The first day of spring was welcomed in typical Chicago fashion: an unseasonable snowstorm. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was red-hot at the Hideout, the intimate venue where White Mystery, one of Chicago’s fastest rising indie bands, performed on Saturday. White Mystery is a psychedelic garage band from another time, magically transported into the here and now. Comprised of the brother-sister duo of Miss Alex White and her younger brother Francis White, the two just released their first full-length eponymously titled record (Reckless) on CD and vinyl after two previous 7” releases. If their performance on this night was any indication, great success is headed their way.
“Stripped down” is the best and ubiquitous way to describe them, and they could only sound better coming from a transistor radio. In this era of the slick, packaged, and digitally remastered, it is a refreshing change to hear Miss Alex’s raw and gritty vocals mesh tightly with her intense riffs and Francis’s heavy drum and tambourine beats. At times, Miss Alex sounds like she is the modern-day incarnation of Grace Slick, but in reality she has an organic voice like none other.
White Mystery is not a band that will leave you second guessing the meaning of their lyrics; it’s all about the beats and the riffs.The highlight performance of Saturday’s show, “Take a Walk”, from their new album, is a very lyrically straightforward ditty about a stroll through the Chicago’s North side. According to Miss Alex, words “are important”, but, “it’s mostly about people shaking their butts with syncopation and energy”.
“We were at SXSW for seven days,” Miss Alex explained after Saturday’s performance. “We flew all night and then came here to perform.” The band is known for performing shows several times a week, and has an energy and cohesiveness that shines musically and as stage performers. Miss Alex’s guitar riffs are tight and blend together seamlessly with Francis’s heavy drum beats without being overpowered by them. Although Alex sings lead on most songs, the duo share vocal and front-man duties. When their songs get intense and they start jamming, the two become one unit with heads banging and bodies pogo-ing in sync with music, all the while invigorating the audience with a fierce, fiery energy.
Besides their ability to get a room full of people to shake their booties, much of White Mystery’s appeal is their beguiling personalities that play out on stage. Their unruly red afros are so captivating; there is no better compliment to their music than when the two shake and head bang those tresses together in perfect synchronicity. The hair has become, in essence, another member of the band. Miss Alex and Francis have said that they have come to accept their unique hair color and texture and embrace it, instead of fighting it. They have used it to their advantage, making it their trademark look and even profiting from it. For three dollars, you can purchase a button with “real” White Mystery hair. It seems to be a trend that is catching on, considering that several audience members were donning red afro wigs or sporting their own red afros, and the “real hair” pins, they sold out. It’s no mystery that this duo is on the verge of growing bigger than their red afros.