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July 18, 2007
When a band sets out to make music, there are various ways to go about it. Bands can head in any number of directions from the outset, from experimental neo-folk to classical revisionism, and where they end up is anyone's guess. For the Changes, a quartet from Chicago, there's no effort to create and perform groundbreaking music, but in this particular band's case that doesn't really matter. Though I had heard of the group before - they were the only unsigned band to play 2005's Lollapalooza - I had never seen them live or heard one of their recordings until this summer. The past few weeks have changed all of that, as I was lucky to catch the band perform twice this summer - once on a hazy Saturday afternoon at The Taste of Randolph street fair, a popular neighborhood festival in Chicago's West Loop modeled in the same manner as the city's larger Taste of Chicago, and another time more recently I heard a July 12th set at the Chicago History Museum.

Without much time to get used to them, tunes from both sets remain in my head and give me my soundtrack for the summer - sticky days when I'm longing for walks along Lake Michigan. The band's songs, which blend rock, pop, reggae and soul, are some of the most energetic and refreshing I've heard in awhile, enough to tide me over until I can make it to the shore line.

As the band took the stage at last week's show, just before the set began lead singer Darren Spitzer said matter-of-factly, "Hi, we're The Changes and we're from Chicago," before taking off on a set that, like the one in June, relied heavily on material from Today is Tonight, the album issued last year by Drama Club Records, though they did preview some new songs as well. One of the freshest and most hard hit highlights was "Not Too Serious" from the band's most recent release, an EP called Florida that available from iTunes, which they also have a video for. While you can say this about a lot bands, its love for performing shows during live concerts. Each band member gets a moment to boast without holding the stage for too long. "I just love singing and performing," Spitzer cooed later in the set.

Beyond its pleasant stage demeanor, the band performs tightly executed pop songs with keyboards and shakers. While the grooves can be tight, the mood remains decidedly relaxed; "All I wanted is to be wanted," they sing in "Modern Love," a song about, as far as I can tell, loving music and girls.

That's what's so great about The Changes - they're refreshingly earnest, simple and unpretentious, almost mocking the drama that plagues the so-called "indie" and "emo" bands built on an extroverted spin of introversion. "You're so sad and lonely it's such a scene," Spitzer sings with his commanding voice in "Such a Scene" amid light keyboards and Jonny Basofin's tight drumming. The band - completed with lead writer/guitarist/co-vocalist David Rothblatt and bassist Rob Kallick - are endearing and smart at the same time.

At both shows, the band hit its stride with "Her, You and I" from Today is Tonight. The song, with its shifting tempos and guitar and drum solos, makes shallow forays into jam band territory without going over the edge. It also features one of the best lyrics from the album: "Your face is made of glass/ who shattered it?"

When they set out to make music, some bands make a point of doing something extraordinary at the sacrifice of doing something extraordinarily good. By mixing the directness of bar rock songs that the Hold Steady could pull off with the blissed-out jammy pop of songs that American Football might have penned under contract for an American Express commercial, the Changes have avoided that pitfall. By coloring their songs with a bit of the spaced-out, twangy guitar noodling that Chicago has been known for as far back as 5 Style and beyond, the band has gone a bit further toward soundtracking those picturesque carefree days between spring and fall. With a boost from The Changes, my summer has finally begun.

SEE ALSO: www.the-changes.com

--
Sheila Burt
A contributing writer for LAS based near Chicago, Illinois.

See other articles by Sheila Burt.

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