The Chapin Sisters/ The Pines/Imei; November 14, 2010; SPACE, Evanston
My friend Trine who lives in Oslo e-mailed me to let me know she would be in Chicago for a week for the American Heart meeting. While she was there she was hoping that I would come down for a show. She’s lived here several times over the years, working in the lab and going to shows with me. Back in Norway she doesn’t get to see much music, mostly because there isn’t much, so she really wanted to see some here. It was a rather slow week by Chicago standards, and I’d almost forgotten about this show even though I had it written on my calendar. She was staying downtown but was more than willing to spend an hour on the train to meet me in Evanston. I’d been to SPACE once before and liked it, now that I’ve had their pizza I like it even more. It’s a listening room, all seated, with soft lights and things hanging from the ceiling that look like the underside of mushroom caps. It kind of makes you feel like you’re in Wonderland.
The Pines had been here before, playing a sold out show with Greg Brown a few months prior, and they were also happy to be back. I’ve been lucky enough to see them in the perfect sort of room every time, Café Carpe in Ft Atkinson, Amazing Grace Bakery in Duluth, and of course my basement. As they had in the basement, they had celebrity drummer JT Bates with him. Bates has played with a wide range of musicians from Greg Brown to Eyedea, and you can see why he’s terrific. The set was similar to others I’ve seen them do, a healthy dose of songs from their 2009 release Tremolo as well as a few from the previous two. As always, the soft-spoken duo was charming on stage as they brought the crowd into their music. It seemed as though much of this Sunday night crowd had seen them with Brown and returned for another helping.
It has occurred to me that the reason I forgot about this show was the headliner. I’m not a fan of girl singers, even less so of bands with more than one, and well, if they are sisters the odds of me liking them get precipitously lower (i.e. Bowman and the Watson Twins). So it was a pleasant surprise when the Chapin Sisters turned out to not be unbearable. It probably helps that their famous last name is not a coincidence, the great storyteller/songwriter Harry Chapin was their uncle, though he died so long ago it is doubtful they ever knew him. Both sisters sang, and although Abigail took the lead more often, it was Lily‘s more exotic voice that I preferred. They were on tour with the night’s opener IMEI (or something like that), another typical female singer songwriter right down to the part that she’s obsessed with her dog. Her unremarkable set was punctuated by one highlight, a cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet,” one of the ten greatest songs ever written.
It was a long drive (three hours each way, much of it in pouring rain) to see so many girls, but as they always do, the Pines made it worth it.
The Chapin Sisters