What’s significant about this show is that happened in Normal, Ill. Not the city you’d expect in Illinois. Normal isn't even a city. It’s a college town and a pretty shitty one at that. The town itself isn't very cool; the college isn't very big. But this was the second time Two Cow Garage had been here and the third time for Cheap Girls. There was definitely an excitement in the air coming from both the bands and the crowd. Everyone, for a moment, was really stoked about being in Normal, Ill.
I was a little annoyed because I was bartending during the show. Firehouse is a weird little half-bar/half-family restaurant. The shows and shittiness happen on one side because for some reason there is a tiny stage and on the other side moms struggle dealing with their kids and dads order their Miller Lite with a glass of water. I don’t really mind serving moms and dads and their bratty kids, but when I'm in a crappy mood, bartending sucks, and I really didn't want to be bartending during the show when I'd rather be getting hammered and seeing some bands that I like. But fuck it, whatever, now I have money to buy shit from the bands, right?
Sweater Weather opened and I was really excited for that. They’re a local pop-punk band with songs about feelings and stuff but they're very distinct in their love of Rites of Spring and Descendents. It’s a gorgeous little twist that I can’t compliment/adore enough. And every time I see them, my heart gets a little warm because I met them when I was a senior and they were freshmen and I've seen them grow a little—it’s a nice feeling. Their set was solid and it had a lot of life to it. You could tell they felt a little awkward on stage, being used to basements, but they were very good to see on stage.
Laura Stevenson and the Cans followed, and I have to say, I never really listened to Laura before, but they were very fucking good. I’m a sucker for alt-country, ballad-y stuff and I was very glad to see her. Looking around, pretty much everyone in the crowd was falling in love. The Cans are a perfectly adept backing band and Laura's songs are solid. I’m glad I bought a record.
Cheap Girls’ third set at Firehouse was easily their most sober and consequentially their tightest. Ian’s got a bit of a reputation in Normal and I've really enjoyed seeing a sloppy, fucked-up Cheap Girls set, but they were on tonight. Everything was quickly paced; they barely took a break for well over half an hour. "Hey, Hey I'm Worn Out" seemed a pretty fitting soundtrack to my night (not too mention post-college life) and there wasn't much that they didn't play from both albums (except “Her and Cigarettes”, but I couldn't complain).
And Two Cow Garage then killed. They opened with “Bright Eyed Into the Slaughter” and it was perfect. Everyone was going crazy; the sound was huge despite them playing as a three-piece. I know that this gets said about a lot of bands, but Two Cow’s recordings don’t do them a bit of justice. They’re a band that’s meant to be heard live, and Micah is definitely a guy who is meant to be seen. He does that goofy, fidgety Craig Finn thing behind the mic. Super fun to watch. The band kept saying how excited they were to be in Normal and they were genuinely thankful to be there and everyone watching was thankful that they chose to play in our town. I was able to snag a beer and get in on a sing-along to “Jackson” with my friends and I walked back to clean some dishes feeling pretty content with my night.
That is, until I heard the opening riff from “Can’t Hardly Wait” by the Replacements. I made a beeline to the stage and immediately did a dive. The Replacements are my favorite band of all time and I’d probably say “Can’t Hardly Wait” is my favorite ‘Mats song. I had no idea Two Cow played it and their version was fucking amazing, with Micah and Shane going back and forth on vocals. I doubt I’ll be able to scream “Ashtray floors, dirty clothes, and filthy jokes” like that ever again. The rest of the night was Cloud 9. All the bands hung out and closed down the bar, and Laura Stevenson did a shot of grenadine. Everything about it was right—escape from fear and loathing in Central Illinois, at least for the night.