It’s been a hot minute since my old ass has been to a sold out show at The Metro in Chicago’s Wriglyville neighborhood on the North Side of town. Probably during my ska kid teenage days of the mid-aughts, skanking in the pit to the Planet Smashers or Mustard Plug or whoever. It’s the hottest venue in the world and though I don’t have asthma, sometimes I felt like I needed an inhaler. I do not miss those days.
For some reason, the one thing that brought me back into the harshest conditions in rock n roll fandom was an all-ages Joyce Manor stop in the Second City this past weekend. On a night when the Cubs started their series against the LA Dodgers to see who gets to lose in the World Series to Cleveland, the city was packed with underage kids in Joyce Manor shirts (why?) and drunk moms and dads in full Cubbie blue. It was a total shitshow. Attempts to go to any number of bars to get some preshow drinks were thwarted by door guys holding up lines hundreds of people deep for blocks around. (Shout out to Gman Tavern for eventually opening up enough to let us in and serve us Malort.)
Thankfully, after the long line of people camped out for the doors to open around 6:30 died down, I make my way into the venue, as the smoke machine from upstairs filled the entire lobby with a haze. Up the stairs of the 90 year old theater, I was greeted by a $6 Sam Adams and a congregation of kids who most likely were not born the first time I made that walk. What a world we live in, friends.
The first band, New York’s Crying, almost looked like they wanted to be playing this show. The 3-piece consisting of a vocalist, guitarist and a drummer, as well as plenty of sound effects and samples, showed the enthusiasm for life of a 3-toed sloth after its 2nd dinner. Regardless of whether or not I care for their music (I don’t particularly,) the act did nothing to force me to enjoy their set. With a sound reminiscent of a mix of 80’s Van Halen (Haggar, not Roth) and 3rd wave emo, the two members with the ability to move seemed to be cemented into the stage floor, moving only occasionally to step on a synth trigger/pedal/etc. Sure, they’re quirky and fun(?) and unique(?) but being given a 30-minute opening slot on a high profile tour like this one – where a lot of shows sold out and most likely filled up early- didn’t seem to excite the band at all and their performance felt as enjoyable as a boring dream soundtracked with the B-sides of the Clueless soundtrack or a lecture on biodiversity in Lake Michigan given by my uncle Brian who mainly speaks in classic rock song lyrics.
After pouring some more Oktoberfest in my gullet, I posted up for a band that I was very interested to see for a couple reasons. The Hotelier released a modern classic record in 2014 when they put out the heart-wrenching emo/punk concoction of Home, Like NoPlace Is. Then earlier this year, they put out the old naked person-adorned Goodness, which lacked the hard, fast punk rock of its predecessor, but- while hyper-pretentious at times- still showed a band endlessly talented and emotionally-impacting. As expected, the band’s new sound took center stage, forgoing standard band behavior to craft a setlist that was cohesive from start to finish, leaning heavily on songs from their most recent effort. My journalistic integrity was called into question several times as I sacrificed my powers in the photo pit to scream the lyrics to “Your Deep Rest,” a stand-out track from Home but I don’t particularly care. This band has a way of evoking what ever emotion they want you to feel at that exact moment whether you like it or not. There was certainly times that the set seemed to drag, as there was multiple extended interludes in the middle of songs, but it still felt well-intentioned, setting up the next burst of energy that was lying in wait. While the album didn’t connect with me like their previous work, the songs hit hard in a live environment and they are still a must-see band whenever they come through.
* all photos by Alex Simotes