Ah, my first concert in the big city. As usual for me, getting there was half the adventure. Due to my poor sense of direction and a confusing as hell metro stop (which featured many stores and levels), I got all turned around and had no idea where I was going. Thankfully, I had my phone and it was able to guide me the rest of the way. When I got there around a quarter to four, there was already a pretty substantial line of people, most of who seemed to be kids. I remember the days of arriving an hour before doors opened just to be one of the first ones in so I could jam myself against the stage and sit through the opening bands just to be as close to the headliners as possible.
The show was at the House of Blues Chicago. For some reason, I expected it to be a bigger venue from the name, but it was a relatively small place. I would compare it to the Recher Theatre in Baltimore in terms of size. I was surprised to see stools set up around the venue, but most of them said reserved. Amazingly, I was able to find one that didn't say that and took a seat. Normally I wouldn't sit, but I didn't know too many of the bands and I didn't feel like joining the kids on the floor. Plus, I had a perfect view of the stage from where I was sitting. Reggie and the Full Effect was headlining, but I came mostly to see Mc Chris -- Reggie was just a nice bonus.
David Costa Is Dead played first tonight. I had never heard of them before, but that's not surprising considering I hadn't heard of most of who was playing tonight. As it turns out, they were some group from Indiana who Reggie picked up to play this show with them. The first thing I noticed when they came on stage were the dual vocalists. Off the top of my head, the only group I can think of that did/do two singers well was the Blood Brothers, but I was trying to keep an open mind. Unfortunately for them, as soon as they started their set, my suspicions were confirmed. Their style can best be described as a hip-hop emo group. They were heavy on the bass and drums. The guitar was downplayed through most of the verses and accented a little more in the chorus. I was taken back a bit as they closed their first song with full-blown screams back and forth. It was an interesting genre melding, but interesting does not always mean good. Most of the songs in the rest of their set followed the same pattern and it got pretty old pretty quick. Judging by the limited crowd response throughout, I wasn't the only one who thought so.
I like hip-hop when it is done well, but these guys were two mediocre white boys who didn't seem entirely comfortable with their words the whole set. Chalk that up to nerves or the fact that they weren't sure if they were rappers or screamo singers; whatever it was, it was not doing it for me. I also love genre blending when it's done well, but again, they failed to do that well. Plus, the only time I saw any real energy from anyone other than the singers was in the last song. It was nice to see some movement from the rest of the group, but it was too little too late -- not to mention, the last song had some pretty lame lyrics about world peace. There's nothing wrong with that, but they were pretty juvenile.
Up next was the band Warship. Like their name implies, this band took the stage by storm. Maybe it's because they were just so different from David Costa Is Dead or maybe it was just their intensity; whatever the reason, they were a welcome addition to the set. Their opening song was a blistering metal song with drumming and guitar intensity reminiscent of Darkest Hour. Vocally, I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but as the night went on, I can best describe the vocals as being closest to the later stuff of the late From Autumn to Ashes. His blistering scream and rough-around-the-edges clean vocals reminded me heavily of the material from Holding a Wolf by the Ears. When I got home I looked the band up and found out that they're the followup band for the vocalist and one other member of From Autumn to Ashes, so the similarities I noted were pretty valid.
What I admired about this band was their ability to change tempo and time signatures in mid-song so successfully. They would open songs with blazing double-bass rolls and equally fast guitar riffs. Then in the middle of the song, they were able to have a breakdown without merely just slowing down, but a full time signature change that didn't take from the song at all. Clearly this was a talented bunch of musicians who have been playing for a while. They all worked very well together despite the fact that they've only been together about four months. They pulled out a slow song in the middle of their set and I was a little skeptical, but they proved me wrong. The nice thing about slow songs is that they can build up to cataclysmic greatness. Warship didn't exactly do this, but the climax of the song was quite good and the following song it led into hit you like a punch in the face.
They did a nice job creating original music that was enough of a departure from From Autumn to Ashes to be their own band. However, the subtle similarities were enough to remind me that half the band used to be in the former group. I do look forward to seeing what else these guys can produce in the future.
Following Warship was the band Leathermouth -- probably the closest thing to punk rock I was going to hear that night. I thought Warship was intense, but these guys blew that away. They arrived on stage wearing matching home-made undershirts and draping American flags over their equipment donning their little band symbol, which can be best described as an homage to old Anti-Flag; a circle with a line through it. They seemed to have a rather loyal following in Chicago as I saw numerous kids who made their own Leathermouth shirts as a tribute to the band's stage uniforms. Without a word, they erupted into their first song. Almost as soon as the drums started and the guitars joined in, I could tell this was an East Coast band. The gang vocals, the rapid guitars, the anger in every word from the singer's mouth, they had all the signs of an East Coast band.
Vocally, their styling varied between H2O and old Agnostic Front to Mark Unseen's more recently developed screaming. Lyrically, they were exactly what you would expect from a hardcore band: angry lyrics about subjects like killing the president and life's hardships. Their stage presence, music and crowd interaction more than made up for weak lyrics. They were nothing amazing, but they were fun to watch and it was one more band for me to want to look up later.
Playing forth tonight was the great white hope himself, MC Chris. If you've never heard of MC Chris, which clearly many of the people there tonight had not, you might know him best as MC Pee Pants from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Hesh from "Sealab 2021." That's right: This high-pitched comedy oddity has a prominent rap career. His songs range from such subjects as Boba Fett to finding the clitoris, Robatussin to Reese's Pieces and various other humorous subjects. To make things even better, he's really good at what he does. His rhymes are blazing fast and flow from his mouth like water. He knows how to write catchy hooks for his songs and just plain excellent rhythms throughout. MC Chris is really an anomaly in a sea of shitty hip-hop. He knows he's good, but he doesn't take himself seriously at all. He has fun with what he does and he knows to get everyone else to have a good time too.
When you go to an MC Chris show, you don't go to hear his songs live. For the most part, it's just him up there with his computer plugged into the PA playing his tracks with him singing the lead vocals over them. It is pretty cool to actually hear him sing his stuff live as fast as it is on the record, but it sounds pretty much the same. The beauty of an MC Chris show is in his crowd control. He establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with in his first few songs. He loosens the crowd up with some jokes and references to nerdy things, like Batman. He got the crowd real excited right before he did "White Kids Love Hip-Hop," talking about how much he loved "Dark Knight." He then showed the kids rap hands and described them as devil horns, but it's all five fingers and you wave your hand up and down. It was quite funny that as soon as the song started, everyone started doing rap hands and he turned the song off. He came back saying that you're only supposed to do that during the chorus. After forgiving everyone for their mistake, he started again.
He had the crowd in the palms of his hands throughout his set. All he had to do was jump and the crowd followed. He drew mostly from older material tonight, which was a little disappointing. His new CD is so good and I would have loved to hear more from it, but I can't complain about an MC Chris show. It was nice to see these kids who had never heard of MC Chris swarming his merch stand after the show to get their hands on some stuff and give to his fight against cystic fibrosis, which by the way, he raised $15,000 dollars for last year. What's also nice about MC Chris is that he is more than willing to stand by the table, meet his fans, sign autographs and take pictures. He meets so many people that if you try and talk to him, he doesn't really seem to give a shit, but that's okay because he's just trying to make everyone happy and probably meets so many people that he couldn't remember what you had to say anyways.
Closing the night was Reggie and the Full Effect. Having never seen them before in concert, I had no idea what I was in store for. I had always heard good things about their shows; needless to say, I was looking forward to it. What I got was one of the most eccentric performances I had ever seen. Their particular blend of punk-pop never fully clicked with me, but tonight, it just all came together and I was able to enjoy them live more than at home. Maybe part of that had to do with the fact that James Dewees came out wearing a Hannah Montana T-shirt, pink long johns and MC Chris short shorts over the top. He was also wearing a ridiculous wig which he referred to as Kenny Loggins. He opened with a few songs from his alter-ego, Fluxuation (he used this alias for his overtly poppy songs).
After that, he removed the wig and was joined on stage by the remainder of the band. The result is what I can best describe as a cluster-bomb of a musical performance. Dewees is a master of musical deception the way that most songs start off leading you to believe you are listening to metal, but then in come the clean vocals and keyboards and it's all Reggie. I couldn't tell you the names of most of the songs they played that night, but I did recognize them. They played a pretty nice range of music from all of their older albums. They only played one song from Last Stop: Crappy Town, the one album of theirs I've never really heard. It didn't really matter to me, though; I was having a great time no matter what they played.
Their energy was at top level throughout their set and the crowd loved them. I can't say I blame them; I was never much of a Reggie fan, but now I would love to catch them live again. Too bad this was their "Farewell Tour." Hopefully, Dewees will make an effort to bring back Reggie.
The show was almost cut short when some skinhead asshole threw a beer at the stage right guitarist. It was made known that he was straight-edge earlier in the show, so it was no surprise how pissed off he got at this guy. After the song was over, he bet that whoever threw that wouldn't come forward. This guy was throwing out fighting words and ready to throw down. Eventually the guy did come forth during the set and tried to rush the stage.
Thankfully, they finished their set because they closed with their cover of Slayer's "Reign in Blood," and it was awesome. It comes across live better than it ever did on the album. For an encore, Dewees came back on the stage and played some unfinished Fluxuation songs, but not before he made his feelings clear on the guy who almost ruined it for everyone. His parents were at the show that night, so he was making an effort to keep it clean, but once he got going on the subject of dumb drunks who try and show how tough they are by fighting people, he let the expletives fly. It was nice to see someone take a stand against all these douche bags that just come to shows to be, well, douche bags. For their final, final song, a Common Denominator song was played. It was quite a scene to see the band all come out in their ridiculous wigs, but I loved it. I had to laugh because at that point I looked to my right and there was MC Chris standing there digging it as much as I was.
Overall, it was a great show. Seeing Reggie was definitely the highlight since I had never seen them and may never see them again. I did find out that the Get Up Kids are getting back together and will be touring come spring. Not that I really care about the Get Up Kids, but it was interesting to find out where Dewees will be spending his time when he's not doing Reggie.