If my experiences during my short time in Chicago have taught me anything, it's that the people of Chicago will flock to the Lawrence Arms and anything having to do with them like ants to a picnic. I had no idea that the Falcon had such a following as to be able to sell out tickets that night. I don't suppose it's that hard of a thing to do at a place like Subterranean, which is pretty small, but I'm sure that was also in large part the addition of the Methadones to the bill. In addition to them, Rule 22 and the Sidekicks made up the bill for Red Scare Records Red Oktoberfest 2008.
The night began with another hometown group, Rule 22. There were a fair amount of people milling about the floor during their set. I was skeptical at first, as I tend to be of all opening acts, but that was quickly laid to rest. Printed on their bass drum was "Rule 22: Chicago Punk Rock" and it was no lie. Their aggressive blend of hardcore, punk, and ska was like a breath of fresh air. The best way to describe their sound would be as a combination of Strike Anywhere, the Suicide Machines, No Trigger and Chicago rockers Love and Squalor. Everything about this band seemed to work together in punk rock harmony. While there were only three of them on stage, they had the intensity of eight. It was obvious that their hearts were in every chord played, drum hit and lyric delivered. I think I was most impressed by the talent of the bass player. Not simply satisfied to follow the guitar rhythm, he took it upon himself to write incredibly intricate lines comparable to the work of Matt Freeman. As their set went on, I found myself just being more and more overwhelmed by this group. Despite my financial constraints and telling myself that I only brought enough cash for a Falcon t-shirt, I knew that I had to hear more. Their playing had the tightness of a band that has been writing music together for many years. I could not believe that these guys are not signed because they have ten times the talent and passion of many punk bands I've heard in recent times.
Up next were Ohio rockers the Sidekicks. Here is another band I've never heard of, but was most impressed by. My skepticism came to a head once again as I took note of their ages. As soon as their set began, my doubts were once again put to rest. While I was expecting immature simplicity in their songwriting, what I got was something entirely but. Despite their youth, they were writing songs of those twice their age. Listening to them, I couldn't help but think of bands like Say Anything, Bear vs. Shark, Defiance, Ohio and the Thermals. I felt so bad for them when some jackasses were heckling them from the back. Thankfully, there were some supporters who were quick to reply with a well-timed "Shut the fuck up." The band even took it all in stride by calling back "YEAH! Where's the Falcon?" Their sense of humor and aggressive yet upbeat song styles, not to mention incredible stage presence made the Sidekicks an enjoyable band to watch and one I look forward to looking into further.
Third on the bill were the Methadones, a popular act in the pop-punk scene. Here is a band, despite my best efforts, I have never been able to get into. I have no problem with pop-punk and I often welcome its catchy hooks and infectious sing-along choruses, but this band has just never done it for me. Their live set didn't do a whole lot to change my mind. Maybe it was because the guitars were way too loud, or the guy behind me who was continuously driving his elbow into my back, or perhaps it was just because in the end, every one of their songs just sounded the same to me, but I just couldn't get into their set. This isn't to say that they played badly; there were plenty of fans going crazy for them and singing along. I drummed along and tried my best to enjoy them for what they were, but that night, the Methadones just didn't bring me up.
As Brendan mentioned in his drunken ramblings of the night, it's rare the Falcon plays shows and I felt fortunate to catch them on one of their rare outings. I have always preferred Brendan's vocals on Lawrence Arms albums, so it was only natural that I found myself so attracted to the Falcon when they emerged on the scene. That night, the lineup consisted of the Lawrence Arms switched around and an extra guitarist. I would like to take this opportunity to mention that Brendan was piss-ass drunk throughout the duration of their set. In between each song, the audience was treated to the ridiculous drunken ramblings that are often heard from your friend at a party who gets very talkative when drinking and speaks non-stop, whether anyone wants to hear it or not. Of course, this pissed off members of the crowd who only wanted to hear Falcon songs and not banter, but I found it to be hilarious.
Obviously, Brendan's playing was affected by his inebriation. His guitar work was sloppy through their set, but every so often he managed to hit the right notes. Obviously, he didn't play so poorly that the songs were unrecognizable or unenjoyable, but it was pretty obvious how messed up he was. His vocals were tighter than his playing that night. It was all in good fun, though. Brendan even declared that he was having a blast and playing "the best show ever" and that's awesome. While his performance to me wasn't A+, it was to him and that's just fine with me.
The thing about the Falcon is that they don't have a whole lot of songs. I was hoping to be treated to something that could be in the works, but instead they only played from their current discography. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- it's just that I've listened to these songs so many times over the last two years that seeing them performed live didn't bring much newness to them. The other issue with their songs is that they are just so damn short. Even with Brendan being a chatterbox, their set was only about an hour. Really, there was no reason they couldn't have played all of their songs. They left off "Routes We Wander" and "Look Ma No Fans," which I was a little disappointed by. They played a cover of Millencolin's "Ray," which couldn't have been a more obscure choice of covers. This, of course, was preceded by more drunken banter. Brendan attempted to lay down the rules of rock 'n' roll, which consisted of the fact that American rock was better, ska sucks and you don't cover bands in your own genre. After this being retorted with more impatient cries for music from the audience, Brendan pleaded for some patience as they were going to break all these rules and play "Ray."
They closed their set with what they referred to as the usual closing songs to a Falcon show, claiming that each one would be their last and that no one would know if they were bluffing until they actually left the stage. They made no effort to fool the audience beyond that. Their final words to the crowd were that the Lawrence Arms would be playing the following night as the secret band for the show and the crowd erupted with joy.
All in all, it was a pretty good show. I was glad to be able to see the Falcon in one of their rare outings and sing along in person. The drunken words of Brendan served as some comedy relief. which one can never go wrong with. The real treat that night was discovering Rule 22 and the Sidekicks. Being more impressed with Rule 22, I unloaded some extra cash for the CD, which I rocked out to on the way home. The Sidekicks will just have to wait for another day. I highly recommend checking these bands out if you have not already. I'm curious to hear from anyone who went to the Sunday show as to how that went.
Set list (as written on it):
- Blood & Frog
- When I Give the Signal
- Long Shoreman's
- Goin Home
- Asshole Parade
- Lazy Boy