On Tuesday night I found myself packed in a raucous sea of beer filled Orwells’ fans, all hell bent on getting as many stage dives in as possible before the show was over. The ringing has not left my right ear since. The Orwells authentic garage band sound attracts a rowdy crowd that brings the party to the concert, a testament that rock & roll is still alive and kicking hard. The smell of sweat, deafening guitar blasts and the hardcore stage presence fuels the adrenaline unlike anything else.
The Orwells are comprised of Mario Cuomo, the wild long-haired vocalist who interacts with the crowd regularly, Cuomo’s Cousin, Dominic Corso, who shreds the guitar alongside Matt O’Keefe, and Grant Brinner is on bass with his twin brother Henry Brinner on drums. Most of the band have been close for years when they first formed in high school out of Elmhurst, Illinois. They started writing songs in O’Keefe’s parent’s basement. Their dedication was awarded when they were discovered in 2011 by blogger, Justin Gage, who signed them to his record label. The band graduated high school early in 2013 to pursue their music career. Their single, “Mallrats (La La La),” reviewed positively by Pitchfork and performed at Lollapalooza.
The Orwells fame grew in 2014 with the release of their second album, ‘Disgraceland.’ They performed “Who Needs You” on the Late Show with David Letterman and were a hit. Letterman and house bandleader Paul Schaffer called for an encore, but the band had to decline because Matt O’Keefe had no strings left on his guitar. Their song, “Who Needs You,” was also featured in Grand Theft Auto V on an ingame radio station. Their most recent album is ‘Terrible Human Beings’ which was released in Feb. 2017.
The crowd at the Cat’s Cradle was ready to rock out after being amped up by The Walters, another all-male garage band that hails from Illinois. They prepared the audience for the Orwells with a shirtless performance.
After the agony of waiting and being teased by the stage hand tuning the guitars, the lights finally dimmed and the band took the stage. Excited fans quickly pushed forward towards the circle that was being formed directly in front of the stage. O’Keefe and Corso fired up their guitars and the crowd starts cheering. Immediately as Cuomo hit the stage, he approached the crowd and began to reach out to them as they crash into each other. Stage divers navigated the insane environment to the front so they can hop on stage and fly into the crowd, just to be on top of the world for five seconds before being dropped somewhere behind the mosh pit. Cuomo throughout the performance would periodically help crowd surfers on stage so they could hop off once again.
The Orwells played their aforementioned hit, “Who Needs You”, which is a garage anthem that can get almost anyone to jam with its upbeat tone and fun lyrics, while also staying rooted in the gritty punk sound they are known for. Another single they played was “Dirty Sheets,” which is my favorite song of theirs. This track’s guitar gets me off my feet every time I am not in a car and when I am, you bet your *ss I’m slammin’ my hands on the steering wheel. The Orwells put on a show that would make their influences, like Iggy Pop, proud.
As the show was coming to its last few songs, Cuomo began to make his way off-stage, he began climbing on top of speakers, then somehow getting atop the roof’s cover that was to the side of the venue. He sat above the pictures of Zevon and Kilmister as he sang the last song, then began to crawl towards the back where he jumped off near the merch table, making his exit. The band continued to play as O’Keefe grinded out a solo. The band then left the stage and returned for one encore song. The audience and the performance were both wilder than expected, and I can now only hope the ringing in my ear subsides soon.