Playing at Chicago's Golden Dagger are, from left, Midcentury Llama's Frank O'Meara, Nick Witek and Sam Okrent, with Eric Gantner behind them on drums. // Courtesy of Victoria Marie

Indie rockers Midcentury Llama carve out a niche on Chicago’s music scene

Growing up on the North Shore, the members of the Chicago indie band, Midcentury Llama, spread out to other cities until all four of them returned to Chicago’s North Side in 2019.

They got the band back together.

Growing up on the North Shore, the members of the Chicago indie band, Midcentury Llama, spread out to other cities until all four of them returned to Chicago’s North Side in 2019.

“We ended up in basically the same habits — hanging out, playing music,” said Midcentury Llama guitarist Frank O’Meara.

The band — O’Meara, drummer Eric Gantner, keyboard player and vocalist Sam Okrent, bassist/vocalist Nick Witek — will play a free show at Pinstripes in Northbrook from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15. Their stage show currently running about an hour, Midcentury Llama will probably play two sets that night, O’Meara said.

“It’s just a fun thing for us because all our friends and families live in the North suburbs, and it’s a fun way to let them see us play,” O’Meara said of the show at Pinstripes, 1150 Willow Road.

The band also is among eight groups playing the fifth “Rockmare Before Christmas” at Reggies Rock Club, 2105 S. State St., Chicago, with doors opening at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19; tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

Culminating in the Oct. 22 self-titled release available on platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes, the members of Midcentury Llama returned to their roots musically and geographically.

Childhood friends Okrent, O’Meara and Gantner — the latter two grew up playing music together, both living on Middlefork Road in Northfield — all attended New Trier High School. Down the road, Barrington High School product Witek joined the trio through a mutual friend.

A former member who played on the new album, saxophonist Sam MacDuffie, from Maine, moved back east to attend law school at Duke University, though he did return for a recent gig at Beat Kitchen in Chicago.

“That was a bummer. We had to rethink the thing, but we’re still moving forward,” O’Meara said.

Most definitely. On top of the jaunty, guitar- and keyboard-led tracks on the “Midcentury Llama” album, the band is enjoying a creative spurt, writing and recording new material all the time.

“I think every show has kind of been different from the one before because we’re coming up with stuff at a pretty good rate right now. I think that’s one of the cool things about it,” O’Meara said.

“We’re kind of at a great point where we’ve got the material where we can keep in the stuff that’s doing well.”

Midcentury Llama will play a free show at Pinstripes in Northbrook Wednesday, Dec. 15, and as part of “Rockmare Before Christmas” at Reggies Rock Club in Chicago Sunday, Dec. 19. // Courtesy of Midcentury Llama

Influenced by such groups as Lake Street Dive, Pinegrove, Traffic and Chicago darling Whitney, Midcentury Llama finds itself in a rare spot within the Chicago music scene. Not punk, not shoegaze, not singer-songwriter-recording-in-their-bedroom, the band plays straight, sunny rock.

“Indie rock is a pretty broad category, obviously. I think we kind of go for a little bit different thing from what modern indie rock people are doing in Chicago, I feel like. I think we’re just a little bit closer to classic rock ‘n’ roll.

“I try to really keep my ear to the ground of how the local bands are — there’s so many of them, which is a good thing,” said O’Meara, who on Dec. 1 saw a couple of them together when Chicago duo Ohmme joined VV Lightbody on stage at Sleeping Village.

“I like the fact that I feel like our sound is original in the current scene,” O’Meara said.


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