The pop punk traveling circus has moved on to Chicago, though presently we (Carla Monoxide, Matt Lame, Ryan Coldfeet, JA and yours t.) are holed up at the lovely townhouse of Pete and Simple Repellent in semi-rural (as in there's a semblance of a cornfield across the road from one of the mini-malls we visited) Indiana.
The occasion is a weekend of shows at Reggies Rock Club, an excellent, relatively new entertainment complex (two stages, restaurant and bar, record store) near Chinatown. Last night saw Kepi Ghoulie, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Bomb The Music Industry, Lemuria and the Queers, all part of an Asian Man Records tour that's currently rolling around the Midwest, and tonight the club will be taken over by Ben Weasel, the Guts, the Leftovers and Shot Baker. Yesterday afternoon Reggie's also played host to a two hour version of Weasel Radio, the sports-talk-punk rock show hosted by Ben and Owen and normally emanating from Madison, WI.
I was one of the guests; we talked about crucial issues like visiting the Vancouver Hooters with the Donnas and, oh, probably not much else. The other guests were much more interesting. Carla Monoxide also claimed that my face was flaming red the whole time I was on the radio, allegedly because I was embarrassed. I don't know if that's true (many photos were taken, so I'll probably find out eventually), but if it is, it makes me wonder if the same was the case during the two or three years I was co-hosting my own show on KMUD back in Garberville. We were late for the show anyway because somebody (nobody will admit ownership) had the idea that we needed to drive over to the far side of Chicago to wait in line at some trendy hamburger joint and then wait another hour for our food to actually arrive. Actually, calm soul that I am, I didn't mind that much except for the truly awful hesher music that served as backdrop to the tattoo convention that passed for a clientele.
Speaking of awful music, I will say that one flaw at Reggie's (which tends to be true of the majority of places these days) is that in the bar-restaurant, there is nonstop music, mostly of the cheese-rock variety, that makes all but the most perfunctory or trivial conversation impossible. When the overhead stereo wasn't blaring 35 year old Who records, a particularly bad rock band set up the stage ten feet away, inducing several people at our table to put in earplugs. Okay, so I'm old, but Sebby Zatopek (one of the earplug people) is less than half my age. I realize that in every bar or restaurant there is a certain number of people who indeed have absolutely nothing of interest to say, but it does seem unfair that most clubs choose to cater to that crowd at the expense of people who genuinely enjoy and benefit from talking with each other.
Some of the pop punk purists were offended by the Andrew Jackson Jihad, a two piece (acoustic guitar and standup bass), but I thought they were awesome, combining a folk/hillbilly/old timey esthetic with the kind of raw, unbridled punk energy I've come to associate with the Delay/Max Levine Ensemble/Spoonboy/basement/bike punk ethos. Bomb The Music Industry had a more conventional instrumental lineup, but a similarly frantic and uproarious energy that had their crowd (which seemed distinctly different from the Queers crowd and more, as C Monoxide pointed out, like a Gainesville crowd) going utterly mental. I loved both bands.
It was my first time really seeing Lemuria (I looked in on them briefly on a couple of previous occasions) and I think I could grow to really like them, though they didn't grab me as instantaneously as the previous two. Kepi, well, the man is unstoppable. The dissolution of his long-running Groovie Ghoulies barely slowed him down, and he's back with two new albums and a dual-pronged acoustic and electric, duo and full band attack. Wherever I see him - and where I see him tends to be practically anywhere music is played - he inspires with his nonstop devotion to the cause of rock and roll fun.
The Queers, well, the Queers did what they've been doing for longer than some of their fans have been alive, and without varying the set list much, either. God knows I love Joe King and whatever incarnation his band takes, but I really feel he's letting himself (and his audiences) down by sticking so fanatically to 80s bonehead anthems and, even when he does perform a few of his far superior pop tunes (the man is one of the best writers of pop songs working in the business today), speeding them up to the point where they're barely distinguishable from said bonehead anthems. The old school approach is tried and true, always guaranteed to get a response, even if that response tends to be dominated by the lowest common denominator, testosterone overload segment of the punk scene, but he could be playing to and for so many more people if he only was willing to take the risk of showing his more sensitive and talented side. We're being promised a pure pop version of the Queers, augmented by Cub's Lisa Marr and MTX/Plus Ones/Pansy Division guitarist Joel Reader, at this year's Baltimore Fest. It will be amazing if it happens, but I remain fearful that at the first sign of a less than frantic audience reaction, Joe will slip back into default This Place Sucks/Want Cunt/We'd Have A Riot Doing Heroin mode.
Ah well, enough carping. Great show nonetheless, lots of friendly and fascinating faces, and more people than there possibly could have been time to talk to. Today there's a barbecue, something I don't get to a lot of in Brooklyn, and then back to Reggie's for the Ben Weasel Experience (provided he didn't blow his voice out of the water by taking the lead vocals on the Queers' "Love Love Love" last night). Should be great, and Chicago is great, but I'm also enthusiastic about getting back to Brooklyn tomorrow. Traveling's a blast, but when you really love the place you live, coming home can be the best part of all.