Ratboys hit their stride with a stellar NON-COMM set - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
2024.05.09 - Ratboys - NonComm 24

Kicking off the third night of WXPN’s NON-COMMvention, we got to witness Chicago indie rockers Ratboys playing music from their new record from The Window on the Lounge Stage at World Cafe Live. It’s an album that takes you on a journey through life’s hardest moments without feeling the burden. Its optimism makes it digestible in the same light as feeling as the sun hitting your face on the first sunny day after a week of gloomy skies. Its mix of indie rock, experimental-country, and folk melodies were presented in a tasteful and purposeful way.

Ratboys, are now relishing in the afterglow of “album of the year” territory, a space they found themselves almost ten months out from the release of The Window. They have given fans, the press, and all of the radio folks in the room a new version of midwestern indie rock that feels deeply personal and refreshing. It had a lot to do with production collaborator Chris Walla, who really brought the best elements of the band out to shine. It was hard not to be impressed watching their performance – which one could argue deserved two NON-COMM slots, though its merit was already achieved from the short set itself.

All that’s to say the album that made waves in the indie scene translated extremely well on the stage tonight with lead guitarist Dave Sagan and drummer Marcus Nuccio being sights to behold. This was apparent from the beginning in “Morning Zoo” with the drum fits falling right into place alongside Julia Steiner’s and Sean Neumann’s tender vocal deliveries. This continued on in “It’s Alive,” though its ending had a bit of a change in pace with the drums fully taking the reins to close out the album’s first single.

Julia took a moment to share some humble beginnings with the audience, “John and I starting off as public radio interns” in the very beginning of their careers, before pursuing music full time. This led to the country-tinged “Go Outside,” from their 2021 album Happy Birthday, Ratboy. During the song, the band sounded as tight as ever, their instruments cascaded down a decrescendo before dramatically rushing to a crescendo closing a song out. The band took their time with “Black Earth, WI,” a standout track that filled the majority of their only four-song set. The extended solos from Sagan and Nuccio respectively felt so spontaneous, and eventually led to each of them erupting into a full on improv session, jamming out the rest of the long track; getting the crowd going in the process. This was until Sagan’s final riff brought the song back down to earth, it was a breathtaking showcase of the band’s versatility.

With a decade of touring and well-regarded releases under their belt, Ratboys are clearly enjoying the payoffs of lots of hard work. They’ve come a long way since their college days, adding members and evolving their sound. Now on tour with fellow NON-COMM-ers The Decemberists, they are headed to D.C. tomorrow and will be traveling to the west coast this summer. Throughout the performance, it was evident that Ratboys are a band in their prime, delivering their best songs yet with a blend of technical skill and heartfelt emotion.

  • Morning Zoo
  • It's Alive
  • Go Outside
  • Black Earth, U.S.
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