Bomb the Music Industry! / The Sidekicks

Bomb the Music Industry! / The Sidekicks: live in Chicagolive in Chicago (2011)
live show

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:

Contributed by: DaveSatterwhiteDaveSatterwhite
(others by this writer | submit your own)

"Whenever I go to a show, it always feels like I've been time-warped back to the 11th grade."
‚?? Bomb the Music Industry!, "Happy Anterrabae Day!!!"

"I feel like a pedophile just standing here," says the Sneetch, my former roommate and friend of three years. He's the biggest Bomb the Music Industry! fan I know, including people on the East Coast, and we both feel pretty awkward sipping Blatz in a room full of children. The otherwise lovely Beat Kitchen smells like a roomful of people who haven't discovered deodorant yet...which, uh, it is. I spent the first several minutes of Shortstop from Tokyo's set drinking at the bar with the Sneetch. Now I'm balls deep in a Reel Big Fish ripoff set, I have to piss, and it's still light out. Punk rock, dude.

Shortstop from Toyko sucks. I don't normally condemn a band outright like that. But when you play straight-up third wave '90s ska without a shred of originality, mixed poorly, with the bass turned up fourfold, you suck. You bring nothing to the table. Cut it out.

The Sidekicks are visibly much younger than the ska band. They aren't even of drinking age, which doesn't aid my general feeling of self-conscious creepiness. But they are excellent. They echo Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at that band's brightest, most energetic moments, as every song could land on a more angst-ridden and testosterone-fueled Shake the Sheets. And they can pull off harmonies.

The bassist stands perpendicular to the crowd, watching the well-bearded lefty drummer like a young John Paul Jones. They make no mistakes. Despite some wildly inappropriate moshing from the young audience, it's the most impressive set I've seen in a long time. The Sidekicks could be headlining arenas in a few years, which is made all the more insane when you consider tonight's basement show-hero headliners. See them in a small club while you still can.

There's a popular meme in the largely teen-dominated world of online self-indulgence called "White People Problems." The blog consists of old '50s-style advertisements, with pithy captions like "Log off Facebook because it got boring. Log back on two minutes later. Still boring." It's occasionally hilarious, but similar to the more clever "Stuff White People Like" in its oddly poignant way of pointing to the narrow scope of privileged whites and their expectations.

Jeff Rosenstock is not the archetypal white boy. (Nor is he pithy–his lyrics rival prosaic songwriters like Craig Finn and John Darnielle, but with a better knack for hooks and cadence.) He is a touring musician who works part-time jobs to pay the bills. But like so-called "white people problems," Rosenstock's lyrics portray a man scraping to survive, but almost completely on his own terms, and with an outright refusal to compromise his ideals. While not an everyman in the socioeconomic sense, Rosenstock is the ultimate "what-if?" character of the punk rock world.

What if Ian MacKaye drank 40s? What if someone never stopped giving a shit about punk rock, ska even, no matter how narrow his audience? What if this same person only played all-ages shows, released all his albums for free, and never really made any money off the whole thing? Even as he started to get old, like late 20s old?

That man is Jeff Rosenstock. And for those reasons, he's built a kind of infallible seat for himself in the world of independent music. Not to say that Rosenstock isn't a polarizing, oft-shit-talked individual, but for those of us who value the bendable principles of DIY, he's a hero of sorts. And if his largely confessional lyrics are as honest as they sound, his leading role isn't without its share of pain.

Now uncharacteristically settled down in Brooklyn, Rosenstock is clearly focused on his new record, Vacation. He is not necessarily "happy," and I don't think he really wants to be. Bomb!'s music is powered by Jeff's perpetual dissatisfaction, and Vacation might be Rosenstock's most self-aware record yet. In place of sillier songs like To Leave or Die in Long Island's "My Beard of Defiance" and "Showerbeers!" are more of what Jeff does best: honesty ad nauseam, almost to the point of self-incrimination.

He's learned to channel his most confessional lines into hooks: "All the people I love the best / are starting to get frustrated with me being a mess / and the people I hardly know are always impressed." It lacks metaphor, because he doesn't need it. Lines like "I thought we all wanna die / I thought that was fine," no matter how morbid, ring true because Jeff's lyrics have always been this transparent. Rihanna can write a pop hit about bondage, but Rosenstock can write ballsy sing-alongs about borderline alcoholic existential dread. And high school kids learn all the words. Both of those hooks get their rightful sing-alongs tonight, mostly from people too young to relate.

Onstage, Jeff slams water out of a Nalgene. He barely pauses between songs, holding onto the audience's ample energy for dear life. His band is relentlessly tight, nailing every ridiculous punch-in that makes BtMI!'s records sound impossible to replicate live. The kids know every word, and the pit is relentless. During the excellent encore, "I Don't Love You Anymore", stage dives follow each other in rapid succession, with no breaks for air. The Sneetch gets hit in the head five times, and has to bail mid-song. "Next person I see with a Ramones shirt gets his ass kicked," he says. I can't breathe.

High-octane bands like Bomb! are tailor-made for cities like Chicago. As bassist John DeDominici says between songs, "You guys on the floor are really playing along tonight. That's a very, very rare thing." I find that hard to believe, considering how relaxed and at home the entire band seems. But maybe it's the love from the audience that gives multi-instrumentalist Matt Keegan the energy to switch among trombone, vocals and keyboard, all in one three-minute song.

Rosenstock has always favored the ugly truth over the feel-good summer hit. On Vacation, like the best of his work, he finds a way to transcend the two. Choruses like "I can't complain / I've got a bed I can crawl into / I've got a bottle for the pain," no matter how morbid or hyperbolic, still manage to ring true. And we still can't help but sing along–the acoustic jam is a powerhouse rocker like the rest of them in concert, morphing depression into celebration as only this band can.

Like white people problems, Jeff's laments deal almost exclusively with the banal and the mediocre, but he isn't afraid to touch on just how crippling those feelings can be. Boredom and depression, two of his favorite subjects, find themselves magnified and exalted by Rosenstock. A BtMI! show is like the last hour of the party, when almost all the booze is gone and everyone's drunkenly admitting a world of pent-up insecurity to total strangers.

I've listened to Vacation at least once a day since it dropped, sometimes twice or three times a day. Something about BtMI! records always drive me to wear out the tape, to play them until I've learned all the words and can barely listen to them anymore.

"In April I stared out the window for a fucking month," sings Jeff on "Felt Just Like Vacation". In April, I did the same thing. And apparently, so did the bearded, shirtless dude next to me in the pit. We're screaming along with the LP's excellent closer as if we'd written it ourselves. Good art makes people do that–its subject is so self-involved that you can't help but shift all its energy back to yourself. The hero of the story is so real that you become him. "Winter won't kill me," he sings at the end of their little 45-minute set, and I'm amazed I didn't lose my voice singing along. Winter in this city could always kill me, or any of us, but I'm convinced it won't when I'm soaked to the bone and screaming like a 10th grader...next to a 10th grader. Yeesh. (Is this how old dudes are gonna feel when I'm singing along with "Myage" at Riot Fest this fall? I hope so.)

In a plummeting industry, Rosenstock has the right idea–avoid as much corporate interference as possible, and lyrically gut myself onstage in front of children every night. The generation gap between Jeff and his fans is more visible than ever, but he's becoming a kind of educator for the next wave of independent musicians and label-owners. He's like a cool English teacher, but one you could actually get drunk and hang out with.

Why do people love inexplicably popular shit like Odd Future? Because they feel like they know them. I feel like I know Jeff Rosenstock. And I'm glad he isn't more popular.


People who liked this also liked:
Bomb the Music Industry! - VacationSHARKS - No GodsGallows - Grey BritainMake Do and Mend - End Measured MileSHARKS - The Joys of Living 2008-2010The Flatliners - CavalcadeRed City Radio - To the Sons & Daughters of Woody GuthrieThe Bronx - The Bronx (2008)Converge - All We Love We Leave BehindThe Bronx - The Bronx (2003)

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
JVoland (August 21, 2011)

I enjoy BTMI, but man this review is just plain awful. I think Jeff Rosenstock is talented and all, but to try and say he is in anyway a comparable songwriter to John Darnielle or Craig Finn (let alone a BETTER songwriter) is flat out moronic.

Big ups to the dudes in Shortstop From Tokyo. Never heard you before, but the song you posted on YouTube in response is pretty clever and is obviously in good humor. I don't think those SFT kids are butthurt at all, just laughing at some dude who ripped on them in a review where said reviewer complained about being at a show with young kids and sucked Jeff Rosenstock's dick for 10 paragraphs.

davebrave4 (August 12, 2011)

Oh no--Pepper's coming back Sept. 10! Somebody get me a gun!

davebrave4 (August 12, 2011)

I've never heard this Shortstop from Tokyo band, but they can't possibly be any more boring and generic than bands like Pepper. Honestly, I don't understand how Pepper has so many fans. Maybe it's because most of their fans don't really listen to any other ska (in my experience, anyway). I saw them last year in madison headlining a show with Zion I and Rebelution, and the other two bands totally stole the show.

Sorry to turn this comments into an anti-Pepper hatefest. I may have even posted similar sentiments on this site before. They just...suck...so...much....

lukabratzi (August 12, 2011)

Yeah well if you love jeff rosenstock so much why don't you move to new york and marry him? Hmmmm?

quickattack (August 12, 2011)

This whole review/ comments were an interesting read to say the least.

ShortstopFromTokyo (August 11, 2011)

Who said we took ourselves seriously? We are a ska band. We have to have a sense of humor about everything. Honestly, the fact that he didn't enjoy us really doesn't bother us. Obviously we'd like everyone to like us, but you can't always please everyone. I am a big fan of punknews and was on it and found this article. We thought this whole thing was hilarious, so we wrote a song. The fact that people keep defending us and shutting us down on this comment board is quite the enjoyable read....

Misanthropee (August 11, 2011)

LOL @ the indignant butthurt from Shortstop from Tokyo. Nobody who takes themselves that seriously can possibly write good songs. Never heard you guys, don't need to now.

Interesting review, didn't hate it, but that star rating doesn't at all reflect the content.

thegreatestmanalive (August 11, 2011)

I love bomb, but when I saw them in Ottawa they played only 4 songs that weren't on vacation. I was waiting to buy the album at the show so I didn't know any of the songs, it kind of bummed me out there were like 10 new songs with absolutely zero played from goodbye cool world. That being said, it was still a great show

darbystrummer77 (August 11, 2011)

am i the only one who thought that review was goodl? so what if he doesn't like the openers? it sounds like he enjoyed the show and wrote a review that was more than a set list. job well done to the author.

StolenTShirt (August 11, 2011)

Video's rad. I also dig these guys, I think. It's summer, folks. Enjoy yourselves some ska, it's later than you think.

squelch84 (August 11, 2011)

Can't wait to see Dave Satterwhite's band!

WasteBasketTim (August 11, 2011)

Man that was a quick video response. Awesome.
Also, I've been to many a show at the beat kitchen and it seems that they really like to pump the bass in general there. Just throwin that out there.

I just pooped my pants.

StolenTShirt (August 11, 2011)

I think there are some overly cynical blanket-type statements here. As a massive BTMI! enthusiast, and based on Red Scare's comment, I feel a bit misrepresented. As much as I don't love a ton of ska bands anymore, I don't think it's really very fair to write off these Shortstop From Tokyo folks like that. In fact, in words that Rosenstock has said himself, "Let's see your fucking band." You're at what is probably the cheapest show you'll see all year, one that great pains were taken to ensure that everyone who wanted to get in could get in and you're complaining that you don't like the opening band because they play 3rd wave ska that sounds like 3rd wave ska? And the mix? I took a listen to this band and they sound like a band that's been playing long enough to responsibly set their stage volume levels so I would aim your annoyance elsewhere.

Maybe they did suck, I have no idea because I live way the hell out in Boston, but if you're writing a review of a show on a site like this where lots of people are going to be reading it, I don't think you're beyond reproach for bashing a band like that and not even affording them the courtesy of a sentence or two to objectively let folks know who they are and what they do.

BTMI! might be my favorite band but I don't condemn every other band for not being my favorite. The review is not without it's merits, I just think the above issues are reprehensible beyond compare.

Also, did you watch the same Sidekicks I did? I'm pretty sure those guys are well over the drinking age.

REDTHUNDAAR (August 10, 2011)

Dave clearly just has a problem.

WasteBasketTim (August 10, 2011)

Seems to be little content about the actual show. Nice try.

i-like-food (August 10, 2011)

This show was awesome. And I'm sure I'm one of the 16 year old kids you were talking about. No shame

superskabro (August 10, 2011)

What a stupid review. I love BTMI and I am excited for this tour but this review is even worse than ANY of the awful reviews by Skibz777. This asshole seemed to be using the review as a way of talking about how cool he is. I love the idea of peer and fan reviews, but when shit like this ends up representing punknews.org, it lessens the integrity of the whole website. It's time to clamp down and weed out sub-par crap like this.

Slazey (August 10, 2011)

Good review. Polarising, self-aware, outspoken and motivated by a love for the music. Jeff would approve.

swank (August 10, 2011)

So, seems to me like the underlying point of this review was to let everyone know that the only cool people in the room that night, the only people who really "got it", were Jeff Rosenstock and the reviewer.
Cool story, Brah.

quickattack (August 10, 2011)

If you love Jeff so much then why say you don't want him to get more popular? That's a bit selfish I'd say.

ShortstopFromTokyo (August 10, 2011)

Thanks for the scathing review!

-Shortstop From Tokyo

mowlio (August 9, 2011)

Shortstop aren't THAT bad.. fun at least and got the audience warmed up... I've seen the SIdekicks support BTMI twice on that tour (in NY at Baby Castles and in Chicago) and was underwhelmed both times personally they bore the shit out of me. The only saving grace was BTMI they're always so much fun.

RedScare (August 9, 2011)

I was at this show. What I take from this review is that BTMI die-hards have a, uhhh, unique perspective on things?

Fun night though.

maxethunders (August 9, 2011)

Makes me wish I would have made it to Chicago or La Crosse for this show. Uh, maybe next time guys. And yes Vacation is amazing, I don't know if it's sadder that I can identify with every song or that Jeff has written them all.

SkaDoesntSuckDude (August 9, 2011)

Wow dude. I‚??m pretty sure you just hate ska. Ska incorporates upstrokes on the guitar into nearly every song. This goes for all waves of ska. That's how ska is differentiated. I happen to greatly enjoy Shortstop From Tokyo. You are entitled to your opinion. I do wish that rather than saying how much you think a band is trying to be like Reel Big Fish (which I don‚??t think is the case at all), you would listen to the actual music. Again, I understand not liking a genre, but that doesn‚??t mean a band sucks. Did the band have their shit together? Did they do their genre some justice? When writing a review, you are generally supposed to take your own feelings about certain things and throw them out the window. Listen objectively to a set and then formulate a decision. Don‚??t immediately judge them. I personally love Bomb The Music Industry! as well, though not to your obviously love affair. This review personally frustrated me beyond belief just because of the immediate judging that you did on not only Shortstop From Tokyo, but also The Sidekicks, who are actually older than the members of Shortstop. Also, you do realize that the Beat Kitchen‚??s sound man is responsible for the sound in the room. The band on the stage creates the mix they like on stage, and the sound guy creates the mix in the room. I was at this show, and did think the bass was turned up a bit too much, but that‚??s not something that is constant in Shortstop‚??s usual shows. Like I said, formulate your opinion, but when writing a review, write objectively. Not writing objectively just makes you look rather foolish and incredibly judgmental. I would have prefaced this article ‚??I Love Bomb The Music Industry! but Loathe the Third Wave of Ska‚?Ě.

MuhammadMormon (August 9, 2011)

I'd rather listen to a RBF ripoff than anything done by that waste of life Jeff Rosenstock.

Score's for that turd, and The Sidekicks. The fucking Warped Tour would probably have been better than this show. Goddamn.

dropkick715 (August 9, 2011)

I saw Bomb in Buffalo recently and their live show is definitely the tightest and most fun it has ever been. Songs off Vacation mesh well with the old favorites. I wish the hooks on new songs were a little catchier but they manage to get stuck in my head just the same.

Jeff if you are reading this TEH KIDZ WANT METAL!!

k-dubs (August 9, 2011)

holy crap just go blow jeff rosenstock already.

blackpowerballad (August 9, 2011)

Wait, did you really say that Jeff Rosenstock has a "better knack for hooks and cadence" than Craig Finn and John Darnielle? No way.

blackpowerballad (August 9, 2011)

The Sidekicks ARE of drinking age. I'm guessing you said that based off their Red Scare press release, which is over 4 years old. They've since graduated from college.

ZappBrannigan (August 9, 2011)

This review was a great read, and Vacation is fantastic.

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