Joan of Arc at Rhythm Room Last Night

Joan of Arc
Rhythm Room
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Joan of Arc has constantly been evolving over the past 16 years. Exploring the wilderness between math rock, emo, and experimental indie, each album is different from its predecessor.

Life Like
, which was released a week ago, is no different. Tim Kinsella, Joan of Arc's sole original member, teamed up with former Owls band mate, Victor Villareal, to create an album dominated by stripped down instrumental songs. Kinsella still sings, but his voice isn't as prevalent as his other works.

Last night's performance followed the same formula: some singing parts with long instrumental sections. Overall, the songs were fast and upbeat, at least when Kinsella could get his guitar to work.

When the band first took the stage, Kinsella's vocals sounded great, but something was off. In the middle of a song he said, "Oh no, this isn't my cue, this is my guitar dying. I've been trying to not move at all." After a moment, he strummed a few notes and added, "oh no, that's not the verse."

Nicole Schneit of Air Waves offered her guitar to Kinsella, who declined and played his other guitar, which was "tuned to be played like a banjo. It won't stay in tune, but it will have sound." After a continued struggle, Kinsella determined that the issue wasn't his guitar, but his posture.

The crowd remained patient throughout this whole ordeal. To pass the time, the rest of the band fiddled with some melodies, including "Ice Ice Baby." Kinsella resorted to entertaining stage banter, commenting on how Chicago is way different from the "cornfields and shit" in the rest of Illinois, which does not have any billboards warning of the alleged May 21 rapture. He said if he lived in Arizona, he would spend his last days with his family making peace with his maker, and thanked the audience for choosing to spend one of their final days with him.

After some rambling about horoscopes and weed-smoking, Van Morrison-loving roommates, Kinsella picked up a functioning guitar and loosened up. The last half of Joan of Arc's set was a lot stronger, ending on a high note with Owls' "Anyone Can Have a Good Time."


Air Waves warmed the audience up with some sunny indie rock. Singer/guitarist Nicole Schneit combines the whispery vocals of Beach House with the playful nature of Kimya Dawson. Schneit's stage presence was entertaining, in spite of her mousy, soft-spoken demeanor. 

Air Waves was a dramatic shift away from Knesset, a local band that plays a brooding fusion of post rock and emo. Singer/guitarist Evan Fox said they were only going to play a handful of songs from their recent album, Coming of Age. Upon each mention of the album, the rest of the band promoted the website until an audience member blurted out that the album was available online.

Fox's live vocals strayed from the hushed tones on the album, leaning more toward a characteristic emo whine. Musically, Knesset matched the ambiance, building melodies from the album that really make them shine.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night:
Joan of Arc at Rhythm Room.

The Crowd: Late 20s/early 30s, with some prehistoric emo kids sprinkled in.

Overheard in the Crowd: During Air Waves' set, a girl screamed, so Nicole Schneit asked if she was okay.
Girl: "We need Jager!"
NS: "The bar is over there."
Girl: "But I can't go over there!"
NS: "We're not a delivery service."

Personal Bias: I'm a fan of the Kinsellas -- both Tim and Mike. Owls and Ghosts and Vodka are my favorites.

Random Notebook Dump: I thought more people would be here, but at least everyone here is a devoted fan.

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Melissa Fossum
Contact: Melissa Fossum

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