Monday, April 21, 2008

Rogue Wave--The 9:30 Club, Washington, DC; Schubas, Chicago, Illinois

We've never really done this before, but you're about to read a side-by-side evaluation of two shows. That's band...two shows...separated only by two days, two cities, and 700 miles. To help with the comprehension, just know the DC show was last Wednesday and Chicago was on Friday. And since DC was the first of the two shows, let us start there:

DC (8:05pm): After meeting some friends for a happy hour in Dupont, I made a journey through some parts unknown over to the 9:30 Club. I passed Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street and it smelled incredible. I decided I will remember that when I stumble out of this place in a few hours starving and buzzed. I arrived at the 9:30 Club at around 8:30; not only was there no dreaded two-headed line but the place was dead. To make sure I wasn't crazy, I looked at my watch to make sure I had the right date. Then I pulled out my cellphone to make sure my watch had the right date. I did and so did my watch. Maybe Rogue Wave hasn't immigrated to the east coast yet.

Chicago (7:50pm): (I wasn't technically in Chicago at this point of time, but I was boarding a plane at BWI heading to Chicago so I think that counts.) The plane actually takes off on time and we're in good shape. The airline industry is like a toddler--you feel the need to congratulate and pat them on the back for the most minor of achievements. I start talking to the woman sitting next to me (she's white, which will come into play soon) and I find out she's deathly afraid of flying. Great. During takeoff she had me play this game where I had to guess her name just so it would take her mind off the plane rocketing into the sky. After no hints, and about 13 guesses, I was nowhere close and sick of the game. She thought it was hilarious that I couldn't figure it out. I found this to be annoying...why should I be able to guess her name? Finally, we had this exchange (near maximum altitude at this point):

Me: Listen, I have no idea, give me a hint or tell me.

Her: It's Shanelle (sp?). I know, I know, I have a black person's name. Maybe I should say it like this: (shouting) "Shuh-nell! Shuh-nell!"

Me: (Horrified) Uhh....

After this encounter, I quickly fumbled around for my ipod headphones, located them, and tuned out for the rest of the flight. An hour and 15 minutes later we approached Midway Airport and had the worst landing I've had in a plane since the last time I flew into Midway. Shuh-nell (with two Sprite and Vodkas out of the way, I might add) was literally grabbing my arm and screaming as the plane plunged down onto the runway leaning a little too much on its left side for my liking (both the plane and Shuh-nell), and then came to a screeching halt (just the plane). It was awful. Has anyone ever had a good landing at Midway? I said goodbye to the quasi-racist, hurried outside, and found my ride dutifully waiting. Less than 15 minutes later I was on Lake Shore. I walked into Schubas at around 9pm. I love flying west and gaining an hour. It makes me feel like I'm from the future.

DC (8:30pm): As above, the place was still pretty dead at this point, so I had ample opportunity to walk around and explore the 9:30 Club. And by "explore" I mean "bother people". I didn't get a chance to do this last time. It's a pretty sizable venue. If the Black Cat reminds me of the Double Door, this is probably DC's version of the Metro, only maybe bigger. The interior is rather forgettable but there's a large disco ball in the center of the room. The balcony has levels so there's easy viewing from all angles. There's also a coffee bar (pretty expensive) and a food window. And I mean it when I say food window. Right by the stage, there is a window where you can order food. I love this! I talked to one of the two guys behind the counter (he had a short name, Kip, or maybe Ned...I think there's a mental hospital right nearby) and found out that not only are pizzanini's his favorite item on the menu, it is also the most popular dish for 9:30 Club patrons. Well then, I have to have one. (I liked it.) They had a good menu, too, everything from nachos to hummus. The 9:30 Club is slowly becoming one of my favorite places on Earth. But wait...when's the opening band getting out here? I have work tomorrow...let's get this started!

Chicago (9:15pm): I'm hanging out at the bar at Schubas with No Depression drinking a Budweiser. I am happy. And now would be a good time to give props to the Schubas waitstaff. They are unbelievable. Whether it's the cute girl in white that tends bar in the front, or the cute girl that takes care of the back room that typically wears black, it doesn't're always in good hands.

DC (9:10pm): I was feeling pretty good when opening band Grand Ole Party of San Diego finally graced us with their presence. I don't like to rip bands--especially opening bands--but I found this trio to be a bit of a one trick pony, and not in a good way. In fact, towards the end of their set I was so tired of the girl's needling voice and the guys' repititious harmonizing vocals that had you just taped my reaction you would have thought I was watching "2 Girls, 1 Cup". (Sorry, that's a huge cheap shot, and it is completely undeserved, I didn't like them but they were by no means horrible. A lot people in the crowd were really into them. I just needed to find a way to fit "2 Girls, 1 Cup" into the mix somewhere.)

Chicago (10:05pm): There were two opening bands for this show and the first was MegaSuperUltra of Chicago. Apparently they are old friends of Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon. They were pretty loud and obnoxious which meant I liked them.

DC (10:00pm): As everyone is waiting for Rogue Wave, I found a group of five to talk to. They were very friendly and seemed to find the things I had to say interesting. Three of the five in the group were girls and all were attractive. Very attractive, in fact. I noticed they all had green stamps on both of their hands. Funny, I had just one black stamp on my right hand. As I inquired into the meaning of these mysterious green stamps I was informed that meant they were underage. Of course they were. One of the girls told me she's starting to freak out because she's 19 and "doesn't know what to do with her life." Man, if she doesn't get her act together soon!

Chicago (11:00pm): Grand Ole Party is back for round two. I still don't like it.

DC (10:05pm): Although I found those kids to be very nice, I just couldn't hang out with them all evening so I retreated to an area near the stage just as Rogue Wave came out. I said the place was dead earlier but by this point it was pretty crowded. One could even say it was packed. I've always liked this band, and if you were to ask me why, I'd probably just tell you it's because I think they write really good songs. Zach Rogue has a strange, yet undeniable, stage presence that he pulls off perfectly. They opened with "Like I Needed" from the vastly underrated Asleep at Heaven's Gate, moved quickly to oldie "Every Moment", and after that I was spent when it came to remembering the setlist. They're a fun band to watch. They're the closest thing I can think of that resemble a couple of friends that formed a band and actually made it. They really pull off that "garage band makes big" vibe. Also, I almost get goose bumps watching Spurgeon playing drums knowing he almost died not long ago before getting a kidney transplant. (And here's a good site to check out.)

Chicago (11:55pm): The girl in black danced her way over to us and served us some drinks. Rogue Wave was making their way through the crowd and to the stage. That's another thing you have to love about Schubas. There's no backstage. If you want to get up to the stage you have to get through all of us first. The closest thing to a backstage is that exit door right off the stage. I always love it in the winter when a band plays a furious closer, runs outside to the zero degree weather, only to return with looks on their faces that scream, "I hope this album sells well so we can play the Vic next time." If Rogue Wave's set wasn't identical to DC it was damn close. I'm sure they thought no one would be at both. Little did they know...

DC (11:05pm): Zach Rogue introduced "Bird on a Wire" by saying the song was about being stuck at a job, or place in life, that you're not happy with and want to change. I bet the 19-year-old girl from earlier knew exactly what he was talking about. More importantly, they did an incredible job with that song and as it was ending they all grabbed sticks and began helping Spurgeon out on the drums. As they reached their peak, and missing nary a beat, they retreated back to their instruments and started playing crowd favorite "Lake Michigan". New stuff, old stuff, it didn't matter...the crowd was enjoying all of it.

Chicago (12:30am): I'm not sure why, but for whatever reason Rogue Wave loves playing Chicago. Zach Rogue stated it was their favorite place to play and thanked the crowd. Well, we (I still say "we") thank you for playing here countless times. They soon played "Chicago x 12". Everyone was happy. Later towards the end of the show, after performing the same stunt with "Bird on a Wire", they started playing "Lake Michigan" and stopped in mid-song. Apparently, when Rogue set his guitar down to play drums he set it in such a manner that the entire thing went out of tune. He told the crowd he loved playing "Lake Michigan" too much to not play it right. He fixed the problem and they started over from scratch. Things were moving along splendidly until Gram LeBron somehow knocked the cord from Rogue's guitar completely out of the amp. So instead of being out of tune he was now completely out of sound. Replete with enthusiasm, the gaff was laughed off and the band played on.

DC (11:30pm): Rogue Wave finished their set and left the stage so everyone could clap really loud, hoot, and, of course, holler. I, unfortunately, had to head for the exit if I didn't want to feel exhausted the entire next day at work. As I was leaving I heard the decibel level rise which told me they had returned but I have no idea what they played for the encore. Since the pizzanini was still treating me well, I decided to forego Mr. Ben's chili and instead just headed home straight down Vermont Ave. (This probably isn't the world's safest walk alone at this time of night. However, if I've reached the stage that I'm leaving a rock concert early so I don't feel tired at work the next day, well, my best days are already behind me.) I'm not so sure I like the 9:30 Club as much as the Black Cat, though I'm also not sure it's all that fair to compare the two. They're just too different. The boring interior of the 9:30 Club is matched only by its ugly facade. That aside, it's a pretty great place. The sound is nice, the drinks are rather accessible, and just being there makes you feel like you're seeing something important. Maybe that stems from all my days listening to All Songs Considered live podcasts that are usually streamed straight from the club's stages. But mostly, I think it's because you usually are seeing something important. Huge acts have passed through this place and if you check out the upcoming schedule you'll see that's not coming to an end any time soon.

Chicago (1:20am): It's over an hour into Saturday, Schubas back room is packed, and the server in black still hasn't thrown in the towel. She's the best. The band closed out their set in a similar fashion to what I saw on Wednesday. Zach Rogue then came back and played an acoustic song followed by the rest of the band joining him on stage for a moving rendition of "California". We called it a night soon thereafter and once walking outside, and seeing Belmont laid out before me, I realized I was starving. Schubas doesn't have a food window or pizzaninis. We hit up El Presidente's which is open 24 hours, 7 days a week including holidays. It was terrible as always, but I did have the distinct pleasure of sitting next to a table of drunk morons. After one of them ordered, he looked at the waitress and said "por favor" and proceeded to crack up. He then turned to his friends and said, "Hey, I once dated an Argentinian girl. I know my Spanish lingo!" Yeah, "por favor" is not really Spanish lingo as much as it's their language. Maybe I should have introduced this guy to Shuh-nell.

Side note: Last Saturday, countless independent record stores across the country recognized "Record Store Day". To celebrate the occasion, I stepped in Reckless Records in Wicker Park to do some shopping (I picked up Destroyer This Night and a used copy of The Jesus Lizard's Goat) and who happened to be there putting on an acoustic show? Rogue Wave, of course! They played for about an hour and I heard a few songs for the third time in four days. What a great couple of days. Chicago, I hope to see you again soon.


1 comment:

Jen said...

Thank you for reminding me I'm not the only one who thinks shows that start at 11 are really inconvenient if you're not a 19-year-old girl.

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