For those wishing for a respite from the "pretty" punk shows, this tour was perfect. All the groups involved had lots more substance than style, and more fun than a group of drunken sailors the night after they returned from sea.
What about the music? Shush. I'm trying to foist my narrowminded view on you, the reader.
First up, and who I can only assume was a local opener, the Matics ripped into about 7 songs, announcing: "Usually we have 5 shots in between songs, but we'll do that later." If you're wondering whether that sounds just a tad like Dillinger Four, that's why I wrote it, because the Matics sound like a cross between Dillinger Four and Hot Water Music. Lots of gravelly vocals and heavy guitars, cemented by a solid rhythm section. Definitely worth checking out. (Thanks Bill, you were right.)
At the Bottom Lounge, things seem to be getting better. For the first time I can remember, they have a working light system, and have played wonderful music between bands (included were Descendents' "I'm Not A Loser," Hot Water Music's "Trusty Chords" and Lifetime's "Young, Loud And Scotty"), so perhaps that's where the $2 surcharge is going on the $10 tickets.
Anywho, the Loved Ones made their second Chicago appearance, the first being an in-store at the Virgin Megastore 4 hours previously. As could be expected from their previous groups, their live show was excellent and highly addictive. No one seemed to be getting into it, though. Then again, I've seen more crowded condemned 200-year-old Victorian villas than the Bottom Lounge that night. Sure, I and a couple other people knew the words, and for that, I enjoyed the set and it seems so did the rest of the docile crowd. TLO return with Tsunami Bomb, and that sounds like a tour that's more TLO's speed, so if you're interested, I'd suggest that tour.
Throw Rag were fucking bizarre. Before I get to their onstage antics, I have to be honest; the music was great. Absolutely wonderful. Fast, dirty, sleazy stuff which never strayed too far from street punk. To that formula, they brought what could only be the evil version of Avail's Beau Beau. He played spoons, mandolin, trumpet, whatever the song called for, and occasionally added backing vocals. While their energy was not boundless, their set seemed to take a life of its own, and everyone in the venue smiled and went along with it.
Of course, whether the smile was out of confusion or enjoyment, you couldn't tell. The singer started out in a sailor's cap and a suit and pants, but by the end of the set, he was down to his underwear, shoving his crotch in the faces of the girls up front. His voice betrayed either insanity, a speed addiction, or a carefully rehearsed and calculated stage presence. Further than that, the group's get-up seemed to be there for the sole purpose of convincing the audience that these guys were as cuddly as a rabid wolverine and as sleazy as a cheap motel. Something tells me Johnny Rotten would be proud.
That said, that sort of street punk thing isn't my cup of tea, so if you are familiar with this stuff, and think I've got this group pegged wrong, do tell me.
I expected the Explosion to draw a bigger crowd, but this was not the case. Rising punk rock band gaining fans on a global scale, my ass. At the height of the performance, there were 75 people there, and that's a generous estimate. This is Chicago, on a Friday night, near to public transportation. Be it an anomaly or something else, the Explosion persevered and the assembled crew of punx, indie kids, hipsters, and locals here for the Matics got together and sang along for nearly an hour to old favorites like "God Bless The S.O.S.," "Terrorist," "E.X.P.L.O.S.I.O.N." and "Sick Of Modern Art" as well as Black Tape material "No Revolution," "Here I Am" (which sounds worlds better than the recorded version), "Atrocity," "I Know," and old as hell material "Seeing Red" (yes, that was a Minor Threat cover, and that made me shit my pants).
For those wondering if a major label dulled the Explosion's edge, I can't say. Sure, I saw them in 2003 with AFI and the Blood Brothers, but I didn't understand the genre well enough then. I can, however, tell you that the Explosion kicked major ass this time around. As stated previously, tracks from Black Tape gelled well with older stuff, and the new material seemed somehow more catchy than previous "efforts." Million Dollar Matt, Damien and the boys romped through the set with indefatigable energy, even asking the audience for suggestions as to where to drink after the show.
The night was one of raucous fun, hanging out with friends and generally enjoying the company of a limited number of people, all screaming along with you.
The press release up on pastepunk sums up the tour perfectly:
So, we…I asked them [The Explosion] who they want to have come as support for this April/May tour, they replied with Throw Rag & the Loved Ones. Instead of picking the new, hip, cool, shitty band on whatever cool, hip, crappy label, they wanted to accomplish one thing: have the most fun possible."
If a night of fun, honest, punk rock was the aim, then the tour succeeded on a grand scale. Highly recommended.