If there was anything disappointing to be said about this past Riot Fest weekend, it was that I had to choose between seeing Gaslight Anthem and A Wilhelm Scream. In the end, I went with Gaslight. My disappointment was only amplified knowing that Wilhelm would be playing in Joliet the following Monday and I had no way to get there. By some dumb luck, the show was canceled and they scrambled to find a replacement venue. Well, the good people at mpshows, along with Toby Jeg at Red Scare, were able to put up Township's services. The next step was getting people to the show.
With the show not being announced until 4 p.m., doors at 8, and the looming threat of rain, I was skeptical about the turnout. My friends and I arrived at doors to a room of about 15-20 people. With Junior Battles having to go on at 8:15 and the room still pretty spacious, I was worried my skepticism would be confirmed. Lo and behold, in that 15 minutes, people trickled in and the room was growing ever more full as one of the best shows I've been to in a long while got underway.
I can't believe I had never heard Junior Battles before this night. Apparently Southern Ontario knows how to do pop-punk right. They were fast, melodic and had spot on harmonies reminiscent of Alkaline Trio or the Sidekicks. Their lightning fast ability to change chord progressions blew me away. Their songs were complex and yet still managed to contain a hook to keep you going. Bassist Justin Taylor was able to create interesting scales and keep the rhythm driving. The real strength of these guys was their ability to just sound huge. There were only four of them, but they felt like there was so much more. It was a pleasant surprise being able to hear all the leads and harmonies since Township isn't necessarily known for the best sound in Chicago.
I bought their full length "Idle Ages" and spun that numerous times in the following days. I recognized most of the tracks from that album that were played that night. The energy and intensity of that album is only magnified in a live setting. The only downside being they didn't have their entire catalog available for purchase. I can not recommend seeing this band enough.
After one of the fastest changes I've ever seen, it was time for A Wilhelm Scream. The tiny room was now packed and being well aware of their fans' tendency to go nuts, Nuno Pereira reminded the crowd to be mindful of each other and the venue. Then it got nuts. They tore right into "The Kids Can Eat a Bag of Dicks" and it was game over from there.
Their set was a fairly balanced mix of their catalog with a slightly heavier focus on pre-Career Suicide. They threw in a new track called "Gut Sick." Given we haven't heard anything new from them in about three years, it was a welcome addition to the set list. If this is an indication of things to come, then we are in for a real treat. If anyone there was unfamiliar with any of the songs they played, you would never know it based on their reaction. There was a constant surge from the crowd that frequently resulted in people falling onto the floor-level stage. With barely enough room for the band, you'd think someone would have minded. But, Wilhelm, being an amazing band, totally fed off of it. Pereira spent a good amount of time immersed in the wall of people in front of the stage clamoring for a chance to get the mic.
It really says something about the state of the music we listen to these days when it is impressive that a band can record technically precise lines and replicate them live. On that note, Wilhelm Scream didn't miss a beat that night. It had been a few years since I've seen them and I was dying to see "Skid Rock" for myself. It is mind boggling enough to hear that opening bass line in the album, but to watch Brian Robinson perform it is really something else. There was a point where he and the guitarist (I'm not sure which one) were harmonizing on a finger tapping solo and I was blown away.
The Kids Can Eat A Bag Of Dicks
The Soft Sell
Jaws - 3, People - 0
We Built This City on Debts & Booze
When I Was Alive: Walden III
Me Vs. Morrissey In The Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)
The King is Dead
Famous Friends & Fashion Drunks
For any shit I've ever given social media, utilizing it to put this show together completely redeemed it. I can't imagine it being able to be even a tenth as successful if there weren't a way to communicate with a massive amount of people so quickly. I know it sucks to be the people in Joliet who missed out on this show, but I couldn't be happier to have been able to see these bands in such an intimate venue. There is really something to be said for a roomful of people who are all there specifically to the bands playing. The energy is higher, the sing alongs are louder and there are just better times to be had. This show was one of those rare instances where a crisis became an opportunity.