Dude, You Fuckin’ Rock!

Chicago homeboy Kanye WestThe Vines, Jet, Living End at The Vic Theatre

Chicago, March 26, 2004

Ludacris, Kanye West, Dilated Peoples at Soldier Field South Festival Area

Chicago, March 27, 2004

I had a music-filled weekend, which isn’t unusual by itself. What made this weekend strange is that I saw a bunch of bands that I don’t really care about. A couple of them ended up surprising me. And that’s a good thing.


All-ages shows are funny. The doors opened at the Vic at 5:30 on Friday. I’m sure there were some unemployed lunatics and children who felt the need to get there at that ridiculous hour so they could be right up front for the Aussie Invasion, but I try to avoid those freaks. By the time we arrived, the floor was packed, but luckily there were seats available in the balcony.

The Living End came out and reminded me that everyone in Australia is good looking except AC/DC. The singer looked like the Irish guy from that one season of Real World except he played a big hollow-body guitar and screamed his head off. The other guy played a big-ass upright bass with and black-and-white checked paint job, which led me to expect a ska song or two. Never came. Their rockabilly stuff worked a lot better than their more straight rock stuff, but they seemed to be trying to de-emphasize the free-for-all country-fried abandon in favor of tight chops, fist-pumping, and the occasional burst of wanky virtuosity.

Jet was next, and I wasn’t expecting much. We recently panned their album for being full of puss-rock, and while I’m not suggesting they took my review to heart, ha ha, they didn’t play a single fucking ballad during their entire set. They didn’t even have a piano on stage. They just kicked out 40 minutes of pure rock and roll. No, they are not original. Yes, they cop their moves from the current stable of hipper-than-thou influencers. But if you’re going to play no bullshit rock and roll, you might as well take some cues from the Who. Why not? Who’s better? The windmills were a bit over the top, but so what. If Pete Townsend had been drafted by a Southern rock band in 1973 and got back down to pub rock rather than arena rock, I imagine their show would’ve been a bit like Jet’s set, complete with a Flying V, a Gibson Firebird and a perfectly sloppy cover of “That’s Alright, Mama.” Oh yeah, and the most obnoxious light show ever. Jesus, you can’t have pyro anymore so you repeatedly blind your audience with 100-million candlepower searchlight blasts directly to the retina? No thanks. If it’s too bright, you’re too old? Fuck off. By the way, “Rollover D.J.” = “Takin’ Care of Business.”

Between bands, the children roamed the aisles and the Cusacks refilled their Solo cups. I learned that there are servers up in the balcony who come to you. Nice! The kids down on the floor were pressing harder toward the stage waiting for the second coming of anarchy in the USA, or whatever.

The Vines took the stage with a whisper of acoustic guitars and a middle-of-the-road mid-tempo beat. Ho ho, suckers, we’ll show you, they seemed to be thinking. You’re expecting us to be drunk and loud and falling over like we did on live TV and on the cover of Spin and Rolling Stone, but no! We’ve matured. Look, both of my eyes are even open at the same time. A bold move and the contrarian in me wanted to appreciate it, but unfortunately when that guy isn’t screaming like he wants to be Kurt Cobain, he sings in the silliest, most Herman’s Hermits voice you’ve ever heard. It didn’t take much of that garbage to bring out the worst in the notorious Chicago heckling community. “HorseSHIT,” came a cry from the balcony. “Why don’t you come down here and say that,” threatened Peter Noone before launching into another mellow, warbling sleeper that suggested Oasis or Radiohead at their most dismal. It was as if the Vines were purposefully trying not to compete with Jet’s rocking set. The heckling was non-stop over the next three songs that were equally lame and annoying. “Boo! You fuckin’ suck!” To that, Peter Noone replied with the smartest comment of the night: “You can leave if you want, you fucking moron.” So we did.

The next night was a completely different scene on the other side of town. Down in the Soldier Field parking lot — a/k/a the “South Festival Area” — they were having a snowboarding competition and hip-hop concert. Only someone who smokes way too much weed and is constantly adorned in polar fleece would plan an outdoor concert on the Chicago lakeshore in March. Nevertheless, a lot of people showed up for the show. The crowd seemed to be split pretty evenly between the long-haired outdoor types and the Rocawear-clad hip hop community. Another concert scattered with children running around…

Dilated Peoples had already started when we got to the parking lot. We walked past about 500 portajohns, which revealed that they had been expecting a lot more people to show up for the free show. But there was a solid crowd all pushed up toward the enormous stage, which was connected to a giant ramp covered in man-made snow. Periodically throughout the night, a few whacked-out goofballs would somehow manage to climb to the top and slide down on a piece of trash or a shovel. Quite entertaining, actually. But not quite as entertaining as watching the spaced-out hippie chick in the one-piece tracksuit grooving to the music as if she were the only person in the parking lot. Even when another smooth dancer sidled up to her in his scruffy beard and pressboy hat, she didn’t seem to notice him. I was hoping for a cosmic love connection, but it didn’t take.

Hip hop shows are notoriously bad. They’re typically marked by murky sound, annoyingly abbreviated medleys, and played-out “throw your hands in the air” sloganeering. But not this time. Dilated Peoples sounded great with their smart rhymes and classic DJ skills. And the sound came through perfectly. They engaged the mixed audience and had us all bobbing our heads. I watched a three-year-old with cornrows and a Triple Fat coat dancing with so much soul, I couldn’t believe it, and she wasn’t even trying! She was just feeling the music.

Kanye West, the hometown hero, hit the stage with some technical difficulties, his piano player not being able to hear himself or something. After a brief reboot, everything was on track and Kanye West treated his people (“South Side! West Side!”) to a funky set of jams from his current album, The College Dropout, mixing it up between praising Jesus and getting high (was that Common on stage?). Known more as a producer than as an MC, West was happy to hand over the stage to a series of special guests including a brief set by hip-hop violinist, Miri Ben-Ari. It’s nice to see innovation in hip hop, and it makes me wonder what I’ve been missing out on by neglecting it for the past decade.

The beats weren’t the only thing that was dropping. The temperature had been falling all night, and the guy from Chicago was the only one to acknowledge it even though he was the only performer who was dressed appropriately: in a big parka and a Cosby sweater. “It’s cold out here!” No shit, Holmes. As he left the stage, the first raindrops started to fall. We all wanted to see Ludacris, but who wants to be stuck out in the middle of a parking lot a mile away from your car in 40-degree weather in the rain? We started to head out.

Ludacris appeared and we were able to catch a little bit of his set from the side of the stage, with a fence and a small army of security between us and the parking lot. We couldn’t see too much, but it was cool to hear his acknowledgement of his fanbase’s diversity from the track, “Blow It Out” off Chicken & Beer:

My black people show me love when I’m up on the block

And Latinos always waitin’ for my CDs to drop

White people love the flow, they say, “Dude, you fuckin’ rock!”

It was a drag to have to leave in the middle of that. Especially since all I really wanted to hear was Luda telling us to move, bitch, get out the way. Get out the way, bitch, get out the way. I found out later he saved that for his last song, and by that time we would have all caught pneumonia. Good thing all those toddlers in the crowd were bundled up.

Be sure to read the Glorious Noise reviews of Kanye West’s album and Jet’s album.

5 thoughts on “Dude, You Fuckin’ Rock!”

  1. Jake- if you are curious about recent innovations and developments in hip hop, check out the hip hop project on WLUW, out of Loyola. If you are far enough North (the signal isn’t very strong), or it streams from the WLUW website. Its 7:30-11:30 on Saturday nights and closes every show with the Chicago half hour, featuring up and coming Chicago acts and spotlighting the best in underground hip hop. I highly recommend it as one of the best shows I’ve ever heard on radio.

  2. I SAW THE VINES ON 3/28 AND THEY WERE FRICKIN AWESOME. That show you reviewed sucked partly because their singer was throwing up before hand. THEY ARE USUALLY AWESOME.

    I DEMAND YOU REVIEW THEM AGAIN.

  3. Dude, Jake, I just saw NIRVANA3240 lurking outside the building, and he looked pissed. I mean, he was speaking in capital letters!

    I keed.

    Private to NIRVANA3240: It is you who are the ball licker. Take heed! The Vines do not care about you. They are not defending your honor right now on some message board devoted to goat fucking or wallet chain fetishism. That girlfriend you had for a minute five years ago was right: You’re just too emotionally invovled. Now get over it! Glorious Noise’s review of the Vines will stand, as is, despite your demands. By the way, I threw up before I wrote this.

    Glorious Noise – USUALLY AWESOME.

    JTL

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