worry about having a good time at Empty Bottle, which is a testament to their staff and the talent they bring in. It’s one of the few places that’s been consistently on point to where it has a book dedicated to how much fun the place is. METZ and Red Bull Sound Select simply just helped keep their undefeated streak intact, in my eyes.
Here are some photos from the event.