2015: The Most Punk-Rock Year of My Life, Part 1

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That sounds weird, right?  Especially for someone “my age” (I’m 54) to be saying?

Well, as anyone who knows me can tell you, I don’t really give a shit about my chronological age.  Aside from the occasional tug in my back, my weight gain, and the inability (on weeknights) to stay up past 11, I don’t really feel 54.  For quite some time, when I was about 30 lbs lighter, I apparently had the enviable ability to look quite a bit younger than I really am; which to be quite honest, was nice.  In my current state, almost nobody would say to me now, “Really?  No…!” when I tell them my age.  (NB: if someone tells you they’re not vain about that shit, call them on it; they’re lying.)

Ah well.  Youth isn’t meant to last forever…on the outside, at least.  But the inside…now, that’s a different story altogether.  On the inside, I am somewhere between 19 and 22.  On the inside, I am just as crazy a music fan as anyone under the age of 30…maybe even more so.  On the inside…I am, to quote my friend Deb, “the world’s oldest fangirl.”  And I don’t see anything wrong with it.  But as usual, I digress.

As mentioned in a previous post, I no longer send holiday cards, and so no longer regale my friends and relatives with concert-going news as part of the yearly roundup.  In 2015, my kids and I saw more shows than I think I have been to since I was single.  Which is a lot.  I mean, once upon a time, my cousin Cheryl and I were seeing bands almost on a weekly basis, sometimes more often.  Best time ever: on one memorable weekend (not sure which year; 1987? 88?) we saw the Smithereens on Friday night at the Stone Pony (Asbury Park); the Bongos Saturday night at the Green Parrot (Neptune); and La Bamba and the Hubcaps Sunday afternoon at Bar Anticipation (Belmar).  Those were the days!

 Anyway, getting married and moving away from the New Jersey of my misspent youth meant, well, different forms of entertainment on the horizon (my first Wisconsin wedding, woo-hoo!).  Since I now live somewhere that artists don’t normally visit, seeing live music has been more difficult, with much longer car rides.  Especially when my oldest was into various bands, we’d travel to the Chicago area with alarming frequency.  (It got us out of the house and gave us something constructive to do while my husband was out of state.)  We’ve tried to keep the show attendance to a low roar, but 2015 saw so many people I love getting their acts together and taking them on the road…well, it got harder and harder to say no.

So we didn’t say no…a LOT.

This was going to be one long post, but it would have taken me years to complete.  So herewith is the first date of 2015:

Frank Iero and the Cellabration, March 1, Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL; openers Modern Chemistry and The Homeless Gospel Choir  

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In case you’ve been living under a rock, Frank Iero was one of two guitarists in My Chemical Romance, who called it quits in 2013.  I’d gotten his solo album, Stomachaches, a few months prior to the show, and I loved it more than I ever thought I would.  Before I got it, I guess that, being a “singer” person, I always thought Frank’s voice was a little too rough and untrained.  However, as I’ve had to remind myself time and again, roughness in a singing voice doesn’t mean that person isn’t a good (or great) singer, or that said voice doesn’t exactly fit the song being sung.  Also, Frank had admitted recently in interviews that he wasn’t too keen on becoming the center of attention; but there he was, out on a headlining tour after being support for Taking Back Sunday.  And doing a great job.

This show was a family affair: my two girls and I, plus my niece Jenna, all traveled to Chicago on a chilly Sunday.  The club was right near Chicago’s Chinatown, so we walked around in the snow in our Converse and got something to eat.  Then we hoofed it to Reggie’s, just a couple of blocks from the restaurant.  Then we stood out in the snow and damn near froze our fucking feet off waiting for the doors to open.  (We did have a little comic relief, though, listening to a girl spouting MCR “trivia” that was so off-base and just so wrong that it cracked us up–when we weren’t muttering about shutting her the hell up.)

At last the doors opened, and we crowded in with everyone else.  (Did you know your feet hurt while they’re warming up after being frozen into numbness?  True story.)  Reggie’s is a relatively new enterprise; they apparently have several businesses, including a pub-type eatery and a record store.  The place has great sightlines, a coat check on the upper level, and clean bathrooms.  Plus their DJ was spinning some amazing shit while we waited for the show to begin.  9.5/10, would definitely go again (points lost for trying to freeze their patrons to death when they didn’t open the doors on time).

Modern Chemistry was the first opener, and my older girl really loved them.  “I think I found my new favorite band,” she told me after their set.  While we waited for the second opener, I decamped to the ladies’; when I came out, The Homeless Gospel Choir–otherwise known as Pittsburgh native Derek Zanetti–was commanding the stage with just himself and a guitar.  And he was great.  He kept making us laugh with the proclamation “This is a protest song” (in his great Pennsylvania drawl) before pretty much every song.  He played for quite some time; I think he sang every song on his latest album.  (I got his latest vinyl shortly thereafter.)

Then we waited for Frank and his band–brother-in-law Evan Nestor on guitar, Rob Hughes on bass, and Matt Olsson on drums.  Suddenly the lights went down a bit, and there was a little screaming from the crowd.  Then a recording of a song in French came over the sound system, melting into “All I Want Is Nothing”, the lead track on Stomachaches and the first song of the night.  I didn’t want to get crushed (having survived a few MCR shows), so I stayed on the stairs, back from where my girls were.  Soon, however, I saw the crowd was behaving pretty well, so I found my little crew and we hung out for the rest of the night.  The band was amazing–really tight–and Frank was a joy to watch.  He kept the between-song chatter to a minimum, but looked like he was having a pretty good time.  Derek got up on stage about mid-set to sing a Jawbreaker song with Frank (I don’t know their music, but it got a great response).

I would give you a set list, but I wasn’t making notes, and I can’t find one online–je regrette.  I will tell you what happened after the show was finally over.  When the lights came up, there was some buzz about whether or not we’d be meeting the musicians afterwards, so people were lined up.  I did see quite a few stern-looking (or bewildered) parents standing around with unhappy looks on their faces, waiting impatiently for their offspring to get the hell out of here, you have school in the morning!  I was glad not to have to be one of them, though I was getting tired (and was also surely one of the oldest people in the room at that point).  But we stuck it out, and then heard the announcement that we’d be meeting the bands.  The caveat was “one picture only per person, and have your camera ready” and “no weird shit!”  While we waited, Evan and Rob came to the front of the stage and chatted with us while they were packing up their gear.  Evan told a hilarious story about the filming of the “Joyriding” video, which starts with the band all in white, and ends with them drenched in (fake) blood: “We were standing outside, freezing, getting hosed off in Frank’s back yard!”

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Eventually our line led to all the musicians, who shook hands and signed whatever we asked.  My niece Jenna had a pair of hand-painted shoes she’d made herself, and so she had all the guys sign them.  I got a handshake and a picture of myself with Frank, which, despite how terrible I think I look, was a definite highlight of the night.


Correction: I look just as awful as I thought.  But oh, whatever: I am standing next to Frank!

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Among my souvenirs: Detail of signed poster from this show. Awesome.

And I should give props to Frank, et al, for not only putting on a great show, but hanging out for hours afterward to meet anyone who could stay.  Which was most of the crowd.

What an amazing and gracious bunch of people in those bands.  They helped make so many fans happy that night, our little group among them.

Next installment: May 15, Gerard Way, First Avenue, Minneapolis.


2 thoughts on “2015: The Most Punk-Rock Year of My Life, Part 1”

  1. So fun to read. Lucy, Spencer and Alec have a whole new appreciation of you now! I am so glad you had thr year you did! And welcome to the ranks of non xmas report senders!


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