Chain & The Gang at Hideout | Concert preview
As with all of Ian Svenonius’s beatnik soul-punk bands, you gotta be there to feel the people power.
It’s been fashionable to embrace reunited ’90s acts. Why not give credit to those that never gave up? As influential as Washington, D.C.’s Ian Svenonius and his various music gangs—Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up, and to a lesser extent Weird War—have been on the international underground in aspects sartorial, political and musical, his many charms have not properly trickled down to younger show-going folks.
The 43-year-old’s high-concept blend of humor, Marxism and ’60s aesthetics takes the roots of youth culture and radical politics to a far-out place where revolutionary style and explosive rock, soul and punk are the hip proletariat’s daily bread. Yet the most attention Svenonius has gotten lately is for his VBS.tv talk show Soft Focus, in which he acts the Dick Cavett role he was born to play with guests like Ad-rock and Cat Power.
Chain & The Gang, a loose-knit group of Northwest and D.C. scene associates, has been slept on in this age of hyped, professionalized indie. The band’s second album, 2011’s Music’s Not for Everyone, has much to dig in its stripped-down beatnik approach and witty lyrics. The tunes seem born from a jazz café in an Antonioni film, held together by shaking tambourines, organ riffs, pianos and mod guitars.
Svenonius ranges around the tunes in a variety of guises—a would-be pop star on “Can’t Get Away,” a funky Gainsbourg on “(I’ve Got) Privilege,” a reprise of his soul-rocker persona on “Detroit Music.” He has slowly become more of a singer than a ranter.
Live, the band sports convict outfits. As with all of his projects, you gotta be there to feel the people power.