City Slang: Zombie Jesus, Bailiff and He-Bops at the Lager House

Local indie pop band Trait was supposed to open this show, but a family emergency forced them to cancel. Up steps Zombie Jesus & the Chocolate Sunshine Band, or half of them anyway.

This being a last minute show, two of the band members were unable to play, but that didn’t stop front man Jheremie Jaque and guitarist Helmut Aretz from stepping up like the saviors of the day that they are, and rattling through a set of barbed cutesy tunes. Jaques told us that he and Aretz have played as a two-piece a ton of times at open mics, so this wasn’t an unusual setup for them. He’s an interesting front man too; his demeanor suggests that he’s on the verge of sleep, yet he delivers one witty line after another between songs. “This song’s about Helmut’s battles with addiction,” Jaques says, as the conservative-looking German shrugs. “Love Song” from the debut EP is the pick of tonight’s tunes, an oldie but goody. “You’re a filthy little slut,” Jaques croons. “Look at you playing with my balls on the first night.” Awwwwww.

Bailiff are here from Chicago. This writer knew nothing about the band before the evening got underway. They’re not at all bad though. Essentially a progressive indie band, there are elements of Celtic stomp to the sound that keeps the adrenalin pumping. And tight? Shit, Ren Mathew is a killer drummer – no tricks but you imagine he has them up his sleeve if necessary. Singer and guitarist Josh Siegel is a little too “eyes closed and dreamy depth,” the first obvious giveaway that this is a Chicago band. But the guy can play and hold a note, and he has some fun pedals. The tunes are huge, most importantly. Fair enough, Chi-Town boys. Good show.

And then the He-Bops close out the night. Originally conceived as an all-male Cyndi Lauper/Clash mash-up band, the He-Bops started writing originals, leaving us with this oddball group consisting of three guys who look like they were pieced together from different bands. The music’s fun, certainly not to be taken too seriously, though definitely limited. Think a trash-punk Zappa. You get the feeling that there’s a lot going on in their heads that isn’t being translated on stage, that there’s a great He-Bops rock opera waiting to be written. For now, we have “Death by Misadventure,” a song about Bruce Lee and Amy Winehouse.

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