In December of last year, I looked at the concerts I’d been to in 2010, and I tried to count them up. I wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping track, and so I had to estimate; I decided I went to 25-30 concerts. One every two weeks or so. I said, given my income and my schedule and my plans for the future, that I felt that was the right number for 2011.
Well, Sunday was #27, and it’s May, and I’m looking at 3-4 shows a week straight on till morning. So I guess 30 wasn’t the right number for me after all. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Also, I have decided my concert reports are great, because otherwise I’m going to decide they’re useless and give up on writing them. The thing is, I almost never have anything to say about the music. Mostly I seem to be concerned with how the pit is doing, and then I have a lot of feelings. If you want something more journalistic, something that might qualify as arts reporting, you really need to look elsewhere. I could do it, if I wanted to, but fuck that. This is personal.
Last week: Mad Bread, Bad Religion/Rise Against, TSOL, Elvis Costello. (I do mention the TSOL show, but that one’s getting its own post. Read on for the others, though! IF YOU DARE.)
Wednesday I went to Martyr’s to see a local bluegrass band, Mad Bread, that my friend plays in. As I am not steeped in bluegrass, I don’t have much to say about it. They opened for this other band, Elephant Revival, that — well. I can see myself being in the mood to listen to Elephant Revival, but mostly, that night, they made me want to punch some hippies. Hippies are the natural enemies of punks, right? That’s how this works? This is still 1982, yes? Mmm-hmm. The washboard player had a big sticker that said TEAM LOVE. I couldn’t even handle it. So I did not stay very long into Elephant Revival’s set, even though they seemed to be nice people and good musicians.
But anyway. The bar is maybe 5-6 blocks from the el station, and literally the second I went from the train to open air, the sky tore open and drenched me. I might as well have jumped in the lake. My boots are still wet. So there I was, soaked to the skin and freezing and listening to bluegrass, and I wanted people to be dancing but no one was. Also, I kind of expected them to break out into Wilco covers, particularly during “Miss Chicago.” I like that song a lot, and you can stream a handful of their songs on their site and I… maybe haven’t stopped doing that in a few days? Like I said, I don’t know shit about bluegrass, and maybe I like their stuff because it sounds kind of Canadian to me (shut up, it does, there’s some Stan Rogers in there sometimes, and the Canadian sound, regardless of genre, is wide-open and wistful and a little self-deprecating, and these guys are that), so I guess that’s more folk than bluegrass. But whatever. My point is, yes, it’s my friend’s band, but if I hated them I’d keep my mouth shut, and now I really want to see these guys in some shitty dive bar with sawdust on the floor and people who dance to both kinds of music.
Thursday, I attempted to be warm. In the rest of the world, it’s May. Here in Chicago, it’s still March, and the CTA has inexplicably turned off the heat lamps two weeks early. Fuckers.
Friday I left work early to go to an appointment, and then I went to the Aragon to see Four Year Strong/Bad Religion/Rise Against. I stood in line for a long time, cold and wet and hungry and huddled in a dirty alley, and maybe it was very punk rock, but goddammit. Also, for a very long time, I was the old punk in that line, and that was strange. I do enjoy new bands and new styles of punk and the new records that old bands put out, but my heart is stuck somewhere in the early 80s, and I’m not old enough for that shit; I don’t think of myself as an old punk. Old punks have 20 years on me, but I had 15 on most of the people in that line. Kids, all of them, talking about math class and the tattoos they’re going to get one day, looking at me with some mixture of respect and “WTF are you doing in our line wait is that a real tattoo omg will you buy us beer inside?” No. No, I will not. Steal my beer when my back is turned, kids, that’s how it’s done.
Inside, the barricades were set up in two inverted Ls, to make a kind of aisle down the middle. I was toward the corner of the one on the left, and I’ve decided I much prefer to be sideways against a barricade to being flush against it. It hurts less, even if it bruises more. The first band, Four Year Strong, seemed more hardcore, and they wanted a circle pit but didn’t get it. They had to stop to explain what they meant and how to do it, and still the kids did not quite understand. There were a few of them by me, four or five guys maybe 16 years old, tops, and sometimes they managed a few seconds of synchronized jumping. Then they would stop and clap, cheering for their own awesomeness. It was charming, I’ll admit it.
The band, I don’t know. They were fine. Less melodic and less poppy than either of the next two acts, definitely on the more hardcore side of things, and they seemed strange on the Bad Religion/Rise Against bill. Some of the crowd seemed into it, but it was a small subset. Oh, but the drummer had a fan blowing his hair into this amazing halo.
four year strong | 2011-05-13 | aragon ballroom | chicago, IL
Bad Religion was up next, and they were why I was there. I don’t have much to say about their set, though, except that Jay Bentley is looking distressingly attractive these days. But the set was fine, it’s always fine, they’re Bad Religion, it’s not their first rodeo. The two kids in front of me on the rail (remember, I was sideways), though, ugh. They hated Bad Religion, and they booed the whole time. Shut up, assholes, no one cares what you think, and it’s fucking irritating. Meanwhile, the pit got going, just a run-of-the-mill mosh pit because no one was willing or able to clear the space they would’ve needed for a circle pit. It started to get rough, and hot, I spent some time running interference for a few young girls who were starting to freak out.
A few minutes before Rise Against came on, one of them looked at me and asked if I thought it was going to get better. Noooo, I’m sorry, it’s only getting worse from here. Much worse. In fact, I’m considering taking off my leather jacket. You should have seen the face she made. She had security pull her one song into Rise Against’s set, and I get upset at concerts when I have to stand there and watch security pull a string of sobbing 12-year-old girls. No one was fucking with them, or being mean, or touching them inappropriately, or whatever. But it was so hot that even a bunch of dudes passed out and got pulled; usually it’s just women who pass out when it gets like that. (Me? I did eventually lose the leather, although I kept my wool hat on, thus providing myself and all of you with definitive proof that yes, I can outlast kids half my age in a pit. Thanks for playing! Oh god, HALF MY AGE.) So yeah, it was hot, and they couldn’t move, and they were scared, and I get it, but it also really sucks. What if they stop going to shows? What if they think that’s how it always is? It’s not. It’s usually not, not if you pick your shows and pick your spot and are willing to throw an elbow or seven. And so, the crowd that had lined up and stood in front and been pretty evenly split along gender lines was, when we staggered out of there, no longer evenly split. The girls had been pulled out by security or been pushed back by the boys, and it made me really sad. (Not all of them, of course, but it was noticeable.)
As for what the hell Rise Against was actually doing, I don’t know. They were really energetic and the crowd was into it — they’re a hometown band, after all — and there were some singalong moments that, on a different night, I probably would have enjoyed a lot. But I wasn’t in a good mood, and if I’m not that into a band, then my enjoyment of the show is almost entirely dependent on the people around me. And those two boys in front of me, the ones who booed Bad Religion? Those dudes sucked. I don’t know why they were there. They were not enjoying themselves; that much was clear. Sometimes, people on the rail are into the music but are hating the rail, and in that case I try to help them out if I can. But these guys weren’t singing along or dancing or cheering or anything. They were just looking bored and pissed off any time someone ran into them, which was 17 times a second. Two songs in, they started exchanging looks and talking about having security pull them, because it sucked so much, but they never did. They were also utterly unable to defend their spots; I ended up probably four feet back from where I started. So anyway. My final assessment of this show: not worth it, although I know most of the people there felt differently.
Saturday was TSOL at Reggie’s, and I have a lot to say about that show, and I’m going to say it in its own post. It will be the TSOL extravaganza post, because frontman Jack Grisham has written his memoirs, and I have read them. For now, know that the show was phenomenally kickass, that Grisham has not lost any of the terrifying charisma that made him a something of a legend and a compelling frontman, and that you can check out the always-reliable MXV’s concert report and pictures. He writes actual concert reports that are not about his ~feelings~, and he takes actual photographs, and it’s always interesting for me to read his stuff because we’re only ever a few feet apart and yet we have completely different things to say about the shows. (See also: his Pogues report vs my Pogues report.) (And I suppose I should say hi next time I see him? Because now that I have made this post but never spoken to him, I feel like a stalker. Hi, MXV, love your work.) (He’ll see this, right? Because everyone knows when someone talks about them on the internet. That’s what a real blog has taught me. Everyone has google alerts on their name and obsessively looks at google analytics and referrer logs. Except me. I would never do that.) (One person got here by googling “blue balls fix gone wrong.” Sorry, bro. There’s no help for that here.)
That was a lot of words to say nothing whatsoever. Sorry.
Sunday was Elvis Costello, which I had not planned on going to. He played the always-stunning Chicago Theatre and that shit is expensive, and I am a casual fan at best. I’ve seen him a few times, but never given him my heart. I’m not sure I have ever thought to myself, “hmmm, I really would like to listen to some Elvis Costello!” I might be getting there, though. We’ll see. Anyway. On Friday morning I got email from Jam Productions saying that I had won two tickets to the Elvis Costello concert. Well, then. Twist my arm. That’s twice in as many weeks I have mysteriously won tickets to a show — the last one was to see Frank Turner at JBTV, courtesy of do312. I can get behind this trend. Maybe it’s because of my amazing music blog and the great publicity I give to these companies I have never before mentioned? That must be it.
So we went, and it was totally weird and good. Our seats, being free, were up in the nosebleeds, the last row of the last balcony. We could still see, of course; the sightlines were fine. But I’m not used to being so far away, or being so seated, so civilized. He had some kind of 60s carnival theme going, with a giant Wheel of Song Fortune, and a go-go dancer in a cage, and a top hat, and a woman in striped bell-bottoms who was… doing something. Hostessing? He’d bring audience members up to spin the wheel, and then he’d play whatever song it landed on, and then they would go dance in the cage. Sometimes he would stop the wheel on the song HE wanted to play, and sometimes he’d just play a bunch of songs at once. There was no opener. I don’t know any of his songs, except the one he closed with — ummm… the Peace, Love & Understanding one. He did a lot of encores. There was a gold lamé jacket. I had a good, but distant, time, which was totally fine; I used up my heart at Friday’s TSOL show, so I was pretty emotionally done. Still, it was really entertaining and I’m very glad I got to go. Thanks, Jam!
And that’s it. Upcoming: some local grindcore band I don’t know if I’m going to make it to given my exhaustion, another night of random psychobilly, and Danzig. In Milwaukee. Yeah, I don’t know, either. And I promise a full TSOL report that is lousy with feelings.