Concert Review: Slapstick at Riot Fest (Chicago, IL)
“Brendan, I still got it!”
“This next song is really, really good.”
“If this was Alkaline Trio, someone would be tying my shoes.”
Nostalgia shifted into high gear in the Windy City this Saturday as Slapstick performed Chicagoland for the first time in well over a decade. After the surprising 15 year Asian Man Records anniversary party in San Francisco, I was probably one of the few who thought they would never see the legend-makers take to the stage. Since their last encore here, the Fireside Bowl closed down their shows (since reopening to a humbled extent in comparison to their ruckus days), its replacement the Bottom Lounge saw the CTA take it over to expand the Belmont Red Line stop, and Ben Weasel punched a girl at SXSW. Times have changed, but Brendan Kelly’s freewheeling ways have never swayed too far even though he may leave the mic during a song to walk around the drum riser, eyeing potential lovers (Mike Park and Teenage Bottlerocket’s Ray Carlisle were in his sights) watching from the stage.
Festival sets are pretty limited in time, but time seemingly slowed down for Slapstick to tear through 18 songs spanning their all too short career. One album, a ton of extras left a giant imprint on the Chicago punk scene-so much that the Slapstick family tree became almost as common as Alkaline Trio tattoos. Their influence spread soon into the Lawrence Arms, The Falcon, Less Than Jake, The Honor System, Alkaline Trio and more-effectively allowing you to trace a six degrees of Kevin Bacon to dozens of groups through these members. That was their influence over the past fifteen or so years. However despite these storied legends that permeate near Punkin’ Donuts, when Brendan publicly proclaimed embarrassment over his messy footwear appearance, alas…no shoe tech rushed out to fix the problem. Neil Hennessy, though present, didn’t save the day, but like the thousands of people (Gwar fans easily identified by their red dyed clothes), enjoyed probably one of the highest energy punk/ska sets you could experience these days.
“Did somebody just say we suck? …They’re not wrong. This band broke up 15 years ago. I think we’re right there with you!”
“Colorado,” “Crooked,” and “Not Tonight” barreled through the beginning, undeterred nor showing no signs of age despite a markedly older-than-you’d-expect crowd slinging elbows and skanking away. Seconds into “Colorado,” Rob’s kick and snare warmed up the crowd into a trumpet and trombone circle pit. No one forgot the words. To everyone, this was that moment we had all dreamt of, akin to the Fireside reopening with punched out ceiling tiles and the dingiest sticker-riddled bathroom ever to grace Fullerton. “Not Tonight” unleashed a mosh pit harder than Andrew W.K.’s set could achieve. Peter and Dan were in solid shape on “She Doesn’t Love Me” and “Eighteen,” bringing nostalgia back in full brass force.
The band was ringed by a full lineup of guests around watching them on stage. To any unaccustomed onlooker, probably there for Dropkick Murphys or The Gaslight Anthem, just seeing that showed how much respect you had to give the band even if you never saw their Fireside show VHS. “There’s a Metal Head in the Parking Lot” gave way to the blistering “Cheat to Win” and “Good Times Gone.” Though despite whatever roughness or awkwardness you’d expect from a reunion show, Brendan squashed that between songs. At one moment, he called out to the wheel in the distance (he avoided ‘ferris wheel’ to get away from a historical recount of how Ferris was brought over to Chicago…read this book…) with ratcheted up awkwardness, “Hey, do you think anyone’s getting their dick sucked in there right now?” before, “Oh! They’re turning the wheel fast! …alright, next song!” And thus began “Metal Head.”
The pinnacle came towards the end with “Ed” and “Sick of this Place” giving into “74 Fullerton.” Shout outs to Dan Andriano’s parents for housing their practices. Sentimental moments over Mike Park and his support. Obviously the only thing that could break it up was something unexpected tossed near Brendan. “Somebody just through a sock full of corn meal at me.”
“Nate B.” and “Broken Down” closed the night, leaning a huge gap of expectations and energy for the rest of Saturday at Riot Fest. It’s always tough to please a crowd, even more so after one of the most anticipated reunions-unexpected at that-just took place. I never thought I’d see them perform again, much like Apocalypse Hoboken or Blue Meanies, but they did. So in total agreement with Dan Andriano’s comment at the beginning of the piece, you guys still got it.
“I was 18 years old. We haven’t played Chicago since I was 19. I’m 36. I think this was kinda the endgame of what we thought it would be.” – Brendan Kelly
She Doesn’t Love Me
There’s a Metal Head in the Parking Lot
What I Learned
Cheat to Win
Good Times Gone
Almost Punk Enough
Sick of this Place