Jul 28 2013

Metric and Gemini Club at House of Blues Chicago, 7.27.13

This event was odd. It was a Red Bull Soundstage event, which means that it was designed to showcase the openers. To get the free tickets, you had to create an account (you were supposed to link it to twitter and facebook) and post about the bands. I have a passing knowledge of Gemini Club, and I like them, so I posted about them. The openers then select the attendees, but I suspect everyone who went to the trouble got picked. I figured the audience would be one third fans of the openers and two thirds Metric fans who were hardcore enough to go to the trouble. I’m not sure what we got instead. There were a handful of girls excited about Metric, a lot of men who seemed barely conscious, and a smattering of hipsters. That was it. The venue wasn’t even full.

Gemini Club – I’ve been meaning to see them for a long time. They play electronic dance rock. It reminds me of The Delays or Elkland. I wonder where those bands are now? Anyway, it combines electronic noises and complex rhythms, both of which are things I like. Their lead singer fought to get the audience interested and won, which hardly ever happens. I should probably get their album, but I will definitely see their next local show.

Artificial Nocturne: Emily is wearing tiny shorts and a leather vest where the back is just gold chains. Can I be Emily when I grow up?
Youth Without Youth
Speed the Collapse
Dreams So Real: I like this version. Super electronic.
Empty: The thing I love about Emily Haines, and the thing that turns her from “lead singer” to “female icon” is the fact that she’s willing to get gross for rock and roll. She’s sweaty and she’s jumping around and, while she’s stunning, she’s also a reminder that we’re not here to be pretty and be looked at. We’re here for the music.
Help, I’m Alive
Synthetica: Metric is a very strange band for me, because it’s in the pantheon of bands where I like every album and I’m alone in my fandom. In the little slow cooker that is my head, these bands rattle around for years, until I start to feel like I can’t tell anyone that I care about them. It’s too personal and it means too much. So it was amazing when Lauren emailed to tell me about this show. It meant she was someone who might feel how I feel. Lauren and I agree that Emily is a stone cold badass. So we dance like nuts during this.
Breathing Underwater
Dead Disco: The old diehards start to lose their mind on this one, but Metric ups the ante by dropping in bits of Old World Underground, Succexxy, and On a Slow Night during the bridge.

This is the end of the show proper. I kind of love a solid 60 minute show. They’re done before you can get bored or tired or thirsty or have to pee. I feel like 90 minutes is the max before the flesh starts to weaken.

Gold, Guns, Girls
Gimme Sympathy: Metric hasn’t had the easiest road, and, the first time I saw them five years ago, they clearly weren’t friendly with each other. Which is what made this so striking for me. They did this acoustic, just Emily and their guitarist, James Shaw. When we got to the repeating ending (“Come on baby play me something, like ‘Here Comes the Sun’”), the bassist, Joshua Winstead, and drummer, Joules Scott-Key, came back out to sing along with us, the house lights went up, and it was perfect, the sort of rousing ending that one generally associates with a farewell show or reunion tour. It left us all happy to go. That’s hard to accomplish.

May 15 2013

Fall Out Boy at the Rave, 5.14.13

I drove to Milwaukee on a work night and waited an hour between acts. That’s love.

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Dec 13 2011

Spin’s Year-End List is Deeply Wrong (but you knew that)

It’s not that there was ever a chance that I wouldn’t disagree with Spin’s Top 50 albums of the year, but Fucked Up is on the cover, so this may be more dramatic than previously anticipated. Continue reading

Dec 1 2011

Grammy Nominations are out! It’s like a confusing, disappointing Christmas!

You guys, let’s talk seriously about Grammy nominations. Like how far I’m going to get into this list before I can no longer take them seriously and flounce off.

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Nov 12 2011

Patrick Stump, Rockie Fresh, and Mark Rose: 11-11-11

Mark Rose: I’ve never gotten to see him before, even though he’s a favorite of Molly’s. He is yet another pop-punk frontman who has turned to blue-eyed soul. It’s very good, but the kind of thing I’d be happier seeing if I was sitting. But he is very smartly dressed and I will have to seek out his music. I think it might be chill enough to keep me calm while I do homework.

Rockie Fresh: His DJ starts with six or seven minutes of random songs, and the crowd goes nuts for Phoenix’s “1901.” This is already the weirdest rap show ever.

His dj is surrounded on the stage by his posse. Not really room for that, but more bands should have their entourage take up space on the stage. Especially if they leave their winter coats and scarves on like they’re just passing through.

Oh, it turns out the skinny white guy is his keyboard player/laptop operator. It looks like a scene from Revenge of the Nerds.

I know it makes me the worst black person, but rap is rarely my thing. That said. I like Rockie Fresh’s beats. (That’s what they’re called, right?)

The most hilarious band has joined him! It’s like the most ridiculous possible version of Matthew Gray Gubler on guitar (the faces he makes, you guys) and Dean Pelton on drums. The guitarist makes the most ridiculous faces, like he won the opportunity to play with his favorite band in a contest.

Patrick Stump: There’s a full forty minute wait between the bands and the natives grow restless. I have time to consider what a Patrick Stump based riot would look like.

The band is dressed so formally that they might be in a wedding after. It stands in stark contrast to the way they fling themselves around the stage. Patrick himself is wearing a turquoise suit (where the hell does he shop?) and he opens with a Bowie cover, which segues into two minutes of his single Spotlight, and then onto other things. He does three songs in the first six minutes of the set. If you came wanting to hear all of your song, you might be S.O.L.

Unpopular opinion time: I think Patrick puts on an incredible show, probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing James Brown or the Time, but I don’t find him personally sexy. I get why he’s attractive and sexy, but he’s not my cup o’ tea. From the girlish shrieking, I’m probably alone. (Redaction: he took off his turquoise jacket and bow tie and kid is fit.)

Since he became a solo artist, Stump has rarely been without his fingerless leather gloves. Only plausible explanation: he is a serious Palahniuk fan and is hiding lye burns on his palms.

Patrick played all the instruments on his record and clearly refuses to let any of that fun. He has his guitar, but then also two snares and a teeny tiny kick drum, and then also what appears to be a half size trumpet. It’s like he raided a kindergarten music class.

Bassist Matt Rubano continues to be the most amusing thing to watch. He makes hilarious faces, like the faces Bill Cosby made when scatting on The Cosby Show. Also, he has his collar and tie loosened like he’s a lounge singer.

He’s taking an encore break. In a sixty minute set. He comes back and does a long impressive drum solo, then sits at the drums to sing “In the Air Tonight.” It’s fairly self indulgent, but then some would say that self financing an album where you play all the instruments is self indulgent. The song after that, Matt Rubano is wearing an item both a bass and a keytar. It looks ridiculous. I cannot believe this is an actual production item.

The Verdict: Such a great show! Go see it if you get a chance.

Sep 24 2011

Motion City Soundtrack in Detroit, 9.23.11


There’s something pleasingly workmanlike about catalog shows, where a band just powers through an album. They’re here to play the songs you already love. No surprises. MCS goes the extra mile and their posted setlist includes the times the first and second records are starting in case you hate one of them.

The band is finishing a tour of doubleheaders, playing their first two songs on the first night and their third and fourth on the second night. I have come to Detroit for both.

Night One:
This venue, Saint Andrew’s, is super weird. It was once a church, and then it was a techno dance club? And now it’s a rock venue seating about five hundred. MCS fans tend to be pretty chill, so the floor before the show is a lot of polite excuse mes and I’m sorrys. I love the midwest. Also, the entire VIP section is two parents and their eighteen month old, who is fucking jamming.

The band sounds much better than I would after a month of double-headers. Plus, this is their third show of the day, after opening for Yo Gabba Gabba twice today. But they still have the energy and voice for this. Impressive.

I Am the Movie:
Somewhere around the middle of the album, Justin says that people have been asking him to talk more about the albums. He mumbles about his favorite high school band and then doesn’t say anything else for the rest of the first album. This is the quietest he’s ever been.

Intermission: The music before the show was all Counting Crows (August and Everything After, I believe). Now, it’s croony big band stuff.

Commit This Memory;
Man, it is good that Tony Thaxton plays with a click track, because this audience cannot keep time. Everytime we start clapping, we speed up. Takes maybe four measures for us to be totally off.

After “Everything Is Alright”, Justin tells us at that at the Yo Gabba Gabba shows, he changed the lyrics to “Give me a high five / cause I think you’re awesome / we like the same things / that’s why we’re friends.”

Oh, the baby is gone. I guess IAM was her album. I get it.

Some bros in the balcony keep throwing beers at their buddies on the floor. Unfortunately, between them is me.

During “Feel Like Rain,” Josh makes Justin stop the song because it looks like a kid is down in the pit. Turns out they just lost something, but it gives Justin a chance to give us his pit mom, “Be good to each other” lecture.

Hey! Someone actually bought the hundred dollar vinyl figurine available at merch.

Good news! Beer in your eye doesn’t sting. It’s just irritating and pretty drying and distracts you from “Better Open the Door.”

Night Two
I Was Totally Destroying It:

We arrive in time to see the opener, who I think said they’re from California. They’re five cheery twenty-somethings, definitely adhering to the MCS ethos of being happy with your own oddness. They’re still a little awkward and shy, but I like them. Also, their entry music is “The Final Countdown.”

Tonight, we’re sitting up in the balcony, where beer is less likely to hurt me. There is a “railing”, but I use that term extremely loosely. It’s a pipe about hip height and a sharp lip to keep us from sitting off the edge. When combined with the really tall stools, sitting up here feels really precarious. I’m wishing I wasn’t wearing slip-ons. I might lose one over the edge. For fifteen extra dollars, I was hoping for more than a feeling of dread. I thought there’d at least be a bar up here.

Intermission: I look up when “Friends in Low Places” starts and am somehow unsuprised when the whole venue bursts out with the chorus.

Even If It Kills Me:
A mosh pit opens immediately (this album is front-loaded with rockin’ singles) and it is without question the most densely packed put I’ve ever seen. No one is getting out of their way.

I will always love how no one is ever singing along as fanatically or dancing as hard as keyboardist Jesse Johnson. He’s their biggest fan.

That awesome baby is back. Turns out that she’s TThax’s niece.

I’ve been very kind about clothing,  but there’s a girl here dressed like she just came from ballet practice at the American Apparel store. Huge headband, leotard, tights, long flowing white elastic skirt, bootines. Looks kind of ridiculous.

For “The Conversation,” it’s just Justin singing and Matt on keys. While Matt sets up, Justin tries to host a disastrous q&a period. Without his guitar, Justin has no idea what to do with his hands. Precious.

The intermission reveals one of my favorite things about the midwest and this sober, grown folks crowd in particular. Instead of staying pressed up against the stage, everyone has dispersed to get drinks and chat and pee. Your spot is not life or death, the room isn’t full, and beer trumps all. We’ll all be able to see the next album.

My Dinosaur Life:
By the third song, “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”, the mosh pit has expanded to encompass the whole middle of the crowd and everyone else is pogoing. It looks like the toga party in Animal House. But me, I’m fascinated by the guy next to me who was losing his mind during the last album and now is just staring stonily at the stage.

Apparently Justin was tired last night, because now he’s talking fast enough that it’s hard to follow. He reveals that a line in “&%$*&%” was stolen from The Hudsucker Proxy. I love this band for their dorky, wide-ranging references. Also referenced on this album: The Ocarina of Time & Veronica Mars.

Aug 6 2011

Lollapalooza Quick-cap: Day 1

Bands I saw and quick notes I made:

Young the Giant: This band is way more reggae than expected, but they are obviously from Irvine. Their drummer is fantastic.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals: Grace is having a distinct lack of pants problem, wearing a dress that I’m pretty sure she pinched from Tina Turner. But the energy onstage is ridiculous and her band is really on it. Also, I envy their ability to play an hour like maniacs in spike heels.

Kids These Days: World of no.

The Kills: I only heard them, but I found the new songs a little on the sleepy side.

Black Cards:  This show is wayyy underattended. They come on stage in wolfman masks? Also, this is probably the first time the smallest stage at Lolla has seen dancers. Obviously, someone told Pete Wentz that music was not his bag and. He should focus on being a frontman.  A frontman without music is just a hypeman. But a hypeman in a super cute jacket!

OK Go: We are approx a hundred yards away. The Google+ stage, a big stage off to one side, also has rheadliners this year, so people are already packed in for Ratatat. Plus OK Go is local, so we are barely even in the right area. But, I can make out that OK Go is wearing suits in different primary colors. I was bummed that they didn’t dance at all, but then they played Return on the handbells! They’re so weird.

Coldplay: This show has more joints being passed around than a Dave Matthews gig. Also, did you know that Coldplay is popular with bros? This is bro-central. There is hugging and shouting and it is crazy. Also, the band is very good.

Jul 25 2011

Gym Class Heroes at Lincoln Hall, 7.25.11

The In Crowd: Huh. Bands are still trying to use the Paramore/Hey Monday formula. It’s a little hard to take teenage punks seriously in what feels like a post-pop-punk world, but they’re tight and the teen girls in the audience seem to be liking it. The song that I presume is the single, in that some people seem to know it, is heavy on the synths. This sort of bubblegum punk is what I expect Disney princess Selena Gomez’s Bamboozle-playing band The Scene sounds like, but I’ve never gotten around to actually listening to their music.

After the set, they start handing out 8×10 glossies of themselves. That is a promotional format I have not seen since my NSync days.

This gig is sponsored by the new Slurpee, so we got free slurpee coupons! That’s pretty great. Also, the dj is playing some of the funnest mashups and remixes I’ve heard in a long time.

I’ve lived in Chicago for 25 days and this is first time I’ve ever seen someone in the second row in a pit flag down a cocktail waitress for shots.

Gym Class Heroes: It’s nice to see a band who is a little down on their luck to still have fans who really care and to see that the band still appreciates them. GCH haven’t lost the infectious charm and joy that has always permeated their performances.

Miiiinor criticism: When there’s already six of you on a stage this small, the hype man’s flag is just dangerous.

Also, the band has made some weird personal decisions. Frontman Travie McCoy is looking a little thin and serious. Hypeman Marc DeJesus is like 40% hair now. Bassist Eric Roberts is wearing sunglasses and a leather vest, plus greasy hair like it’s Halloween he’s Tom Cruise in Cocktail.

Sidenote: I hate when bands tell me to put my hands in the air. I have no idea to do with them once they’re there.

Travie asks us to dance and a girl in front of me starts a pretty serious Running Man.

I have never been at a show that was this lightly attended (over the course of the night, we go from about half full to three-quarters, and tickets were only $7.11) but had such an intense front few rows. This band, or at least Travie, is still super important to about 150 people, interesting to about 300, and has kind of fallen out of the public imagination beyond that.

This is my first time hearing their new song, “Solo Discotheque”, and it’s sort of a juvenile version of “Dancing With Myself.” In the sense that I think it’s probably about a real girl,  but it sounds like it’s about, how shall we say, “nocturnal emissions.”

There’s a 55ish dad in a Hawaiian shirt who is getting down. I love him.

Verdict: GCH is back, if you care. Statistically, you don’t.

May 26 2011

Panic! at the Disco, fun., and Foxy Shazam at the Webster Theater, 5.25.11

I always think of shows in this venue (what we lovingly refer to as The Crack Den) as being kind of high school-y, and I assumed that it was because I’ve only ever seen teenaged bands here, but nope. It’s because it looks a junior high multipurpose room. It’s a little ratty and the stage is small. Somehow, they make the stage settings that looked professional and impressive yesterday now look like the theater department is putting on a show. That or we’re about to witness the world’s most depressing prom.

There’s a point in this show where Brendon runs to the back of the room and plays an acoustic song. Since this venue has no balcony or anything, they’ve blocked off a little slice of the bar that I’m pretty sure is for that purpose. But because it’s the bar, it’s currently surrounded by tri-state area moms drinking beer. This is gonna be great.

Foxy Shazam: Whoa, the teenagers of Connecticut love this band. There is a higher percentage of people excited about this band than there were last night, including three adorable tweenaged girls right in front of me. Since Foxy is a band that just feeds on a crowd, this will be special.

To be shallow for a minute, last night, when we were front row, we realized that with his glasses off, Daisy, their guitarist, is a stone fox. Tonight, Aaron, their drummer, has taken off his shirt, and under his buttonups? Nothing but muscles and ink. Yum.

Last night, Eric didn’t try his famous cigarette trick (simultaneously smoking a handful, then eating them while lit). I opined that it was probably because Panic’s still-magically-teenaged fans don’t have cigarettes to give. Tonight, he tried it and we all watched as one cigarette was carefully passed forward hand to hand. Sad.

During the last song of the set, the knuckle of baby bros up front attempt to start a mosh pit. It’s kind of adorable.

fun.: You can tell that their frontman, Nate, isn’t hip to the idea of opening. He was previously the lead singer for The Format, a band with a ridiculously rabid fanbase (I regularly saw The Format open and then take a quarter of the room with them when they were done) and fun. was headlining the week they formed, so this, playing for people who haven’t memorized his lyrics, is clearly new. Not that there’s not a fair number of fun. fans here, but asking us to sing along to the first song?

Also worth noting that the teen girls behind me, who were swayed into the cult of Foxy, find Nate’s antics kind of embarrassing. He then leads the world’s failiest moment of silence for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

They are very good and rapturous if you’re into them, but they’re not my favorite and this is the exact moment when the heat gets to me, so mostly this set feels unending. As soon as it’s done, I sit down and am soon joined by another dozen people sitting. I’m a trendsetter!

Panic! At the Disco: First, an aside for the teenaged boys dancing like dumbasses and rolling up their sleeves. I love them. I will only have kids if they are promised to turn out like those boys or the tween girls.

The lighting is terrible. I can’t see the band, but I can see everyone in the crowd. The hell?

One of the most interesting things about this stage setup (a sort of Frankenstein-meets-Phantom courtesy of The League of Steam) is lost on a stage this small. Brendon’s keyboard and Spencer’s drums are built into setpieces at the back of the stage. That encourages the “temporary” band members Ian and Dallon to take full range and run around and the audience to really appreciate them. But this is a high school multipurpose room, so the keyboard is free of its setpiece and Brendon is centerstage always. (Oh, I lie. The organ is still in the setpiece, he just needs … more keys.)

The thing I really like about this lineup, Panic 3.0, is the energy, the fact that they all run around, seem to like each other and like us and love playing and it just drips off the stage.

Brendon manages to make it back to the bar for the interlude in the middle of this show where he plays “Always” acoustic. It manages to manufacture what feels like a truly unique, intimate moment even in a huge room.

They break into “Your Body is a Wonderland” and Brendon alters a line to be about copulating with his bass player. To introduce Brendon, Dallon then cribs a couple of lines of Les Miserables. How did Brendon find this boy? (They also treat us to a chunk of “Careless Whisper” and The Smiths’ “Panic,” then most of the encore is “Carry On My Wayward Son.” I love boys who love music and I love love boys who are talented enough to show it off.) Oh, then Brendon sings half of the first verse of “I Write Sins” with his face pressed against Dallon’s. Dallon seems slightly more tolerant of the gay than Ryan Ross was and the fangirls eat it up equally.

The Verdict: This is one of the few shows in the last few years where I haven’t thought once about the time, about getting home to sleep, about the way my feet hurt or anything. I would stay in this room forever. And the best part is that this is the first week of the tour, so if you don’t have tickets, you still have time! Do it!

Apr 23 2011

My Chemical Romance, Neon Trees and The Architects at Terminal 5, 4.22.11

I must write about the line, as it was the most epic clusterfuck I have ever been party to. Because the sidewalk on the side of the street where the venue is is closed for repairs, they lined us up on the other side of the road. In this shady part of town, there’s merely a long tunnel and then the West Side Highway. There were probably five hundred people in line by five (doors were at 7) and at least a thousand by the time doors opened. To try to keep the line from stretching too far down the access road to the highway, security asked us to bunch up and fill the sidewalk. So people started running. In the successive three “bunches”, all sense of who had arrived then was lost. I just hope the poor kids who stayed overnight got up front.

The Architects: They begin with a long Spanish overture, like we’re about to see a play about Zorro instead of straight classic punk. Choosing this band and Neon Trees is a good way to show the evolution of MCR, but I worry that this opener is lulling the hardcore old Jersey punk fans into a false sense of security. The lead Architect rocks harder than I’ve ever seen anyone rock a baby blue guitar.

They ask if we want to dance, then proceed to play a track so rockabilly that I half expect it to be a Brian Setzer cover. Their set spans the gap between The Misfits and Gaslight Anthem, with some songs that are almost country and some that are definite punk. But they’re fron Kansas City. And they’re wildly charming. CDs will be purchased.

Neon Trees: The people behind us are loudly making fun of lead singer Tyler’s antics, his deep back bends and his high kicks. It’s like they don’t know that Gerard Way is on next. Tyler’s mom is here and he makes all wave at her. She knows all the words and has Kate Gosselin’s haircut and I love her.

I really think Elaine is the best female drummer rock has seen since… well, since forever. They make the kinda weird decision to end with “Farther Down”, a track that’s not on their brilliant full-length Habits and is kind of a slow-jam. Still, I was impressed. And I danced, which is the important thing.

My Chemical Romance: Frank Iero is aging backwards. He’s wearing a pullover and a collared shirt and he looks about 15. He looks like the well-meaning neighborhood kid that Mrs.Way pays $20 an hour to watch her kids while she goes to the grocery store. Then again, instead of his “trust me” in the middle of “I’m Not Okay,” he spits at the mic.

There is a spotlight pointed at Ray Toro’s groin. We are calling this the Katie Spot.

I will say that this band seems as loving of their fans as they’ve ever been. Gerard takes the time to thank the new fans, the old fans, and the fanclub.

Touring keyboard star James Dewees gets his keyboard solo as always, but it’s shorter. Gerard takes this opportunity to lie down.

I’ve said before that new album standout “Planetary (Go!)” is obviously a lost Fischerspooner track, but it doesn’t occur to me until right now that “Destroya” is clearly a late-90s Nine Inch Nails b-side.

The sharp turn this band has taken is most clearly seen when they play their very first single, “Vampires Will Never Hurt You.” It’s a thrasher, chaotic and not bound to the conventions of popular music. I’m not entirely sure there are verses. It’s almost the same four bars over and over, the sort of thing that is the bread and butter of scuzzy punk bands, but so divorced from the precise bombast of new-era MCR that this is essentially a cover. And not a cover that the band seems particularly jazzed to play.

Even though the line was bullshit and the floor was a mess (the most active pit I’ve seen in quite some time; I can’t believe no one was injured), the band brought the energy. Plus, they brought openers who actually warmed the crowd up, getting us progressively more amped until the headliner started. It reminded me what the point of openers is: to stretch before your marathon. And shit, at the end of a My Chem show, it feels a little like you’ve run a marathon. But at least they ran it with you.