For roughly five months I would walk past Ronny's Bar on California Avenue as I went into the city and on my return. Months into this I just thought it was just another dive bar, a Mexican hole-in-the-wall. One night coming home from work I saw a bunch of dudes and a couple girls wearing black hoodies smoking cigarettes. I'll be damned; Ronny's is also a live venue.
I arrived early, thinking I was late. I stood outside finishing up some French fries as some of the bands continued to load in. The inside of the bar was as expected: torn-up wood bar; pool table; one TV tuned to a Spanish-speaking channel; another tuned into cage fighting on VS; horrible, small bathroom with cut-up cans of PBR stapled to the wall. I'm not certain the toilet actually worked.
The music room looked like someone's unfinished garage. The drywall was put up but not painted, cords ran everywhere and a tiki-bar housed the mixing board. Of the two light fixtures used to highlight the band, only one worked.
The first band to play was Minneapolis's International Espionage!, a three-piece pop-punk band. Once they were finished with their soundcheck, they played a cover version of "Secret Agent Man" through one of the amps and ran off into the back. At the end of the song they came running back wearing tight black clothing, snowmobiling masks, little red lights wrapped around their heads and utility belts. They looked more like jewel thieves than spies. Most songs started off with a drum track playing along with the live drummer. I thought at first this would take me out, but the drum track provided a whole different dimension to the music. They played great with a lot of energy running around the room. Their set ended too soon for me.
Next to take the stage was Chicago's own Hawkbit. I couldn't really get into this band. I kept looking over my shoulder at these two drunk girls who had to have been dragged here by a friend. Not to mention they looked out of place (one was wearing a plain Cubs uniform). Not to mention I was distracted by one of the guitar player's beard that read "Appalachian" more than "Fest."
Love and Squalor, another Chicago band played next. The singer's vocal style sounded much like the Lawrence Arms to me. As much as I can't actually get into the Lawrence Arms, provided I keep listening Love and Squalor is a good band. They are a band that lies heavily on that relationship, which isn't bad. I look forward to hearing something new from them.
I might have actually missed the opening track by the Menzingers. I was in the bar watching a couple play pool as I waited for them to set up and soundcheck when I heard music start to play. Hopefully it was the first song. I walked back through the door and stood as close as I could. A natural three-foot barrier was in place until one of the band members said something. It then became a two-foot barrier. As uncommon as I was with their music, which I regret, the Scranton, PA quartet played amazing. Even though I didn't, I felt like I knew the lyrics to the songs and kinda sang along. Their cover of "Straight to Hell," originally performed by the Clash, felt like an original song. Not hearing their album before, I barely knew what song they were performing. Just like on the album that I've been rocking most of the weekend, it missed that vibe and replaced it with additional guitar, which worked. The Menzingers continued to play tracks off their record A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology, as well as some new songs. I assume those are off of Oh, Dodge, as I have not listened to those yet. At one point Brendan Kelly walked onto the stage as the short one (?) tuned another guitar, carried a tray of shots and beer for the band. They drank up setting the shotglasses to the side, leaving Kelly to shrug his shoulders and walk away. They continued a number of tracks until the finish, which by my count was far too short. The first band didn't take the stage until 9:15, and for the headlining band to finish at 12:15 was a disappointment. Still, the band was great.
As I listen to the album now, I don't hear anything different than when I did that night.