The Juliana Hatfield Three, Lincoln Hall, Chicago, Illinois, March 7, 2015

The intriguing Juliana Hatfield won my admiration after seeing her on MTV in the 1990s acoustically performing “My Sister.”  Her voice, demeanor, and allure attracted me and prompted a purchase of the first CD I found, her solo debut, Hey Babe, at the local indie record store (which is still open!). I’ve always liked her unique lyrics, delivered with a beautiful voice, that generally avoided being generic or too sweet. She’s one in an elite group of musicians, including Chrissie Hynde, Lush, and Suzanne Vega, who strongly influence me emotionally, and are aligned with nostalgic moments. I’m proud that I’ve faithfully bought most all of Hatfield’s recordings upon there release since 1998’s Bed.

Beginning with my most loved of her bands, Blake Babies, in the late 1980s, Hatfield has been a reliable artist, releasing music every year or two as solo efforts, or with The Juliana Hatfield Three, Some Girls, The Lemonheads, Minor Alps, and Frank Smith. Just last month, The I Don’t Cares, her collaboration with The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, released Wild Stab.

I’ve seen Juliana throughout the 2000s, once with Some Girls and thrice solo.  Last year, after reuniting her most commercially successful band, The Juliana Hatfield Three, and releasing their second album, Whatever, My Love, tour dates were announced. With Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on the route, my wife and I booked a Megabus to see the band’s 21st anniversary tour. The venue was rather full, with the largest audience I’ve seen at one of Hatfield’s shows. With the 1990s in vogue, I guess it wasn’t surprising. We were able to park ourselves on some stairs and sustain a good view of the band from the right.  Frisbie, a Chi-town power pop band, warmed up the anxious crowd, myself included. Here was the JH3, a band that was only briefly together when I was around 13 years old, and I rarely thought they’d tour again, much less release new music. My concert peers, many of whom appeared to be in their 30s-40s, and I were elated to see the soft spoken Hatfield, bassist Dean Fisher, and drummer Todd Phillips situated on stage. I was likely not the only one to have a crush reignited while watching Juliana and her resulting charming performance and coy chats between songs, like her “It Came From the Nineties” tour idea. It seems even decades of live experience hasn’t softened Hatfield’s bashfulness, but her songs were performed well, with the rhythm section keeping it bolted together. Their entire debut, Become What You Are, and selected compositions from Whatever, My Love, Hey Babe, and Only Everything were played in the roughly 1 hour and 20 minute set. A surprise restrained cover of Minor Threat’s “I Don’t Want to Hear It” ended the concert, and was cool to hear, as it was a rare “favorite band covering a favorite band” moment for me (see also Anthrax’s and Slayer’s takes on Dirty Rotten Imbeciles).

Although we briefly saw her speaking with the sound person before the JH3’s set and waited outside after the show, we didn’t get to meet Hatfield again. The times I’ve met her before were many years ago, with a stupider, largely shyer me, so I was hoping for a more mature interaction and a picture with her and my wife. After the show, we took a taxi back to our AirBnB rental and rested before heading home later that morning.
The audio I recorded of the JH3’s entire set is available for free via this link. If you enjoy it, leave a nice comment and support the artist.

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