Jennifer Hall at the Subterranean

by Joan McNeal
It’s a rare thing to be surprised these days.  In this heady era of rampant cynicism and pseudo intellectualism, we’re so often plagued with the knowledge that we’ve been there and done that.  In most every case this is sadly quite true.  So it is a rare thing when something hits unexpectedly and shakes us out of the boring, apathetic stranglehold that we’ve become so accustomed to.

Jennifer HallThis was exactly the case this past Saturday night at the Subterranean.  Several acts filled the bill, featuring some of the most soulful singers this sideof the mason Dixon line.  And certainly not to mistake, some of the most damn fine horn playing as well.  Our troop was on tap for the jazz styling’s of the oft imitated but never duplicatedJennifer Hall and friends.  Having had the privilege of working with the group on a Rooftop Session, we knew what to expect and were in no way disappointed.  Once again Jen’s vocals carried the songs beautifully, while the rest of the band swung behind her, pushing the music to new heights.  Jazzy, soulful, and rocking, this group is unquestionably one of the gems of theChicago music scene.  If you haven’t yet, get the heck out there people and check them out!

What did end up surprising us however was the group the Congregation.  We try so hard to stay abreast of all of the amazing music being created in this fair city.  (Big thanks to all of you out there sending us the submissions!)  But even still, with all of the influx of great tuneage, somehow we had yet to discover this sleeping giant beneath our radar.

SubterraneanWalking into the bar, head already delightfully swimming from a previous stop on the social network, it was with great pleasure that I met up with the first faint strains of that rocking horn line floating down from upstairs.  Slowly the tension arose, and before long the vocals of Gina Bloom, screaming counterpoint of that fine axe from mr Charles Wayne, and a rhythm section to make Detroit cry came pounding down like some heavy duty manna from on high.  Before I was even conscious of the fact, my body had taken on the beat and was convulsing uncontrollably along with it.  I call that dancing…  Swinging, with a beat that defies you to hold still, these cats once again reminded me what it is to love what you do, and do it with all your freaking heart.

It was a surprise, this time, to be greeted with such an unexpected yet welcomed urgency.  The need to move with the music, so insistent and demanding that it defies all social conventions and embarrassment.  Thank you to the Congregation, for making us all feel just a little more alive.  At least for one more night.