Over the weekend, The Walters – a five piece that consisted of Luke Olson, Michael Tirabassi, Walter Kosner, Danny Wells, and Charlie Ekhaus – announced that they had no future plans to release new music as a band. The ending of the highly beloved local band is obviously sad news, but it’s best not to wallow. Instead, it’s important that we – Chicago’s creative community – take the time to acknowledge what a special band this was and all they achieved during their time together.
The Walters were virtually incomparable to any other band from a sonic standpoint. Their sound was wholly their own and so clearly multifaceted. It was impossible for one to put their finger on what or who The Walters sounded like, and that’s because they only ever sounded like themselves. Their work was purely original; it sounded fresh and new. These elements proved durable throughout the entirety of the band’s discography. Their music was sunny, slick, raw, and had a special way of tapping into the soul just right. The Walters made music that you could cry to; The Walters made music that effortlessly complimented your happiest and most serene moments. They were stylistically versatile and unique in every essence of the word. That’s not an easy feat to achieve by any means, but they did it. And they did it well.
Live, The Walters were utterly explosive. Vocalist Luke Olson displayed incomparable amounts of energy and charisma that would have given even some of the most legendary frontmen in music history something to feel intimidated by. As the frontman of The Walters, Olson was more than merely a vocalist – he was a bona fide performer in every sense of the term. The Walters colored their performances with onstage banter amongst each other that never failed to amuse and engage crowds. They weren’t just a group of guys who got onstage with their instruments, played through their sets, and took off. They made the simple act of watching them perform entertaining as hell, time after time.
A prime example of the power the music of The Walters was able to yield occurred during their performance at this year’s Lollapalooza. They performed relatively early in the day on Sunday, the festival’s fourth day, when festival goers were on the verge of petering out from the long weekend. Prior to The Walters’ performance, Lollapalooza was absolutely akin to some sort of ghost town. Large portions of Grant Park were utterly empty, and music was seldom heard. Amidst this environment, however, The Walters drew a diverse and sizable crowd. Per usual, the band conjured up an overwhelming nexus of delight and excitement. People of all ages and walks of life stood there together, mouthing or singing the lyrics of their songs word for word, assembled together by their love for this band. Retrospectively speaking, this would be the last time many fans of The Walters would see the band live in their hometown. However, it ended up being quite a comfortable conclusion. Here was a local band many people had seen gradually work their way up and artistically evolve now performing at a major music festival – let alone a local one. For Chicagoans who had been following The Walters over the past few years, their performance at Lollapalooza was a point of overwhelming pride.
This piece will end the same way that all of The Walters’ live performances have ended – with “Hunk Beach.” While each and every song The Walters have released is special in its own way, there’s a certain kind of magic to “Hunk Beach.” The track exudes an addictive kind of bittersweetness that simultaneously celebrates life. Its slick, surf-rock feel is perfectly complimented by the repeating lyrics of “You got me feeling alright.” It’s the kind of musical combination that makes you feel as if everything good in the world will last forever, and, hell, maybe even start to believe it. “Hunk Beach” created those powerful musical moments that people inherently crave. Music is fuel for the soul, and “Hunk Beach” is a multi-course meal.
The Walters deserve to have their legacy as a band celebrated. They have created a body of work that people deeply connected with, and performed live with such passion and tenacity. Their work has undoubtedly left permanent imprints on the hearts and souls of all who had the pleasure of enjoying it. They were a band Chicago was proud to call its own – and absolutely nothing will change that.