It feels like DECADES ago I saw these shows, but since I still think about them often, I thought I’d write up a little bit about these three shows I went to in the first week of November. Oh how things were so different then…
Screaming Females, Moor Mother, and Fake Limbs were playing on Wednesday, the day of the final game of the World Series. I thought maybe it would be empty because Chicagoans would be busy watching the game. I met a friend for drinks before the show, and in the bar beside The Subterranean all eyes were glued to the television. My friend departed for another party and I departed for the show, which was at first empty. I hung around beside the audio booth on stage right, wearing my WPRB t-shirt (because I have no band t-shirts) and looking awkward. I stood around for about an hour as the room semi-filled and Fake Limbs took the stage.
I knew nothing about Fake Limbs, but when the frontman (who definitely looked drunk and was wearing a t-shirt with a drawing of a stripper pushing her booty into the face of a cop lying on the ground) said “women, short people, and queers TO THE FRONT”, I dug it. Their music was not quite up my alley, but the energy was great (the frontman went into the crowd a lot) such that I would definitely go to another show. At one point some dudes (mostly just one dude) tried to start a moshpit, and the frontman said jokingly: “look everyone, a pushpit!”
A long break between Fake Limbs and Moor Mother, during which time I went to the bathroom. As is tradition, the women’s bathroom line was incredibly long, partly because one of the toilets was broken. Since it was a punk show with a decent amount of queer representation, several women were like fuck this and went to use the stall in the men’s restroom. Since I didn’t have to pee badly and since standing in line gave me something to do, I waited in the long line.
Moor Mother came on and seemed really really stoned. Their music is described on Facebook as “slaveship punk and afrofuturist electronics.” It’s loud and in your face, screeches and squeals. A woman in front of me had to plug her eyes and I felt good about the fact that I brought earplugs. Again, not music I particularly like, but I value it’s importance. In the audience at the Subterranean, I saw someone wearing a 2016 Fed Up Fest t-shirt. Fed Up Fest is Chicago’s queercore punk festival. Moor Mother was supposed to close out Sunday of the 2015 Fed Up Fest when I went, but due to (I think) tour van malfunctions, didn’t play, so I’m glad I got to at least see one of the best new artists according to Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.
I decided to hold my position after Moor Mother finished because by now the room was packed. The Screaming Females were great. To be honest, I didn’t really know any songs before going to the show. I kind of just bought tickets to this show because I’d heard Screaming Females were a good band and also I had missed out on seeing Moor Mother. But the show did not disappoint! Especially towards the end, when Moor Mother came on stage and freestyled over a beat created by the Screaming Females. Also at one point guitarist Marissa Paternoster handed her guitar to audience members and stage dove. ‘Twas thrilling.
To the Mitski show the following Saturday, I wore a pink t-shirt with flowers on it that I found in my basement (because I have no band t-shirts). Flying solo again, I grabbed some water and made my way to, again, stage right. Unlike the Angel Olsen show I’d seen at Thalia Hall before, I was not front row for Mitski, and being a few body rows back meant having to shift awkwardly when people – mostly Thalia Hall waiters or security staff – had to push through to the front. I noticed there were a lot of people of Asian heritage in the audience, possibly (probably) because Mitski is Japanese-American and it’s cool to see people of your minority group making pop culture on a larger stage than is expected for that group.
But Mitski wasn’t my favorite act of the night, although certain songs I’d heard before were just as great (if not better) live because of the powerful wall of sound and emotion transferred through the stereo sound (“I Bet On Losing Dogs”, “Townie”). Also her solo acoustic set at the end of her show was awesome, particular closing song “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”, better than the album version and than this KEXP recording because ACOUSTIC GUITAR. While I don’t love her music and she’s not my favorite artist, Mitski, along with Screaming Females, Moor Mother, and Fake Limbs, is an artist whose existence I value because I think they add things to musical conversations, both in craft and content.
Anyway, my favorite act of the night was Weaves, a Toronto, Canada band that BLEW MY MIND. Their KEXP live set is somewhat representative of the kind of energy, ingenuity, and originality that this band brings to music. Seriously, standing in the audience I was blown away by what I was hearing. I kept thinking: I’ve heard singer before, right? And then I realized she sounds kind of like Karen O. And truthfully their music sounds as exciting as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ 2003 debut LP Fever To Tell. I would not be surprised if this band blows up like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ did. My favorite track of the night was “Hulahoop”, which just dripped with facemelt.
Between Weaves (the opener) and Mitski (the headliner) was a Fear of Men, which wasn’t bad, just not super enthralling. I enjoyed their songs but they did not dig hooks into me. Also the guitarist kept swaying back and forth, but NOT IN TIME WITH THE MUSIC. Like his tempo was off. It was like he was waltzing while playing a 4/4 song. I don’t understand how he does it.
The Jeff Rosenstock show was at the Beat Kitchen. I went with my friend who is a diehard Jeff Rosenstock fan. He wore a Bomb The Music Industry! shirt. I wore my Garfield “Food is my life” shirt (because I have no band t-shirts).
The opener was a local dude playing drums over (behind?) pre-recorded tracks he’d done that morning. He explained that he normally has a band but they were all on vacation, so… I totally respected his courage at going up there solo and pulling off a really tricky thing. It also reminded me of the first time I saw Jeff Rosenstock, which was in Philly when Jeff just played guitar over an iPod of pre-recorded music.
Next was Katie Ellen, which is made up of the guitarist/vocalist and drummer of Chumped + another guitarist and bassist and self-described as “sparkle pop feminist fuzz core.” Yeah, I’d say that. They sound kind of like Bully and All Dogs, a little softer edge than Chumped. Frontwoman Anika Pyle spent time before each song explaining a little bit about each song, which is sometimes annoying but I found it nice to hear the intent of each song, especially one long preface about one song about how it’s okay to be an emotional girl and our emotions should not be discounted. My fave track was “Wild Heart”, which has chorus guitar lick that just sounds really pretty in a powerful way (“pretty in a powerful way” sounds like it should be a song lyric…).
Before Jeff Rosenstock, Hard Girls took the stage. I’d seen them at Riot Fest and really enjoyed their sound and energy. Their set at this show did not disappoint. It was also around this time Matt and I ran into a college peer of ours who’s now a grad student at U of C. SMALL WORLD!
I held Matt’s things as he went moshing and crowdsurfing during the Jeff Rosenstock set. I unfortunately wore flip-flops so steered clear of the ramming bodies by staying pinned to the wall stage right (ALWAYS STAGE RIGHT!). He played music from WORRY. his new album, but unfortunately I didn’t know any songs from it. STILL, the show was great. Jeff’s energy is OFF THE CHARTS and thus it translates into the ground shaking with the jumping and bobbing and moshing and surfing in the crowd. And between fast-paced punk songs Jeff and his bandmates made jokes about things like election ballot measures (this was November 6th, before the apocalypse). I would definitely go to another one of his shows and even picked up a WORRY bumper sticker. Also, one of my favorite parts of his set was his drummer, who was wildly awesome but also made the weirdest faces. He looked of Japanese descent and would make this frowny-face that made him look like a bass fish. ‘Twas hilarious.
At the end of the night, someone complemented me on my Garfield t-shirt, so…
P.S. I now own a band t-shirt so when I go to the Priests concert in Chicago in February I’ll probably wear my Chastity Belt t-shirt.
P.S.S. Both Mitski and Screaming Females didn’t do encores. They said – before playing their final song – “this is our final song. We don’t do encores.” I like that. As I’ve written before, encores are so contrived.
P.S.S.S. Just learned Weaves are playing in Chicago in less than 7 days… So I should go to that. BRB. Buying tickets now.
P.S.S.S.S. On one of the Jeff Rosenstock stereos has an altered quote from Slaughter-House Five spraypainted onto it: “Everything was terrible and nothing was not on fire.” THIS IS MY NEW LIFE QUOTE. I WISH IT WERE MY HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR QUOTE.