It's just another show at Chicago’s worst dive bar. To my surprise, I was actually carded, twice. Being an all-ages show, the door between the bar and the garage was closed, forcing me and everyone else of age getting in a couple pre-show beers to step outside, walk five feet, pay our fee and step inside Ronny’s garage.
Noise by Numbers opened the show. Their members include Dan Schafer (the Methadones / the Riverdales / Screeching Weasel), Jeff Dean (Four Star Alarm), Rick Uncapher (Textbook) and Neil Hennessy (the Lawrence Arms / the Falcon / Smoking Popes). Just so we’re clear, there is plenty of talent in the room.
Now, with respect to the members, I found Dan’s vocals lacking and his lyrics needing to be reworked even though I can relate to his song about waiting for the train to arrive, here in Chicago. Their songs sounded like they belong on a rock radio station -- sounding more than anything like a hard rock / alternative band without a niche.
Next up on the list was Laura Stevenson and the Cans. The band consisted of Bomb the Music Industry! players. Her voice, mostly unheard in the background of BTMI! records, was so soulful at least half the crowd fell in love with her. The rest fell in love with her over her subtle beauty. Laura Stevenson’s music must have been written acoustically, which is no bad thing, as the majority of her songs were filled with her lovely voice over the playing over her (electric) guitar. For the first half of the set, Jeff Rosentstock played along. At first it was the xylophone (who knew people played these after elementary school?) adding dimensions to the music and then backing guitar when the music really hit, which also included the bass and drummer in the mix. Three-quarters of the songs were just Laura and her guitar, but for the other 25 percent, backing guitar, bass and drums were added in.
During the time before BTMI! went on, I hurried my way up the street to grab a snack to eat. I skipped my mid-set beer and headed directly back into the garage to secure a place near the front. Just as I did during Laura Stevenson and the Cans' set, I stood near the merch table up front. Bomb the Music Industry! took the stage rather quickly. I assume that to be because most of their instruments were already in tune and adjusted for sound due to the previous set. The band started it with a song their recent release, Scrambles, with “Cold Chillin' Cold Chillin'.” Jeff and the gang continued down the Scrambles route, following with “Stuff That I Like” and “It Shits,” a requested song before their actual set began. During the 45-minute set, half the track listing off of Scrambles was played, including “Saddr Weidr” and “(Shut) Up the Punx!!!”, which I couldn’t hear at all. The stage right speaker went out at the beginning of the song and stayed out until the set ended, making it difficult to sing along with the rest that have the lyrics memorized. As much as I’m not familiar with BTMI!’s past records (even though I pretended to know the words), the band played a couple songs off of those releases, “King of Minneapolis Pts. I & II” being the only one announced throughout so that I would know. Covers played include Green Day’s “Longview,” which just happend all of a sudden even though the guitar was off, which is okay, but Jeff forgot half the lyrics.
I don’t know if Jeff could hear by this point, but at the beginning of the third verse I was the only one still singing, which might have reminded him of the words, or not. Near the end of the set, directly after the band announced the last 12 minutes would be nothing but free jazz -- with Jeff playing the saxophone again (like he did during a Cans song) -- and it only accounted for two minutes (at best), they played their cover of “Gold Soundz” off the Under the Influence Vol. 3 7". Literally 80-90% of the crowd was silent as the other 10-20% sang along, a dramatic difference from the whole entire crowd (from my perspective) singing along lightly bouncing into each other the entire set length.
It sucked so bad that the end of the show was before 9:30, but what more can you ask for at an all-ages show in a horrible, horrible dive bar. Custom spray-painted shirts is what. Out on the corner all shirts -- plain white or other -- were laid out and I apologize that I can’t remember exactly who (John DeDomenici or Tom Malinoska) custom spray-painted every shirt -- fresh or sweaty -- laid out in front of him on the sidewalk (donations accepted).