Good Music, Better Company: Wilderado Plays in Chicago
Between songs, the lead singer smiled at the crowd, taking a moment to thank his audience for being such “good company.” Max Rainer’s Southern accent embodies the charm of Wilderado, an alt-indie band from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wilderado consists of vocalist/guitarist Max Rainer, bassist/vocalist Colton Dearing, guitarist/vocalist Tyler Wimpee and drummer Justin Kila.
On April 14, the band played at the Schubas Tavern, located a few blocks south of Wrigley Field. The Schubas performance space offers a secret atmosphere, tucked away behind a door after a short walk past the bar. Red arches framing the stage create an intimate and pleasant setting. Opening band Flipturn, a young indie-rock band from Fernandina Beach, Florida, brought electric energy to the stage. Their hit “Chicago” especially enlivened the crowd, their stage presence much more dynamic and powerful than their recordings. After successfully warming up the crowd, Flipturn came out, making way for the headlining band.
Wilderado entered through a side door, fresh from a crisp Chicago night. They took to a dark stage in front of a vibrant crowd. The opening notes of “Stranger”, the first song from their debut album, Wilderado, echoed through the room. As the song progressed, the audience got their first glimpse of the band: just four guys and their instruments. No flashy outfits, minimal special effects, and a rustic, warm simplicity feel.
The band finished “Stranger” and moved on to “Astronaut”, continuing to play their way through the album. The audience thrilled with every chord. As the closing beats of “Astronaut” dispersed around the room, Rainer stepped up to the mic to introduce the band. This venue was the first to sell out, he said; they were super excited to perform for this audience. He wore a plain red Chicago Bulls t-shirt that he said he bought on Etsy. Throughout the tour, he had kept it in his suitcase for Chicago.
Rainer’s Tulsa accent was extremely apparent in conversation, but less so while he was singing. When he spoke, audience members greeted every sentence with cheers and responses. This support continued throughout the night as fans reveled in interactions with one of their favorite bands. Despite the lack of an overly dynamic stage presence, Rainer and his supporting cast kept all eyes on them through a mix of startling emotion and a clear love for performing together. In fact, the dynamic between the singer and the band was one of the most captivating parts of the show; not only were the musical aspects of the performance extremely tight, but the band chemistry was palpable. Often the guitar solos would turn into intimate jam sessions between the members on stage.
The group accelerated with “Head Right”, before playing through Wilderado, almost in its original order. The audience swayed, jumped and danced, as the energy of the room swirled from song to song, but never stopped. In monologues between songs, the band described their appreciation for being able to do what they love, as well as their hope to pass that same perspective on to their children. Much of the band’s music depicts fatherhood. In the best possible way, Dad’s cool vibe was apparent throughout the show.
“Help me” began completely acoustically, with Rainer singing alone under the spotlight. After the first chorus, the whole stage burst into color and the rest of the band joined in. Audience members sang along with every word of every song and swayed to the melodies as the show ended. They ended their set with “Sorrow”, returning to the Chicago night.
After a few minutes, to the delight of the audience, the door opened and the band reappeared, accompanied by their opening band. Flipturn mingled in the door as Wilderado took over the stage and played their most popular song, “Surefire,” which fans had been clamoring for all night.
It was almost impossible to imagine an ending to the concert that would leave every listener completely satisfied, but somehow the band delivered. Each member of Wilderado stepped forward to the microphones at the front of the stage. Rainer began addressing the crowd, mentioning that he was still giving a short, punchy speech on their next and final song, “Rubble to Rubble,” which outlines the process of becoming a dad. However, the public, who had expressed their desire to hear “Rubble to Rubble” all night, were so enthusiastic that Rainer skipped his speech! Instead, audiences were treated to a beautifully raw rendition of one of Wilderado’s finest songs, culminating in Flipturn’s staging for the song’s final verse and chorus, as each person in the room sang every word. The bond between the two bands was evident on stage and the show ended with emotional hugs between members of both bands.
Then, like that, it was over. Wilderado calmly exited the stage, phaseless through the entire venue congratulating the band on a night of phenomenal music.