Ruminations on Why the Touch and Go 25th Anniversary/10th Hideout Block Party was Crap
Last weekend the, ahem, finest from the city of Chicago came out to see the, ahem, finest from the Touch and Go label in what turned out to be, at least from the perspective of this chief Chicago Outdoor Indie Rock Festival Correspondent, a pathetic weekend with few (albeit beautiful) highlights. Surprise, surprise, the number one reason why the festival was a drag was the crowd, which made about every moment I wasn’t savoring music quite uncomfortable. Perpetrator numero uno? Cool People. I am not cool for a number of reasons. Firstly, I make a point to not get drunk when I go to shows when I actually intend on listening to the music. I do not try to be loud and obnoxious in an attempt to impress my friends and any potential lays. This rule would apply to every show I attend. Drunk people are annoying, especially when you are not drunk. I think everyone at The Hideout Block Party was drunk, except for me and my friends who sipped water and apple cider. Secondly, I don’t smoke cigarettes. I am not cool enough. When I was in high school, I wasn’t cool, so my friends were too busy doing math homework to try to convince me that I should smoke, because it’s the cool thing to do. Cigarette smoke is stinky, it gives you cancer, and it makes me sneezy and coughy. I am thirdly not cool because I don’t wear tight pants. I am fourthly not cool because I don’t wear hats. I am fifthly not cool because I don’t wear sunglasses at night. Ok, so perhaps I am just ranting. So what. I think the majority of music fans out there have these same complaints about shows. Cool people are annoying, frightening, and rude. When you’re trying to involve yourself with a performance, cool people only distract your attention, no? Because they make themselves seen and heard, no matter where they go. It is a matter of their survival. Cool music fans are not music fans at all. They are cool people. They are society and trend fans. Perpetrator numero duo: old people. Yes, as a modern rock fan, I have a right to dis old people. If the Who could do it back in sixty-five, then I can do it now. By old people I don’t mean people over thirty. By old people I mean people who are over thirty who act like they are nineteen. Old people annoy me. These are people who were cool people twenty years ago. They spent so much time being cool twenty years ago that they have nothing better to do now than to grow beer bellies, graying soul patches, and garish attitudes. Like cool people, old people are rude. An aging punk rocker in the crowd behind me decided that he was going to whip out his aging penis and fill up three beer cups with his urine, and then dump them beside my shoes. Old people also frighten me. And they bring their children to parking lots where there are drunk cool people, dense crowds, and loud music that will destroy their ears. Most horrible H/O//T/G moment of the weekend? A man in front of me had his daughter (maybe 18 months old) on his shoulders. He was rocking to the music, having a good ole time. Well, he lost his grip, and the girl fell five feet to the pavement, landing on her head. Oh, how I felt like rocking out after that happened. Now let us get to the real reason this anniversary party was thrown together: the bands. Touch and Go isn’t a huge label. They’ve had maybe 100 bands signed to them over the past 25 years. How many of these bands are functional and relevant to the modern underground music scene? Maybe 25. I’m not discrediting the merit most, if not all, of these bands had in their own heyday. Nor am I discrediting the profound influence they had on a lot of modern musicians. But the fact is that this was not a block party celebrating and promoting modern music; this was a tribute, and therefore the emphasis was on reunions and reflections. There is of course nothing wrong with a festival devoted to paying tribute to Touch and Go; indeed, Corey Rusk deserves much praise, and it was a nice opportunity to see amassed in one place the effect the label has had on the city; nay, the world. But for an underground rock fan, born in the same year as Touch and Go, it didn’t make for a spectacular event. First, let us take a look at who was not at the festival: Blonde Redhead, TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs – three of the most powerful indie rock bands to come around in the past decade. Now let’s look at who was there: Arcwelder, Didjits, The Monorchid. Yeah, I don’t know who they are either. Personally, the biggest musical disappointment of the weekend was Black Heart Procession, whose dark pop rock has been nursing my depression for several years now. I’ve never had the opportunity to see them before, so they were one of the acts I was most looking forward to. Well, they blew it. They blew it big time. Vocalist Pall Jenkins had as much charisma as my elbows. On second thought, my elbows are rather soft and cute. So never mind. Pall Jenkins was boring. He didn’t smile, he didn’t wince; he sang lifelessly, but not in the way that makes Black Heart Procession’s albums so delectably dreary. He sang with no tragic romanticism. He looked bored and awkward. During “The Spell” he didn’t even have a guitar to hide behind. He reminded me of a nine-year-old kid who sings solo in a grade school talent show. He looked nervous and impassive. A few songs into the set they brought in a backing female vocalist and struck the opening samba riff for “Tropics of Love,” and I thought, hey! Here we go. Some spice. But no. No spice. The female vocalist sang off key, and the band shuffled along laboriously. They even played a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.” Yeah. Good times. Now let us discuss for a bit who can make even great performances suck: sound guys. The sound for many of the performances was not so good. Vocals were overpowering, guitars were soft for a few songs, then suddenly loud. Quieter instruments were completely drowned out. Even by the end of Sunday the sound guys had not gotten the hang of it, so that Pinback sounded pseudo-punk metal instead of indie pop. So jeers to the Block Party sound guys. Finally, the Block Party was crap because it was in a parking lot on Wabansia. A tiny parking lot. There was no escaping the cool people. I felt like I was in a prison yard. A dirty prison yard. The garbage cans were few and far between, and there was a litter of squashed plastic cups covering the ground that made horrendous noises as people scuffled along the pavement. There were no patches of grass on which to rest my lazy, spoiled ass. So yeah, the Touch and Go 25th Anniversary/10th Hideout Block Party was crap. For the most part. It was two single-spaced pages worth of crap. But I hate to be such a downer, so I will not let the good parts go unmentioned, as the good parts were rather exciting. So stay tuned for ruminations on why the Touch and Go 25th Anniversary/10th Hideout Block Party wasn’t a total loss.