Monday, November 5, 2007

Art Brut, The Hold Steady--The Metro, Chicago, Illinois

Art Brut and The Hold Steady came to town this past Halloween for a show at the Metro. We had all been looking forward to this since tickets went on sale months back. After a quick pre-party my crew headed over there and arrived early enough to gain free tickets to the Art Brut post-party that was happening on the balcony after the show. Standing in line it became obvious that not everyone got the memo that it was Halloween. And if I see another "dick in a box" costume I'm going to take a flame thrower to this place. Others were just bad. One guy was dressed up like Mark Prior. But a perfectly healthy Mark Prior which makes no sense to me. He was standing upright and everything. That guy hasn't been productive for about four seasons now. If you're going to go as Mark Prior you best be on crutches or something.

It's not a pre-party until Pikachu shows up.

Pikachu, Dog the Bounty Hunter, a Bunny, and a Jewish Guy. I love Halloween.

Pikachu was nice enough to point me in the direction of the bar.

I bumped into Angus Young who was angry because his buddy wore a terrible costume.
Opening band Federale came out to kick things off. They're a Brooklyn-based rock/blues group who look like they could be the bastard children of Duane Allman with a roadie looking like Ted Nugent. They were dressed like escaped convicts, ironic being Federale is a slang term for Mexican federal police. The lead singer had "69" as his jail number ID and the bassist had "420". If only "666" could be represented we'd have all of our sophomoric rock star bases covered. Ahh wait....yep, sure enough the drummer came through. Good work Federale!
By the way, these guys are awesome. I'll take very loud 70's-ish sounding rock music for an opening band any day. Not everyone though. The guy that came dressed as Conor Oberst spent the entire time cringing in the corner. His loss. If you like the Meat Puppets you'd probably like these guys. I read somewhere that these guys were handpicked by The Hold Steady which makes sense.

Federale was wrongly convicted for sucking and had to escape. (Sorry, that was stupid.)

Fat guys? Check. Unkempt hair? Check. Doo-rag? Check. Alright, let's rock.

Pikachu shows approval for Federale's set.
Art Brut played at the Pitchfork Festival in 2006 and I missed their set because I really didn't know what they were about. That turned out to be a mistake because everyone ranted and raved about them for the months that followed. Their two records are fun but they're a band you need to see live. Lead singer Eddie Argos came out dressed like fat Elvis and other costumes included a Misfit, Trojan warrior, and whatever the hell the drummer was. They kicked into "Formed a Band" and the crowd went wild. It was pretty cool because they had this large screen behind them that often spelled out the lyrics to whatever song they were playing which threw a huge bone to those unfamiliar with their albums.

Fat Elvis, a Misfit, Trojan Warrior et al formed a band.
Eddie Argos might be the best front man in the world. He's hilarious. He cracked on Amy Winehouse, jumped into the crowd for a song and exchanged high-fives with everyone, and he does it with that perfect overtly-obnoxious British accent.

Art Brut was tearing it up. They're very crowd-pleasing. I almost forgot there was still another band. They played new songs "I Will Survive" (reminding us that it's not a cover) and "Post Soothing Out" in about three minutes. When starting into "Modern Art" I had the following exchange with a girl right by me:
Her: This is my song.
Me: Why is that?
Her: Because I used to go to art school but dropped out.
Me: Ummm, the lyrics are "Modern art makes me want to rock out". Not dropout.
Her: You're an ass.
Yikes. But whatever, "Modern Art" had the crowd in an absolute frenzy. Me included. They could have just played that song 10 times and everyone would have been happy.

Remeber, rock out, don't dropout.

They covered all their hits, including the aforementioned "Formed a Band", but also hitting up "18,000 Lira", "My Little Brother", "St. Pauli", "Emily Kane", and "Pump Up the Volume". Argos informed us they only had two songs left but assured us they were both hits. Hey, I wasn't expecting anything less. They covered new song "Direct Hit" and ended with "Bad Weekend" that had the crowd chanting " of the pops.....Hold of the pops.....Art of the pops." This band just wants to be top of the pops. They were this night. I might have to open up a 300 mile radius on seeing this band. That's how fun they are.

What the hell is in that guy's ear?

Fat Elvis has left the building and now come The Hold Steady. This was my second time seeing this band but the first time as a headliner so I was pretty excited. They were dressed as sort of western bandits ala the "Chips Ahoy" video. I bet the costumes were Franz' idea since he already had the mustache. Now is a good time to mention I dressed up like Harry Potter for the event for a couple of reasons. It's easy. It's cheap. It's very recognizable. And apparently Daniel Radcliffe is a big Hold Steady fan. So this girl standing next to me pointed out another girl who seemed to be rocking a Hermoine Granger costume since she had on a scarf donning the Gryffindor colors. I got her attention, gave her a very appropriate thumbs up and she stared at me like I was a moron. Word to the wise......Gryffindor colors are also Minnesota Golden Gopher colors. As in "He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn out winters...". She was from Minnesota......not Hogwarts. I'm an idiot. What can you do. There should probably be some rule about not talking to girls if you're dressed up like Harry Potter anyways. The embarrassment wore off and I found out the band was also filming a live cd and dvd so cameras came out from every angle of the Metro.

Craig Finn took a drink of Budweiser, said hello to the crowd, and they ripped into "Stuck Between Stations." I was about 3 rows back from the front and there was an immediate surge to the front of the stage. It was uncontrollable for a few seconds but slowly calmed down. I don't think anyone near the stage missed a single lyric on that song. Good thing Craig's vocals were appropriately turned up. They hit "The Swish" next and same story. There's something about The Hold Steady's music that is very conducive to drinking beer. Problem is, I was near the front of the stage and I wasn't going to leave and try and come back and be that guy. But I didn't need to. People all around me were just handing me beer without me even asking. Hold Steady fans are the best. They really are. They love this band and when they're playing it's just like one big party. One of my friends that came along wasn't too familiar with the band and was blown away by the crowd. I guess we've become more accustomed to being at shows where hipsters stare at each other very suspiciously. Before they took the stage I was just listening to people around me talk about their favorite Hold Steady songs and and use perfect Hold Steady vernacular to describe why they are their favorite. A complete stranger even asked me for my take. Such nice people. A big surprise was all the cute girls in the crowd. I didn't see that one coming. Just another reason to like The Hold Steady.

This guy told me he was dressed up like Franz Nicolay. I told him to try again.

Could Harry Potter have a cameo in The Hold Steady dvd? Only the woman with the camera knows for sure.
The Hold Steady have been touring on the strength of Boys and Girls in America for over a year now. If they're tired of playing those songs you would never know it. But they tour so much the crowd can stay with them every step of the way. During "Massive Nights" a girl next to me was doing all of Craig's hand gestures and dance moves before he was even doing them. It was incredible. She must watch a lot of Youtube. I thought "Chips Ahoy" and "You Can Make Them Like You" were going to bring the house down. I think they ended up playing every song off of Boys and Girls in America while also playing a few from Almost Killed Me. Besides "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" I don't remember anything else from Separation Sunday which was slightly disappointing. They paid lip service to a few b-sides as well.
Maybe some monotony has set in, because they played a couple new songs that I hadn't heard before. They were a bit softer than we're used to but incorporated the same themes that we've come to love with this band. No word on if a new album will be dropping in the near future.

Here's one thing I have never understood. When a concert is on a Wednesday night is it necessary for it to last until 1:30 in the morning? Don't people have to work the next day? Who are these people? Can't we get this ball rolling at 6pm? Never happens. Since it was so late we decided we couldn't make the Art Brut after party, we'll have to reserve that for people who don't work. Art school dropouts presumably.
The Hold Steady came out for a pretty long encore. Starting with "Citrus" they then hit up "First Night" which may have been my favorite moment of the evening. There's just something about a bunch of sweaty kids huddled in masses yelling out "Boys and Girls in America" that I find appealing. Really, I do. That song is incredible. "Girls Like Status" came next which segued into the obvious show-closer "Killer Parties." Craig gave his usual spiel about how much joy they have up there performing and seemed to be completely aware of how much joy we were having down where we were. Tad Kubler's spacey guitars on that song seem to just put everyone in such a good mood. Lot of love all around. From talking to people, the crowd was from all over the Midwest. I might be seeing them again in Washington, DC in a few weeks and I'm curious if the East Coast crowd digs these guys as much as we do here in middle America. I know they're now based out of Brooklyn but their music screams Minneapolis. (Which, of course, is why girls show up wearing Minnesota Golden Gopher gear. Dammit.)
I'll leave you with a few more pictures:

Hey look! Franz Nicolay is down in the crowd. Oh, never mind, it's just a guy in a blue visor.


cooky-monster said...

I generally agree with your take on the show as a whole. Federale was a pleasant, heavier-rock surprise. Art Brut was hardcore tongue in cheek mayhem. And The Hold Steady was pretty solid.

It seemed like something was off though. The accoustics perhaps? Or maybe Art Brut was so high energy and such a different style that The Hold Steady felt more like a denouement rather than the climax. Still, if I had to choose between an Art Brut album and The Hold Steady, I'd take the latter any day.

Alex said...

Don't you think if there was a problem it was the lateness of the evening? I hate that feeling of peering down at your watch and realizing you have to be up in 5 hours for work.

The Pirate of Selby Avenue said...

Rock-n-roll, brother, rock-n-roll! How big was this venue? Looks a little cozier than the Minneapolis show. "There's something about listening to The Hold Steady that is incredibly conductive to beer-drinking" may be one of the most profound observations I've heard in a while.
Did you happen to see Federale's tour van? Was I right about the bubble window and the airbrushed painting of a wizard or a dragon or something?

Alex said...

I think the Metro holds around 1,100 so it's pretty intimate. It's not the best place in Chicago but they get a lot of good shows.

I missed the Federale tour van but from the looks of the band that sounds right up there alley.

ed002d said...

The East Coast crowds definitely dig them. Never seen 'em in DC, but the crowd was nuts in Boston a few weeks ago (though the band was better in Chicago):

Alex said...

More I think about it that makes total sense with the band having roots in Massachusetts. Speaking of, anyone ever seen them play "Hostile, Mass"? I love that song but it doesn't seem to find itself onto a setlist very often.

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