“You think you really know me” Gary Wilson screams; as his voice grows louder and more agitated; what at first seems like a question transforms into an exasperated accusation. This is the name of the title track of his first album, which he recorded on a four-channel reel-to-reel tape machine in his parent’s basement back in 1977. Yet nothing about Gary’s sound, performance, or appearance would suggest he is 65 years old. He dons a long, red silk robe and yellow gloves, his face partially obscured by a matted black wig, white sunglasses, and smeared red lipstick. His band is decked out in equally as eccentric makeshift costumes, and they’re all ready to rock.
The crowd seems caught between wanting to bob their heads to the cacophonous drums and guitars or sway to the more melodic synth. Gary delivers songs in warbled fragments; he sings in a conversational style, often interrupting his lines with a playful “woo!” This playfulness is reflected in the performance- Gary and his band truly put on a show by just having a good, goofy time on stage. At one point in the set, a pig pile forms as the band members wrestle to figure out who kissed(?) one of the various mannequins on stage. “It was the keyboard player” someone concludes, and everyone returns to their instruments as if nothing happened. After the set, Gary wanders around the crowd while Part Time sets up, talking with fans. “I like Chicago,” he says. “It’s a lot quieter than New York.”
By the end of Gary’s set, people are packed in tight, eagerly awaiting Part Time. As the band takes the stage, the crowd’s energy picks up, turning the loud buzz of multiple conversations into cheers and claps. Lead singer David Loca strolls in wearing cheetah print booties and the nicest face glitter I’ve ever seen. They picked up the pace then slowed things down again, playing songs like the dissonant “Fallin’ 4 U” the more lighthearted “Honey Lips,” and the sentimental “It’s Alright with Me.”
Funny enough, the synth, guitar riffs, and drum machine (which were subbed for live drums at the show) make Part Time’s music feel like it predates Gary Wilson’s; Loca’s crooning vocals sound like a blast from the 80’s, reminiscent of pop acts like Soft Cell and Tears for Fears. Despite this, their music-especially live- felt innovative and fresh. I was impressed with how well the synth held up live, and how the band managed to amp up the noise and deliver very energetic performances of songs which recorded sound more laid back. The crowd really reacted to this energy, and by the second half of the set, almost everyone in the audience was grooving. Despite having very distinct sounds, the two acts complemented each other well, as they’re part of the lucky few that manage to translate their weird lo-fi recordings into powerful performances.
Gary Wilson and Part Time performed July 30th at 8:30 at the Empty Bottle