Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion fits approximately 11,000 people. That is, unless there is a free She & Him show.
The Pavilion has 4,000 fixed seats, and the lawn fits about 7,000 people. When She & Him performed at Millennium Park’s concert pavilion Monday, the number of people that can fit in the area grew exponentially. It wasn’t a comfortable fit: It created a cramped, huddled mass, with people setting up blankets and chairs on any slab of pavement or spot of grass next to the pavilion’s borders in the same way settlers would mark their newfound Western territory with flags. And it was all to see She & Him.
And who exactly are She & Him? Well, She & Him is a duo comprised of indie-folk artist M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel. (There are session musicians who perform with the duo too, but let’s set that aside for the moment.) M. Ward has made a name for himself within indie circles for his tireless creation of folk-related pop music.
And Zooey Deschanel? Why, she’s the star of many beloved films such as “The Happening”:
And “Liar Liar 2” “Yes Man”:
And don’t even get me started on the vapid “Family Guy” movie curated to indie music/film lovers, “(500) Days of Summer.” But, as long as we’re on the subject, Deschanel’s character in that film consisted mostly of being hoisted on a pedestal and looking pretty.
Which is a large part of her appeal. As I looked around the crowd at Millennium Park, I pondered any number of things. Mostly, I was befuddled by the sheer size of the crowd. Were there really 11,000+ people in Chicago who were even aware M. Ward exists? Or even in the park? The sheer size of the audience was perplexing because, as a friend at the show mentioned, there have been better bands on the stage at the Pritzker Pavilion that haven’t drawn the same numbers.
So what’s the appeal? Not everyone there could have felt the same way I feel about She & Him, or rather, Zooey Deschanel: That level of apathy would have seen people turning away in droves. Sure, some people may have been in my shoes, planted on the pavilion grounds for the company and not the quality of the entertainment. But, people like the band.
And suddenly it struck me: She & Him is the indie equivalent of Michael Bublé. Like Bublé, She & Him present a distinct “indie-crafted” style. They perform a distinct, safe form of “indie” music. They’re a good looking group with an inoffensive sound that moms and kids can bop too. And they perform a lot of covers.
Like “(500) Days of Summer,” She & Him are an amalgamation of nondescript indie culture and style, especially hip to the style but not much on individuality. Even their band name – She & Him – draws upon the concept of a collaboration between an indie-approved actress and a folk artist with plenty of indie cred. You know what you’re in for long before you hear the first note from a She & Him tune. It’s tailor made for those with subversive taste and a taste for seemingly subversive fashion to enjoy. Kinda like Michael Bublé.
Knowing what I was in for, I left the show before She & Him could take the stage. Besides, if there were so many others hot to see the band, it was best that they take that hard-to-find spot I held.
Still, She & Him did bring something surprising to the show: Hollows. The Chicago quartet held their own with an impressive mix of ’60s-era garage rock, girl group doo-wop and a nice slice of punk panache. There’s nothing quite like a nice set of entertaining, original tunes to make an excellent summer evening.