Monday, August 6, 2007

Paste Magazine Pre-Lollapalooza Show, Subterranean--Chicago, IL

I posted an opportunity on this site last week to win free tickets to Paste Magazine’s August 2 party at Subterranean…..well, I actually ended up winning two tickets. Hooray! I was pretty excited/intrigued about this show. Paste did the whole secret lineup thing and only promoted it as bands from the pages of Paste and from the stages of Lollapalooza. And invitation only just heightened the suspense. This could be completely awesome….or terrible (the Hold Steady, My Morning Jacket, amongst many others were scheduled to play Lollapalooza……but so were Ben Harper and Pete Yorn). Since desperate times call for desperate measures I sent in my spy who has a friend at Paste Magazine to try and get the inside scoop on the “secret” lineup. He was quickly rebuffed but assured the show would be worthwhile. Pretty satisfied, I headed out to Wicker Park last Thursday with my friend Val in tow to see what all the hoopla was about. Here’s what went down:

Upon arrival I was sold a Busch beer for $2. A two dollar beer in Chicago? This must be some sort of personal special perk for being the grand winner of these tickets. It wasn’t. I quickly realized that most people in attendance were also ticket winners. The first secret act was Two Guys in Their 40s With Acoustic Guitars (this is what I chose to call them, it wasn’t their actual name). They were very forgettable. They fumbled through a Replacements song and then closed out their set by asking the crowd if we would mind if they played a really sad, slow song. Well, since you asked……

Besides Paste Magazine, the other sponsor of this super-secret night was Guitar Hero. Between sets we watched Richard and Doug battle each other to the tune of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box”. I think Richard won but I’m not positive because I was too busy standing in line for a $2 beer and thinking “I don’t ever recall seeing Two Guys in Their 40s With Acoustic Guitars in the pages of Paste Magazine.” The Guitar Hero competition served to be more of a nuisance than entertainment mostly because people were picking the wrong songs. I’m pretty positive there are only five bands you need to worry with when picking a Guitar Hero song: Van Halen, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses, and Led Zeppelin. And no Kip, or whatever your name was, M. Ward is not on that list.

Back to the music, the next guest performer was Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Ounsworth informed us the rest of his band mates were stuck in Philadelphia and not scheduled to arrive until the following day. Not a huge deal, he was pretty enjoyable. And halfway through his set, he brought out current touring mate (and personal favorite) Elvis Perkins. They played an interesting rendition of “Details of the War” from Clap Your Hands first album. Great song. Switching seats, they then played Perkins’ “How’s Forever Been, Baby”. Great, great song. Perkins then went back upstairs leaving Ounsworth to finish up. And he did a good job too, leaving the stage after playing a sped up “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth.” I never thought the music of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah would translate that well in an Ounsworth solo performance but I really enjoyed it and I don’t think I was alone.

After a few more Guitar Hero performances (done rather poorly, I might add), the most awkward moment of the night occurred. An editor from Paste who had been serving as emcee came out with a gentlemen wielding a guitar and said, “I don’t think I need to introduce this next act, you all know who he is, right!?” Ummm, apparently not….unless mass silence is now widely used to indicate recognition. It was G. Love (sans Sauce). Interesting. I’ve been over G. Love for nearly five years now but still thought this had some potential. And say what you will, he seemed to be rather talented. I don’t care for his singing style but was caught off guard by how smoothly he played the guitar and harmonica. After playing “Friday Night (Hundred Dollar Bill)” from Philadelphonic, he asked if any of us noticed how he mixed in some of Cream’s “White Room” in the middle of the song. I gave out a shout to indicate I had caught on to the little medley (I hadn’t), which was acknowledged by Mr. Love. Slide guitar in hand, he closed out his set playing some bluesy songs that I didn’t recognize but were pretty strong. Once G. Love was done, we were told the show was over unless we wanted to stick around for some more Guitar Hero. For whatever reason, Philip going to town on some Kiss song wasn’t the encore I had in mind so we decided to call it a night.

All in all, it was a pretty good night. I kept telling everyone beforehand that anything that’s billed as a “secret lineup” will leave everyone either completely mesmerized or severely disappointed but nowhere in between. I was wrong. This show was good…..nothing more, nothing less. The extremely underwhelming first act and the Guitar Hero notwithstanding, I can’t for the life of me bring myself to complain about a free, albeit short, concert on the same night Pearl Jam was playing at the Vic for $150 a pair and on the heels of the extremely expensive Lollapalooza weekend. If I were Paste, I would be reluctant to use the “secret lineup” tag for shows in the future with a lineup consistent with the likes of Ounsworth and G. Love but the effort seemed to be there and that shouldn’t go unnoticed.


Val said...

Let's face it, a free show is a free show, and as free shows go, this was a pretty good one. I'm not an indie freak, but I hear tell these were some fairly formidable acts. And, indeed, they did bring their shiniest faces.

That said, let me add a little something about the experience. So Guitar Hero was a major sponsor - great, bully for all. But come on, there were probably only 8 songs to choose from, maybe 3 of which weren't total snoozers. Considering atleast half the stage time was taken by this game, this was just sad. Pathetic marketing by the Guitar Hero people, poor planning by Paste.

Alex said...

Agree on all counts. And one thing I didn't mention was the lack of energy people were putting into their Guitar Hero performances.

It's probably good it didn't end up being the Hold Steady like we were hoping. I probably would have just ended up burning the place down afterwards.

Jason said...

I couldn't have described the evening much better. I actually managed to get a free beer. I think I got there before the bartender realized they were switching over from pre-show party during which apparently Paste was running a tab.

The only thing I would add is that solo acoustic doesn't seem to work with secret lineup. Clearly very few people gave a crap about anything that was going on onstage. I wasn't familiar with CYHSY or Elvis Perkins, but was very interested in what they were doing, but could barely hear a thing over the din of the crowd.

As for Guitar Hero....we were promised a competition, but got a lame exhibition...I'm very good at Guitar Hero and could have kicked anyone's butt that was up there...but it wasn't worth it. They could have at least put a Lollapalooza weekend pass up for grabs and kept score...and have unlocked some more songs before the evening began (sorry, there's no AC/DC in Guitar Hero II).

Alex said...

I don't know if it was because I was right next to the stage but I didn't notice the indifference of the crowd as much as everyone else. So thanks for calling that to my attention. But now that i think about it, I do remember Ounsworth asking the crowd how they were doing and when he didn't get a response he said to no one in particular rather sarcastically "I'm fine too, thanks for asking."

You're right about the acoustic thing not working with the secret lineup. But I'm guessing they do that because it allows them to get bands and artists out there much faster rather than all the setup that's required for a full electric set. (But once I realized there was no equipment on stage, I kissed goodbye the chance of a really great rock show).

Didn't they also mention something about some of the artists taking part in the Guitar Hero competition? That definitely didn't happen. And wait, no AC/DC on Guitar Hero II?? Outrageous.

Nice work on the free beer.

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