On September 10th, 2015 we returned to the Bohemian National Cemetery on the northwest side of Chicago for the fourth installment of the Beyond The Gate series, which Empty Bottle Presents produces alongside J.R. ROBINSON, leader of Chicago doom collective WREKMEISTER HARMONIES. For this end of summer concert, EARTH, DISAPPEARS and HOLY SONS performed on stage and ROBINSON kept the tone in place with cryptic vinyl selections before and in-between bands. It was a thrill to host such this line-up in such a gorgeous and haunting setting, especially since the skies were clear after a long (and stressful) day of rain. We are incredibly thankful and excited that all of the artists were as into the idea of performing in this setting as we are.
Heavy midday rains put a literal damper on plans, but as the time for Beyond The Gate approached, the sun broke through the clouds and the skies remained clear, giving our surroundings a rich coloration. It could not have been a better – or more fortunate – introductory setting for each group’s unique take on enchanting, atmospheric rock music. Bite Café came through with some tasty dogs and slaw, not to mention some delicious, homemade elotes, and we were so happy to work with Half Acre Beer to keep the night loose with their unmatchable brews. Special thanks to Brownshoesonly for the endlessly stellar visual projections that highlighted each band’s sonic personality while helping further illuminate the beauty of Bohemian National.
After ROBINSON eased us into the night with some droning, atmospheric records, HOLY SONS took the stage for a set of bluesy hard rock that never sounded like the tired “blues-rock” you’ll hear some bar bands playing around town. Led by EMIL AMOS, who also plays in GRAILS, OM and LILACS & CHAMPAGNE, the trio worked through lush and complex arrangements that showcased AMOS’s chameleonic versatility. Performing songs off their 2014 & 2015 Thrill Jockey releases, HOLY SONS were heavy and hooky, soaring out of the cemetery towards the planes passing overhead.
As the sun began to set and the lawn really started to fill up, Chicago staples DISAPPEARS took the stage and once again wowed us (and the large crowd) with a set of stark and chilling post-punk. Their shimmering and clanging guitar work, provided by singer/guitarist BRIAN CASE and guitar maestro JONATHAN VAN HERIK, and driving, Krautrock-inspired rhythms, led by bassist DAMON CARRUESCO and drummer NOAH LEGER, took on a new life at Bohemian National. The confines of the mausoleum walls and the surrounding landscape had the four piece sounding as good as ever, and as day turned to night, Brownshoesonly’s static projections gave the environment – and the band – an exhilarating look and feel. DISAPPEARS performed some of our favorite tracks off their first four records and we were delighted to hear some new numbers, which can only mean a new record will be on the way, hopefully before the end of next year.
We’ve had the pleasure of welcoming Seattle doom/drone metal band EARTH to the Empty Bottle stage a few times over the past couple years, but nothing can compare to witnessing their live show inside the gates of a cemetery. Slowly and methodically, EARTH guitarist and leader DYLAN CARLSON led his band through a set of grinding and thunderous instrumental rock, complete with mountainous guitar chords and crushing rhythms. With low lighting on stage, multi-colored liquid ink projections danced on the walls of the mausoleum, morphing the cemetery into a warped and psychedelic alien landscape. The musicians cast gigantic shadows on the walls behind them, echoing the hugeness of the music they performed for a rapt crowd of nearly eight hundred onlookers. With all three bands performing entirely unique sets, the combination of the musicians, mixed with the projections and the hundreds in attendance, combined to create a truly transcendent experience. It’s something we won’t forget for a very long time.
We’re honored to be given the opportunity to present forward thinking, expansive music in a setting so deep in history as the Bohemian National Cemetery. Endless thanks to Beth, Steve, Rob, and the rest of the staff up there for being so accommodating from day one and believing in the idea that these events are more than just a party in a strange setting. Thank you to everyone in attendance. Your respect for the area is the reason why we are able to continue hosting events there. A portion of the ticket sales go directly to the cemetery and help to maintain the dignity of the grounds for years to come. Would also like to thank Alderman Laurino and the Albany park residents for working with us and continuing to be on board with this series.
Words by Brent Heyl & Michael Gebel
Photos by Zachary Spinner