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While home for Thanksgiving break, I didn’t expect to see one of the best indie-rock shows to come to town in a long time booked at a bar downtown, closer to the smaller private Illinois Wesleyan than ISU.

Bloomington-Normal doesn’t get that many shows, so to see the lineup of Chin Up Chin Up and The Ponys, two great Chicago touring bands, I had to get in despite the 21+ age restriction.

The turnout was what I expected it to be. There were a handful of people for Chin Up Chin Up bobbing their heads while standing up, but most everyone filled the seats. Then, when The Ponys started their swaggering rock n’ roll, a crowd gathered.

Chin Up Chin Up use sharp choppy rhythms with distortion and clean chiming picked at upbeat speeds. The guitar work reminded me of everything from Eno Talking Heads to Built To Spill guitar blast
offs. The lead singer has a dry mumbling voice that stretches nicely when he wants it to, and it’s all kept nice and tight-sounding with a great off-kilter rhythm section. They played a short set, really only six
or seven songs, and real highlights were the title track off each of their two albums, We Never Should Have Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers and This Harness Can’t Ride Anything.

The Ponys took the stage next with their blend of new-wave garage. Sometimes both guitars would be pulsing out of their amps’ dirty psychedelic waves, especially in the very Stooges “Let’s Kill Ourselves,” and other times there would be more fluid reverb-touched guitar lines more like early post-punk, at one point playing an especially atmospheric couple of songs similar to Joy Division and The Cure. The Ponys have a great mix of influences that, underneath all the different descriptions, all play great pop music which hasn’t ceased to inspire the next generation.