Emporium Arcade Bar in Wicker Park kicked off the Halloween weekend with two solid musical performances on Thursday, October 26. The night included sets from Chicago’s Xoe Wise Band and Panic Priest, both embracing the energy of the holiday with their individual dark takes on pop music.
The night opened with Panic Priest, a solo project from multi-instrumentalist Jack Armondo. For the artists’ first show, Armondo showcased a great sense of control and comfortability on stage while exploring the realms of his dark electronic pop sound. His vocals, deep and rich, had a touch crooner style, adding a uniqueness to the seemingly mainstream genre. Each piece built with energy as Armondo ripped up a 12-string guitar while singing over his pre-recorded instrumentals.
Xoe Wise Band, fronted by Xoe Wise on vocals, guitar and keys, and backed by Steve Stone, Max Schreffler, Dan Zima and Pat McKillen, took the stage next matching the intensity of their opening act. Their set began with Xoe Wise stepping out as Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks dressed in a maxi skirt, printed top and fur shawl. The band played through hits from their 2015 EP Racecar Orgasm: Foreplay as well as earlier singles and recently released tracks. A crowd favorite seemed to be “Cigarette Break” an early single with its electronic runs and catchy looped lyrics “please let me call you/on your cigarette break”.
To start the second half of the set, Xoe Wise took advantage of a costume change, transforming into Blondie’s Debra Harry during a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. She then traveled front and center of the dance floor with a chair, stepped up and began to perform a few iconic dance moves from “Thriller” in hopes of getting the crowd to join in on some festive fun. Each member took ownership of their space, sufficiently utilizing the stage to its full potential with dancing and movement, doing their best to interact with their bandmates and the audience. While the crowd may have been reluctant to dance, the band didn’t let the lack of participation affect their energy and dedication to putting on a great show.