Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Walkmen--Schubas, Chicago, Illinois

I know I promised a full report of both Friday and Sunday of last week’s Tomorrow Never Knows Festival. Well, here’s the thing. For Friday I really have no excuse for missing it. Time rolled around, I was tired, it was freezing outside, and I just couldn’t motivate myself to make the trek to Schubas (I live less than two blocks away). The weather really wasn’t the problem--no Chicagoan should ever use cold weather as an excuse for missing something--I just didn't have the time. A bit of a shame too because there was a very good lineup and I’m having trouble locating any decent write-up of what went down. The Redwalls, Bon Iver, Illinois, and Wax Fang just down the street and I was nowhere to be found. Damn. If anyone was there and would like give a quick recap of the night please feel free to do so. In fact, it would be much appreciated. I meant to catch all of Sunday but arrived during the last song by White Denim (you can thank overtime in the NFC title game for that….well done, Green Bay). Not a total loss, White Rabbits and the Walkmen were still left to close down the festival.

White Rabbits seem to have that familiar sound that is migrating from New York City a lot these days only they do it better than most. Fans of local group OFFICE would probably like these guys. Their set, consisting mostly of songs off their first record Fort Nightly, reached a crescendo when they played the upbeat “While We Go Dancing”. Schubas was already packed with what I presume were mostly Walkmen people but White Rabbits kept everyone appropriately occupied. I bet we see them on the bill of a lot of the countless festivals coming up this spring and summer.

During the brief downtime I noticed every square inch of the back room seemed to be occupied. Maybe it just seemed really crowded because everyone still had on their winter coat. What Schubas lacks in coat check they make up for with a completely stunning girl tending bar in the back room. I think it’s a fair trade. About twenty minutes passed and then Thax Douglas read a poem that was coincidentally enough called “The Walkmen” and introduced the band. They opened with three new songs. I have no idea what any of the songs are called (I recognized the first one from a show of theirs this past summer) but they really kicked it into a higher gear on the third song and reminded me why I love the dynamic of this band. You can’t ask for much more than a lead singer snarling into a microphone, a posturing guitarist, a drummer reminding everyone if they look away they risk missing the show being stolen, and two guys anchoring down the band sharing duties on bass and organ. And assuming that this song will have a spot on the new album, I definitely see myself walking into Groovin’ High on an undetermined Tuesday come this spring when the album is released.

Moving along….alright, finally a song we recognize and……whoa….someone get Hamilton’s keys, he probably shouldn't drive the van back to New York after the show. They were playing "Little House of Savages” and he actually fell off the stage. I’m not kidding. I was in the middle of the room so I didn’t have the best view of what happened, all I saw was him take a dive and then sort of flail around like a fish out of water. According to a fan on their message board, Leithauser handed some guy in the front some money because he broke his glasses when he fell on him. Here's hoping it was a pair of those thick-rimmed hipster glasses.

If anyone was worried that a little too much booze might hinder the band’s performance then they probably haven’t seen the Walkmen too many times. They just laughed it off, charged ahead, and even turned the intensity up a bit with some more new songs. By the time they rolled around to “Thinking of a Dream I Had” the entire band may have sweated out all the toxins coursing through their veins anyways. Schubas is just a sweaty place. (Check out this clip of the band from last March’s show at Schubas. Peter Bauer on bass is sweating so much it reminds me of that scene from the movie “Airplane” where the protagonist is attempting to land the plane and sweat is just pouring down his face.) It wasn’t much better in the crowd, in fact I could hardly move. I was about twenty feet from the emergency exit but had there been a fire my chances of survival were not good.

For those in the crowd that came to hear their old hits they were probably at the wrong show. Almost half their set was new material. They scattered a few pleasers here and there like the aforementioned “Little House of Savages”, and “Thinking of a Dream I Had” with some “Wake Up” and “What’s In It For Me” mixed in as well. They didn’t play “We’ve Been Had” and they didn’t play “Gary Gaetti” but no one seemed to really mind. One comical part of the evening was after closing their first set with “All Hands & The Cook” (a personal favorite), they all left the stage drenched in sweat and went outside (yes, at Schubas backstage is outside) to inevitably catch pneumonia. Of course when they returned it was time for everyone to yell out requests. Here’s what I overheard:

Guy1: Rue The Day!

Guy2: Lost In Boston!

Guy3: All Hands & The Cook!

Guy1 (offended in a “I know way more about music than you do” sort of way): They just played that, dude!

Guy3: Oh…..Rue The Day!

See, this is why I go to a lot of concerts, to hear things like that. And for the record, none of those songs were played in the encore. If memory serves they hit up “No Christmas While I’m Talking” (lots from Bows + Arrows this evening) and “Another One Goes By”. Call it a hunch but I have a really good feeling about the new album. Some of their fans that they picked up after the release of Bows + Arrows seemingly dropped off with A Hundred Miles Off (for the record, not this one). By chance the new record reflects what I saw live, expect a lot of them to be back.



Anna Apocalypse said...


I saw that you linked my blog, Pop Apocalypse, and I decided to read through some of yours. An hour later, I'm still reading and totally hooked. It's nice to see another Chicago music blogger out there. I linked you back on my site, keep up the good work!


Alex said...

Thank you! And keep those downloads coming...I hang out in large circles that depend on those.

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