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Bottomless Pit at the Middle East Upstairs

One of my biggest concert-going regrets is passing up a Silkworm concert in Chicago back in November of 2004, less than a year before drummer Michael Dahlquist’s death from vehicular manslaughter the following July. While that tragedy could not have been anticipated, my fondness for Silkworm’s tremendously consistent catalog has grown by leaps and bounds since then, amplifying the ache of a missed opportunity. I’d also passed on my first chance to see Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett’s new group, Bottomless Pit, when I brushed off their opening performance for Magnolia Electric Company until the show had sold out. Had I known that their debut LP, Hammer of the Gods, would be such a revelation, I would’ve bought tickets long in advance. This time I took no chances; those tickets had been sitting above my laptop for months.

Former Codeine drummer and Come guitarist Chris Brokaw opened the show with a mix of acoustic and electric songs. I always enjoyed his vocal contributions to the latter outfit, especially “Shoot Me First” from Near Life Experience and “Recidivist” from Gently Down the Stream, so my attention was understandably piqued by a few of his more straightforward songs. Considering how frequently he’s played in town, especially at the nearby P.A.’s Lounge, I don’t have an excuse for waiting this long to see him perform. Next time I’ll yell out for one of those Come songs and pick up that limited vinyl pressing of his 2005 album Incredible Love.

My trip to the ATM down the block caused me to miss Brokaw sitting in with his fellow New Year members the Kadane Brothers, but the rest of the duo’s set was impressive enough without him. Despite owning Bedhead’s Transaction de Novo and having seen The New Year (with Silkworm/Bottomless Pit guitarist Andy Cohen) play a show with Crooked Fingers in Champaign, their music has never quite clicked, but I think this show finally won me over to their brand of melancholic minimalism. I credit a chair at the back of the Middle East Upstairs for allowing me to appreciate their subtle melodies and songwriting craft. I’m now planning on grabbing The New Year’s self-titled third LP when it’s released this fall.

During the Kadane Brothers’ final song, the members of Bottomless Pit (photos here) gradually ambled on stage and joined the melody of that song before seamlessly segueing to the excellent “Leave the Light On” as the Kadanes left the stage. Even without piano punctuation from its recorded version, “Leave the Light On” was a powerful opener, swelling with Midgett’s baritone guitar leads and Cohen’s nervous Telecaster twitches. Cohen’s “Dogtag” followed with its emotional “We saw our connection there / On the way down” chorus. The dynamic between Midgett and Cohen came to the forefront during the material from their new Congress EP. While each member usually takes the melodic leads on their own songs, Midgett’s exquisite “Red Pen” peaked with a dueling solo and Cohen’s “Fish Eyes” features similar interplay between the high-end of Midgett’s baritone guitar and Cohen’s Telecaster.

Even with a one-song encore, Bottomless Pit’s set seemed all too short. I needed more moments like Cohen’s raised voice on “Greenery,” Midgett’s enthusiastic delivery of “Sometimes you gotta take control” in “Reposession,” and Cohen’s pick-less guitar in “Dead Man’s Blues.” The consolation prize for such tantalizing economy was a copy of the Congress EP, which certainly merits its own post.