American Steel / Haymarket Riot - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)

American Steel / Haymarket Riot

live in Chicago (2008)

live show

Friday night, I unexpectedly found myself at Reggie's. American Steel was playing. Originally I hadn't planned to attend; I like American Steel just fine, but I was just going to save my money for a later show. Things changed when I received an email from the singer/guitarist of Love and Squalor asking me to come out. I checked out some of their music and decided they rocked and it would be worth it.

Love and Squalor opened the night and they opened with a bang. Their style of music can be best described as punk rock with a few hardcore influences. I would ascribe their sound as being close to bands like Kid Dynamite and Dillinger Four -- very much a Midwestern punk rock sound. Trading vocal duties between the bassist and the guitarist, they kept the energy levels high throughout their set. They played a good majority of fast songs that got my feet moving and made me wish I could sing along. Their songs are fun and they play with a great passion for their music. It's nice to see bands like this in the scene and I look forward to seeing them again. What made them even cooler than I already thought was that they were giving away their full-length: 15 fully mastered tracks of driving punk rock for free. Now that's awesome. I definitely intend to check them out come Riot Fest. Since I can familiarize myself with their sound for free, I'll be able to sing along and enjoy them even more.

Up next was a band i had never heard of -- Silent Sirens. It turned out that they were anything but their namesake: another group of Chicago locals who knew how to put on a stunning live show. As soon as they started playing, i was a little confused to what a band like this was doing at an American Steel show. Their sound is very much not punk rock at all. On their website, they list major influences as the Used and Story of the Year and it very much shows in their music. Seeing them live reminded me of the first time I saw A Static Lullaby play many years ago. Although the singer didn't break his hand during their set, Silent Sirens very much exploded with a similar intensity. They have very melodic vocals peppered with "whoa"s over simple chord / complex lead guitar patterns. Several of the songs lead to a heavier breakdown of powerful vocals. While this style of rock hasn't been my cup of tea in the past, I found myself drawn to this band. From the moment they started playing, it was like someone lit the stage of fire. This was clearly a group who loves what they play and don't give a damn where, only as long as they get to play. One of my favorite songs of the night was "Red Light District." Their songs were catchy and very danceable, though "Red Light District" most of all. I'm surprised this band is still a small-time one, since they have a sound that is very reminiscent of more popular bands out there. I spoke with the singer after their show and he was a real pleasure to meet. My only real qualm for them was that as the show went on, the vocals seemed to have been turned down. I know I could hear Adrian singing in the beginning -- maybe I was just losing my hearing. Hopefully they will continue playing shows past October because I very much want to see them again.

Haymarket Riot was third and I gotta say, they seemed to be the most out of place. I had heard the name before, but never the music. They played an indie style of rock in the vein of These Arms Are Snakes and At the Drive-In. That's not necessarily a bad thing by any means -- their sound just didn't seem to fit at a punk show and the audience reflected that. By this time, a decent crowd had gathered, but most of them were awaiting American Steel. I felt kinda bad since no one really seemed to be getting into Haymarket Riot, but they didn't seem to notice. Lacking the overall intensity of the former bands, the crowd remained rather motionless. Initially i was more perplexed, but as they went on, i was again drawn to this strange, out-of-place sound. I don't know if the bassist was merely shy or just had a great relationship with the rhythm section, but he spent a good amount of time on the drum platform. The rhythm guitar work was rather simple. The intro to one song was one note repeated over and over for a good two minutes, but the song that followed was passionate and explosive. I'm listening to their recorded material now and the singer comes off very similar to At the Drive-In's and i only wish i could have heard that more live. I'd like to see them again, more in their own environment and after getting to know their music better. These guys are obviously talented and its a shame they couldn't get the crowd moving more than they did.

Headlining, of course, was American Steel. I need to stop forgetting the power of a band on Fat Wreck to draw a crowd. There was a pretty good amount of people crowded around the stage during their set singing along. The nice thing about American Steel is that while they still carry that generic Fat Wreck sound to their music, they play with a different enough twist to it to make them stand out. I have never been too familiar with their catalog, but after seeing them live, I can safely say that I want to. There is just something invigorating about seeing a band and audience relationship. For the most part, it can make or break a show, and this one definitely made it. For the most part, it seemed that most of the crowd was pretty intoxicated by the time they took the stage.

As American Steel powered through their set, people called out various requests for songs. Unlike many bands I've seen, these guys were pretty responsive to them, but only after the insults started. One guy shouted for them to play a song and then called the singer an asshole. This got to the band and they just started laughing declaring that to be the best song request ever. As the night went on, people realized they might be able to hear their favorite songs. However, the singer acknowledged that the only way they were going to do that was if they insulted them. From that spawned a barrage of drunken requests/insults. The guys on stage were just eating this up. That night, they were playing with a substitute guitarist, but you wouldn't know it. It was nice that they were able to keep up with the requests in spite of a fill-in guitarist. A nice mixture of older and newer material was played and it was an all-around enjoyable time.