From the moment Owen’s Mike Kinsella took the Beachland Tavern stage, the bar seemed to get a little warmer. It was evident at the first gleeful holler from an enthusiastic member of the densely packed crowd; even more so when Kinsella’s perspiration traveled from his forehead to the glazed wood of his acoustic guitar — which had been doodled on twice by one or both of the family man’s young children. Pinpointing the source of this electric liveliness isn’t easy, but it made the set, and Kinsella, seem more genuine. Most of what he played shined light on of his gifted lyrical ability — as in “O, Evelyn,” a tender ode to his daughter — and guitar virtuosity, like the sweet, noodly melody of “The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi.” Kinsella’s humility and sense of humor only added to the fun in the intimate venue, as he took a fan-bought shot midway through “Bad News” and joked with audience members throughout. His willingness to involve his supporters meant that many went home having heard their favorites as he took fan suggestions for the entire encore, a four-song finale that included an unusual, yet surprisingly fitting, cover of “Call Your Girlfriend” by Swedish pop singer Robyn. Kinsella aptly reminded the near capacity crowd why he has been hailed as so integral to the indie scene of his home state of Illinois for most of his musical career, all the while showing that the distinction isn’t something that needs to come with a bratty ego.
While Owen managed to pack the most bodies to the front of the stage, the energizing performances of folk quintet Saintseneca and indie pop duo/couple Slingshot Dakota played a huge role in prepping the bar’s positive atmosphere much earlier. Setting an upbeat tone from the start with the spirited “James,” Saintseneca proved to have greater depth than the typical opener with their creative style of percussion, which featured four of the five members stomping their boots to the wooden platforms upon which they stood. The effect created an interesting dimension to songs like “Acid Rain” and “Grey Flag,” and made for a more encompassing aural experience for those in the standing room of the bar. A light rain threatened to dampen the mood of cigarette smokers following Sainseneca’s set, but Slingshot Dakota was able to quickly captivate the crowd anyway with its minimalistic style and strong stage chemistry; throughout the half-hour set, which featured songs like “Wave” and “Light,” it wasn’t uncommon to see pianist Carly Comando and drummer Tom Patterson locking eyes intensely and riffing off one another in the midst of an instrumental breakdown. Both of the opening bands seemed to really feed off of the energy of the room as they provided a solid hour of entertainment for the highly anticipatory audience.