As rarely as I'm able make it out to shows, it's even more rare that I'm able to see two in one weekend, so this weekend has ended up being pretty great for me. Friday afternoon I had a party at work with an open bar, so after downing way too many beers and meeting up with my wife to eat/sober up for a little while, I drove downtown for Macabre's Holiday of Horrors show. Apparently it's an annual event in Chicago that I didn't hear anything about last year, but puts me in a good place because I know I have something to look forward to next year as well.
All the bands were local, and the first band, the only one I'd never heard, was a sort of crusty metallic hardcore band from the Northside called Rager. Certain things about them made me judge them prematurely (firstly, I hate their name, and I always judge bands when I don't like their name), and I didn't think I'd like it, but they tore through a relentless set of fast, thrashy, heavy hardcore that didn't give you a lot of time to judge them after they started. There aren't very many locals I hear from Chicago that I get excited about, but I definitely want to keep my eyes on these guys. They nailed all their tempo changes, had split vocals that were both hectic and angry, and were punk enough to hang with the hardcore crowd, but definitely heavy enough to fit the metal atmosphere at the show.
HeWhoCorrupts played after Rager. I'd been looking forward to finally getting a chance to see them for a while, and they completely blew my expectations out the door. When you listen to a band a lot, but don't ever see pictures of them or anything, you build up this image of what they'd be like playing live, so I had this perfect image in my head of what they were going to be like, and they weren't it at all. First off, I guess I never realized how many people were in that band (6), and I also didn't think about exactly how far they'd bring out their corporate asshole stage personas. The singer opened their set with a story patting himself on the back with a recent three-way before they blasted into one of the most chaotic sets I've seen a long time. It was so refreshing. They played most of the songs I wanted to hear, and played them all even more intense than they are on record. Trying to quote the banter between songs would be pointless because I'd never get it right, and the perfect delivery of the speeches are what made it really special.
After HeWhoCorrupts were Dead to Fall. I heard them a few years ago on a Victory Records sampler and let that get in the way of admitting anything good about them. Because Rager reminded me of how quick I am to pass off bands for stupid reasons, I decided it was a good time to give Dead to Fall a second chance. They were tight and had a couple moments of cool dual-axing, but all of their songs dissolved into jock hardcore beatdown shit for kids to spin-kick to. It's obvious they know a lot more chords than just that low-D, but I guess they're doing really well for themselves. I wasn't into it at all, though.
After sort of a long set-up, Macabre finally took the stage. I heard Macabre for the first time when I was a freshman in high school and always loved them, but they were never a band I'd ever thought I'd get to see live, so this was a pretty cool moment for me. They were having a bit of an off night, mostly due to a sound man that must have been drinking the whole night and was getting pretty bad towards the end, but it was still great. There were a few rough moments on the songs I was really familiar with where it was obvious they couldn't hear each other and were trying to keep it all together, but on some of the older songs I don't know so well I couldn't even tell if there were any problems. They set an eerie mood that made you paranoid about getting killed by some psycho at the show, as they went through brief back stories on all their songs (if you aren't familiar with the band, all of their songs are about serial killers) before blasting into the songs. I had to cut out right after their set, so there may have been an encore I missed, but there's always next year and I definitely got my money's worth.
Last night my wife Toni and I went to the Beat Kitchen on the Northside to see the Koffin Kats. They've been a favorite of both of ours for a while now and we hadn't seen them in two years (I believe the last time they played Chicago they played like 15 minutes from our house but it was two days before Toni was due to give birth). I normally don't take any interest in American psychobilly bands because, as a general rule, they're awful. Anybody has to admit, psychobilly is a genre Americans have never done right, and the Europeans have us beat hands down. The Koffins Kats are a little different than most US bands right now because they aren't really trying to be a "psychobilly band". The bassist/main vocalist is a greaser, and the guitarist/secondary vocalist is a punk (they're the only two consistent members, I know they've been through at least three different drummers) and they each bring their own elements to the table along with a good bit classic rock n roll showmanship to arrive at a sound that's close to psychobilly, rather than just trying to cop European psycho bands. In that sense, the Koffin Kats are one the few bands that have managed to break out of the whole "quiff rock" mold and manage to come anywhere close to genius that bands like the Meteors and Demented Are Go created. Their set last night was great, much faster than I remember, and showed no signs of road weariness even though it was the last date of their tour before heading back to Detroit.
We showed up late and missed the first opening band, Johnny Murder and the 25 to Life, which I was disappointed with because I actually like the stuff I've heard by them, which is along the lines on the Guana Batz. We did catch the Massacres set, which I'd really not have because they're one of those bands that I'm convinced no one even likes, they just go see because they're friends and are convinced it's "cool", so those people convince other people it's "cool" to see them, and the cycle goes on until suddenly everyone claims they like this band that, in reality, no one likes at all. You know, the kind of band that sells a ton of t-shirts, but never any CDs.
Rager on MySpace
HeWhoCorrupts on MySpace
Dead to Fall on MySpace
Macabre on MySpace
Johnny Murder and the 25 to Life on MySpace
The Massacres on MySpace
Koffin Kats on MySpace