ancouver Sleep Clinic brought their new album, Onwards to Zion, to Chicago, captivating the hearts of long-time listeners and making a few new fans as well. Hailing from Australia, Vancouver Sleep Clinic is Tim Bettinson and his live band creating music that is dark, ambient and intense. His high falsetto voice in rough contrast with his more laid-back appearance filled the intimate venue. Sleeping Village, the coffee shop turned bar turned music venue located in the heart of Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, was only about half filled, but a crowd of devout fans were all pressed up to the very front of the stage, singing along to every song. 

The night started off with a set from Velvet Negroni. The newest project of Jeremy Nutzman, Velvet Negroni provided infectious hooks and irresistible beats that got the crowd up and dancing in no time. One particularly cool moment was when Nutzman himself jumped down into the audience to sing the final song in everyone's faces. After Velvet Negronis set was done there was a definite shift in the air. People began pushing forward against the stage, anxious for Vancouver Sleep Clinic to come out. A group of excited girls stood huddled around their phones, excitedly whispering to each other in anticipation. 

They played a mix of material from all of their previous EPs with the majority of songs being from their newest album, Onwards to Zion. “Lung” the opening song was an onslaught of heavy bass and vocals that in combination with the dim purple and pink lights, created a beautiful heaviness in the space. Bettinson and his band moved through each song with ease, stopping to thank the audience and give context to the songs throughout the set. He prefaced the stripped down version of “Summer 09” as being “a song about my friend who passed away” and citing the songs influence being the “best summer of my life... playing cricket all day.” One of the most intriguing parts about Vancouver Sleep Clinics shows, besides Bettinsons signature vocal style, is the lights. The rays of pink, red and blue helped set the mood for each song and gave the set an otherworldly appeal. One particularly special moment was during “Yosemite” the third to last song. The whole band gathered up at the front and the song was sung off-mic, a treat for those close enough to hear and an incentive for the people in the back to shut up and listen. 

Early in the set, Bettinson explained the lack of a keyboard player in the current touring band. “My brother was supposed to be here playing keys but we had some visa problems and he couldn’t make it,” Bettinson said to a crowd of eager listeners. “We were up almost all night getting his parts recorded so we could play.” It’s dedication, camaraderie and innovation like this that makes Vancouver Sleep Clinic the band that they are. Their obvious joy and happiness playing together on stage is infectious and their gratitude towards their audience is something that warrants the place that they hold in so many people's hearts. 

Photos by
Erin Dickson