Show Type – Jukely Flyer
For Openers – Fake Limbs, Milemarker
“No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of”
-Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski
Since I had been out of town the previous weekend, this show was a Jukely flyer (meaning I had never heard of any of the bands and was going based on the Jukely description and linked tracks) that I had to make to keep my resolution alive. Since Thalia Hall is across town and the show didn’t start 9:30, I had contemplated sticking it out only to meet the minimum (self-imposed) requirements of my resolution (see rules). Ultimately, the rules worked since a) they got me off my ass and b) the show was amazing.
The layout for this show was “in-the-round” which meant that the bands set up in the middle of the floor on a very low (maybe about 1 foot) riser. This led to an interesting band/crowd dynamic with each band addressing it a little differently.
Fake Limbs kicked things off with high energy and a muddy mix. They attacked the in-the-round setup by having the bass, guitar and vocalist all facing the drummer. While the bassist and guitarist stayed pretty glued to their spots (face it—there wasn’t much room), the lead singer prepared by having about 100 feet of lead on his mic and spent most of the night prowling the crowd. This lead to a lot of tripping by both the crowd and the singer and he performed a few songs from various prone positions. He also had the best line of the night when he told the crowd “I guess they are calling this ‘in-the-round’ because I’m round!” as he caressed his not-overly ample belly.
Musically, they played noisy, aggressive, punk influenced rock that suffered from likely not having a sound check. The guitar player was pretty great though, so overall it was a great show.
Next up came Milemarker. Apparently this band came in from Berlin (by way of North Carolina and Chicago). Because of its larger lineup (guitar, bass, keyboards and drums) their approach to “in-the-round” amounted to everyone pointed toward the middle of the stage, reminiscent of an intimate jam session in someone’s basement. They clearly benefited from a sound check and the mix was pretty great.
A large contingent of the crowd apparently knew the band from “back in the day” (late 90’s through early ought’s). This provided me with one of the funnier moments of the evening. I was standing stage side a few feet from the lead guitarist next to a rather inebriated long time fine who kept screaming “Fireside ‘97” more or less directly in the guitarist ear. Eventually, after about the fifteenth time the guitarist looked the fan directly in the eye between songs and told him “Okay, I got it”.
Musically the set was pretty aggressive guitar based rock with catchy keyboard hooks and samples. For a band that apparently hasn’t been playing much lately, they were pretty tight.
Main Attraction – Shiner
“I know its only rock-n-roll, but I like it”
-The Rolling Stones
This show made me realize that I don’t go to a lot of straight-up rock-n-roll shows anymore. Sure, I see bands that are “edgy” or loud, but this was just straight up rock. And I liked it! Shiner featured a two guitar and bass attack with plenty of low end and a killer drummer. They also opted for everyone facing center/intimate jam vibe. Musically (this really isn’t right) but the closest comparison I can come up with is they reminded me a little bit of Quicksand (low end and drumming) with some buzzing bee guitars and the occasional lead bass (at times the bass was run through some pedals – fuzz etc… — and was way out front). They played with plenty of energy and humor.
Despite starting the night unsure if I would get through the full set from the first band, I was fist waving at the side of the stage the whole night as was Mr. Fireside ’97. He apparently was a Shiner fan from way back as well and I overheard him slurring to one of his friends “No matter what, no one can ever take this away from me!” I’m not judging. That will likely be me on some Frank Turner reunion tour in the future. As an aside, I also overheard Mr. ’97 opining “Dude, you can hit critical mass with fewer people than you think” at some point between the bands. Pretty deep.
Would You See Them Again? Rating: Definitely
Venue Notes: Thalia Hall is an old time venue (reminiscent of a smaller Aragon Ballroom) resplendent with a full horseshoe balcony and ornate opera boxes. The floor is not tiered, but the stage is elevated enough to provide decent sight lines throughout, even for less-than-tall folks like myself. Despite my earlier comparison, Thalia Hall doesn’t seem to suffer from the cavernous echo chamber induced muddy sound that Aragon is known for. I’ve seen a number of shows here ranging from seated (Todd Snider) to hopping (English Beat) to frenetic in-the-round and the venue seems well suited to each. Beer prices are reasonable and a decent collection of on-tap and canned microbrews can be found. Located in the Pilsen neighborhood you are mostly limited to street parking (both metered and free) but it generally isn’t a problem.