The Beat Kitchen is quickly becoming my new favorite venue in Chicago. Now I've been there twice, both for Criteria shows, the first with Cursive. I have a knack for underestimating distances in the city, and my friends didn't want to pay for CTA so we embarked on a very cold, half-hour walk. We arrived and upon entrance were quickly herded into the backroom and told to stay there. After a few cigarettes, Hirudin took the stage.
Hirudin are a pretty straightforward band and there wasn't a whole lot of variation. They take a lot of influence from the D.C. punk scene. The vocals were interesting, but let's just say I was glad when they were done. They served the purpose of the first band though, and drew a pretty decent crowd in from the bar to see what the racket was. I did get kinda excited by a "High Fidelity" reference in a song.
Keep in mind though, these are just my first impressions of bands I'd never heard until Saturday.
Next up was Modern Temper. These guys put on quite an impressive show, incorporating some electronics into the lineup. The guitar and bass parts were quite interesting and never fell into standard repetition and routine. Quite a few of the songs had some funky bass work that lent well to the dancy feel of the songs. The crowd wasn't quite warmed up, but there were more than a few people shaking various things.
Memorable anecdote: At one point the bass strap broke mid-song and Joel responded by raising the bass like a rifle and battling on through the song. Like I mentioned before, these aren't one finger progressions. He was playing some pretty quick two and (I think I saw) three-finger lines. I was impressed. Did I mention they are from Chicago?
After their departure it was time for Lying in States. Also Chicago natives, Lying in States concluded the local part of the evening. While not as danceable, they also incorporate piano action and stay away from pounding power chords into your brain, while still managing to create a driving sound when necessary. They put on a good show and I managed to get some nice pictures since we had since moved our way to the front of the stage. The singer looks like Jesus by the way.
With Modern Temper and Lying in States, I feel much more confident about the Chicago scene.
Now, finally, the only out of town band and also the only one I knew. By now the place was filled up and I was quite excited to be in the front row, so close to that beautiful Travis Bean. Sadly, Thax, the local poet that reads at many shows, was absent as Criteria took the stage.
I've seen Criteria three times in the past few months and I swear they get better each time. Even on a small stage, Stephen looks like a rock god, swinging that massive guitar around and slipping back from the mic into huge, spread-leg rocking stances.
My first reaction was to lean over the monitors and look at the set list; in the end this set list meant nothing as they broke from it over and over. Unlike nearly every band I've seen, pretty much every request was played except for one. I think they said they weren't talented enough to play "Play on Words," but it might have been a different song.
I was surprised to actually see a mosh pit break out, especially in the crowd of mostly 21+ people. Then halfway through the set, the hi-hat chain broke and while a replacement hi-hat stand was being found, Stephen did Q&A, answering the most random questions and even passing his guitar into the crowd when someone asked how heavy it was.
Also my friend convinced him to hold a stuffed eagle for a picture. Long story short, it was extra credit for a class.
They also ended up playing a two-song encore to everyone's delight.
Everyone left happy and satisfied after a great show. Looking around I didn't see anyone that looked bored or was not moving in some way.
Here is what I remember from their se tlist (not in order):
- The Coincidence
- Prevent the World
- Grey Matter
- Run Together
- Self Help
- Salt in Game
- Kiss the Wake
- Good Luck
- Draped in Blood
- On Time
- Mainland Life
Sadly, no "Ride the Snake," although it was on the set list.
I agree with Tim Kasher when he said that Criteria is the new rock of Saddle Creek. This band is going to be the new Cursive perhaps, just more rock and less dissonance.
So far this was the best show of 2006!!