I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few rock shows this year. The following is a list of shows I have seen so far and I will list them from the worst show I have attended, to the best show. Things to consider when ranking these shows: Length of Show, Atmosphere (i.e. crowd, buzz, and other intangibles), Opening Acts, and Songs Played.
7. Jan 9, 2010: Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL: BATTERY (Tribute to Metallica); Supported by SKULLS (Tribute to The Misfits):
In a show that would be later dubbed “The Fake Misfits and Fake Metallica Show,” this concert kicked off the 2010 version of my Concert Calendar. The way I felt about this show was that I’ll probably never see the real versions of these bands so the next best thing was to pay $9 to see their doppelgangers. Devon, my friend Ricardo, Officer Mike and I showed up early where we saw a band that featured a guy who sounds and sings like John Mayer, another guy who looks like every person I used to despised in high school, and a bearded bassist who was in charge of screaming his vocals. Devon liked them at least. Fake Misfits played next and they played mosh pit music for a lame crowd that was not going to start moshing. A shame too, because they played great songs such as “Astro Zombies,” “20 Eyes,” and “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight.” The bassist was a woman, which was a nice twist, the drummer looked like he forgot the beat of a couple of songs, and singer/guitarist was struggling to keep his voice midway through the performance and I thought he was too slow when playing “Green Hell.” Overall, it was a solid performance from the trio and ultimately, they ended up being the highlight of the show. Up next was a local band who sounded like a metal-fusion band (a cross between Deftones, System of a Down, and name a Death Metal band here ___________). The lead singer had these big glasses and had very long, spiky hair. They were probably the most talented band of the bunch, but nothing memorable about their music. Finally, Fake Metallica came up and there was an overweight James Hetfield, a taller, not as thinned-haired Kirk Hammett, and the bass player looked like the dug up remains of Cliff Burton. At this point, there were a lot more people in attendance, but the place still looked sparse. Fake Metallica played a lot of old and new favorites from the band’s extensive catalog, however the act got boring rather quickly (perhaps after the third song) as the mystique of the Metallica songs were washed away by the fact that it was a doppelganger Metallica band on stage, the older crowd that continued to throw up “metal horns” every 30 seconds, and there was nothing special about middle-aged men duplicating songs, chord for chord, melody for melody, by a legendary Metal act. Instead of feeling like every 7-8 minute song they played was something of epic proportions, every song felt like a never-ending death march. This was the first show that I actually left before it ended, this show also wrapped up my Metallica renaissance that I underwent when Death Magnetic was released, and afterwards, I promised myself that I would never see another tribute band for as long as I lived.
6. March 26, 2010: House of Blues, Chicago, IL: UNEARTH:
I absolutely love Unearth and have wanted to see them live ever since I watched Alive at the Apocalypse. However, the buzz I felt at this show was the same way I felt when I last saw Silverstein live and felt like the oldest person at the House of Blues. Plus I had just gotten off a plane from San Diego and I was dead tired. However, as soon as Unearth came out, a big empty circle formed in the middle of the mosh pit. I looked around and a lot of people were just standing around, including myself, who at this point, was suffering from lead feet. Unearth’s energy and set list was spectacular as I counted 5 songs that were from their album The Oncoming Storm. However, after the first song was played, lead singer Trevor Phipps started to beg the audience to start moving, blow up the roof of the House of Blues, and reminding people that “our stage is yours stage! Our stage is yours stage, Chicago!” as the house lights shone on the people in the mosh pit. However, the crowd would get riled up for the start of every song, only to calm down for the rest of the song. The only time I ever saw a lead singer beg the audience to do something was when I saw fellow metalcore band (and part of “The New Wave of American Metal” movement) Darkest Hour’s lead singer, John Henry asking if we were all dead and reminding the crowd that we were at a Metal show, way back in February of 2008. Since then, I have made a note that when a lead singer has to beg the audience to move around and do something; the show usually ends up sucking. Not that the bands are horrible, but when the crowd just isn’t feeling the music that night, they’re not going to feel it anytime soon, no matter how much the band begs them to do so. Songs that were played: “Giles,” “One Step Away,” and “Bloodlust of the Human Condition.” Obviously, I haven’t felt so disappointed after a show since Darkest Hour in 2008 and they only played for 45 minutes, but if Unearth decides to come back into town, I will definitely see them again.
5. March 21, 2010: House of Blues, Sand Diego, CA: BAD RELIGION:
After spending my entire time in the mosh pit for the Saturday show, I was still sore all day on Sunday. I was more intense and worried about making it on time on Saturday, finding the venue, searching for parking, and finding a way back from downtown San Diego back to my hotel in Chula Vista. On Sunday, however, I was more mellowed, relaxed, and confident about making my way back to and from San Diego from my hotel. I strolled to the House of Blues, arriving 15 minutes late and finding a nice spot around the perimeter of the mosh pit, not too far from the stage, but not close enough to get hurt. Already satisfied from seeing them the night before, I was content witch just singing along to my favorite songs from afar.
4. January 16, 2010: Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL: 88 FINGERS LOUIE (with support from the BOLL WEEVILS and AGENT ORANGE):
After spending 10 years on hiatus, the band that launched the career of mainstream act Rise Against, was back together after appearing sparingly in local shows here and there. It was just Ricardo and me at this show as the frigid Chicago weather was a distant memory because this show was burning up the joint. The show started with local act She Likes Todd who I enjoyed listening to because they kind of reminded me of other former and current local acts such as Jinxpack, First Class, Fall Out Boy, and Counterpunch. The next band was The Hallowed and I’ve seen them before and I absolutely hate them. There’s nothing special or unique about this band and the lead singer sounds like he’s drunk and comes off inaudible throughout the band’s set. The show really starts cooking with punk rock legends, Agent Orange. Even at their advanced age, they still know how to rock the house playing a cover of “Secret Agent Man,” “I Kill Spies,” “Everything Turns Grey,” and “The Last Goodbye.” The thing that irritated me the most about the show happened when I went to buy an Agent Orange CD. Normally CDs cost $10 at a show, so rather than buy an album on i-Tunes, I would just pay the fair price for a CD that contains music I want to listen to. Like a punch to the gut however, I was charged $15 for Living in Darkness. What the hell?
Moving on, up next is the Boll Weevils who I have never heard of before, but it looks like they are a Chicago band as well, lead by the tallest vocalist I have ever seen in my life. Very rarely do you ever see a black front-man in punk rock, but this dude was crazy, stage diving several times during the set. I don’t know how the crowd was able to sustain him without dropping him on the floor!
Finally, 88 Fingers Louie, during their performance, announced that they were back together, have released a live DVD, and played classic favorites such as “Blink,” “Summer Photos,” and “Pent Up.” The crowd was great for all 5 bands that played that night; there was an atmosphere of punk rock camaraderie that I haven’t felt in a very long time at a show.
3. March 20, 2010: House of Blues, San Diego, CA: BAD RELIGION:
The Saturday show of my Bad Religion weekend in San Diego was a tough one because I had just gotten off the plane from Chicago that very same day and after sightseeing all afternoon, I was ready to go to bed. Nevertheless, I arrived at the House of Blues at 9PM and was able to see one of the opening acts—unfortunately, I still don’t know the name of the band that played, but apparently in 1982, Bad Religion had opened up for them for a local show. Cool fact and the lead singer sort of reminded me of Lou Diamond Phillips from La Bamba. This show was crazy! I saw a pregnant woman standing too close to the mosh pit for the opening act get punched in the stomach (and that was just the opening act!). Finally Bad Religion shows up and I’m there front and center. I’ve never seen so many fat people in the mosh pit area of a concert before in my life as they would prove to be troublesome in navigating around the pit, but overall, despite being pushed around like a rag doll, getting punched and elbow all over my body, bumping my right knee with somebody else’s in a span of 15 seconds (giving me two gimpy knees for the rest of my trip in California), and struggling to keep my voice together for most of the show, it was a fun time. Just a bunch of Bad Religion fans singing along to classic Bad Religion songs such as “You,” “Infected,” Sorrow,” and the surprise of the night occurred when they played “Man on a Mission.” They also announced that they were recording a live album to commemorate their 30th anniversary as a band, they were getting ready to tour Europe soon, and a new album would be released in 2010. What more can a Bad Religion fan ask for? How about catching my first drum stick from drummer Brooks Wackerman? Awesomeness!
2. April 2, 2010: Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL: THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (with support from DARKEST HOUR):
The last time Darkest Hour was at Reggie’s was way back in February of 2008 when lead singer John Henry had to basically beg the crowd to get a mosh pit going and to basically wake up the Chicago crowd that was just not into the band that night. Fast Forward two years later and I asked John about the 2008 show after the band’s set on April 2, 2010 and he responded by saying that he doesn’t remember saying anything of that nature at that show and if there was an issue with people just standing around doing nothing, he probably didn’t notice anyway. Right! Then why go through all the begging of getting us to move around and act crazy to your songs, I thought to myself. Either way, talking to the lead singer to one of my favorite bands, buying my first t-shirt at a show, and helping a new Darkest Hour fan decide which CD he should buy from this band (the obvious choice was Hidden Hands of the Sadist Nation, duh!) would have been enough to leave me satisfied. But let’s talk about Darkest Hour’s set first. So after eating a satisfying meal and spending most of our evening in my version of Dinsey (sic) World, Chicago’s Chinatown, Devon, Ricardo, and I arrived at Reggie’s in time to see Darkest Hour and the place was packed. There was barely any place to stand! They played a lot of classic songs such as “The Sadist Nation,” “With a Thousand Words to Say but One,” “Doomsayer,” and new favorite “The Tides.” On one of the songs, John told the audience, “On this next song, I want everybody to just slam into each other so hard that somebody ends up getting pregnant! “ There’s John begging the audience to move around again, but he didn’t have to do it as much because the crowd was great as people were slamming into each other, singing along, air guitaring, and even Devon, who listens to more alternative than metal music, couldn’t stop head-banging. Darkest Hour was simply terrific!
And then comes out The Dillinger Escape Plan. Dear God, this band just grabbed everybody by the throat and refused to let go of us! I’m not well-versed with TDEP’s catalog, but I was enjoying myself regardless, shouting out words to the few songs that I did know, jumping and head-banging for most of the show, and dancing—yes, dancing!—to songs I have never heard before. As I looked around, I know I wasn’t the only one because the entire crowd, whether in the pit or not, was moving around like I was. First time I have ever seen that! The entire night, TDEP was performing in the dark, a cool, appropriate aesthetic for a band I’m very unfamiliar with. The light show was impressive. On one of the songs, there was a red light background that would blink on and off in perfect sync with the band’s drummer, there was these two, fluorescent lights hanging from the stage which the band would punch causing the lights to twirl around the stage, creating a cool effect. Lead singer Greg Puciato constantly dove into the crowd, one of the lead guitarists somehow made his way to the bar, which is on the opposite end of the stage. After the song, I was able to pat the guitarist on the back, which I would eventually realize that my hands smelled nasty because I just patted a sweaty man on the back (so I stole a couple of lemon slices from the bar to get rid of the smell. The bartender did not like that at all though). And the chaos, ultimately ended when bassist Liam Wilson started climbing from the stage up to the balcony, stopping to hang around from his legs on one of the venue’s ceiling pipes. He sort of disappeared only to reappear again, hanging upside down and then, dropped down to the crowd below. It was insane! Never, have I experienced anything like it. The dude fell from the ceiling! I was so impressed with the show that I was more than happy to spend $15 on TDEP’s newest album Option Paralysis at the merch table. So if this show was so great, why isn’t it #1?
1. January 24, 2010: House of Blues, Chicago, IL: BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME:
Ricardo, Devon, and I arrived late as I was hoping to get to downtown Chicago at 8PM. We arrived at 8:30PM and I could hear the beginning of “Obfuscation.” Dammit! So after spending 5 minutes trying to get our tickets at the will-call booth and getting checked by security, we finally arrived to a full house. I was bummed out because not only did we miss the beginning of a song, but we were standing by the bar and my view was obstructed. But after leaving Ricardo and Devon behind and making my way to the mosh pit area, it was all good to go as I was able to get a clear view of the band through the midway point of “Disease, Injury, Madness.” What makes this show so special was the crowd. We were jumping up and down throughout the entire set. We all hummed in unison to Paul Waggoner’s jazzy solo from “Ants of the Sky,” when “Alaska” played, the guy next to me knew the exact part of the song when the triangle part hits (at the 1:34 mark, of course!) and he would slap my left shoulder with both his hands when the song’s double bass parts were at their most obvious (anywhere else, this would be grounds to punch a guy in the face for invading your personal space, but at a BTBAM show, it’s just a display of appreciation for the music). We all were happy to hear the organ part in “Disease.” We all sang along to the clean vocal part of “More of Myself to Kill.” We all endured the 18 minute marathon that is known as “Swim to the Moon.” And we all felt as if we were the driving force in helping the band finish the last 5 minutes of “White Walls.” BTBAM’s set lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes, a very rare occurrence at any show that I watch as most headliners are lucky to get 45 minutes. I mulled it over as to what the #1 show of the first quarter of 2010 would be after I saw TDEP and almost had them at #1 on this list. But seeing BTBAM for the first time ever and finally finding people just like me who enjoy the complex, but quirky nature of their songs, and actually knowing all of their songs is what ultimately put this band over the top and #1 on my list. I look forward to the rest of the year in music!