Lilac are essentially a Chicago supergroup of musicians who’ve done time in underrated bands. They include former Cacaw and Coughs front woman Anya Davidson (also an underground comics artist and author and occasional Reader contributor) on guitar and vocals, Kenny Rasmussen (late of Anatomy of Habit) on drums, and two veterans of Baltimore outfit Witch Hat, Chris Day on bass and Conor Stechschulte on guitar and vocals. Lilac released a debut single, “Barbed Wire Entanglement” b/w “On a Wheel,” in 2018, and last year they put out a self-titled debut LP. Maybe it’s the times, maybe it’s my wiring, but even though many reviews I’ve read of the record describe its jagged, noisy sound as “scary,” I find something soothing in its intense, forceful weirdness. “Woman in Power” combines updated riot-grrrl rage with a circular, funky groove that could lead to some creative moves in the mosh pit. “Burn Down the White House” is as sharp-toothed and heavy as a night-stalking Godzilla. And “Savage Alphabet” gives us a strangely tender affirmation: “You’re an animal shitting on the deck of the ark / You’re a baby in the dim, green, cold, wet dark.”
Also on the bill are Wailin Storms, a four-piece from Durham, North Carolina, who integrate heady folkloric southern-gothic ambience into their spiky postpunk sound. On July 22, they’ll release their fifth full-length, The Silver Snake Unfolds (Gilead Media), and it’s a pointed, smoky broil of tension and payoff. “Sunday Morning Ceremony” rises and falls, its frantic pace and strategic pauses unspooling as though driven by a terrified frenzy, until it culminates in a ghostly breakdown. “Drag” emphasizes its own ghostly breakdown, which feels naked and very afraid. “Carolina Moon” tells an eerie seductive dream-logic fairy tale, and front man Justin Storms seems very conflicted on whether to fight it or embrace it. The night kicks off with a set from Chicago rock trio the Poison Arrows, who released their long-delayed fourth album, War Regards (File 13), in February. They kept it on COVID ice for a while, but it’s a strong comeback (the band hadn’t released anything since 2017’s No Known Note) with a tough, unified sound and a great guest spot from Chicago rapper Sterling Hayes on “We Are Collateral.” This eclectic bill showcases three bands with different flavors of intensity, who might all be at the peak of their power. It’s all killer, no filler.
Lilac Wailin Storms and the Poison Arrows open. Wed 8/3, 8:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $10, 21+