Akin to a dense fog, the Besnard Lakes lush music seemed to roll out from the stage and envelope the entire park grounds. Despite the fact that the sun had barely eclipsed the Chicago skyline for the better part of their set, the performance completely lived up to the title of the band’s latest record, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night.
The band was in town to perform the first of a series of free Monday night shows at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park dubbed – Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays. The evening was an extremely casual affair, both on stage and throughout the park. The crowd was made up of young and old – some with children, some with wine and some with both — with the majority of them passing on pavilion seating and opting instead for a spot on the grass.
The first band to take the stage was Chicago’s own, the Ponys. Though the Ponys could hardly be considered “new music”, as the band has been active in various incarnations since about 2001 or so. They are just recently getting back in to the swing of things with a new EP, Deathbed + 4, after a two year hiatus. Conditions, mind you, were not ideal to take in a band such as the Ponys. Their dark, almost menacing, garage rock is better suited for a dingy, tightly packed music club than in bright daylight on an immense stage that could dwarf even the polyphonic spree. These factors still could not diminish the band’s sound or the sense of immediacy their music radiates, as they ran through both new and old songs with a purposeful intensity.
In the headlining spot, Montreal’s the Besnard Lakes opened their set with “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent, Pt. 1 & 2” from their newest record. The two-part song begins with a slow building musical intro that is suddenly grounded by lead singer Jace Lasek’s surprisingly pristine falsetto vocals and eventually leads to a huge rock chorus. The Besnard Lakes smoothly combine elements of ’70s music, the tacky and the tasteful, and blend it together to make incredibly harmonious music that evokes the ominous nature of an ocean, from the vastness to the fragility.
Before playing “Chicago Train”, also from the new record, lead singer Lasek announced, “We love Chicago. It always feels like home to us,” then after a quick laugh, “although this song is about leaving on the last train out of Chicago.” The band divided time on their set between newer songs and material from 2007’s The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, such as “Disaster”, “For Agent 13” and “Devastation”, before closing with one from their first album.
All in all, the opening night of the Downtown Sound Series proved what was already assumed from the lineup, this will hands down be the best way to spend your Monday evening in Chicago for the next couple of months.
The Besnard Lakes