Monday, April 25, 2005

The Show!

I flew to Chicago on Saturday morning. The weather wasn't so hot there. Cold and overcast with snow flurries. I went towards the club (two blocks away from Wrigley Park) about 2 1/2 hours before the doors were to open. I walked around for a while, looking for a place to eat and to locate the club. When I found it, there was already a line at the door! So I got a quick bite at Quizno's down the street and then got in line. Once inside, I bought two of their new EPs (one for a friend), but no t-shirt. They didn't have any extra large.

I was feeling pretty out-of-place in the club seeing as I a) wasn't wearing a hoodie sweatshirt, vintage jeans halfway down my ass and dorkey/hip-sneaker/shoes, b) didn't have unkempt hair, and c) am over 21. I was firmly in the minority of attendants. But screw 'em. I was kicking it old-school with my faded Thanks to Gravity t-shirt, if that's not coolly obscure, then I don't know what is!

The show started with a band called June. They were pretty good, and sounded a lot like what I've heard of Taking Back Sunday. So if you like TBS, you might like June. Not really my thing, though. Next was The Junior Varsity. Not good. Derivative emocore, and just way too loud. If you ever see them, don't stand anywhere near the keyboard player, because he's sure to kick you in the head during his "rocking" epileptic fits. I was laughing out loud. Pretty ridiculous. Their lead guitarist had some technical talent, but he was soloing too much, and many of the solos sounded way out of key. And everything was so loud, you couldn't make out much of the words or melodies. I think the singer/bass player was pretty miffed that the crowd didn't like them. Last opening band was This is Me Smiling, who were probably terribly miscast on this bill, but they're actually pretty good and unique. They have a more than competent piano/keys player, were tight as shit, and had an interesting pop sound. I picked up one of their $5 CDs after the show after saying "hey" to their lead singer/guitarist. I think many of the younger Hey Mercedes fans didn't like them, but they had a good contingent of their own fans in the crowd, and many others recognized the quality and gave them a warm reception.

I was in front of the stage, about three rows of people away. As the opening acts played it got more and more crowded, making me worry that I would have the room to dance/spazz-out. I had also brought a pen and paper from the hotel in case I didn't get a setlist afterwards, and the masses were probably going to make writing more difficult. I talked to a few people before HM came on, including some kids who drove from Kansas City and some who flew from Tampa. I think I came from further away. I win.

The band came out and started rocking! The first song went well, but during the second song, some guys came out of nowhere and started moshing! These pricks were clearly a minority inflicting their perverse notion of "fun" on a multitude of innocents who wanted no part of it. I've moshed before, I can appreciate the fun and chaos of "slamming", but this was NOT an occasion I wanted to see it happen, let alone participate. I yelled at a guy who elbowed me in the chin, and he moved away from me, but during the next song, the band of miscreants started again. At first I started pushing back, but realized that this was exactly what they wanted, and that I was pushing them into other people who wanted to actually ENJOY the fucking music, so I started standing my ground, trying to maintain my place and keep the moshers' movements to a minimum. Soon my rising anger had a focus: some punk kid with cornrows, pushing into people and waving his hand in the air (like he just didn't care) in a decidedly urban/hip-hop fashion. This was an affront to me, the band and all of the fans! I tell you, friends, I gripped the pen in my hand and came closer to mortally wounding a human than I ever have before, and ever hope to again. On the fourth song the pen was knocked out of my hand, so I gave up and left The Pit. I got a pen from the bar and stood near the back of the crowd, where I had room to dance and jump around (without disturbing those around me, thank you very much), but still had a good view of the band.

The turnout for the show was great. I was glad that so many people came to pay their respects, despite the down-side of pushing me to the fringes of the crowd. The band played great, the set was amazing. They played almost everything I wanted to hear, including the newly anointed "perfect" song "Roulette Systems". They played what I thought was going to be their closer early, and then the other song I thought might be the closer. When they ended the set, I knew they were going to come back out, but had no clue how many songs they might play for an encore. They played "Quit", which disappointed me greatly. It's one of my least favorite songs by them (although I love the lyrics) and didn't think it was a very upbeat message to send during their farewell show. Luckily, Bob said they were playing one more and that was it. And it was "Stay Six"!!!!! A song I had never heard them play live, but had shouted for many a time. It was SO awesome! After the lights came on I rushed up to the stage to try and get a setlist. I was holding a twenty, prepared to give it to a roadie who would hook me up, but it was not to be. No setlists were made available, although the drummer threw his sticks in the crowd and several guitar picks were thrown out, too. I was feeling pretty damn special for making my own, I must say. I gave the pen back to the bartender, who was shocked at my honesty, and who gave me a free bottle of water to show his gratitude. None of the moshers got that, I bet! Motherfuckers!

In line to get my coat, I passed Bob greeting people. I shook his hand, he seemed to recognize me, and I told him that I was CBK from SLC who comments on his site. When I saw he was holding a Sharpie, I asked him to sign my setlist, and he enthusiastically obliged. He's so nice! I also gave some shouts to the drummer, Damon, and guitarist, Mike, along the way. I'm going to miss that band! (sniff)

So the trip was well worth it. Despite some drawbacks (moshers, not being able to figure out the chords by watching, involuntarily smoking about 2 packs of cigarettes from the ambient air, UPDATE: there were also several technical problems for Bob's guitar and pedals, but I don't think I've seen an HM show without that happening) the positives won out. Plus, there are two totally never-before-heard songs on the new EP. Sweet!

But the real winners here are you, the faithful S&B readers who can optimistically hope for a whole lot less Hey Mercedes content on this site for the rest of their lives. Or at least until the HM Reunion Tour.

iPod: "Fairytale of New York" (Pogues cover) by The City on Film, "Toys in the Attic" (Aerosmith cover) by R.E.M., "Fuck Her Gently" by Tenacious D, and "Jimmy Go Swimmer" by Braid.