Having already seen several shows at the Logan Square Auditorium I pretty much knew what to expect from the place - big room (high school gym-esque), obscure location (3rd floor of an old office building) and marginal acoustics (to say the least). Given the respect Bonobo commands for his intricate compositions and the production value of his music, I was a bit perplexed as to why the venue was chosen in the first place - but, nonetheless, I tried my best to keep expectations aside as I walked up the three flights of stairs, already feeling the building's frame shaking a bit. Upon entering the room (a little late), I was hit with a ton of bass - which continued to echo around the cavernous room throughout the set and honestly killed any low end that the rest of the arrangement could offer.
Quickly putting my disdain for unfortunate acoustics aside, I really did feel a whirlwind of energy flowing through the several hundred heads dancing surprisingly furious for a Sunday night. One couldn't help but notice the prevalence of 'Bisco kids' - who most likely were turned on to Bonobo by the Disco Biscuits festy 'Camp Bisco' where the live band is set to play. There were seemingly no strangers to 'heady' electronic music with a side of 'womp' on the wooden dancefloor -- which bounced with the audiences every move. Hands were in the air the entire show - and the band was met with ecstatic approval after every song - and even boos were heard when the encore came to a close. It felt almost like a jamband show, but with a hint of sophistication which an artist like Bonobo deserves.
Having never seen the live band before, I was impressed, to say the least. The set was sculpted carefully with the vibe dodging unapologietically from electronic ambience to hard funk without feeling forced. The constant interplay between the tenor sax and the female vocals perfectly complimented the tight, driving rhythm section such that one could not help but get pulled pleasantly in and out of the groove. Bonobo is clearly hip to the mastery of aural satisfaction and I think everyone in the room felt that special something.
Without harping on 'coulda, woulda shoulda's,' I really couldn't stop thinking about how much the proverbial ante could have been upped for both draw and sound should the show have been on a Friday or Saturday in an acoustically appropriate room. Alas!
Luckily our foray into the Bonobian soundscape was not over as we quickly moved on to Sonotheque for his DJ set. Once again surprised on a Sunday by the relatively big draw, I entered what I knew would be a 180 degree shift in acoustics. A long, sleek, narrow room with the DJ booth about halfway in, Sonotheque offers some of the best sound in Chicago. Not too loud, and never invasive, the set followed Sonotheque's weekly reggae night and began with a surprising propensity towards Afrobeat grooves. Surprising, because Bonobo is usually steeped in Eastern and Indian influence. however, he's obviously worked a room before - as he flowed ever so smoothly out of reggae by way of afrobeat until we found ourselves grooving to tablas and sitar laden compositions before the end of the night. By 2am, the crowd was certainly feelin' groovey and after the obligatory push to overstay their welcome, the majority could be heard discussing afterhours ideas while some stuck around and mingled hoping to shake Simon's hand.
All I can say is, Bonobo is the truth. I do hope the band comes back and I hope the circumstances next time are right for a more expansive experience of some of the best, most provocative music being made today.