Small crowds of the “usuals” had begun to amass outside Chicago’s Logan Square Auditorium in anticipation of headliner Ted Leo, and labelmates The Oranges. I parked my bike by a rack and prayed that some jerk wouldn’t get courageous enough to snap the little K-mart lock I had just attached. Immediately I was bombarded by a group of seemingly high school kids, jumping into my face and begging me for an extra ticket. “All I’ve got are cigarettes,” I told the group of zealous youths. After passing out a few cancer sticks I walked up the corridor of the venue and hoped to god my name was spelled right on the list. Show ID here, get stamped there, get frisked here, and give your name there. The gentlemen at the door were serious, and the sooner I moved through processing the better – I’ve never really liked doormen any way.
But things ran smooth and before I knew it I was standing in the very back of a massive auditorium. With 20-foot high ceilings and beautifully restored hardwood floors, this venue of about 700 people capacity (it was sold out), has some very interesting acoustics. The Logan Square Auditorium was once a basketball gym for Catholic students at a near by school, but in recent years it had been purchased and turned into a popular Chicago venue. Aside from just having simple acoustic issues, the sheer layout of the room, in relations to the stage, makes for a weird social chemistry among rockers. Rarely in this space do you see heavy dancing or individuals sharing a sense of camaraderie around a particular band. But as I moved into the space I noticed people were jumping, they were throwing their hands in the air, they were screaming catcalls, and they were genuinely having a really good time.
I didn’t get it. I looked down at my watch and realized that I hadn’t had a drink, and that the headliner hadn’t even taking stage. It was just 9:30, and the crowd was going wild for The Oranges. Leading up to this evening I had made the decision to arrive early enough to see the opener, because every industry person I knew was cramming Oranges down my throat. But I hadn’t expected their performance to be so well accepted, so completely embraced at an all ages show. I stopped thinking about it and just listened, and what I heard amazed me.
Playing a series of songs off their current album, The World & Everything In It, The Oranges managed to perfect a series of vocal harmonies that summed up the very essence of summer. In other words, there music was a melodic journey into my own life via the deeply personal lyrics crafted by mastermind Roman Kuebler. Optimistic rock & roll that felt like the top down driving in the sun. But there was a certain undertone that gave the rhythms a melancholy edge, so not as to be so naively joyous that their music denies the real world of real problems. Mid June in Chicago and the state of things in my life couldn’t have been better brought to the surface. Thanks Oranges Band.
As for Ted Leo, well… it was Ted Leo. He’s one of the greatest songwriters and performers in indie rock history. Kids’ indie cred is based on how many Ted Leo shows they’ve seen. You can always hear someone in the crowd saying “This is my first Ted Leo show.” Then you can hear all his friends saying, “What! Are you serious?” And then they don’t talk to that kid for the rest of the night, ha! Ted has a million songs. He plays a different show every time. He’s really funny while onstage and he just plain rocks. There’s really not much more one can say.