The Moviegoers

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The Moviegoers were a power pop/rock group from Chicago who were active from 1992 to 1998. Through the course of their career, they released 2 EPs, 2 full-length CDs, and one 45.


Moviegoers' founders Liam Davis and Worth Wagers met at Kenyon College in the late 1980s as members of the college's all-male a cappella singing group, The Kokosingers. Through college, they began to write together, influenced by R.E.M., The Replacements, The Beatles, and a nascent version of the Presidents of the United States of America called The Dukes of Pop.

Their first recorded material was released on the legendary cassette compilations From the Hill in 1988 and '89. These early recordings led to further demos recorded in Paris, Kentucky at Sexton Ranch.

After college, Liam and Worth moved back to Liam's home of Chicago, Illinois and began to put a band together. After reuniting with Liam's high school drummer, Hugh Bartling, the Moviegoers were formed. The band named themselves after the Walker Percy novel, The Moviegoer, as it featured a young man with little clue as to how to spend his life, a recurring theme in the band's material.

The band released its first few extremely rare cassette EPs at this stage. Dreamsicle was released in 1992, with 1or2or3or4 to follow the next year in conjunction with a tour of Europe.

Their first album, As You Were, was released in 1993 and garnered fantastic reviews. The Chicago Reader said that "Thoughtful lyrics, restrained delivery, and a clean instrumental attack characterize the moderate Jonathan Richman-esque pop-rock (of) this local foursome." The band recorded the album with producer Mike Konopka in his Seagrape Studios, as well as Renfro Valley Country Barn Dance and Jamboree Studios in Central Kentucky. It was picked up for distribution by Heart & Soul Records and the band promoted in for the next year.[1]

Prior to recording their second full-length record, on April 25, 1995, Worth Wagers was nearly fatally electrocuted during a rehearsal in his father's Kentucky home. The band were scheduled to open for the Reverend Horton Heat, when tragedy struck. The incident was re-enacted on Rescue 911, giving the band national television exposure.[2]

The vinyl 7" single "Quiet/Radio Slave" was released shortly thereafter.

The second record, Twin Pop, saw the band's sound solidify and expand and also welcomed bassist/trumpeter, Ross Bergseth to the band. It garnered fantastic reviews from the Chicago press and the band went on to share the stage with Superchunk, Tommy Keene, Girls v Boys, Imperial Teen, The Good, and The Twigs.

Liam Davis went on to join the band Frisbie, who released three critically acclaimed CDs, one on Hear Diagonally Records, and have played with every major pop performer in Chicago, including opening up for Big Star at the Metro. At the same time, he became the musical director/guitarist for Children's Music Star, Justin Roberts. In this capacity, he has twice been nominated for Best Children's Album at the Grammy Awards.

Worth Wagers played with Steph Turner and Ethan Semone in Cow Lily, who released an EP on Hear Diagonally Records. Cow Lily also played SXSW in 2000 and were written about in Billboard Magazine. He then moved to Sydney, Australia where he joined Jason Walker & The Last Drinks, who released 3 CDs on Laughing Outlaw Records and played SXSW in 2004. Then moving to Boston, Massachusetts, he joined The Patrons, a country-R&B-soul group led by Jonah Kraut and Nowhere Lights, a space-folk-rock band; releasing records with both bands. Today he lives in London, England where he plays with indie folk/rock band, Golden Spike and is a DJ specializing in spinning Soul Music on 45.

Drummer Hugh Bartling finished his doctorate and is now an Associate Professor at DePaul University.


Buy this one or see them if you can. Maybe you were lucky enough to see them performing at the Beat Kitchen recently. -- College News

A melange of clever/snarky lyrics and power pop arrangements augmented by fiddles, piano and bright, brassy horns that entertains without being too filling or thought-provoking, like a good chocolate shake. -- New City-Chicago

The Moviegoers never met a clever line they didn't like. To wit: "I could never be a method actor / the only person i know how to play is me / and i could never be a chiropractor, 'cuz i never read Gray's Anatomy." They also rhyme "Beatlemania" in one song with "Mauritania" (to which songwriter Worth Wagers pleads "guilty as charged"). They set these playful, canny lyrics to some pretty sophisticated pop-rock music. No strangers to melody, these Moviegoers. Though slightly skewed, the melodies are warm and inviting, never saccharine or cloying. The harmonica solo at the end of "What Time Does" is pleasantly unexpected; so is the almost imperceptible "wi-mo-weh" quote at the end of "Sketch;" and the punch line to "Sister Lovers," the best kind of novelty song, one that bears repeated listenings. -- Columbus Dispatch

Sorta like Cheap Trick playing Beatles covers in Joan Jett's garage while John Sebastian and Nigel Tuffnel make the Martinis.


External links[edit]


1or2or3or4 (cassette EP) 1993 Hear Diagonally Records
As You Were (CD) 1994 Hear Diagonally Records
Quiet b/w Radio Slave (45) 1996 Hear Diagonally Records
Twinpop (CD)Hear Diagonally Records 1997