ADAM LYNNE–Once upon a time in Illinois, creatures of the night roamed the day in search of futuristic bass and thunderous rhythms to assault their minds and bodies. Clothed in green-man suits, x-ray goggles, pacifiers in mouths, and paint splattered all over their masses, there were no shortage of hardbodied motherfuckers ready to rage for 72 hours at the North Coast Music Festival. The crowd was a sight. If anybody wanted to shoot a post-apocalyptic, year 3035 space war epic, Union Park in Chicago was the place to be.
In the midst of this DJ dominated festival, where MDMA ran rampant, the spirit of American Rock and Roll remained alive and well onstage with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I was blown away, having never seen or heard her music before. Now, I’m a guy who was raised on classic rock. Every morning I was given a “Spoonful” of Cream before school, and you could bet your ass the Stones would be playing at my house when I got back. Hearing Grace’s raw energy and watching as she bounced along the stage like she was possessed by Jagger transported me to a time that I never knew. She’s Janis Joplin. She’s Tina Turner. She’s a firecracker. I have to admit, I fell in love when she looked my way, but maybe I was blinded by the mini-skirt… hey, she’s hot (oh, and did I mention she kills it on the organ and guitar too?).
When you have a southern belle like Grace keeping the crowd’s jaws firmly on the floor you could probably get away with any old band playing behind her, but the Noctournals are a beast unto themselves. Lead guitarist Scott Tournet, drummer Matt Burr, rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco, and bassist Catherine Popper round out the lineup (Don’t miss her. There’s nothing sexier than a girl with a bass). You can’t help but draw the comparisons to Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks or the Black Crowes, when the whole band is up there ripping into “Medicine.” There’s something distinctly American about them. Long hair and southern twangs. I love all kinds of music, be it techno, rap, classical, jazz, hell, I’ll even dabble in opera. When you get that country sound blending so well with a dynamite band, it sets me off to a new level. It’s pure.
Grace and the Nocturnals are damn good performers. She can make your blood rise and put the hair up on the back of your neck. “It’s a festival for all!” Grace shouts. “Having said that, there’s a 4 year old in the audience. I apologize for this next song… it’s naughty.” The sex running through that Chicago air could be cut with a knife. She screams the chorus of “Paris (ooh la la)” as she slowly grinds against her guitar – “If I was a man I’d make my move, if I was a blade I’d shave you smooth, if I was a judge I’d break the law, and if I was from Paris, if I was from Paris, I would say Ooh la la la la lala.” The whole crowd joined her, belting “Ooh la la la la lala”. Don’t misconstrue my adoration. It’s not to say that she’s just strutting across the stage shaking her tail, but moreso that her downright spunk is impossible to ignore. I said she was Tina Turner, didn’t I?
She brought the crowd to a hush with a southern gospel “Nothing but the Water.” “I have fallen so many times for the devil’s sweet cunning rhymes. This old world has brought me pain but there’s hope for me again. Well, won’t you take me down to the levee? Take me down to the stream. Take me down to the water, we’re gonna wash our souls clean.” As the band re-enters, her voice intertwines with the scorching guitar and tenderly licks the sound as though they were lovers. It was something to behold. Red hot and electric.
When you have to sum it up, it’s fun, it’s raw and it’s got so much energy that we should be running the country’s powergrids off their sound. If you’ve got the chance, definitely try to catch a live performance. Witnessing Grace Potter and the Nocturnals in action will change you. I’m not from Paris but god damn, I say Ooh la la la lala. Check em out.