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all photos: Julian Vu

If you haven’t seen Tortoise before, here’s a tip: bring earplugs. Because they’re loud. Really loud. I wore earplugs and my ears still hurt. It might have been the band or maybe just the venue, but the jazz-fusion, post-rock quintet from Chicago played a near flawless set. So much so that I forget why I stopped listening to Tortoise in the first place.

The hour set leaned on heavily on the band’s 2009 release Beacons of Ancestorship, but they still played favorites from It’s All Around You and the band’s classic records TNT and Millions Now Living Will Never Die.

The pieces from across their six records flowed from song to song with pauses from changing instruments and holding for applause. Watching the band play together is reason enough to see this band. As a group, Tortoise work to recreate songs from their records, but the added flourishes here and there make even the duds on record stand out in a live setting.

It’s been a while since I last saw the group — Bonnaroo 2007. They’ve released a few records since then — the previously mentioned Beacons of Ancestorship, a covers record with Bonnie Prince Billy. But the professional, hard-working and eager to play each track better than the last attitude make Tortoise a band that is worth the rediscovery.

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