Caviar at Metro and Loraxx at the
Fireside Bowl

February 5, 2001

By Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic

In the underground rock world, it's as if it's 1986 again and the alternative era never
happened. The mainstream is dominated by pop product, the smartest musicians are
openly disdainful of the industry, the worst Chicago bands are the ones that garner
national attention, but the best bands are as good as any this city has produced.

Cases in point: Caviar and Loraxx, both of whom delivered jaw-droppingly good
sets at separate shows on Saturday night.

Once again without a record deal despite last year's strong and moderately
successful self-titled debut on Island, Caviar headlined a packed show at Metro
before gearing up to record demos for its sophomore album.

Stylistically, the quartet is miles away from Blake Smith's late, lamented Figdish.
Taking the stage dressed in uniform white jumpers (a visual gag that Tortoise
employed a few years back), the group ran through a short, sweet, 10-song set of
ambitious pop pastiches including "Goldmine," "Tangerine Speedo" and "The Good
Times Are Over."

Following the early-'70s model of glam/art-rockers Roxy Music and David Bowie,
Caviar gleefully swiped insanely catchy riffs from across the musical spectrum, from
the Stones to the Left Banke to Antonio Carlos Jobim. Add in a dozen hip
pop-culture references per tune and back it all up with hard-rocking Midwestern
rhythms and you had a sugar high as potent as a box of Krispy Kremes.

The band does need to tinker with its live show: Jason Batchko is a powerful and
creative drummer who should be freed from the drudgery of playing to programmed
bossa-nova rhythms on every song. On the other hand, it was a pleasure to see
some of Figdish's good-time drunken sloppiness intrude on Caviar's sleek and stylish

The climax of the evening: guests shots from Scott Lucas of Local H on a giddy
version of the lounge classic "Nobody Does It Better," and a cover of Pink Floyd's
"Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2," complete with the requisite "We don't need no
education" crowd sing-along.

Later in the evening, the Chicago noise-rock trio Loraxx celebrated the D.I.Y.
release of its potent sophomore album "Yellville" by confirming that the forward leap
the group made in the studio has been matched by similarly impressive growth as a
live unit.

Always a hard-hitting band, Loraxx was absolutely machinelike in its precision and
intensity at the Fireside Bowl. It out-walloped even Steve Albini's Shellac, which has
taken to detouring into too many long and pointless displays of controlled dynamics.

In contrast, Loraxx cut right to the quick. A contender for this city's best young
drummer, Elliott Talarico propelled strong new tunes like "Dusters" with amazing
dexterity and force. But the reason Loraxx has risen above others in this genre is that
guitarist-vocalist Arista Strungys doesn't neglect the melodies as she assaults her
guitar and screams herself hoarse.

Think about a boxer whistling a memorable tune while delivering a brutal pounding in
the ring, and you'll have a rough approximation of the allure of Loraxx.

Like Caviar, Loraxx ended its set with a nod to '70s rock heroes, covering
AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" with a fan from the crowd adding vocals.
Seeing the band let its hair down for the goofy sloppiness of this tune only
underscored its omnipotence through the rest of a stellar evening.