Lightning Dust showers upon Schubas in Chicago


text by Scott Wilson | photos by Megan Gallagher

The hit new drink that’s sweeping the less reputable swaths of Chicago is called Slug Juice, which is a mix of bourbon, amaretto, honey, and strips of aloe vera. The way a curious imbiber drinks it is to lick their hand, shake salt on the wetness, take a shot of Slug Juice, then lick the salt.  Gross, right? Well, it turns out in some more sensitive stomachs the various ingredients have a violent reaction with each other resulting in days of agony. Such is the state of one stupid music writer on the Sunday of the Lightning Dust show in Chicago.

Schubas, located on the North Side in Lincoln Park, is far too classy an establishment to offer the likes of Slug Juice to its patrons. Its grand wooden bar extends from the front door to the bathrooms, which are kept as clean as a bar bathroom can ever be, which is to say, tolerable – but a Slug Juice victim takes what he can get. The venue space is a separate room behind heavy glass doors. The room has an old-timey saloon feeling, or maybe German beer hall. The ceiling is vaulted, the stage is lined by big oak pillars, as are the windows, which are closed by heavy satin curtains. The wooden plank floor squirms underfoot and feels a bit springy – good for dancing.

A single waitress in jean skirt and long-sleeve button up serves the thirty or so patrons. They’re mostly couples, Lightning Dust makes good couples music. It’s music that you can sway to or hold hands to without too much pressure to dance or move about. They do have some danceable songs – like “Loaded Gun” – and there are some dancing people near the front of the audience, but the majority of fans just sort of sway like trees in a breeze.

Lightening Dust is comprised of four to five members. Amber and Joshua are the main drivers: she on voice and sometimes guitar, he on a double-decker synthesizer. In addition, a tall, square-shouldered woman adds extra keyboard and vocals and a man in the back plays both analog and electronic drums. For a few songs Amber pulls her friend Louise out of the audience. Louise is also the singer for the opening band, not just Amber’s friend.

The bass in many of the songs is that deep kind of vibration that you can only get with digital equipment and quality acoustics. For somebody with an ailing stomach, it’s magically soothing, like an endless burp. During the first ten minutes of the show some sort of error delays the gastro-musical therapy, putting the sound guy and the band in a tizzy. Pre-error and post error the music sounds fine from the audience perspective – it’s one of those things only the artist could recognize as being off. In the future it might benefit Lightning Dust to do a sound check instead of rushing on stage for the fastest band set-up in music history. It can’t be easy keeping track of all those cords for all the electric gizmos, so it’s pretty impressive they were ready as quickly as they were and able to start the show on the venue’s schedule, not rock star schedule.

Heavily back-lit with artificial smoke swirling about, the band has an alien quality about them. They communicate by smiling at each other and all seem to know what the others are up to instinctively. This is what happens mid-way through a long international tour that has them playing a new venue every other day. For fans of melodic electro-analog fusion and bold vocals, or for people with an upset stomach, check out Lightning Dust’s website for upcoming tour dates and samples.