The first night of 101.1WKQX‘s ‘The Nights We Stole Christmas’ featured exceptional performances from Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Phantogram, and Weezer. The show sold out quickly after tickets went on sale, and concertgoers were treated to cold drinks, warm food, and photo ops with Santa (even Phantogram got in on the action!) To start the night off, Andrew McMahon took to the stage to play songs from his solo catalogue as well as hits from his previous bands, Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. While playing the piano and captivating the crowd can be a hard task, McMahon didn’t let up for one second and gave every ounce of energy he had.
Phantogram’s frontwoman Sarah Barthel shifted the tone to a slightly more eerie atmosphere and angrily played the keyboards while strobes and fog bombarded the ballroom. Her soft speaking voice was transformed as the band played both new songs and old favorites. Phantogram’s most recent album, Three, was released on October 7 and has since reached the top 10 in the U.S. charts. The band never let up and gave the audience everything they had, keeping the energy of the night bursting at the seams.
The gaps in the floor filled in quickly as everyone anxiously awaited Weezer, and when the house lights dimmed, the iconic W lit up the back of the stage. Hits “Buddy Holly,” “Hash Pipe,” and “Beverly Hills” have become synonymous with California rock, and the band helped make nerd aesthetic and brainy lyrics cool. Frontman and math professor lookalike Rivers Cuomo led the band in playing songs from their entire catalogue, including songs from their newest album, which has been deemed a commercial and critical success in the past several months.
For night two, the bands cranked their amps to 11 and had throngs of fans head-banging and crowd surfing to the front of the stage. Catfish And The Bottlemen, a U.K.-based rock group that have been topping the charts overseas for almost a decade, had hundreds of screaming girls passionately singing along to every song they played. Vocalist Ryan ‘Van’ McCann expressed their love of Chicago for supporting the band over the years.
The crowd scrunched together and filled every gap as Cage The Elephant headlined the evening. Frontman Matt Schultz seemed unable to stand still as he jumped and danced from one side of the stage to the other, eventually making his signature move and diving headfirst into the front row off the stage. Reminiscent of Mick Jagger, Schultz led the band in songs from their newest album as well as fan favorites.
Night three of the festival brought a slightly more subdued energy to the Aragon, but the performances topped the weekend as the most memorable. U.K. blues artist Barns Courtney replaced GROUPLOVE, who were unable to play due to their vocalist being ill. Courtney’s bluesy tunes were relatively unknown to the crowd, but he did an amazing job of keeping everyone entertained and even had a few people laughing. “Thanks to the guy in the front row for head banging,” he said, “…didn’t realize I was that good!”
Following his performance, alt-rock veterans Switchfoot gave the standout show of the weekend. Vocalist Jon Foreman stepped into the crowd several times, smiling and showing genuine affection for his fans. Playing chart-topping hits, several covers (including Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”), and closing the night with a beautiful rendition of “Meant To Live,” the band was in top form and had the sold-out ballroom eating out of the palm of their hands.
Synth-pop dynamo Fitz And The Tantrums ended the weekend with a bang. The group have been going strong for years and were quick to thank Chicago for all of their support. “Back when you all had Snowmageddon, we played the Metro and it was one of the best shows we’d done. Thank you all so much for selling out the show then and selling it out now!” vocalist Michael Fitzpatrick said. Frontwoman and vocalist Noelle Scaggs gave the crowd everything she had as she played tambourine and harmonized on “Get Right Back.” Each evening had an amazing lineup, and it’s safe to say that Chicago’s favorite alternative radio station will be back next year with another stellar weekend.