Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2011 BIRTHDAY FORTNIGHT: PART IV: Chuck Ragan

(From left to right)
Joe Ginsberg, Chuck Ragan, and Jon Gaunt performing live at the
Mayne Stage on the north side of Chicago.


Felipe M


Former Hot Water Music member, Chuck Ragan is one of the more revered figures in punk rock and it's not surprising that even though he's remade himself into a folk/bluegrass/country/acoustic singer, fans of the band and the punk community still come out to support his shows.  Even though the music might not be punk music in the traditional sense, there's still a punk rock attitude and ethos that dominates every one of his shows.  


MAY 5, 2011: MAYNE STAGE, CHICAGO, IL--Cinco de Mayo in Chicago is an unofficial holiday and it might just be as big as St. Patrick's day.  Just like everybody is a bit Irish on March 17th, everybody is a Mexican on May 5th.  So what does Pathological Hate do celebrate Felipe's Mexican roots?  How about going to a show on the north side of Chicago?  That's what I did as I dragged a couple of co-workers to come with me to see the great Chuck Ragan


The last time I saw Chuck Ragan perform was a couple of years ago at Reggie's Rock Club as part of his Revival Tour.  To summarize this wonderful touring act, it's basically the Warped Tour of acoustic/folk music.  That night, Chuck Ragan performed a solo set in the middle of the show (there is no headliner on this tour), as Jim Ward was the one who received the honor of ending that show (although the show continued impromptu style at the bar adjacent to Reggie's).  Past members of the Revival Tour include Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem), Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio), Frank Turner, Austin Lucas, Audra Mae, and Tim Barry (Avail), just to name a few acts.

Chuck Ragan doing guest vocals with Sharks--
"but for now I'm finding myself/
Up here standing on a rooftop SCREAMING!"
On this night, Chuck Ragan and U.K.'s Sharks took advantage of a day off on their tour in support of Social Distortion to perform at the Mayne Stage in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the north side of Chicago (there's a "good" side of Rogers Park and a "bad" side.  Thankfully, this venue was located on the good side).

Sharks looks like the male version of The Runaways if they were to clash with, well, The Clash.  They're a very young band, but their melodic, street punk sound actually makes them look and sound older than they really are and you can't help, but continue to root for their success.  The obvious highlight of the show was when Sharks were finishing up their set when Chuck Ragan decided to show up and make a cameo appearance and sing-a-long with one of the band's songs.  The coolest part was when during the middle of Sharks' song, they mashed it up by adding the first verse to seminal, underground punk rock anthem of the last decade "Rooftops."  If you don't know the song "Rooftops" do yourself a favor.  Might just be Hot Water Music's defining song.

Chuck Ragan then went on stage along with stand up bassist Joe Ginsberg and cult legend, fiddler Jon Gaunt and were simply amazing.  The crowd was pretty tame as I was hoping for an Against Me!, acoustic set crowd, but crowd was pretty civil and continuously moving which was pretty ideal for this kind of music.  Most importantly, the crowd was very supportive of Ragan, despite being a small crowd, they were very boisterous as requests flew from the audience like ballistics shooting at a besieged city and Ragan was too happy to oblige them (i.e. playing "Rye Whiskey," "Ole Diesel," and "Do What You Do" upon request).  Meanwhile, Ragan played what seemed to be his entire solo collection.  "Do You Pray," "Valentine," "The Boat," "For Broken Ears," "Rotterdam," Let it Rain," and "California Burritos" all made it on the setlist that night and each song was sang with a passion and desperation that only Chuck Ragan can deliver--like he's constantly screaming from the "Rooftops" for the whole world to hear and listen to the message he's trying to portray.  It is a thing of beauty when a musician wears his heart on his sleeve and truly believes in the art that he has created on his own and sharing it with an all-too-willing audience who constantly begged for more.


Also on the night, Ragan played new music from upcoming album Covering Ground.  My best estimation is that he played three songs from the album and they all sounded epically amazing and I left that night thinking that I just heard his best composition to date.

The real gem of the night however was exploring a new venue as the Mayne Stage is a beautiful, small, intimate establishment for live music with a great view of the stage, no matter where you're standing.  It's unbelievably clean and fancy on the inside, while the neighborhood outside has all the amenities and aesthetics of an ideal and imagined urban setting.  

This show is definitely a front-runner for Show of the Year--2011 (and maybe top 3 favorite show of all time) and I am constantly looking for the next time Chuck Ragan stops in town once again.  


To read the 2010 Show of the Year wrap-up, click here.

To read more articles on the band Against Me!, click here.

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