As everyone is well aware of by now, Jesse Michaels is in a new band, Classics of Love, and is taking his show on the road. The tour stops are a bit strange, mainly consisting of a handful of Midwest dates before jumping the pond. Thankfully, he chose to come to Chicago and play one of the best places to see a show.
After an unnecessarily long trip on the red line and a horrible, horrible change in the weather, I arrived at Reggie's in time to catch the last few songs of Noise by Numbers. Made up of members of other prevalent punk bands in Chicago, they had a fast, hard-driven sound. I wish I had seen more than the last three songs because they really had quite an energy to them that was nice to see.
After them was the band American Taxi. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. Their songs had a very Gaslight Anthem feel to them, but slightly more intense. They opened with a song called "Fed Up" and it was pretty rocking with catchy hooks and "whoa"s. Unfortunately, their set hit really hard in the beginning, but sort of fizzled as it went on. They didn't play poorly; the rest of their songs just weren't as good. Actually, their last one was pretty rocking.
Following them was the Asian Man himself Mike Park. I had never really listened to anything of his material outside of the Chinkees and Skanking Pickle (which I had no idea was from 1989), but I found myself enjoying his set. He has a very melodic voice that he uses well for a man of his age. Like many solo performers, he talked a lot between songs. It wasn't a bad thing because he had interesting stories. When he pulled out an old Skanking Pickle song, "I'm in Love with a Girl Named Spike," he told the story about how he came to meet the actress on tour some years ago. He did a great rendition of Billy Bragg's "New England" that got a good amount of the crowd singing along. I would have to say the highlight for many of his set was his last song when he came on the floor to sing "The Crowd." As if that wasn't enough, Jesse Michaels came out to sing the second verse.
For me, it was kind of strange to meet Jesse Michaels. He and Mike Park were just sitting at their merch table hanging out. I mean, this was the guy whose music I have admired for over 10 years and there he was. It is somewhat refreshing that a man who has an influence in punk rock far greater than so many bands from that era was just casually mingling with his fans. He genuinely seemed grateful that I even came out to the show, much less bought something. They had the EP available and I highly recommend picking that up whenever it comes out.
What was nice was that Jesse's age had absolutely no effect on his stage presence. He is still writing great music to get the crowd going, despite no one really knowing any of the songs. They had a relatively short set because as he mentioned, they are a relatively young band and are just getting started. They played all of their material off their EP. I have to say, the songs that he posted demos for some months ago sound a lot better at this point. They have significantly more punch to them and come off very well in a live setting. The crowd was obviously excited to be in the presence of Michaels and they attempted to mosh, but eventually gave out. It wasn't that the songs weren't mosh-worthy -- I just don't think anyone really felt like it.
I really hope he was sincere in saying that they would be coming around again. This was only their second show off the West Coast. It was nice to hear them playing "Carry On" with the promise of more old stuff to come later. I hope they don't render themselves Common Rider Part 2 because their material is similar, but different in so many ways. It was a great rare opportunity to catch one of the most sought-after and elusive punk rockers keeping the message alive.