I had the pleasure of interviewing Great Good Fine Ok prior to their show at the Thalia Hall in Pilsen, Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, they are a rising indie/dance electro outfit, whose following has been growing exponentially in the past 3 years.
The Pilsen neighborhood has been a focal point for creative urban development in Chicago over the past few years. Otherwise known as gentrification–yeah, I don’t care, I’m a hipster and it benefits me directly. It’s a lot like Wicker Park, but way more Mexican. The Thalia Hall was built in the late 1800’s, with the express purpose of being a center within which the members of the Bohemian community could gather, revel, and dance. It is here where I will be meeting with Jon and Luke of Great Good Fine Ok.
I’m in a cab taking me from the Loop to Pilsen, sipping on some bourbon and listening to some funk. As it pulls up to the theater, I’m enthralled by the amount of murals in the area. Portraits of beautiful hispanic landscapes surround me, weaving thick strokes of red, yellow, and orange to construct sunrises and sunsets no doubt crafted in the image of the homeland.
I text the band manager to let him know I’m there–he’s been telling me to hurry up–and am escorted by a large bouncer backstage to the green room, an ancient, woody smelling clinic of a space. I say clinic because there are packets of Emergen-C and Nyquil all over the place–apparently the opening act is very ill and the bouncer, a big black bowling ball of a bloke, tells me to wash my hands (a lot) before he leaves.
Jon rises immediately when I get there, sporting a white t-shirt, silver chain, and jovial smile. His hand reaches out to shake mine, before moving into another room to gather Luke, the other principal member of GGFO. When no one is looking, I pour a little whiskey on my hands to keep them clean. Luke is more subdued–he’s bearded, quiet, but friendly. I feel like every band is like this–the charismatic front man seems to always works with a quietly talented supporting cast. We sit down and chat for the interview–they couldn’t have been more gracious–before taking the stage. As I leave the green room, Jon shakes my hand again and says “You ready to dance? I better see you out there dancing up front.” I lie and nod my head, before finding a nice corner near stage left to brood, drink, write, and briefly attempt to catch the eye of some blonde bespectacled female near the end of the bar.
I wasn’t terribly familiar with GGFO prior to chatting with them (you can find the mentioned interview on our podcast), and honestly was not that crazy about their music. I mean I liked it, otherwise I would not have requested an interview, but it just didn’t seem to be my style. All of that fell away as soon as they took the stage.
I had read about their energetic live shows prior to the interview, per my research, but something about Jon taking the stage with his electric, light up shoes, fluorescent jacket, and bottomless appetite to dance was way too compelling to not be enthralling. It was so absurd, similar to the neighborhood I was in, to not be enjoyed. You know those artists that actually sound better live than they do in the studio? This is them–except, the principal difference is that they don’t just sound better, they feel better, the lights, the dancing, the energy–it all came together to create a whole creative and artistic experience that was physically, emotionally, and spiritually visceral. Which is what great art is supposed to do. I did, in fact, end up busting a move or two. I hate myself for writing that, but it happened, and the next time I see GGFO, it will happen again. Jon asked me that question not to be friendly or funny, but because he actually cares–he wants their fans to be engaged on that level, and that authentic desire to connect with the crowd is why they are able to establish that connection so effectively.