The Undead/88 Fingers Louie/The Lillingtons - Live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Undead / 88 Fingers Louie / The Lillingtons

Live in Chicago (2017)

live show

Earlier this year (in February to be exact), we were supposed to go to Reggie’s in Chicago for Jughead’s 50th Birthday Bash. We were interested in seeing all the bands (Even In Blackouts, The Lillingtons, The Manges and The Mopes), but none more than The Lillingtons. My longtime friend and normal show partner had to cancel at the last minute due to some work BS, so I ended up going (and drinking too much) with my sister. My buddy has been pining to see The Lillingtons ever since, so we jumped at the chance to catch them back in Chicago.

This was not going to be a standard Lillingtons headlining gig. They were set to support 88 Fingers Louie at the official album release show for their Thank You for Being a Friend LP at The Metro in Wrigleyville on Saturday August 26th. (Thank You for Being a Friend actually came out back on June 30th. It’s excellent and you should check it out if you haven’t already.) It was almost a case of two bands coming back from the grave. In 2017, 88 Fingers Louie put out their first new album in 19 years. The Lillingtons put out their first new material in a while with the Project 313 EP, and were set to release their first full length in 11 years in October.

We left about noon for the three hour drive to Chicago. After checking in at our southside hotel, our first stop was Reggie’s rooftop bar for an Old Style. I knew that The Undead were playing at Reggie’s later that night, so I inquired about the show time. I was very pleased to learn that they weren’t scheduled to go on until 11:20, so we bought tickets for that too. We figured we could catch most of the early, all ages 88FL/Lillingtons show and make it back for most of The Undead’s set too.

With a sense of glee that was a bit unbecoming of men our age, we jumped on the train to the north side of town. The Cubs did not have a game that night, so we weren’t too worried about the trains being busy. As we got close to Wrigleyville, things were getting pretty crowded. The streets and bars were packed too, and the music in the bars was even worse than usual. That’s when we learned that the Zac Brown Band was playing at Wrigley Field that night. That part of the city had been descended on by a bunch of suburbanites pretending to be cowboys. Aside from the general annoyance, the odds of us making it back to Reggie’s in time for the second show also seemed to go down considerably.

After a few beers at the GMan Tavern and some decent Mexican food, we finally made our way to The Metro. It’s a cool, old, legendary venue, and I always enjoy going there and soaking up the history. It has a capacity of 1100, but feels much more intimate. My one complaint is that they don’t carry the type of cheap, domestic swill I prefer for a long day/night of drinking. I reluctantly switched from Old Style to Murphy’s Irish Stout and eventually Lagunitas IPA.

The crowd was pretty sparse for opener Evil Engine. It’s a shame, as I found them to be a pleasant surprise. They are a Chicago based, female fronted quartet that plays the type of classic punk that I tend to prefer. They also get bonus points for homemade T-shirts and for playing the later era Ramones classic “Pet Sematary”. Overall, I enjoyed their half hour set quite a bit. I will definitely dig into them further.

Next up was Able Baker Fox, a band that I was only vaguely aware of. It’s surprising considering that three of the four guys in ABF are from Marshall, MI based Small Brown Bike, a band I’ve always had a soft spot for. Able Baker Fox plays a similar style of moody post -punk, and was a bit out of place on this mostly straightforward punk bill. That being said, everyone seemed to like it and there were definitely people there specifically to see them.

The audience had swelled quite a bit by the time The Lillingtons hit the stage. I don’t think the place ever got half full, but it was a respectable crowd for a punk show. While The Lillingtons had been in the Windy City six months earlier, their appearances are still fairly rare. They thrilled the eager audience with lots of songs from Death By Television (1999), The Backchannel Broadcast (2001) and The Too Late Show (2006). They threw in a few more recent ones too like “Pyramids”, “Rubber Room”, “Until the Sun Shines” and the brand new “Insect Nightmares”. For about 45 minutes, most of us sang along at the top of our lungs. It was as cathartic as it was satisfying.

88 Fingers Louie started things off with a bang with “Meds” and “Advice Column”, the first two songs on the new album. I wondered if they were going to play the whole thing straight through, but that didn’t prove to be the case. The crowd really went wild, and the mosh pit started up in earnest when they played “Pent Up” from Behind Bars (1995). It was everything you would hope for in an 88FL show. Singer Denis buckley was his normal awkward but charming self. He still delivers the words with undeniable passion. Dan Precision still has his long heavy metal hair, his funny shaped heavy metal guitar, and his awesome heavy metal riffs. (His playing on “Catastrophe Awaits” was a highlight.) Nat Wright and John Carroll have become a formidable rhythm section. Most importantly, it really looked like they were having fun. The audience fed off of that and it added to their fun too.

Unfortunately, we had to leave halfway through 88FL’s set to make it to our second show. I was bummed that I couldn’t hang around to hear “I Hate Myself”, but our plan was to beat the mad rush leaving the Zac Brown show. Well, we almost made it. We were in the street when the mass of humanity poured out all around us. (I blame my buddy for insisting on stopping for a Chicago style hotdog.) Against all odds, we somehow made it on the first train out. It was far more crowded and uncomfortable than most shows. It conjured up images of the Weird Al oldie “Another One Rides the Bus”.

We walked into Reggie’s at 11:24, just as The Undead were playing their classic “In Eighty Four”. For those of you who don’t know, The Undead is the band formed by guitarist Bobby Steele in 1980 after his stint with the Misfits. For more than 35 years he’s been quietly carrying on the Misfits’ horror punk tradition. I had seen them (Bobby is the sole constant member) a couple of times in the 90’s, and was thrilled at the prospect of catching them again live. This was their first tour in over 15 years, and turned out to be an unbelievable bonus in what was already a very busy weekend.

The current lineup includes Steele on lead guitar and vocals, as well as his wife Diana Steele on keytar, rhythm guitar and vocals. The band is rounded out by bassist/vocalist Jason Fresta and drummer Joe Stoker. They played material from throughout Bobby’s 40 or so year career, and he was not afraid to share the spotlight. They were playing on the bar side, not in the rock club, so we were able to get right up close to the small stage. I have treasured a beat up copy of Dawn of the Undead (a compilation from 1991) that I’ve had for many years. I got to hear a bunch of songs from it including the previously mentioned “In Eighty Four”, “Evening of Desire”, “I Want You Dead”, “Gimme Your Autograph” and “Undead”.

There were a handful of crowd pleasing Misfits songs too. Bobby asked if anyone had seen the ‘Original Misfits’ at Riot Fest last year. Then he asked if they played all the songs before launching into “Spook City USA”. Fresta handled the lead vocals on “Halloween” while the rest of us helped with the chorus, once again, at the top of our lungs. The chanting on “RATTFINK” reminded me of the similar thing from “Lillington High” a couple of hours earlier. Diana took the lead vocals on “I Hate Myself For Loving You”, a song that Bobby dedicated to ‘The Queen of Punk’, Joan Jett. When the small but passionate crowd called for an encore, they kind of huddled up on stage. My friend and I were now several more Old Styles into our evening. We started relentlessly yelling for our favorite, “Put Your Clothes Back On”. They eventually rewarded us by playing that song as well as a spirited version of “Never Say Die”. It was an extremely enjoyable 75 minutes or so.

When the show was over, it seemed like everyone wanted to meet Bobby and the rest of The Undead. They were very nice. They took the time to meet everybody, and posed for a bunch pictures. Bobby was such a gentleman that even when I baited him to talk trash about Doyle, he wouldn’t do it and told me that Doyle was a great guy. (For what it’s worth, I absolutely believe he was being sincere.) The last pictures in my mind are of the band driving away in their touring vehicle, which just happens to be a Cadillac hearse. I couldn’t help but think about all the people shelling out $250 to see the Misfits at the LA Forum. I wouldn’t trade this intimate experience for that impersonal one. I know I kind of cheated combining these two shows, but it was the most fun I’ve had in forever.