Skela Makes Chicago Debut at Schuba’s

Photo by Adele Sakey

Photo by Adele Sakey

By: Amelia Zollner

On February 16, I wandered into Schuba’s Tavern to see Skela make her Chicago debut as part of her Project 10 Tour. The tour was arranged to support her debut album Project 10, a stunning visual indie pop album that has earned Skela thousands of hits on streaming services.

When I entered Schuba’s, the room was nearly empty, filled with a few young adults dancing to the pre-show playlist. Soon after indie pop artist Silver took the stage, Skela played a charismatic set, backed by guitarist Alex Russo and drummer Chris Wall. It was a small show with only around 20 or 30 people in attendance, but Skela and her band played with an energy that, if taken out of context, would have suggested that she was playing to a crowd of hundreds.

“Skela made Schuba’s tiny stage her own”

Skela moved through upbeat songs like “Linda”, which the crowd ecstatically cheered for, and “Heartbreak & Liquor”, on which she fearlessly belted high notes. When streamed online, Skela’s songs seem to be a bit on the mellow, indie pop side, but when played live, her songs become glimmering rock songs, complete with heavy drums and a powerful guitar. As the set progressed, her songs brought out the dancer in even the most reluctant of audience members. Skela made Schuba’s tiny stage her own, vibrantly dancing around the stage throughout her set. She wasn’t afraid to engage with the small audience, either; she often knelt down and soulfully sang directly to people dancing in the front row.

She eventually slowed things down for a little while to play mellower, sadder songs like “I’m Not Hungry”. At one point, Skela covered The 1975’s “Robbers”, which was a crowd favorite, but it definitely didn’t overshadow her own songs, as her originals shone just as bright.

Surprisingly, Skela’s merch collection stood out to me as one of the show’s most unique aspects. To make the merch, as she proudly explained to the crowd, she journeyed to a local thrift store, bought 30 pieces of clothing, and designed each of them into a personalized, handmade merch item, complete with handwritten lyrics and a number to prove it was part of the collection.

“I found myself longing for more when it came to an end”

My only complaint was that her set was only 30 minutes. It was strangely short for a headlining set, likely because Skela only has a few years’ worth of material released, and I found myself longing for more songs when it came to an end. Still, the set’s 30 minutes were great, and afterward, Skela made sure to set aside time to talk to everybody who came out to her show.

About halfway through her set, Skela declared, “Project 10 is about doing everything yourself.” Looking around the room, it was apparent that it really is about doing everything yourself. As a smaller artist, Skela has had to do nearly everything herself to get to where she is, even going as far as designing a handmade merch line. Skela’s show at Schuba’s ended a lot earlier than I wished it had but nevertheless taught me that small shows, no matter how few people are in attendance, can have just as much energy as arena shows.

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