Squirrel Flower opened her 2024 U.S. tour on Jan. 19 with a sold-out show that was part of Chicago’s Tomorrow Never Knows festival. Her latest LP, Tomorrow’s Fire, was released in October.
A self-proclaimed witch rocker—low-fi hard rock with psychedelic influences—Squirrel Flower combines low-fi, fuzzy rock with elegant, hypnotic vocals. She began her set in Lincoln Hall with album opener i don’t use a trash can, a soft ballad about finding comfort in not changing. On records her vocals are layered, and she imitated that beautifully on stage with the help of a loop pedal. Her presence is mellow, but the power of her vocals commands attention.
I began listening to Squirrel Flower in 2020 after the release of her debut album, I Was Born Swimming. But the tune I was initially drawn to was her cover of Caroline Polachek’s song So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings. It’s the ideal cover because it sounds absolutely nothing like the original—which is what I expect with covers. Squirrel Flower has a moody, dreamy take on the eccentric pop tune. It’s like a warm, comforting blanket—her voice swirls around your head dreamily. She played the cover as her second to last song, before she brought out the opening artists for a full-on jam session.
The show was the third night of the festival, a five-day city-wide event that gathers the best of the rising local indie scene, as well as acclaimed national acts. The acts opening a show always adds to the appeal of a gig, and Squirrel Flower’s openers—Chicago indie band Tenci, and Burlington, Vermont-based rocker Greg Freeman—set the stage for an evening of killer music.
Squirrel Flower’s relaxed demeanor doesn’t necessarily rile up a crowd, but that’s not always needed. She’s captivating and relatable.
A few songs in, she stopped to chat with the crowd and was candid about her day.
“Honestly, I had a really weird day,” she said with a laugh. “I went to the chiropractor for the first time ever, against better judgement. It didn’t feel good. I left and sat in my van and cried. But I think it worked, to be honest. I might be changed. Now, I’m here.”
She also noted the significance of the show: It was the biggest crowd she has ever attracted as a headliner.
With Tomorrow’s Fire and her U.S. tour, Squirrel Flower solidifies her position as a songwriter and performer, showing herself and listeners a new path forward. The album, and Squirrel Flower as an artist, is a force against routine, violence and algorithms—in the music business and life in general.
The album’s title comes from a novel her great grandfather Jay Williams wrote in 1964 about the Third Crusade. He credits the title to French poet and troubadour Rutebeuf. Tomorrow’s fire is about finding comfort in what is and what’s to come—to be warmed by it.
And that’s the way it was at Squirrel Flower’s performance. As I stood on the balcony above the stage, a haze machine blew a stream of smoke into my face and the dreaminess of her vocals rocked me along the way.
Start with Squirrel Flower’s song Full Time Job to experience the full scope of her talent—she’s all about deep lyrics, dynamic vocals and fuzzy rock.
Pay attention to the guitar progression. It leads the pace of the song and branches out into a high-gain fuzz, thanks to effects pedals.
Kendall Polidori is The Rockhound, Luckbox‘s resident rock music critic. Follow her reviews on Instagram and Twitter. @rockhoundlb