Are The Orwells rock's next big thing?

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A day in the life of The Orwells -- from hometown Elmhurst, Ill., to their old-out show at Lincoln Hall on Chicago's North Side on April 8, 2014. The band is on the cusp of superstardom. (John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune)

"I just talk to them a lot about it, maybe ad nauseam. I think they get really tired of it," she said. "I love music, but I don't like the stuff that comes with it. 

"I've texted it to them. I've said, 'That's already been done. It's not original. Be cool. Be great. But don't become a cliche.' We've all watched 'Behind the Music.'"

The parents together call themselves the Orwell family unit, she said, and "especially the moms" get together to talk about how they can best help their kids. 

In the end, she said, she has to trust how she raised her kids and that the five Orwells and the people around them will "keep each other in check." 

Besides, there's plenty of scary stuff going on in college dorms these days too, she said. Letting them pursue rock rather than go on to school became an easier decision as The Orwells kept advancing in their careers, and she and her husband, a chemical engineer, kept liking the music the boys were making, both on record and live.

"How do you tell your kids when they're growing up to follow their dreams, and then when their dreams are coming true tell them 'You can't do that?'" she asked.

The Lincoln Hall show was rowdy by 2014 concert standards: a large mosh pit, with fans frequently landing or maneuvering themselves up onto the stage to dance for a few beats before diving back in. Cuomo, who has said he's over the pants-removal thing, at one point dived into the crowd himself. From behind a curtain onstage, Potenza monitored it all, playing catcher in the rye for those fans who seemed a little too exuberant, depositing them back where they came from. 

By Orwells standards, it was, band members said, "pretty tame," hot-and-sweaty recitations of songs to which the mostly young audience seemed to know most every lyric: "You better pledge allegiance / You're not the only one / Listen up forefathers / I'm not your son." 

When it was over, friends of the band came by to offer congratulations. Spencer Tweedy, son of Wilco frontman Jeff and former drummer in the band The Blisters, had praise for Henry Brinner's drumming: "Dude, the (expletive) volume that comes out of your snare drum!"

Henry: "Thanks, man."

Socioeconomic policy discussion would have to wait. The band members would head to a party at the city apartment of a friend from Elmhurst before getting up to get on the road for the Minnesota show the next night. 

But first there was gear to load into the van, and that process was complicated by the keys being lost temporarily. (They turned out to have been left at the merchandise table.)

"All right," Henry said, "we seriously need to stop losing the van keys."

As Brinner packed his drums away, a couple of broken drumsticks on the stage nearby, a "Woo-hoo!" came from up in the balcony.

"My mom," he explained.

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

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