Dive into Hyde Park Music Scene

68' Comeback Special,
Jeff Rufo and The Abandoned Silos,
Millimeters Mercury

Nov. 15, The Cove Lounge 1750 E. 5511, St.
Review by Derek Ming-Wong

On most other weeknights, The Cove is a seedy dive bar speckled with barflies wearied by old age. Two Thursdays ago, however, the place was injected by a vibrancy of youth such that The Cove turned into a venue hot like a gigantic G-spot. Generally, people are lured out of the Reg. and off backporches by the $4-pitcher specials on Thursday nights. But what lured the most that night was a three-band concert of Hyde Park musicians. Stimulating performances were put on by '68 Comeback Special, Jeff Rufo and The Abandoned Silos, and Millimeters Mercury.

By the time I got there, people already downed their second rounds of the $4-pitchers, and '68 Comeback Special was almost done. Individually, each member is talented in his own right. c But from what I heard, the band over- c shot the sound acoustics of the room and 1 was too loud for their own good. The h distorted guitars buried the vocals and made the impact of the band less than what it could have been. The only words 1 heard front-man Nilay Patel groan were, "I smoke on the weekends." But such a self-incriminating statement of botanical indulgence establishes "coolness" of this rock band, methinks. And in this land where fun comes to die, we need every bit of "coolness" we can get.

After a rowdy recess of high cheers, Jeff Rufo and The Abandoned Silos stepped up. In contrast to the previous band, Jeff and associates delved into the mellower sound of Alternative Country. Performing around a rootsy mare-trodding-on-gravel-road rhythm, the intensity of Jeff and TAS was no less than the hard-rockin' 68. Although he performed mostly songs based on his own CD, Jeff's more appealing moments came when lie led extended jams with the rest of the group (inspired by much inebriation). Midway through the show Jeff even did a solo performance and affected the crowd with his courage and pared down eloquence. The band did have some weaknesses, however: The group formed only a month ago, and the inexperience showed. But I think this college bands sloppiness evoked the underdog appeal that made the performance so charming.

Lastly and most notable was Millimeters Mercury. They're punky. They're mathy. The crowd at The Cove was receptive, and perhaps not only because of their drunkenness. They welcomed the performers with warm applause. Full of self-assuredness, Millimeters Mercury played songs that are highly structural - thus their self-claimed genre, "math-rock". When performing live, they have the confidence that comes only by having lived through many failures.

And yes, I have seen some of those failures. A year ago, in front of a sober crowd at the C-Shop, they were playing Elliot Smith covers and a song about "getting naked with Natalie Portman." That last song was both refreshing and embarrassing to see live. They have matured since I last saw them and have benefited much by this nonchalance-to-shame ethos. The new Millimeters Mercury now has a cache of songs that have been polished into gems. Whatever they're on to, they're onto something good.

Thursday's three-band concert is evidence enough of the booming Hyde Park music scene. Three years ago, a collective of musicians was almost non-existent. But now bands and solo musicians have sprouted by the handfuls and they are recording, putting on shows around the Northside and having drunken dalliances on the weekends.

The booming music scene also shows a new demographic of students pursuing more artistic extracurricular activities and ultimately it shows a changing attitude towards the relationship between work and fun at the U of C. It wasn't so long ago when 1 thought fun was evil because it took time away from my work, but now 1 ain't so ashamed that "I smoke on the weekends."