Flat Five, Chris Ligon | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Flat Five

Flat Five

Joel Paterson

When: Sat., Oct. 22, 8 p.m. 2016
Price: sold out
The Flat Five have been around for nearly a decade, but it’s only in recent years that they’ve moved from playing annual gigs to making quarterly appearances, and these days they’re also doing residencies more frequently. Singers Nora O’Connor and Kelly Hogan harmonize with dreamy precision, covering a broad stylistic range with ease, while the top-notch band—drummer Alex Hall, bassist Casey McDonough, and guitarist-keyboardist Scott Ligon—forge a dazzling hybrid of vintage-pop verities. Their performances have always revolved around carefully curated covers spanning pop-music history, but for their long-promised debut album, It’s a World of Love and Hope (Angiedisc/Bloodshot), the group turned to the brilliantly twisted, criminally overlooked repertoire of songwriter Chris Ligon, Scott’s brother. Chris has recorded his own material in fits and starts over the years, but it’s most often been in lo-fi one-man-band mode, so it’s stunning to hear the Flat Five give his gorgeous, deeply infectious melodies a Technicolor finish and the treatment they otherwise deserve. There’s a Beach Boys-style glow on “Florida,” an onomatopoeic prerock giddiness to “Buglight” (Chris’s original version displays a kind of post-Beefheart rudeness), and a Mamas & Papas-meets-lounge-jazz lilt to “You’re Still Joe.” And that’s just the first three tunes. These spirited renditions also make the weirdness of the lyrics more pronounced and entertaining, though the group wisely render the creepy “She’s Only Five” through some wordless vocalizing. I’m not sure if another record this year has given me more unalloyed pleasure. Chris will appear as a guest.
— Peter Margasak



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