The theme of the night was acoustic guitars at the historical Fireside Bowl, in Chicago, Illinois.
But before I discovered that, I spent an hour and half driving into the city in some of the worst weather I've ever had the discomfort of being in [comparable only to the torrential downpour my friends and I suffered going to and from seeing the Faint in Champaign a year and a half ago]. Snow was falling, cars were sliding, and my knuckles were whitening. I finally made it to the run down bowling alley and found a parking spot, and entered as the first act, the Geese, were setting up.
The Geese were billed as "ex-American Football," which pumped the hell out of me since American Football was one of the best bands of all time.
No, really, they were.
Anyway, as the Geese took the stage, I recognized AF [and DMS] drummer Steve Lamos settling in behind the kit, and I figured I was in for a treat, as he is a spectacular percussionist.
I was wrong. They sucked, and hard. I am not one to judge a band immediately, but man, this band had nothing going for them. Their sound was very American Football-derivative but more generic [think boring folk rock], and their vocalists weren't really very good at all. Points were also deducted for their acoustic guitarist looking JUST LIKE Chris Carabba of Dashboard Confessional fame. Seriously.
So after their atrocity of a set, we settled in to watch Bob Nanna of Hey Mercedes play an acoustic set. I wasn't sure what to expect him playing - I figured it would be roughly half Hey Mercedes stuff and half The City On Film stuff [that is Bob's moniker for his solo project]. Well, I was close to right. He played [in no order] "Stay Six," "Every Turn," and "11 To Your 7" from his Hey Mercedes repertoire, as well as a good handful of solo material and a cover of a Nathan Larson [from Shudder To Think] song.
And then there was a little song called "A Dozen Roses."
You heard me right. Bob busted out the Braid gem for all of us diehards in the audience, and I just about wet myself. The audience was dead silent during Bob's set, just listening to every softly plucked note and every uttered word to eminate from the stage. It was amazing.
How could the night be topped when it had seemed to already peak? Well it couldn't, but the next band really tried. The Lesser Birds of Paradise came on next, and put on a lullabic set that soothed me almost into submission. The group's sound is very similar to that of the Mojave 3 or Boxstep, or for an easier comparison, imagine the slower, quieter side of the Weakerthans. Lesser Birds of Paradise reminded me a ton of the Weakerthans, in both voice and instrument. They even played a freakin' saw on stage! It was well-done, but the crowd was just getting too loud to really hear the subtleties of the group's set. They won me over enough to buy their newest EP, which is highly enjoyable.
Finally, Mike Kinsella, under his stage name of Owen, set up with just a chair and an acoustic guitar. As he began with a cover song, the venue became packed [I'd say easily 250 were there], and the majority of them wouldn't shut the hell up. Owen played a mighty fine set consisting of new and old material, but since it was done without a backing band, Mike's voice and acoustic guitar were drowned out by the evergrowing din of the audience. Downtrodden, we left the show wishing we could've had heard and seen him better, but some things just weren't meant to be that night.