drummer Matt Liban's shirt proclaimed, "Everybody Knows Tishler rocks."
The night opened with the kind of band I didn't expect, (nor was in the mood for), Knit Delicate. I squinted to see, yes, that Damien Strigens and his wife Betty flanking the sides of this band (the two are also in the made-for-4AD band Testa Rosa), and is that, why yes, that's Bill Backes on drums. I'd wondered what he was up to since I didn't see him behind the trapset with the Cocksmiths at Summerfest. Admittedly, the kind of music Knit Delicate plays -- sort of power pop alt country, fairly laid back and such -- isn't my cup of tea (Backes could tell this wasn't my thing when I talked to him afterwards), but I can't say they weren't good. They were very good at what they do. They're fronted by Charles, who used to be in the Nerve Twins, and he has a very sweet voice -- reminded me of the lead singer in Soul Asylum in its edge and timbre. Actually, while I wasn't in the mood for them, they were a good band to shake off the rain to, and they'd be a good band to listen to on many a rainy day. So, again, my verdict: if you enjoy power pop alt-country, this is a great band for you. I just can't get overly excited about them because they're working in a genre that never really excited me, but that will tell you how good they were -- I was still impressed.
Next up, IROCKZ. I know nothing about them, and I spent a good portion of their set trying to figure out how I was going to describe them in this blog. I got the impression that these three guys all respected each other's musicianship despite totally different influences, decided to be in a band together, and see what happens. The thing with this kind of thing is that its usually OK for a bit, and then it suffers from not having any specific direction. Not these guys. Somehow, with this metal drummer they've got, this jazz-trained guitarist, and this new wave/punk/frontman bassist, it works. They held my attention all night with great hooky melodies and massively tight arrangements. Woo, these guys are tight, the kind of tight demanded by metal drummers and jazzbos. The kind of tight that made me wonder if they ever got a note wrong, if they fined each other. I found bass player Dan Shultz afterwards and asked him to describe his band, and he even admitted he had problems doing so, pointing out the backgrounds of each, and shrugging the same thing I thought: "but it works." My description? Let's try Prog- Punk, two words that normally should never be in the same sentence together, but miraculously it works. Shultz has a voice and bass style that brought to mind the Police (and the Andy-Summers-after-doing-that-album-with-Fripp guitarist helped put that in my mind.) They even covered "The Bed's Too Big Without You" as their set closer, and they did it wonderfully, but while I thought Shultz sounded a lot like Sting, his band actually outdid the Police in sheer variety. I'm keeping an eye on this band, that's for sure.
Finally, Chief. Playing to not the fullest house I've ever seen at Shank, and Tishler knew it, so they weren't overly heavy on the Badass Cocksure Rawk Boys schtick as much as the first time I'd seen them. So instead the songs themselves stood on their own, and stood well. Tishler knew that while the house wasn't packed, the people there were either friends, or friendly toward the band, so the three of 'em gave it their all, albeit a bit subdued. The stage banter and presence wasn't as over the top as usual -- kudos to them for not trying to be something that wasn't called for on a rainy night. They didn't have anything to prove to this crowd, because everybody already did indeed know that Tishler rocks. Their badass bass player has shaved his head, and he's still an intense looking mofo, too.
I bid my goodnight and headed home, because not only is the rain depressing me, but the fact that summer is wrapping up is bumming me out. So the family was planning a final quick trip to Chicago to go museum hopping. We drove down across the border and hopped on a Metra train so we wouldn't have to put up with parking. Plus, Chicago runs a free trolley shuttle circling various tourist attractions, and the guys they hire to drive these trollies obviously have to pass a personality test, because I have yet to hop on one that wasn't driven by a fun guy. But Saturday's trolley driver took the cake. His jokes, some corny, some spot on, had us laughing all the way to the Field Museum, and as he stopped at intersections, he flirted with other bus drivers and some car drivers: the best one being the ones who played along with the joke. After a visit to Millenium Park, we made our way toward the Field Museum.
Revoke my former Chicagoan citizenship for not knowing this until a couple of years back, but the Field Museum was founded by and named for Marshall Field, who actually was quite the philanthropist. We always knew it as the "Dinosaur Museum" but it really is what it says, the museum of Natural History. They've worked the dinosaur artifacts into a whole "evolution of life on earth" exhibit one can walk through. The other favorite part is, of course, the Ancient Egypt exhibit, with the mummies and sarcophgi (is that the plural of sarcophagus?) and the general fun facts that the Field has gotten good at: lots of tongue in cheek stuff that is based in actual life. I think what I like most of all about the Field, however, is the attention to those little details that really tell the story whether its the story of the Incas or the story of a meteorite crashing into some guy's Pontiac. They lesson learned from the field is that even a broken vase tells a giant story.
So did all the felled trees riding we saw on our train ride home. It sort of put things in perspective for me: while I'm whining abut how depressingly rainy it's been, there's people who had things destroyed over all this rain.
The kids go back to school this week. We had a good summer. I'm not quite ready to admit it's over yet.
I am going to need a Labor Day Weekend gig, that's for sure. I'll shamelessly promote this later this week, but i'm DJing at the Circle A this Saturday, after a set from Bobby Rivera and the Riveras. Come early, stay late. You'll have not only Sunday, but Monday to sleep it off. Hopefully it won't rain.