Just one night after playing in the big apple, Icelandic pop rock quintet Jeff Who? hit the second city, playing The Bedford in Wicker Park on Tuesday night.
When I walked into the bar, I kid you not: Bjork was on. Coincidence? I got a pint and found a pillar to lean against, waiting for the show to start. They picked up their instruments just before 11 and were done about an hour later. It was a short set, but left me wanting more.
Lacking a stage, the former bank-turned-bar seems an unlikely place to catch a rock show. The walls are lined with safe deposit boxes, the floors with marble and rooms sectioned off by a massive bank vault and glass walls. It’s a unique venue, I’ll give them that. My fears of questionable acoustics were quickly put to rest though, as soon as the band started to play.
They had set up camp right in the middle of the room, as a fairly small crowd knocked back cocktails made with Iceland’s own Reyka Vodka. Having sponsored the event, there were obligatory shoutouts throughout the set of the world’s new number one vodka. All promotions aside, it was an intimate set with a fun, catchy sound and a good response from a crowd that were mostly on bar stools or leaning on tables.
Hailing from Reykjavik, Jeff Who? have produced two albums since forming in 2004. From the few tracks I’d heard earlier, I was somewhat expecting a punchy, guitar-driven euro indie rock sound, like Franz Ferdinand – who they toured with in 2005. Their live sound was more distinctive than I had anticipated, although perhaps more comparable to acts from this side of the Atlantic.
The music they played from their first album “Death Before Disco” – which they described as being written in a time when the band was “extremely horny… extremely drunk” according to the bassist – had a sound that reminded me of The Strokes; more of an edgy, garage rock feel. The material from their second, self-titled album made much more use of synths and was reminiscent of The Killers; a bigger sound with more of a new wave vibe.
The band credit’s 70s rock and 80s pop as their biggest influences and that certainly became clear when toward the end of the set, the lead singer confessed to the band’s “soft spot” for Huey Lewis and the News, before they busted out a rendition of “The Power of Love”. The crowd ate it up; Huey would have been proud. Same goes for Marty McFly.