The CHIRP Blog
Pulling up rather late to the Subterranean, fighting off the cold-death-rain as I ran from the ATM around the corner, I was over joyed by being inside. I handed my ID to door guy, followed by ten bucks and ran up the stairs, hearing the last few notes of Big Knife’s set. This was my second biggest regret of the night. My first being that I missed the opening band, Duress‘ set.
Fronted by local zinester and defender of the stage dive, Matt Rolland (Mindless Mutant zine), Duress features current members of other local straight edge bands One Foot in the Grave and Poison Planet. Duress brings a fast, abrasive and short brand of hardcore to the party, which sits somewhere between Minor Threat and SS Decontrol.
Getting their start by handing out demo tapes at local hardcore shows, they’ve built their own mini hype machine on the local hardcore message board, along side regular shows around the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area. I was disappointed that I missed their set, but being a local band, I’m sure I’ll cross paths with them in the near future.
You can download their demo for free at the Myspace profile.
Chicago’s Big Knife, who describe themselves as “the new wave of Hell Yeah Metal,” play thrashy lo-fi alcohol fueled garage punk with heavy elements of stoner rock and healthy doses of New Wave of British Heavy Metal thrown in for flavor. Beyond hearing the songs on their Myspace, I honestly don’t know much about them, which adds to the sadness of catching the last few chords of their set.
No Slogan, hailing from Chicago’s south side hit the stage third. These Chicago punk veterans have been heavily active in the Southkore records scene, as well as socially active in the Pilsen and Little Village communities. Their style of socio-political punk rock brings to mind the sound of classic Chicago punks such as the Bhopal Stiffs and the Effigies, while their punk rock ethics come straight out of the DIY scene.
I’ve seen No Slogan more times than I can honestly remember and over the last two years, they’ve been getting consistently better. Where their first two 7” were good, their latest album, Aversion Therapy (Residue Records) ups the bar quite a bit. Their set last night was honestly the best I’ve ever seen them play. Fast, tight, aggressive and completely in sync with one another.
Hjertestop, from Copenhagen, Denmark took the stage next. Their sound is similar to the obscure sounds found on the classic Killed By Death compilations. With a definite slant towards European squatter punk and an obvious early 80’s East Bay vibe propelling them, Hjertestop manage to create a sound that’s familiar, yet unique. Their set was fun and high energy, in a way that only a Euro-punk band can execute. The band is made up of ex-members of the Young Wasterners and Incontrollados and their sound is equally reminiscent of both bands. They execute with early 80’s street punk smarts, skillful knowledge of their instruments and a friendly tip of the hat to their influences.
Hjertestop will be returning to Chicago on May 2nd with Crude, Unit 21 and Closing in at the Beat Kitchen. Catch them while they’re still state side.
Last up was Masshysteri, who features ex-members of International Noise Conspiracy, the Viscous, the Regulations and countless other Swedish punk bands. Masshysteri seemingly draws influence from early 80’s punk bands such as the Avengers and the Mutants, while tying in aspects of American garage rock and hints of the arty early Los Angeles punk bands such as the Weridos and X.
The set was a lot shorter than I expected, but covered a great deal of ground, including ending the show with a cover of the Chuck Berry classic, Johnny B. Goode, sparking the most dancing of the entire night. Most of the songs were executing at slightly below break neck speed, with clean almost jangly guitars acting as the motor that propelled the simple, yet effective drumming. The way the guitar tones played off of one another almost made me think that I heard a keyboard, even though there was a definite absence of keys.
Masshysteri reminds me of everything that I like about early 80’s punk without sounding like a nostalgia act. They borrow enough from their influences to keep things sounding familiar and rooted within the scene, but still manage to make things interesting by combining well executing male/female vocals with well written, high energy guitar playing. This all seems to be evidence that the members of this band took away some important positive aspects from their previous bands. They have a solid understanding that good musicianship can be executing effectively by keeping things simple and that over complicating things isn’t always necessary. They also give their style of punk some hips, allowing it to be as equally dancable as it is welcoming of the pogo.
Masshysteri’s full length LP, which is available stateside via Feral Ward records (http://www.feralward.com/home.html), is a well produced piece of punk rock, without sounding glossy and still manages to capture the vibe and energy of their live performance. Unfortunately, Masshysteri will not be returning to Chicago on this tour, so you’ll have to just take my word for it and give the LP a few spins while stage diving from your bed. The only other option would be a trip to Sweden.
Last night, I stood outside the Beat Kitchen, as I have many times before, waiting for my best beer-hero buddy John Duggan to ride up Belmont Avenue. It was already a good night, because any night that starts with a can of Hamm’s is going to be special. Tonight we were seeing the much-hyped (with good reason) Minneapolis punk band, Off With Their Heads.
Off With Their Heads is a project based around Ryan Young, whose songs covers familiar topics, such as heartbreak, depression and drug used, but manages to tackle it all in a fresh and self deprecating manner. Unlike other bands that can be classified as “pop punk” or “beard punk,” Off With Their Heads comes out swinging with a “no bullshit,” dark and often times unsettling set of punches, to the tune of familiar pop hooks. The lazy comparison would be to call them the middle ground between Rivithead and J Church. I tend to see them as the band that makes depression fun again.
The show started off with Mundelein Illinois’ young upstarts, the Please and Thank Yous, who whether they know it or not were playing chords straight from the handbook written by Cringer and Jawbreaker. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, as these are two of my all time favorite bands. Their set was short and favorably rough around the edges, just the way any young punk band should be.
Following them was the Vicelords (not to be confused with the Chicago street gang of the same name), which was an all-star band of sorts. Featuring members of current Chicago punk bands Vacation Bible School and the Brokedowns and fronted by veteran Chicago punk front man and ex-Apocalypse Hoboken singer, Todd Pot. Their sound was equal parts Easy Instructions for Complex Machinery era Apocalypse Hoboken and drugged out psych-punk. This was my first time seeing these guys and I was equally impressed and left wanting a few more songs. Todd Pot still has one of the best, most unique voices in punk rock.
Finally, rounding out the evening was Off With Their Heads. They played a healthy blend of older songs and newer songs, mixing in limited witty banter and beer soaked sing-a-longs. What I found most surprising about the show is that their Chicago following has grown a bit since last I saw them. Previously, I saw them at the same venue playing with semi-known locals, but ended up playing to a room that was only a quarter full. The audience this time around was far more receptive and slightly younger. The space was a little over half full, so roughly a hundred heads in the room. It felt good seeing them receive a positive response here, as often bands of their size, regardless of how much a Chicago audience likes a band, will simply fold their arms, bob their heads and politely clap at the end of the song. Seeing the Beat Kitchen transformed into a “moshitorium” for a band that isn’t a local hardcore band was refreshing.
I think what strikes me the most about Off With Their Heads lyrics is that Young says (and quite possibly acts out) things we’ve all felt, but rarely had the courage to say out loud. We’ve all been through break ups where we thought that maybe putting a brick through your ex’s window would be a good idea, but better judgment kicks in and instead you throw yourself a one person pity-party and listen to Morrissey all night. Young straight up says it in their song Horse Pills and the Apartment Lobby, leaving you under the impression that there’s a pretty good chance that the content of the song actually happened. The honest lyrics are really only part of the equation though.
Although their songs are based off of the rudimentary punk rock formula, they do what great pop song writers have been doing for years. They take a familiar formula and reinvent it in a new and interesting way. Darker, high gain guitar tones similar to their fellow Minneapolis punks, Dillinger Four and Rivithead, recorded to sound like Sorry Ma era Replacements, tossing in the honesty of Jawbreaker and using the chord progressions made famous by bands like the Ramones and Dead Boys. Not that this is a hard-fact formula, because listening to their first record, Hospitals and then comparing it to their most recent album, From the Bottom, you see a progression of a band who might show its influences, but just as soon tears them down.
Off With Their Heads is one of the best things going in punk rock right now, so if you haven’t gotten on board yet, you probably should. They’re currently embarking on a European tour, but will be back in Chicago April 1st at Ronny’s.
Big fun! The CHIRP Record Fair and Other Delights returns for a 7th year…but this time, we’re in a brand new location — the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. We’re extremely excited about our new home — all dealers will be in one big room, and we even have a parking lot! In addition to all the great vinyl dealers, live music and DJs, and tasty food, we’ll have some added fun and games this year, details TBA.
Mark your calendars for April 18th and 19th, because it’s going to be a good time!
By the way, if you’re sitting in a vinyl or CD collection that you no longer want, the CHIRP Record Fair is a great time to rid yourself of unwanted music. You have two options — rent a table from us and make a bit of extra money selling your wares, or, if you don’t feel like going to that trouble, donate your collection to CHIRP, and we’ll take care of the rest.
If you’re interested in being a dealer, you can download the contract here. If you want to donate you collection, e-mail chirp (at) chicagoindependentradioproject.org.
I’ve been getting my dose of internet humor almost solely from a few blogs recently: It’s Lovely, I’ll Take It!, which is all about disturbing real estate listings, Vintage Microwave, which is all about disturbing free stuff on Craigslist, the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotations marks which, well… and finally, Passive Aggressive Notes, a blog dedicated to collecting and posting “painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings from shared spaces the world over.”
Some recent gems from P.A. Notes include this snippet of fashion advice for the ladies, and this back and forth taped to a candy machine.
My downstairs neighbor’s dog has been barking for weeks, but because of my now hyper-awareness of the hilarity and ineffectiveness of taped-up notes, I’ve been waiting for a good time to talk to her face-to-face about it. I’m not the kind of person who leaves passive aggressive notes, I say to myself.
Then my friend Nate brought this P.A. posting to my attention:
top five musical crimes perpetuated by record store customers in the 90s and 2000s
Aaaah! I never worked in a record store (well, I did, it just wasn’t the kind you could tape notes up in), but I did spent a stint as an angry bookstore clerk in Wicker Park (oh, you know where). The store had many arbitrary rules (no photography, no cell phones, re-shelve the books or we charge a one-dollar re-shelving fee), which necessitated the posting of many passive aggressive signs, several of which I myself wrote!
At the time I didn’t think my notes crossed the line, but with a few years’ distance, I can see them for what they truly are: passive aggressive. (My current favorite note, which didn’t exist while I worked there, is this posting about the photography rule, with a passive aggressive nod to customers’ Flickr accounts.)
Nevertheless, I have to say I savor the stereotypical rudeness — written or otherwise — I encounter in mom and pop shops. For what is Reckless Records without the constant debate over whether the clerk on the other side of the counter is rolling his eyes at you? (I’m not making this up: search the Yelp listing for the word “judgmental” or “holier-than-thou” and see for yourself.)
So I say long live record store P.A.! Record shopping is just a little too sterile without it.