On March 22, 2019 a small crowd gathered together in the intimate Schubas Tavern to hear the headliner of the night Elujay, but the stand out performance was from the warm-up act - Family Reunion. I do want to mention that I have seen Family Reunion previously, and that these previous shows were the main reason for my trip to Shubas, but even under these biases, everything about Jackie's (Front women of Family Reunion) performance hit the right spots for me.
Family Reunions hails from Waukegan, IL with a sound that is totally unique in the modern social conscience, but still has roots in the small but growing bedroom-pop crowd; think Omar Apollo, Katzù Oso, or No Vacation. With a easy, indie-electro rock sound, the music has a familiar feel. The songs lean heavy on lyrical content to drive relationship-centric stories. Jackie's focus on deeply emotional and personal events drive her pathos, which is only back up by the more-often-than-not slow, melodic electric guitar, filled in with smooth keys and bass, and accented by moving rhythmic drums. The total effect is leads to the entire crowd swooning and swaying - a movement I repeat as I write to some of their songs.
This performance was– by a slim margin– Family Reunion's best. I have previously seen shows at The Mic in Waukegan, IL, and Chicago's famed Lincoln Hall, the most energetic of which was the showcase at The Mic, which additionally featured Victor! and Black Saint David. This show was my first introduction to Family Reunion, and I really saw potential in this up and coming artist. The energy was there, but the musicality was lacking. Many parts were noticeable off-pitch and even at times off-beat. But come around to this most recent performance, and those issues have disappeared. And although she was not the headliner, a small group a fans came just for Jackie, and, man, did they bring the energy I came to expect. Family Reunion's musical capability has grown greatly with on-the-fly creative choices and emotion poured into every note plucked and sung.
Family Reunion has a lot going right now, but still has tons of room to grow. Personally, I believe greater dynamics and diversity in topics and sound is needed. The latter being less important because music is a creative process, never static and always updating, and when inspiration strikes it strikes fast - the same is true for Family Reunion - but it is hard to keep listening if every song brings the same emotions. The former is what I believe to be the hardest for modern musicians, but is needed to create great audience interest. Without it songs feel monotone, not in the pitch sense of the word, but there is little to no difference throughout a song making it hard to listen. In Family Reunion's recent collaboration this issue is less apparent, and I hope it carries over to the many songs to come.
In essence, Family Reunion has taken a backward route to many by finding their unique sound and filling in the musicianship after the fact. Because of this, I would definitely give them a listen. Furthermore, I would highly recommend catching a live show if possible, the sound is different in a meaningful way. Finally, I beg of you to keep an eye on Family Reunion, because I can tell they are going places with amazing growth in such a short period of time.