Going Back to The 1900s

One of the more memorable concerts I have seen was a 1900s show at Schubas on March 12, 2009.  I went to the show with my twin sister Brigid on our 25th birthday.  We were both turning a quarter-of-a-century old and weren’t too pleased with how our careers and personal lives were going.  So we decided seeing a local Chicago band might lift our spirits.  We were both fans of their album Cold & Kind and had always wanted to see them live.

That evening, I had to work a small event for my job and wore a pinstripe dress with a blue Oxford shirt.  I didn’t want to appear too formal for the show, so immediately after my shift ended I raced to the bathroom and stripped into jeans and Converse shows.

I met up with my sister and we ate at Clarke’s on Belmont, which is close to the Vic Theatre and on the way to Schubas.  This is a simple diner known for breakfast food and fast sandwiches.  It is the same place Brigid and I saw Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of the Swell Season munching on fries before their show.

After a quick dinner, we took the 10 minute walk to Schubas up Belmont to attend the 9 p.m. show. The band’s side project, Mazes, was also playing.

Soon, singer Edward Anderson came out on stage with another 1900s band member to perform a few Mazes song.  The songs were more stripped-down compared to 1900s songs, but I liked them and bought their CD after to show support.  I went to the bar to get a beer, waiting for The 1900s to come on stage.

They came on a few minutes later in full swing.  Anderson, the main songwriter and singer, led the group without dominating while co-singer Jeanine O’Toole passionately banged her tambourine in rhythm with the song.  A year later, I would interview her for a VenusZine article.  All of the other band members, including Caroline Donovan,  contributed to the show in their own way as well.

They were telling stories, and we were listening.

After a solid hour show, my sister and I walked home in the cold. It was still winter in Chicago, but you could tell Spring was arriving soon.  We walked by shuttered stores, closed bookstores and a still-glowing Starbucks before making it to the Belmont train station.  We both felt a lot less alone, and more comfortable with turning 25.

More than two years later, I write this story now because The 1900s have made it back into my iPod rotation.  After a somewhat long hiatus, the band released its second album, Return of the Century, in November.  Similar to Cold & Kind, the songs on Return of the Century feature some of the sharpest melodies I have heard in a long time.  The lyrics aren’t always happy, but the music is always well-crafted and just plain fun.  A standout track for me is “Tucson,” where O’Toole sings:

I’ve been making up stories about where I’ve been

You call me out and I’ll do it again

There are times when she doesn’t even need music to carry the song. Listen to it here:


Watch the video for the single “Amulet” here.

Author: Sheila Burt


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