Current DJ: Tony Breed
The Cult Rain from Love (Beggars Banquet) Add to Collection
In the beer sweat recycled air of a punk show at the Empty Bottle in September 2019, you perch on the steps to the left of the stage, nursing your beer—the first IPA of the night after a long week of teaching 6th grade for the first time. You haven’t been to a punk show in a long time, and you haven’t been to a punk show by yourself in even longer. It feels like home, in that deer-lodge-human-heat of the first show you attended by yourself in Chicago 14 years earlier: Empty Bottle, October 19, 2005 — in a Jens Lekman “Maple Leaves” kind of way.
You aren’t sure if you are going to talk to anyone, and the small joke you try to make to the group of punks in their 20s standing behind you returns no response. You realize you are old at a punk show.
You remain perched, quiet, observant, sipping your beer, knowing you scored a good spot on the stairs. The first band was a mess, adorable, breaking mics and guitar strings (an apparent ongoing tour habit), grunge punk in a scattered way. You remember both appreciating and not appreciating them. They were trying. You appreciated that.
Intermission between bands. The other person in his thirties, sitting next to you by the column on the stairs, asks if you wouldn’t mind watching his beer while he runs to the bathroom.
Of course, not at all.
You build trust in the community before the band you love comes on. Now you can ask him to watch your beer for you, too. And save your spot. You do.
He returns, and returns the favor. One of you begins to make small talk. How many times you saw the band, where you saw them, your favorite venue, your worst. Why you love them. Their best album, the one you forgot the name of, because you are never good with details, but you are always good with description, symbiosis of sound. You remember the story of the album you love best, even if you can’t remember the name (to be fair, it’s a long name). He remembers, and reminds you. You smile.
You talk about where you live, where you’re from. You decide you like his t-shirt, his hair. Neither of you have ear plugs. You both decide this is a problem but do nothing about it. The band is about to start. You make final beer runs to the bar. You hold each other’s spots. You choose not to offer each other a beer. He lives in California, but used to live in Chicago. He is staying at a hotel in the Gold Coast. He spends his money traveling around the country to shows he loves. This seems like a dream to look forward to. A possible goal. You like this guy.
The band begins, you focus your attention to the rapid, screaming, angry, heart-wrenching, heart-breaking chords of the perfect punk ballad! The songs are fast, and you can feel the bass drum in your chest and it’s perfect. You should have brought ear plugs, but you are so happy. You know the songs, you know the dances, you know the beats like the heart in your chest. Every once in a while you feel his body heat with the music in the exact same tempo as yours, sweating as the crowd moshes, grateful you are steps away. A dudebro gets escorted out, as always, and the band reminds the fans of kindness, of course.
The punk-power chords lament on, till 1 in the morning, till your ears can no longer hear. Till the crowd is chanting and chanting and singing and singing because you know all the words, because it’s the last song, and everyone knows all the words to the last song, and you sing and you sing and you scream and feel so powerful, so at home in the crowd. Then the show is over. The band says goodbye, goodnight, thank you Chicago. You feel happy.
You are back on the steps as the crowd makes its exit. You say goodbye, it was nice to meet you. You exchange names but you forgot them already. The person in the shirt you like with the good conversation asks what your radio show is again. You smile and remind him. You consider exchanging numbers, but neither of you asks and neither of you do. You consider sleeping with him in the Gold Coast, but you don’t do that either. You don’t even bring it up. You only came for the punk show.
He leaves the venue ahead of you, herded to the door by the crowd toward the exit. You watch as he goes. He glances back to look for you in the crowd, and you catch his eye one last time. You smile.
You never see him again.
You exit the Bottle to your bike on Western Avenue. You bike home.
You can’t hear the cicadas the next day, but you play your favorite record, the one with the long name you can’t remember.
The Most Lamentable Tragedy.
Titus Andronicus @ the Emtpy Bottle
September 6, 2019
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