I recently said I’d post something about the Hip show, or maybe something about my adventures in Europe following around the Revival Tour, but instead I think we should talk about Bruce Springsteen.
Let’s say I have a sister, and I don’t know how old she is but I’m going to guess she’s 46. We’re not particularly close. We don’t email. We don’t exchange birthday cards. We might speak on the phone once every few years. If I find myself in the same state, I might see her at some family event.
This lack of closeness isn’t because we don’t like each other. It’s just the way my family is. If I need them, they’ll be there, and vice versa. That’s enough.
And so this sister, she was having a rough few months, the latest shitty stretch in a particularly shitty decade. I was in Michigan with my mother, drinking in some bar. I was there because her husband was in the hospital; it had been another long day in a long line of them, and every night we left the hospital and went somewhere and drank too much wine. This particular evening was my sister’s birthday, and when I looked at my phone, it was to see a concert announcement that Bruce Springsteen would be playing Wrigley Field. Without thinking about it, I texted my sister and said, “hey, want to come see Bruce Springsteen with me in Chicago? I’ll buy the concert tickets and you buy the plane tickets, and you can stay with me.” The response was instant: “ok.” And then three days later: “When is it?”
I’m thinking that a lot lately — i want to help you lift enormous things. It’s a lyric from “At Transformation,” off the Tragically Hip’s latest album. It gets stuck in my head a lot, but it’s not a thing I actually say very often, because it’s dangerous. People take me up on it, and then I’m proper fucked. People were taking me up on it when the Tragically Hip came to town a few weeks back, in fact.
gord downie, the tragically hip. the riviera theatre, chicago. 2012-11-03
Hey, friends. Been a while. I haven’t been totally remiss in my concert-going activities (just mostly remiss), but I have been 100 percent remiss in posting photos or talking about those shows. I followed The Revival Tour around for a while. [Photos here.] I went to see fIREHOSE and there are some photos but I haven’t done anything with them and am probably not going to because I have way too many Feelings about it. I even went to see the Beach Boys on their 50th anniversary tour, and made the discovery that Brian Wilson looks exactly like my Aunt Millie. There were a lot of excited white people in the Chicago Theatre that night, let me tell you.
This post is not any of those posts! This post is about Wintersleep, who I saw like a month ago. They’re a group of Canadian dudes I have trouble describing with a word other than “huge.” To stand there and listen to them live is to be filled up inside until you burst to pieces (well, that’s how it is if you’re me, anyway), and I never quite hang on to my shit through one of their sets, but in the end it never matters. In the end I sit alone on a curb, a total wreck, and smoke cigarettes until I have the wherewithal to get myself home.
wintersleep @ schubas, 2012-06-11
The draft of this post has been sitting around for a while, but the first version included photos and then a bunch of super emo song lyrics from their 2007 album, Welcome to the Night Sky. Not to put too fine a point on it, I happen to think that is one of the greatest albums ever, full of this burgeoning melancholy violence that hits me where I live.
i used to dream about saving the world / now i just dream about the holidays
i used to write so many songs for my girl / now all i think about is floating away
i think i need a vacation
So I can’t make that post.
On 24 March, I went to the Beat Kitchen to see the Menzingers, current Band Of My Soul. They put out this album, you see, On the Impossible Past, and it has been a very long time indeed since I loved a new album the way I love this one. It is their Epitaph debut, and those fucking punks quote Nabokov, against which I have approximately zero defenses, and then I had this conversation with a tattoo artist:
me: well, there are these lines of poetry in this book, where a bird slams into a window because it only sees the sky, and probably it dies. I think it’s about triumph.
artist: …maybe I’ll book you for TWO appointments.
me: yeah, that’s probably best.
So anyway, I went to the show. Openers were Captain We’re Sinking and The Sidekicks, both of whom I would go see again in a heartbeat; and Cheap Girls, whom I would not. I’ve tried with that band, I really have, because they are super nice guys and we have friends in common, but — I can’t. They drained the energy out of the room and I’m just not into it.
Then the Menzingers came on, and they opened with “Good Things” (which also opens the new record), and I let it have me.
There’s this [Tom Stoppard] quote: “we cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke and the presumption that once, our eyes watered.”
That’s how I feel about the best concerts. I have nothing to show for them. No photos, no words, just a visceral memory of the bodies around me, a ringing in my ears, a sore throat. Presumably, my eyes watered.
i did what i did to get away from this
cause everything that’s happened has left me a total wreck
and everything that i do now is meaningless
so i’m off to wander around the world for a little bit
Go see the Menzingers, you guys. Do it for me.
I’ve told the story before in this space, about how I went to shows and then I stopped, and then I started again. Now I go to many shows. The band that sealed the deal on starting again is this Canadian “death country” group called Elliott Brood. I don’t know what makes them “death country.” I don’t know why I went to that show. But I know why I keep going to see them, and it’s because there’s something in that melancholy that makes me achingly happy.
elliott brood @ schubas tavern, 2012-02-24
youthful hearts / get stressed along the road / and buried under all they come to know
I don’t know when I started listening to the North Mississippi Allstars, but I know why (my friend C told me to), and so when one of the many (many, MANY) emails I get about shows in Chicago said they were playing, I bought a ticket. My father used to tell me “you can take the girl out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the girl.” I thought he was full of shit, but listening to the North Mississippi Allstars makes me rethink that opinion, that dirty bluesy sex-drenched racket that somehow brings up those frayed lawn chairs on my grandma’s carport on a too-hot day, sweet tea sweating in my hand and an ill-advised boy sprawled on the burning concrete.
So off I went to the Old Town School of Folk Music, where, once again, I decided that place drives me totally crazy. It is such a lovely room, and the sound is so fantastic, but fuck me I cannot handle sitting through a show like this one. It was just two of them, the guitarist/vocalist and the drummer, though sometimes they were joined by a mandolin player whose name I didn’t catch (sorry, mandolin player, you were fantastic!), and their opener, Alvin Youngblood Hart. At one point, the drummer was drumming, playing guitar, and singing. Well. Sometimes he drummed with giant red plastic baseball bats.
It was SO GOOD, but listen — this is a band that has like 27 songs about shaking your ass. And you want me to stay seated? RAWR. RAWR. I need to only go to shows at the Old Town School when they are sitting-down shows. Great Lake Swimmers, they are a sitting-down band. Possibly a bring-a-pillow band. I would totally see them at the Old Town School. I am going to see the Cowboy Junkies there in April, and I expect I will probably be sobbing too hard to stand up, at which point a seat will be appreciated.
Anyway. I have no pictures (again: RAWR), but go watch this video of them doing ‘Shake’ and then commiserate with me about the cruelties of the fates who kept me from shaking what my mama gave me. Then go see this band.
According to the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, “the function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.” And I don’t know about you guys, but my conscious thoughts have been sort of over-the-top tyrannical lately. I spend a lot of time these days trying to get out of my own head, not only because sometimes my conscious thoughts are unpleasant, but also because my subconscious thoughts are way more interesting.
And so, in search of oblivion (or at least some respite), off I went to see Flogging Molly, where I assumed the crowd would be full of drunken Irish punks good-naturedly singing along to songs about booze, hard times, and getting fucked over by The Man. I am happy to report that in this, I was entirely correct. I didn’t quite manage to get out of my own head, though, partially because I forgot my phone at the house and was supposed to meet people at the show and I was really, really twitchy about being so disconnected. WHAT IF THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE IS HAPPENING WHILE WE’RE SHOUTING ABOUT DRUNKEN LULLABIES??? Lesson: Maybe I should leave the house without my phone more often.
the devil makes three @ the aragon ballroom, 2012-02-18
The last time I posted, it was to share my awesome rock & roll lifestyle report from 2011. I was like, 2012 is going to be even better for live music!
Then I moved.
I think maybe I mentioned my Secret Project. The time has come!
The 2011 Rock and Roll Lifestyle Report
by pam, aged mumbledy-something
I want to make a really long post explaining myself, but the explanation is that I like going to concerts and I like data collection and analysis and visualizations. There is this guy, Nick Felton, who puts out an annual report every year. It is this beautifully insane, beautifully rendered look at all the minutae of his life: how many dinners he had, where, with whom, what he ate and drank and how much it cost. On and on it goes. It’s amazing. For a few years now, I’ve been thinking I’d like to do something sort of similar, except you really have to work up to that kind of thing. It would be easy for me to get so consumed logging my activities that I didn’t actually do any activities.
At any rate, I figured that since I already keep track of the shows I go to, it would be pretty trivial to collect a bunch more data. I’m pretty pleased with the results, if I do say so myself.
check it out!
download the pdf.
It’s two pages. Mostly it was done using google spreadsheets / charts, Photoshop, and then InDesign. I also had some help from wordle. I think it is self-explanatory, but let me know if you have any questions. Or comments, for that matter — let’s make next year’s even crazier!
I didn’t start out 2011 intending to see Social Distortion so many times. In the fall of 2010, I’d seen them play a fantastic show in Chicago, and shortly thereafter, they announced a west coast tour in February. February, for whatever reason, is a month in which I tend to go pretty batshit insane. Mostly that’s related to insomnia; one year, I added up all the sleep I got that month and the total clocked in around 50 hours. That’s less than most normal people get in a week. I can function very well for a very long time on very little sleep, but that kind of insomnia wears me down pretty quickly. I start to look at sleep like I look at time travel: as a fantastic impossibility that only happens in books and movies.
Now, I do have a full-time 9(ish)-to-5(ish) grown-up day job. I’m sure you can imagine how useful I am at that job during the month of February. It’s really best for me to be elsewhere, which I’d discovered the year before when I took most of the month off and hung out in Vancouver. It was the best thing I did for my mental health that year. So I thought, oh, they’re touring the southwest in February, I’ll take ten days and go somewhere warm, see some friends, see some shows, relax in an environment where my sleep-dep isn’t going to fuck me up too badly. Off I went!
That was the winter tour. The next tour, in May, they played Milwaukee but not Chicago, and my roommate and I drove up. It was my fifth Social D show of the year, and so things were averaging out nicely to one show per month. But then they went off to Europe and Australia, and although I have followed bands out of the country before and will do it again, I won’t do it for outdoor festivals. I hate outdoor shows of all kinds. So then it was announced they were playing Riot Fest, followed by a fall/winter tour that fell right around Thanksgiving. That’s usually a pretty good time to follow bands around because I can see a lot of shows without taking many vacation days. And I looked at the tour dates and thought, hmmm, I have friends in those towns, I have airline vouchers from getting bumped on a regular basis, I have seven shows to see if I want to meet my totally arbitrary goal of seeing them once a month (on average). Let’s give it a shot!
social distortion at hob san diego, 2011-02-20
I didn’t consider any of these shows for my best-of 2011 lists because when you see a band so many times — especially a bunch of times in a row, which does weird things to your head — you judge the shows very differently. But here’s the full list, ranked as well as I’m able to do it.