I was really hyped for this show. I've been going to a lot of shows recently, and with each one I'm a little more jaded and a little less excited, but this one was different. Q And Not U are my third favorite band, and I'm pretty thrilled anytime I get to see them. The three of them always put on a great show, whether they are playing to ten or two-hundred people. Tonight was more towards the latter, filling the Fireside pretty much to capacity. I'm not sure if it sold out, but I wouldn't be surprised. So anyways, on to the show.
First up were The Feud, whose CD I probably would have bought after the show had I not spent it all on Q merch. They were somewhat like a poor man's QANU, mixed with a bit of Appleseed Cast and The React Factor (bonus points if you know who they are), but without any vocals. They still had some really neat beats though, and some hard-rockin' driving guitar parts. But, as everyone knows, for an instrumental band to succeed, they have to be really good. And as opposed to bands which are just fine how they are without vocals (see Hella and Dakota/Dakota), these guys could have definitely used some vocals to spice it up and make the long breakdowns in their songs seem less repetitive and more interesting. But as I said, I would have bought their CD, and I'd still recommend them to most people if you get the chance to see them.
Next up were French Toast, fellow Dischordians of QANU, comprised of James Canty (Make Up, Nation Of Ulysses) and Jerry Busher (Fidelity Jones, All Scars). Sadly, they ended up being a bit disappointing, especially knowing their intimidating pedigree. The band is a blend of guitar, drums, keyboard, samplers and vocals, which they switch up pretty much every song, sharing duties on everything. This makes for a lot of variety, but the lack of a third member to provide a fuller sound leaves the songs sounding a bit empty, even with James' haunting vocals cascading over the crowd. Their sound was also really badly mixed, something which has gotten better at the Fireside for the most part. I guess they were one of the unlucky ones. I don't mean to get too down on them though, because they are both obviously great musicians, and play their parts well throughout, whatever instrument they're on. It just didn't come together in the end like i'd expect it to, and wanted it to. I would definitely like to see them again in a year or so though, mixed well, so I could see how they've refined their sound. They were far from a total loss.
By this point in the show I was getting quite a bit antsy for QANU, and was really hoping for a good band to tide me over. Chris from QANU had told me earlier in the show that he was excited to see The Red Eyed Legends, because they are ex- Circus Lupis, Monorchid and Skull Patrol, great D.C. punk bands, relocated to Chicago. But man oh man, these guys sucked it. Now, I'm not one to protest or condone substance abuse, but most of these guys were obviously drunk, and two of them looked hopped up on something or other. The singer was obviously trashed (it was his birthday, go figure), and could hardly sing into the mic for more than a couple seconds without leaning away, mid-sentence, so all of the vocals were either too quiet or doppled in and out constantly. The other members of the band weren't much better. The bassist kept on smiling goofily after messing up, and the other guitarist almost fell off of the stage. The drummer was the only halfway competent one. There were one or two songs which I enjoyed, because they were fast enough to allow for a minimum of screw-ups and almost felt like true D.C. punk, but overall their set droned on forever. Now, maybe I grossly misinterpreted their drunkenness, maybe they were just rocking out in a very odd way or maybe that's their thing, but most likely this was just one of those times when a band is way too, for lack of a better term, fucked up to perform.
By the time the *cough* Legends were done, I was looking forward to Q And Not U more than ever before in my life. The opening bands were, overall, kinda crap, and I longed for the soothing fusion of Chris, Harris and John. They had cancelled their show with Denali about two months before this show because John broke his foot playing hockey, so I was really happy that they had decided to still play Chicago on this new tour. And after seeing their set, I knew that every second spent waiting for them was worth it, tenfold. They put on one of the best sets I have ever seen, anywhere. I've been to probably two-hundred shows, and their set alone put this show in my top 5, ever. They were stunning. They were spectacular. Suffice to say, they rocked me like a hurricane. Like ten typhoons, even. I thought that they were great when I saw them last September, but they had twice as much energy this time around. Chris didn't stop moving for a second, catapulting himself off the walls and shaking his ass all over the stage. I don't think he looked at his guitar once in the entire set. And when he played bass it flowed out just as naturally. His voice has gotten so strong and dynamic, it's amazing to hear. Between songs he'd yell out a couple of words over and over with a beautiful almost-whining wail that I can't begin to describe or emulate, and that I've never heard before. During the songs he blasted through every word and intonation with passion and decisiveness, opening the evening by spelling out S-O-F, T-P-Y, R-A-M, I-D-S, E-V-A, P-O-R, A-T-E in perfect rhythm, and closing it with a ten-minute rousing anti-war spoken word/rap/ballad with some of the most poignant lyricism i've heard on the topic in a while ("i'm not a machine, i'm not a machine, my heart pumps blood, not gasoline"). Harris looks a lot less middle-aged since he's shaved his head and grown it out, but looks suitably mature and experienced manipulating the keyboard, guitar, recorder and dustpan. He's a master of whatever instrument he holds in his hands, and obviously has fun while he does it. When he sings with Chris it compliments him perfectly, while the songs where he sings lead demonstrate that he could be the lead singer of any band around. He experiments as much as anyone else in the band, while every note and sound has it's place. That's something that I think defines this band. Even though their music can feel improvised and malleable, it never feels out of place. Every single sound or noise that they produce has a place, and makes you feel like the song wouldn't be the same without it. John is a fantastic drummer, and I didn't hear a hint of hesitation from his post-broken foot. He is incredibly tight, from the faster more punk stuff to the stuttering disco beats to the slower subtle mellow rhythms that permeate the downtime in some of their songs. Sometimes he'll play the drums with maracas, giving a salsa flavor that fits so well into what they do. I usually hate to put music in genres, but I think that indie-dance would be very appropriate here, with a definite dub influence. Another one of the things that made their set so great was their song choice. Last time I saw them they played songs almost exclusively off their new record, Different Damage, which wasn't even released then, slightly alienating the crowd. They also told me in an interview then that they were working on relearning their older stuff so that they could play it whenever. Well, they did, and they did.
They opened with "Soft Pyramids" and "So Many Animal Calls", straight off of their new CD, and also played "Air Conditions", "Black Plastic Bag", "Meet Me In The Pocket", "This Are Flashes", "Everybody Ruins", "When The Line Goes Down", "Recreation Myth", "A Line In The Sand", "Fever Sleeves", and "Hooray For Humans", in no particular order. It was a really good mix of new and old, and was significantly longer than the 35-minute set that they played last time they were here. They also played the war song which I mentioned earlier, which doesn't have a title yet. And I didn't even mention that they did an encore, which is virtually unheard of at the Fireside.
So, all in all, Q And Not U more than made up for the sub-par opening bands, and put on one of the best shows i've ever seen. If you like them and you like their music, don't hesitate to go see them. For my money, they're the best live band that's still together.