This weekend’s Chicago Label Showcase And Record Fair left a huge, greasy, confetti-caked stain all over the upstairs room of the Bottom Lounge and confirmed that rock ‘n’ roll is alive and kickin’ in this toddling town. So many new labels and decent bands have been bubbling up to the surface of this city lately, so the guys behind Victim Of Time and Hozac Records crammed a bunch of them into one room for the weekend.
The first night got rolling with a special secret guest that turned out to be some dude called Dr. Paul. The mysterious doctor sang, karaoke-style, over some sugar-laced pop tunes that he may have conceived while medicated on one of his prescriptions. He was backed by a spaceman with a cardboard guitar.
Next up were the energetic and hooky Gross Pointe. It was the first I’d heard of them, but it won’t be the last. They played a Nerves cover in double-time and with extra snarl. Spike Johnson (also of the Yolks) took the stage next with his band Spike And The Sweet Spots and asked if everybody liked American music. They jingled, jangled and stomped their way through a bunch of spirited singalongs and a couple of moodier numbers that made me wanna weep into a campfire. Fans of Dutchess and the Duke might want to have a listen.
The evening took a screeching turn as the veteran battalion of bullhorn and power tool-wielding maniacs known as Ono bashed out a wall of rhythmic soundscapes. In the midst of the chaos, their fearless leader managed to make several wardrobe changes, keeping all eyes curiously glued to him. Basic Cable then hit the stage, hard. They pummeled their instruments and let their heavy, goopy stuff just ooze right out.
This evenings headliners, the Yolks, closed out the party with some organ-driven foot-stompers that had fans screaming and folks grabbing anything percussive to join in on. The Yolks second album, Kings Of Awesome, just came out a few days ago on their own label, Randy Rex.
I didn’t make it over to the venue for the early part of day two, which showcased a slew of local labels like Trouble In Mind, Tall Pat, Permanent, Moniker and way more. But I did get there in time for the first band of the night, Whitegold. The trio belted out some synth- and guitar-driven dance music that got them so worked that they had to step away from their instruments and bust into some calisthenics. The Sueves were up next and howled through some choppy and sometimes twangy tunes that sort of reminded me of early Makers records.
I’ve never seen Heavy Times with the same lineup more than once. Are they trying to keep it loose? If so, it seems to be working for them. Loose, but not too sloppy and better every time.
UFUX is the kind of band that scatters the squares. They are abrasive, brutal, repetitive, obnoxious and ugly in the most beautiful way possible. Party music for fans of twisted humor! The few Rubs recordings I’d heard were catchy, mid-tempo garage rock. Live, they transformed into a different animal. The group was loaded with various members of the weekend’s other bands. They drooled and sweated all over the audience and primed them for the weekend’s main event: Mickey.
It’d been a few years since Mickey’s last show and, like true r ‘n’r superheroes, they came out shooting—literally! They blasted the audience with confetti cannons and smacked ‘em with handfuls of glitter. Frontman Mac Blackout kept the crowd on their toes as he frantically paced back and forth, occasionally wrapping someone in a mic cord or hittin’ them with a friendly head-butt. A minor scuffle broke out between Mac and the singer from UFUX, but it was quickly stopped and all was well. If you can’t have fun at a Mickey show, you might not like rock ‘n’ roll.
Photos and words by Rob Karlic.