Tucked inside a relatively quiet block in Lincoln Park, a small bar explodes with an upbeat, unique blend of rock, soul, jazz, funk, hip-hop, and blues at 10PM sharp on the first Wednesday night of every month, courtesy of Chicago’s own Mos Scocious.
This little venue, the Tonic Room, which is about the size of my two-bedroom apartment, is packed with fans of several different walks of life that go crazy when Mos Scocious takes the stage around 11:30. The party is just getting started. Securing a spot by the cozy fireplace, I witness a musical amalgam – rap in one song, slow blues in the next, then a medley of The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” and “She Loves You.” People dance, take pictures, and raise their glasses to the music. It’s “First Wednesday,” and everyone is having a good time.
Mos Scocious is comprised of three recent Columbia College grads: Josh Rosen [bass, guitar, vocals], Bradley Butterworth [guitar, bass, vocals], and Rob Dicke [drums], all of whom met in Jazz Performance classes in college. The motivation to form the group came from both inside and outside of the classroom. “Just being amongst talented artists and musicians has inspired us more than any class ever could. However, theory and ear training classes were essential to help turn our inspiration into tangible musical ideas,” Rosen tells me following the show. Those ideas came together in the spring of 2006, and Mos Scocious was born.
I asked Rosen where the name comes from. “It’s a Creole phrase that loosely translates to ‘All-Around Good Time.’” Seems fitting for a group that took its favorite parts of every genre to create its own, totally unique sound – a sound Rosen says was undoubtedly shaped by Mos Scocious’s beloved home city. “Chicago has not only influenced our sound, but it is our sound. We are inspired by everything the city has to offer. Everything we experience in this city comes out in a small way in our songs.” The band termed its sound “freak-funk” because “[it’s] the sound from the underground. It’s toe-tappin’, groove-based music that isn’t confined to any musical boundaries.”
Mos Scocious’s eclectic sound is due in large part to the diversity of the members’ geographic and musical backgrounds. The band says, “Our hometowns are all spread throughout the Midwest. Brad is from just outside of Detroit, MI; he brings the Rock/Fusion/Jam vibe. Josh is from Cleveland Heights, OH, and brings the Motown/Blues/Funk vibe. Rob is from Peoria, IL, [and] he brings the Jazz/Soul/Latin vibe. Put us all together, and it’s a nice little salad with a BIG sound!” The variety of influences comes out in each and every song. Mos Scocious has been known to cover Gnarls Barkley and The Sound of Music and then crank out a fan favorite: a rap called “Garmonbozia,” also known as “The Alligator Song.” When they break into the song at Tonic Room, a fan next to me starts dancing so wildly that he bumps into everyone around him and almost spills his drink.
In addition to First Wednesdays, the trio has several Midwestern and East Coast dates under its belt. After playing numerous other Chicago venues — the Kinetic Playground, Subterranean, Cubby Bear, Reggie’s, Martyr’s, Gallery Cabaret, and Elbo Room, among others — Mos Scocious recently brought their sound to Minnesota (Rochester), Ohio (Cleveland and Columbus), Illinois (Peoria and DeKalb), Michigan (Flint, Royal Oak, and Rochester), and New York (Binghamton and New York City). They also recorded an LP called Ibble Dabble in 2008.
When the opportunity arose to book a recurring hometown gig, the band accepted. “We were asked by Michael Berg and Jess Blanc of 3D-MAS Productions to play on their Wednesday Night Affair at the Tonic Room about 2 years ago. There is no place we would rather be on a Wednesday. It’s a great place to hear live music,” Rosen says. “For us, it just became a very comfortable place to play. We were approached by Berg in December to start up a once-a-month residency at Tonic Room in February. We couldn’t have been more excited.”
What else does the future hold for Mos Scocious? Although many students are forced to either drop out of school or give up music to pursue full-time careers after graduation, Mos Scocious is becoming a career for Rosen, Butterworth, and Dicke. Rosen says they’re in it for the long haul. “Our future plans are to make Mos Scocious our full-time job. This includes touring, writing, recording, marketing, living, loving, etc. It will take a lot of sacrifices, but we are up for the challenge and are ready to take over the world!” It sounds to me like they’re going to have a really great time along the way.
Check out Mos Scocious on Myspace, Facebook, and Sonicbids. And catch the band live at Tonic Room on April 7 and May 5 (2447 N. Halsted, 10:00 PM, $5) as well as at Gallery Cabaret on April 9 (2020 N. Oakley, 8:00 PM, Free).