In a highly-anticipated, sold out Chicago debut, San Diego-based jammers Brothers Gow fired up an already lively crowd that packed Lincoln Park’s Tonic Room Saturday night, February 27th.

Approaching the tail end of a packed eight-week tour that could leave even the most veteran musicians road weary, Brothers Gow hit the stage with an energetic and intricately woven mashup of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” and Rick James’ “Super Freak.” A deep catalogue of these “rip off” covers have become a signature highlight of Brothers Gow’s live performances, thanks to an entire Halloween set based on songs with pilfered melodies creatively intertwined with their original counterpart.

Riff-heavy original “Reflections,” the title track from their 2014 album, showcased keyboardist Alex Bastine’s dynamic and fast-paced finger work, followed by “Brittle Bones,” an upbeat bluegrassy tune featuring Ethan Wade’s gritty vocals that easily draw a Tom Waits comparison. “Billie Jean” quite literally stopped the crowd in its tracks with a special directive to stop dancing and freeze in place before the boys took off on an extended interpretive jam. What followed was a series of originals that revealed the depth of this ambitious band’s repertoire and skill, with intricate melodies, solid bass bombs from Carson Church, driving vocals and soaring solos from Kyle Merrill on lead guitar, lively talk box interludes, and smooth four-part vocal harmonies.

Cunning crowd pleaser Wade introduced the second to last song of the set. “This song is called Dogs,” he said. “It’s about dogs.” And indeed it was. The upbeat and danceable original sandwiched Talking Heads’ “Naïve Melody” in between, and featured a thoughtful, sophisticated drum solo from Nathan Walsh-Haines who grew up nearby and whose fan base was out in full force.

Fists stayed firmly in the air for two final rock anthems, “War Pigs” and “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!),” which closed out the night with just enough time for the band to mingle with the capacity crowd that included comedian Hannibal Buress and WXRT Chicago radio legend Lin Brehmer.

The never-to-be-overlooked sixth member of the band, lighting director Matt Collier, filled the room with visuals not usually seen in a venue this size. It was clear that Collier knows the music intimately, and executes creatively and with intensity. Brothers Gow is en route to Colorado for five nights, followed by two festival appearances at McDowell Mountain Music Festival in Phoenix, AZ, and two nights at Serenity Gathering in Joshua Tree, CA to close out March.  

If you’re a true fan of jam, you owe yourself a live Brothers Gow experience. Find them at on Facebook or their official website.

Setlist: Brothers Gow at Tonic Room, Chicago, IL – 2/27/16

Set: Hammer Freak (Can’t Touch This/Super Freak mashup) > Reflections, Brittle Bones > Billie Jean* > Good Clean Fun > Articulated Mush > Wake and Bake, Dogs > Naive Melody** > Dogs, Legacy

Encore: War Pigs*** > Fight for Your Right****

*Michael Jackson
**Talking Heads
***Black Sabbath
****Beastie Boys

With support from Catfish and the Dogstars and The Dropper