Let's start by saying that Justin was nice enough to allow me free passage to this show in exchange for a review for this here website. Unfortunately, my friend Kyle and I spent the hour before the show in the parking lot across the street drinking two bottles of champagne and singing to old Jawbreaker and Against Me! songs, so combining that with the two whiskey sours and amount of blood I swallowed during the show (I'll get to that in a bit), this won't be the most complete review because I feel like shit today. So, sorry for that Justin. It's the Lawrence Arms. I'm sure you understand.
I arrived in time to see the Blackout Pact rocking out to applause but an unfortunately unenthused crowd. I love this band, more than I like the Draft really. Hello Sailor was one of my top albums last year, and I was really excited to see them play some cuts live. The band had an average stage presence as a whole, but the lead singer put his all into the vocals. It was fun and they did their best to try and get the crowd energized. They ended with the single, "We Drink So You Don't Have To," but the highlight was probably "You Punch Me, I Punch You."
The Draft's In a Million Pieces is not a record that grabs me. It's good, just not great. However, I was never the biggest Hot Water Music fan on record, either; however, I did love their live show. So, while on the album the band isn't the greatest, their live show was full of energy and just flat out rock and roll. Every second was on, every note supercharged. The songs sound so much better live than they do on record, which is probably why I will continue to see this band live. Hopefully on future recordings they'll be able to capture the intensity and the flat out good-time rock sound they provide live.
Another good part about the Draft was the 'bro' type dude who, after annoying everyone by crashing into them for the better part of the set, ran into the wrong guy who, with ninja-like reflexes, dropped this huge dude to the ground. I'm all for being drunk and rocking out at a show, but this guy was an easy 200 pounds and was running into people and shoving them into everyone else just for fun. But soon he was gone and it was time for the main event.
"Hi, we're the Lawrence Arms and this is our 865th show. If you know anything about ancient mythology, you know that 865 is a very important number so I have no doubt that this will be the greatest show we will ever play."
While Brendan Kelly's words were not nearly that coherent, that's the general idea of what he was slurring through to introduce the band. And, I have to say, this was the greatest time I've ever seen Chicago's finest. This set was beyond amazing. The crowd up front was smallish, but everyone was beyond into the music. The set was not measured in songs; it was a blur of lyrics you knew by heart, that the people around you knew and everyone was there to sing them together. It's actually sort of hard to describe; very rarely, especially now at 23, do I still feel a camaraderie at shows, where I feel truly part of something amazing. This was that feeling to the limit and beyond. Words flowed through the crowd like alcohol, with every passing lyric the energy growing and mood only getting more positive.
I couldn't remember the full set list even if I tried. The Arms played for the better part of an hour, if not more. Chris did one of his solo songs. Neil came out and played guitar with the band. I was surprised to hear "The Revisionist" and "The Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure" instead of set staples like "Porno And Snuff Films" and "Alert The Audience!," but these were also songs I thought I'd never see live, so it was welcome. The introduction with "Recovering the Opposable Thumb" started off a roar that did not subside until the end of the last of the encore with "Key to the City."
The only part of the Arms' set I didn't enjoy was the rocked-out-too-hard, got-hit-in-the-face nosebleed, which kept me along the sidelines for a few tracks while I let it clot up. Sure, I felt like shit the whole next day, but it was worth it. While I was making sure I didn't bleed all over the place, I managed to take some pictures for you orgcore kids to enjoy.
I don't really know what to say; if you like the Lawrence Arms, this is the time to see them. This was less of a show and more of an experience. It gave me faith in punk rock. It made me feel good to listen to the music I do. Shows like these sustain you for a long time to come. I wish the Blackout Pact had gotten a bit more appreciation, but their time will come. This set was about as fun as they come, and I've said before how I hate nonstop gloating reviews of live shows on this site; but hey, it's the fucking Lawrence Arms, and after this show, if you like punk rock and do not love this band, I don't know what's wrong with you.