The Giving Tree Band + Lubriphonic: 21.Jan.2010 – Chicago

Two Thursdays ago, Chicago’s Kinetic Playground played host to the Waka Winter Classic, a travelling promotion of the 7th Annual Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival seeking additions to the festival’s 2010 lineup. At every stop several bands battle onstage in a regional talent showcase. Fans then vote for their favorite act, and the band with the most votes earns a spot to play at the festival.

Thursday’s face-off pitted six Chicagoland bands, of which I was able to catch the final two: Lubriphonic and The Giving Tree Band.

Lubriphonic, who graced the stage of Wakarusa in 2006, project a mixed timbre of soul, funk and rock, all accompanied with a side of gritty blues. The band started with a bang and instantly turned up the funk with the crowd dancing about, sloshing drinks overhead.

Front man Giles Corey maintained a perpetual shuffle on his guitar, using his fiery vocals to sing libidinous lyrics with honesty. Bassist Pannel Johnson was the backbone of the band, a rolling rhythmic groove, while drummer Rick King maintained the band’s pacing and movement. Accenting the group’s cadence was a punchy three-piece horn section.

Lubriphonic’s brief set was all high energy and fun, however it seemed that the band’s steam began to fizzle as the set wore on. In fact, they were too energetic, provoking higher expectations than they could meet—however their set was pressed for time which could have contributed to the anticlimactic ending.

The Giving Tree Band, of Yorkville, Illinois, also started later than expected and provided an interesting contrast to the funk fusion of Lubriphonic. The octet was all folk, Americana, and twang. Each component of the group neatly synchronized creating soothing harmonies and a dulcet sound. Their music enabled daydreams of a plush, grassy summer festival field, a mental escape from Chicago’s cold realities.

Led by brothers Todd and Eric Fink, the Giving Tree Band is known for their strong environmental convictions while creating music. For example, their albums are all made wind energy, packaged with biodegradable and recycled materials, and their instruments are made from wind-fallen trees and other found objects. To further circulate their craft the band was giving away their latest album, The Joke, The Threat, & The Obvious, for free.

The results were announced around 1:30 am, the victors being the Giving Tree Band. While they’re on their way to Arkansas, their music will be featured on the Wakarusa website as part of an online talent showcase. Winners of the online portion of the competition will be bumped up to one of the festival’s main stages.

The Waka Winter Classic is touring through Valentines Day, hitting 20 cities in all. Wakarusa itself takes place June 3rd through June 6th at Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas.

Giles Corey


The Giving Tree Band

The Giving Tree Band

The Giving Tree Band

The Giving Tree Band setlist