Shows at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago are always entertaining. If the bands themselves are not spearheading the fun, it seems that the crowd will do it themselves. Such was the case for this show on November 16th.
Illinois natives the Red Hot Valentines kicked things off with a whimper. I honestly cannot stand these guys. Imagine Reggie and the Full Effect taking themselves completely seriously while singing about girls running away and that ilk, and you have the RHVs. Not enjoyable in my book. The night did start to get interesting mighty quick, however, as some pseudo-skinheads made their way inside the Fireside [presumably for the Gadjits] and proceeded to heckle the hell out the band. The RHVs were flustered, to say the least. I and many of the people around me didn't enjoy the constant name calling during their set. I mean, I don't like the band at all, but heckling them is just plain rude. So the RHVs finished up their MOOG and Weezer-chord heavy set and quickly scampered off the stage.
Up next was a band that very few of us have ever heard of, I'm suspecting, but we all should know about them. Their name? Short Round. They are a power-punk trio from somewhere in California, and they are one of the most recent signings to powerhouse Asian Man Records. They had been in town recording their album and were kicking off the second leg of their tour that night. As for a style reference, imagine a sloppier version of the Alkaline Trio with not as depressing lyrics. Their bass player was really good, I thought, and he kind of looked like Dan from Alk3 [Slapstick-era, though, before he let himself go and get all fat on Blink-182's deli trays]. Their set was fast and strong, and the crowd was feeling the vibe, except for the same mall-skins as before. These kids looked like their respective moms had dropped them off at the show, yet they felt the need to berate the bands in every song break. All I have to say is at least their band is on stage. Where the fuck is your band? Short Round pulled through their set relatively unscathed, with the singer/guitarist taking some time out to shoot some well thought out cracks back at the hecklers. That shut them up real quick and sent them packing to the back of the Fireside.
The Gadjits were up next, and man, were we all in for a surprise. First off, they have a new organist and a new second guitar player. Secondly, they seem to have completely abandoned their ska roots from their first two Hellcat albums. As I perused the setlist before they went on, I only saw a few songs that sounded familiar. I wondered what we were in for. All of the sudden their drummer took the stage and began pounding out a spine-shuddering beat, calling the rest of the members from the wings to take up their respective instruments and rock the crowd with a fantastic rendition of "Beautiful Girl." The show was only uphill from there. Even though I knew very few of the new songs [I still haven't gotten the "Yes I Are" EP -- so sue me], I still felt the healing power of the rock music, as Wesley Willis might put it. Gone was the ska of yesteryear - present was some of the most balls out rock and roll I have witnessed in a long time. My mind kept on comparing them to AC/DC for their sheer power and hook writing skills. A lot of the new songs were very bluesy or R&B influenced, and it seems that we are all certainly in for a treat when their new full length comes out next year on Chicago's own THICK Records [it turns out they officially signed the contract that night after the show]. Once again the hecklers made themselves known during the Gadjits' set, ironic since this was the band they had all come to see. Apparently they didn't get the memo that the band was no longer performing their old material and had moved on. I bring you a sampling of what was said between skinhead and lead singer:
Pseudo-skin: "Come on man, play some of your old ska. I'll give you 10 bucks to play some of your old ska."
Singer: "That's funny, our old ska records cost about 10 bucks."
I laughed my ass off, as did most of the audience. The skins quickly vanished and the rest of the show was clear sailing. Keep a definite eye out for the Gadjits in 2002, they'll be trying their damnedest to play in your neighborhood, wake up your neighbors, sleep with your girlfriend, and eat all your Thanksgiving leftovers in your fridge. It's rock and roll, baby.
Now came the moment the majority of the crowd was waiting for: The Stereo. I love this band. The hooks are so over the top, the vocals are so similar to Journey, the lyrics are so unabashedly sappy -- how could anyone turn down this rock experience? Jamie and company [now featuring the old Animal Chin drummer and the guitarist and bassist from Pollen] rocked through the majority of their "No Traffic" LP [but no "You're On My Sonar" - denied!], while playing a few older numbers like "4 AM", "You've Got Some Nerve", "Devotion", and "She Would Never". Even though there was a keyboard on stage, it was used in only one song, and my goal to hear either "Please Try To Understand" and/or "Divine" at a show once again was unsuccessful. Alas. Jamie had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, having us jump simultaneously, make funny noises all at the same time, and getting pretty much everyone to sing their hearts out on every song. Towards the end of their lengthy set, Jamie took some time out to talk about how much Chicago, and the Fireside Bowl in particular, meant to him. I was close enough to see a glisten in his eye representing tears as he talked about the Fireside's impending destruction. With a newfound passion, the band launched into their final grouping of songs, culminating with Jamie deciding to stage dive into the crowd at the end of their set. Chicagoians proudly hoisted him up as one of their own, and as the amps were turned off, merch was packed up, and Har Mar Superstar was piped through the PA, everyone went away saying "damn, that was one hell of a rock show." I couldn't agree more.