Sounds Like: The Berg Sans Nipple live at The Empty Bottle

Dan Willis

When you walk out into The Empty Bottle in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, the hole-in-the-wall venue feels like a veritable coral reef for hipsters. As you sidle through the front poolroom towards the bar and its $1.25 PBR (sweet!) you spot a few Gingham-dressed cuties hovering around the kitschy but super-fun photo booth.
Over by the Playboy pinball machine leans a cluster of dudes with awesome ironic mustaches. One sports your standard Tom Selleck ‘stache (very robust), another wears the paradoxically fun yet aggressive handlebar mustache, and manning the flippers stands a guy rocking – a fan favorite – the spindly, waxed, Salvador Dali mustache.
The only thing covering the bare brick walls are the tattered remnants of years of concert flyers for a bunch of bands you aren’t cool enough to have heard of. Maybe you recognize the occasional Ratatat or Liars flyer, but most of them are for bands called things like “Matthew Dears’ Big Hands,” and “Pink Nasty.”
Clutching your Pabst close to your breast, you jostle through a maze of messenger bags and cigarette-smoking Chuck Taylor stand-ins, finally coming to rest with a good view of the stage – close, but not too close.
Tonight you have come to see The Berg Sans Nipple, a duo somehow able to bridge the gap between spacey, chill-out electronica and neck-thrashing dance-punk.
Nebraska native Shane Aspegren, short and solid with a brown mop of hair, and the tall, lanky, blonde Parisian Lori Sean Berg mount the stage. Sean takes the drums while Aspegren sits down at a station of steel pans, keyboards and glockenspiel.
They begin to play. The simple, light synth riff of “Mystic Song” fills the air. It’s one of the more engaging and curious songs from their new album “Along The Quai.” The drums quickly hit a fun-loving dance beat while the melancholy synth line and steel pan create a bittersweet atmosphere.
Berg plunges onward! While their album may sit in introspective tranquility for tracks on end, they have something else in store for this show.
Sean, exuberant and fearless on the drums, pushes the duo towards a frenzied punk precipice and suddenly hits the breaks, as if to offer the audience a quiet moment to reflect back on the journey that took them to the climax.
They don’t make the audience wait too long before they start climbing back up mountain. They tear apart the voyaging theme and whispered lyrics of the album’s title track with all the deconstructive mayhem of a crappy garage band.
Letting the sound system do a lot of the work, the room is so loud you seriously consider covering your ears. But seriously, only wimps cover their ears.
You leave the bar, all ringy-eared and achy-legged, your head aswim with the familiar and pleasant post-concert glow.