Last Night: Scattered Trees and The Alternate Routes at Prophet Bar

Scattered Trees, The Alternate Routes
Prophet Bar
August 8, 2011

Better than: a band in a mismatched room on a quiet Tuesday.

The four members of Chicago's Scattered Trees took the stage at the Prophet Bar for a modest audience of perhaps 50 when they started their headlining set last night.

Perhaps the small turnout wasn't a surprising.

A band on its first national tour? On a Tuesday evening? During an extremely hot August? In Texas?

Fortunately, though. the show was booked into the Prophet Bar, and the intimate setting of the room provided a satisfying environment for band and listeners alike.

The band is touring in support of the excellent album, Sympathy, a suite of songs written as a cathartic response to the passing of principle singer-songwriter Nate Eiesland father a couple of years ago. And while the album presents a somewhat restrained delivery of the music, the band's live performance was exuberant. And the songs were delivered more forcefully.

Guitarist and keyboardist Jason Harper and bassist Ryne Estwing provided nice backing harmonies to Eiesland's strong voice, too. Baron Harper (Jason's brother) and his strong drumming filled out the rhythm section nicely.

These guys have been playing together in and around Chicago for years, and their cohesiveness and professionalism is obvious.

High points of the set were perhaps "Love and Leave" and "Four Days Straight." But the entirety of the 40-minute performance was tight, and the audience was appreciative. The small crowd demanded an encore, and the band gave them one.

Earlier in the night, The Alternative Routes, a hard-rocking Americana band from Connecticut, opened. With an energetic guitarist that looked a bit like a Hamburg-era Paul McCartney (if you squinted), the band played their set loud, fast, and tight. This band has been around for a while, with a couple of albums produced by Jay Joyce, the man responsible for Cage the Elephant's recent sound. And like Cage, this band works hard.

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In the end, it was a night featuring two really good bands willing to work hard and deliver the goods, despite the modest turnout.

But it's nights like this that can build the foundation of a career. Just ask Dawes.

Critics Notebook
Random Note:
Preparing to write about the band, I came across an article on The Onion's AV Club site featuring Jason and Baron Harper and discussing their film, A Black History, which deals with the subject of being the rather rare black musician in the indie rock world. A good read.

By The Way: I hadn't seen a rock show at Prophet Bar since that space was the Gypsy Tea Room. I'd almost forgotten what a good venue it is for rock.

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