FEATURE: My 2014 In Live Music

I went a little over two years without seeing any live music. It certainly wasn’t something I was trying to do, but it happened. This was pretty unforgivable for someone who blogs about music. This is even more unforgivable given my immediate proximity to Chicago. There were literally bands here always.

But, somehow, I went from July 2011 until November 2013 without seeing any live music. It was a pretty big drought. As is forever the story of my life, it was almost always due to money problems, health problems, or scheduling problems. I work 3rd shift on Wednesday through Saturday nights. This means I end up missing damn near every show. That two year span was a lot of disappointment. I’d see a band was coming, only to see the show was on a Friday or Saturday night. Meaning I had to work.

Luckily that streak was broken. I got back into the swing of things this last year. I got to see a pretty fair amount of bands. Here is my 2014 in live music:

March:
NONA / Pet Symmetry / Meah! / The Valenteens
(@ TOWNSHIP)

April:
Dowsing / Donovan Wolfington / Bluebirds / Per Aspera
(@ TOWNSHIP)

May:
Dowsing / Little Big League / Winter Classic / L. Mounts
(@ TOWNSHIP)

June:
Lemuria / Cayetana / PUP / The Menzingers
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)

July:
Braid / Jason Douglass Swearingen
(@ TOWNSHIP)

September:
Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) / Joie De Vivre / Free Throw
(@ TOWNSHIP)

December:
Lemuria / Lifted Bells / Prince
(@ BEAT KITCHEN)

American Football / Braid
(@ BOTTOM LOUNGE)

Ten of those bands ended up on my year end lists.

Hopefully 2015 is as eventful. Though, with the apparent loss of Township, I feel like Sunday night shows are going to fall by the wayside. That is definitely a bummer.

So, bands I like, you are on notice. Please play Sunday shows when you come to Chicago. You will be my best friends, and you may end up on a year end list on a blog that not very many people read. Deal?

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REVIEW: Lord Snow – “Solitude”

solitudeThe term “emoviolence” rarely gets used anymore. It was obviously a genre tag that started as a facetious thing, but goodamn. If it was created to describe bands that mix powerviolence with screamo, then we need to bring it into the discussion here. Lord Snow don’t fuck around. Made up of members of Chicago area bands (Suffix, The New Yorker, Lautrec, and Raw Nerve), this is a band that knows exactly what they’re doing.

Solitude is not a record that you put on as background music. It’s 11 songs that demand your attention for the record’s 19 minute run time. It’s jagged, it’s raw, it’s loud and it’s one of the best things to come out in 2013. If you miss the days of emo music being hardcore, this should be your new favorite record. But, genre discussions don’t really matter in the end. It’s the music that counts.

Solitude is an abrasive record. It may not be for everyone, but even people who don’t like this kind of stuff have to appreciate the heart. The band leaves everything it has on these songs. There is one thing I think about every time I listen to this record, and it’s about how Steph Maldonado even has a voice after recording it. Her scream is raw and it sounds like her voice could give out at any moment.

The rhythm section of Steph Maldonado (bass) and Erik Anderson (drums) lay down a great foundation. Anderson is especially great. He’s able to go from full blast to reigned in at the drop of a hat. Niko Zaglaras (guitar) is able to shift between fast and chaotic to calm and melodic just as quickly. There are some great dimensions to this record that a lot of people are going to overlook.

This is a blood and guts record. The lyrics are great, the music is fantastic, and everything about it works.

Lord Snow
Lord Snow (Tumblr)
Adagio 830
Bandcamp

*Note: this seems to only be available in the US from the band directly (and is currently sold out). So, if you really want a physical copy, you’ll probably have to get it on import from Adagio 830. Bummer.

September 20, 2003 – Thursday/Death By Stereo/Murder By Death

thursdayticketOn September 20, 2003, I got on the train to Chicago to go see Thursday. I don’t really remember the show very much. I’ve been to a whole lot of shows in the intervening 10 years. I do remember certain things about it though. Some things are more superficial than others. I was just a few months out of high school, and had really only gone to locals shows. The shows I went to were either at the venue I volunteered at, garages, backyards, or basements. Going to see a post-hardcore band in Chicago at a major venue was a huge adjustment, especially when you’re used to seeing crusty ska/punk bands in a garage in Wheaton. But, if nothing else, it kind of affirmed my belief in the music I listened to. None of my friend’s gave a shit about that kind of music. Even the punks were too busy being “punks” to even attempt to listen to something more involved than power/barre chords and vague sloganeering lyrics (Bush administration era punks were TERRIBLE [myself included]).

My friend Lamarr and I got to the House Of Blues late. We actually ended up missing most of Murder By Death’s set. This was a month before Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them? came out. I ended up buying a copy of Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing. That record was fantastic. Murder By Death kind of lost me when they more or less became a country band. Not as a slight against them, but it just hasn’t done much for me.

Death By Stereo were the other opener. I always thought that was weird. I was never really stoked on them. Not even as a shitty punk teenager. They did put on a great show though. I remember Efrem jumping from the stage to the floor, and doing a song in the middle of the pit that had formed. It was a great thing to see, even for a non-fan.

As far as Thursday went, I was bummed that their set was heavy on songs from War All The Time. It made sense, seeing as that record had just been released less than a week prior. I guess I was kind of bummed because I hadn’t had time to really listen to the album. It hadn’t connected to me quite the way Waiting and Full Collapse had. Shit, it still hasn’t. That aside, they played a great set.

What I remember most was the overall atmosphere. The House Of Blues has a shitty layout. The floor is boxed in, and there’s limited access to the it. Those access points are hard to get to on a half full show, never mind a sold out one. But, I was still straight edge at the time, so having to stand around by the bar wasn’t my idea of a great night. Eventually, through force of will (and being generally larger than most people at the show), I worked my way down to the main floor. The crowd was moving as one singular being. It was remarkable because no one was trying to mosh. If there is one thing Chicago fans love doing, it’s moshing at inappropriate times to things that don’t need it. I had worked my way up to the front left of the floor, but ended up at the rear right by the end of the show. The main hall is on the second floor of the building, so you could feel the floor shift under your feet as the crown moved. It constantly felt like the floor could have buckled at any time.

So, you know, that was pretty great.

(Originally posted on Tumblr)

REVIEW: The Copyrights – "North Sentinel Island"

The succinct way of reviewing this record is to say that if you liked The Copyrights before, there is no reason not to get this.

The more wordy and drawn out way of reviewing this is this: If we’re going to talk about pop punk, one of the bands that has to be mentioned is The Copyrights. Being from Illinois, I have a bias. I have managed to see The Copyrights more times than I can count. Probably more times than I have seen any other band (except maybe The Lawrence Arms?).

There are a lot of pop punk bands in the world. Some are great, some are terrible. But, none of them are like The Copyrights. They are a band that punk rock fans in Chicago can look at as our own (despite them being from Carbondale [which, if you don’t know Illinois, is nowhere near Chicago]). Sure, for pop punk, we had Screeching Weasel. But, they were at their best (in my opinion, their first reformation from 1991-1994) while I was in elementary school. The Copyrights started putting out records in 2003. That was the year I got out of high school. Their second full length came out in 2006. And, with that, they served as a soundtrack to my early 20s. It was just the right time.

So, North Sentinel Island is the first full length from The Copyrights since 2008. And, you know, it is pretty fucking great. Basically, it is building on the template that the band has been fucking around with since Mutiny Pop. Every song is deliberate and forceful. The songs avoid the trap that a lot of pop punk falls in. The trap is, of course, reheated Ramones riffs. Yeah, things stay pretty simple, but the use of real (re: not power) chords expands the sound. Nothing on this record would sound out of place on  any of their previous records. Well, except maybe the riff on “Hard-Wired,” which are more than a little Blink-182ish and the acoustic closing of  “Bow Down.” Overall though, it is exactly what you would want (and expect) from the band.

If Learn The Hard Way was a record that expressed a certain level of frustration, North Sentinel Island is the opposite. It is optimistic, but still cynical.

“Expatriate Blues” is great at describing how people get about their home towns once they leave:

“I’m not home sick, I’m sick of home.
Now I know when I’m back home I’ll just be visiting.
Now I know that my return won’t be for long.
When I’m gone this bedroom town just keeps on sleeping.
The same sleep every year just like when I was here.
I hate it with a smile, I miss it with a sneer.”

“Worn Out Passport” is one of the best songs. It maintains the theme of just living life the best you can. and I can’t refuse a song that has lyrics like:

“And I want my body filled with more alcohol than blood.
Don’t take this as self destructive, because this wish is filled with love.”

Other than all that, this is just a fun record. It has some of the best sing alongs I have heard in a while. Yes, it can maybe get repetitive, lyrically. Yes, it sounds a lot like everything this band has done before. But, it is far from stale. People often mistake simplicity for laziness or stupidity. Fuck those people. Sometimes, the simple stuff says the most.

The Copyrights (Bandcamp) (it is the only non-Myspace/Facebook site I could find)
Red Scare Industries
BUY IT

Kids And Heroes

Quick update, because it is Sunday (well, Monday now) and I have not updated anything. So, quick updates.

1) Went to day two and three of Bouncing Souls’ four shows this weekend at Reggie’s up in Chicago. Overall, they were great shows. Day two was their self titled record and Hopeless Romantic. The openers for that show were The Brokedowns and The Arrivals. The Brokedowns were great for what they are. If you are stoked on the whole D4 / Lawrence Arms type Midwest pop punk, check them out. The Arrivals were alright. They were never my thing. Souls were great. A few lyric flubs, but a solid performance.

Day three was How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Anchors Aweigh. Openers were The Night Brigade (who I missed) and The Falcon. It is always fun to see The Falcon. Their line-up consisted of Brendan Kelly, Neil Hennessey, Eli Caterer (Smoking Popes), and Derek Grant (Alkaline Trio). They were fun as always. Got to talk to Toby Jeg briefly, as he was doing merch for The Falcon. But, like a terrible blog runner that I am, I was drinking and did not ask anything worth noting.

The downside for the show was that it had totally sold out, and Reggie’s is fucking terrible with sellout crowds. Fucking nowhere to move. Souls were great when doing the songs from …Summer Vacation. Just good for Anchors Aweigh. Overall a good show.

2) Picked up the Hot Water Music / Bouncing Souls split. HWM’s cover of “True Believers” was great. The Bouncing Souls cover of “Wayfarer” is good. But, covering HWM is always kind of a pain in the ass.

3) Music Think Tank posted an article called “Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians?” Worth reading. As an editorial side note, bands need to have websites. The whole purpose of social networking sites is to send traffic to your website. Yeah, you can host music there, but most of those media players are terrible. Stop using those as your primary websites. Shit, even set up a Tumblr or something.

Also, good to see the Mavericks win the NBA title. Fuck the Miami Heat. I hope the Bulls can sign someone good in the off season. Chicago needs a championship.

Now that basketball is over all I have is the Cubs. Fuck.