An Alternative Summer Breeze

This past Saturday, wedged in between the mechanical bull, the moon bounce, and shirtless Frisbee tossers, five bands took the stage as part of WHPK 88.5 FM’s annual Summer Breeze concert. The show was organized primarily by the managers of the station’s rock format and opened with the Man, a band composed of former WHPK station members Pat Reisinger, Jordan Seever, and Russell Ruch. They were followed by fellow Chicagoans Brain Idea and a visiting group, Video, who was discovered by show organizer Sophia Posnock this past spring at the South by Southwest music festival.

The stars of the show, however, were the two out-of-town headliners, The Sandwitches, from San Francisco, and Wiccans, made up of members from Denton, Texas and San Francisco. The Sandwitches, the second-to-last group to perform, are an indie pop trio whose songs are injected with jarring vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Dirty Projectors. Posnock, who plays primarily female artists during her weekly WHPK show, chose the group, because she didn’t want to “book a show without at least one girl band.” Before taking the stage, the Sandwitches, who are signed to Sub Pop sister label Hardly Art, could be seen lazing in the grass behind the main stage asking around about tattoo parlors–it was hard to distinguish the band members from the audience.

On stage, however, the group commandeered a presence. In high heels and a short black skirt, lead singer Heidi Alexander’s more finely tuned set stood apart from the manic performances of the concert’s other frontmen. Sonically, the wistful, dream-like tone of songs like “Summer of Love” and “In the Garden” seamlessly complemented the day’s idyllic summer weather.

Wiccans, a hardcore punk group and recent favorite of many of WHPK’s rock format DJs–they consistently reached the top of the station’s charts last summer–put on an extremely high-energy show. Station manager Simon Weiner sees the band’s “garage-tinged punk” as the perfect compromise between two camps–“those who like harder, faster, heavier music and those who don’t.” Their songs, delivered mostly in catchy two minute bursts, still somehow allowed time for the lead singer to roam back and forth across the stage, leap off amplifiers, and, at one point, pull out his cell phone and snap a picture of the audience while the rest of the band continued to thrash out their song.

Overall, the concert was well received by the station’s fans and organizers. Despite competition from the Summer Breeze’s rival attraction–the evening headliners in Hutch courtyard–the station’s show was able to hold its own. “WHPK Summer Breeze is more fun than a bouncy castle,” says Sophia, archly, “and you heard it here first.”