Can 11,000 Zooey Deschanel fans be wrong?

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”:

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And “Liar Liar 2” “Yes Man”:

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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.

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4 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. talty #

    This post reminds me of a great scene in Metropolitan: (Audrey Rouget) What Jane Austen novels have you read? (Tom Townsend) None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism.

    S&H’s albums Volume 1&2 have been well received, and they had a great appearances on Sound Opinions and at SXSW this year. You are wrong about most of their music being covers (ZD wrote 10/13 songs on Volume 1 and 11/13 songs on Volume 2) and linking videos of her movies isn’t relevant to her music.

    I’m surprised at your disbelief that so many people were at the show, they were there to see by your very eyes. Did you suddenly realize you weren’t at the Empty Bottle, and in some way your personal “indie” credibility would be tarnished for appearing at a free show on a beautiful night in Chicago. I was unable to go to the show, but thanks for opening up a spot for someone else. Remember for your next post, if you want to critique something, you should see it.

  2. Leor Galil #

    What’s funny about your comment is that you claim I’m making something of a straw-man argument while you do it yourself. Did I ever claim I was actually critiquing the live performance?

    I was pretty up front about everything – what I saw, what I didn’t see, why I didn’t see it. That doesn’t mean I can’t critique something, especially when She & Him’s music is everywhere and not just onstage. I could see your point if I was actually criticizing their live show, but I wasn’t.

    This whole post was about image, so the Zooey Deschanel movie clips were apt. Far more people are willing to pay $10 for a ZD movie than a She & Him album, and it would be daft to say that her presence as a movie star in the band didn’t draw people. I talked to some folks who didn’t know anything about the band but willingly brought up her role in “Elf.”

    You also entirely missed the point of the piece, that being to skewer “indie” chic and cred: That She & Him is basically the equivalent of a well-manicured concept of cool. I could care less about cool, and I’ll go to any number of free shows regardless of level of cool. Nice Empty Bottle jab, but that clearly shows you have an understanding of “cool points” perhaps more than me: I’ve been there maybe three times. I’ve probably seen more “uncool” emo shows in Chicago than indie-cred-approved sets.

    Cool in relation to music is relatively meaningless to me. Or perhaps you missed the post where I thanked Slipknot for all their music and a sense of stability.

  3. Fruzsina Eordogh #

    Oh. I was by the Art Institute yesterday and I was wondering what the commotion was about.

  4. Kevin Mack #

    Ah, don’t forget those ubiquitous Death Cab fans too, Leor.

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