Like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, I'm getting to old for this shit. With an early Wednesday conference call and last weekend spent toasting the rock gods in New York City for CMJ, one might imagine that I'd lay low for a bit to recoup. But listen to who was performing in Chicago last night (or... read it, I guess) - Beck, Franz Ferdinand, Cut Copy, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Tom Vek, Diamond Nights, The Vacation, and probably a few more that I'm forgetting. So, like any true music lover would do, I plotted out a plan of attack that would insure seeing the maximum amount of rock in the limited time available to do so. After working through a few complicated algorithms with my trusty TI-81 over some beef tacos and margaritas, I decided to begin the night at the famed Wrigleyville concert-going establishment and apple of Chicago music mogul Joe Shanahan's eye, the Metro.
San Francisco's Britpop-psych-rockers turned Americana folk heros Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were already playing as I got my "over 21" wrist band and climbed the stairs to the main floor. The room was dark and musty. The stagnant air was saturated with cigarette smoke and the typical spilled beer mixed with body odor smell that permeates all your favorite rock clubs. Spending a week in NYC, where smoking indoors is a no no, makes me think that a similar law in the beautiful Windy City can't come soon enough. Anyway, once I came to my senses I saw the four members of BRMC (they have a new guy named Spike who tours with them) standing under a deep red glow. They were playing the gospel-esque "Restless Sinner". Nick Jago was not behind the drums. Instead he was standing at the front of the stage shaking a tambourine, looking only slightly bored and clearly eager to get back behind the drum kit. Once there, the band continued to stick to newer material, playing both "Ain't No Easy Way" and "Shuffle Your Feet", the first of which is the debut single and best track on their new album, Howl, and the latter of which sounded a bit off. Well, most of the song sounded great, but the gospel/spiritual a-cappella intro where the band harmonizes "Time won't save our souls", sounded like it was missing something. After running through the two best songs from their latest album, BRMC then launched right into the "Red Eyes And Tears" from their self-titled debut. "Whatever Happened To My Rock & Roll" and "Love Burns" were thrown in shortly thereafter, much to the enjoyment of the older crowd. I had to skee-dattle outta there just after getting to hear another new song, "Weight Of The World", as my night of rock was just beginning. It's clear to me that fans of BRMC don't go to their shows to see crazy antics or to admire the frontmen for their charismatic on-stage personas. No, BRMC doesn't do much of that at all. They play their music. They don't say much. They go home. It's not that it's boring... Don't get me wrong, they sound amazing and all (just like the record in most cases), but I think my pet rock is slightly more animated.
The short walk from The Metro to the Bottom Lounge was just the refresher I needed. The fresh air and exercise revived my good mood and lifted my spirits and thank god my friends Amanda and BrianMagnolia and has a stage presence that can best be described as the spawn of an Iggy Pop/Mick Jagger homo-erotic one night stand sex romp. How's that for a mental picture? Yikes! He was climbing all over the stage, strutting, shaking his ass, putting his and on his hip and screaming like a man possessed. The band, which includes Ben's twin brother Steve, gave it their all as well. These guys were performing like they were playing a sold out gig at Madison Square Garden. Maybe it's because they just signed to Rick Rubin's American Recordings, or maybe it's because they are just that fucking crazy, but The Vacation were awesome. The 10 people that were there watching were blown away. I was one of them, and I had already seen them play a sold out gig at the Mercury Lounge in NYC last year. They were better last night.
After seeing the reserved BRMC and the completely nuts Vacation, I decided a meeting with a charming British youth would be just the thing to keep the night going. So, with a few pals in tow, I rolled out of the Bottom Lounge, being sure to let the door guy know that I'd be back in about 45 minutes to see the headliner, Diamond Nights. Though Tom Vek was playing just a few blocks away at Schubas, I flagged a cab and we hopped in. Time was of the essence. As we walked in, it seemed that the cab decision was a bad one, as Tom Vek had yet to take the stage, but my five bucks that were now driving away in a yellow taxi did not go completely to waste. Life During Wartime's DJ CB was on hand spinning tunes between sets, and he knows how to get down. The small room at Schubas was about 1/3 of the way full when Tom Vek took the stage with his band. Having just seen the 25-year old Londoner play last week at the StarTime Records showcase for CMJ, which was packed tighter than a cage at one of those inhumane KFC chicken farms, the extra room to shake my ass around a bit was muy bueno. I'm not sure the crowd really knew what to make of Mr. Vek. At first, everyone was hanging back just sort of taking the whole thing in. He doesn't look like the kind of pretentious hipster dickhead that is normally required to make "cool" music like his debut, We Have Sound, so maybe that threw them off. Vek instead looks like he'd be your pal, or more precisely, your little brother's pal, as he could easily pass for a 17-year-old. All smiles, Vek began his set with a bass in hand for album opener "C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)". He then traded up for an electric guitar as he ran through "If You Want", "A Little Word In Your Ear", "Cover", and "Nothing But Green Lights". By the time "I Ain't Saying My Goodbyes" (my favorite song on the album) started, the previously semi-stand-offish crowd had been won over. With smiles on their faces and 10 steps closer to the stage than when the show began, the audience could be seen shaking their butts. They weren't doing backflips or anything, but there was some definite butt shaking. I even saw one or two people singing the words. About halfway through the song I got a text saying that Diamond Nights was about to take the stage. Off I went.
I've seen Diamond Nights before. I've written about their live show, reviewed their debut album, Popsicle, and even put them on our "Next Level" chart. It's safe to say I'm a fan. Is it my mission in life to get everyone else to love them as much as I do. Well, up until last night... NO. But ask me that question now and I'll be quick to reply in the affirmative. YES. Diamond Nights fucking rule, that's all there is to it. I rushed in to find that the band had already started, but also that the room wasn't quite as barren as it had been an hour before. A fairly decent audience had come out of the woodwork to see what Diamond Nights had to offer. Whether it was the band's performance at a Lollapalooza post-party, their limited airplay on Chicago's fine specialty shows like "TBA" or "Big Beat", or just plain and simple word of
mouth, somehow people had heard of this band and were willing to sacrifice their Wed AM to see them. Diamond Nights play rock & roll music that has an uncanny ability to make you want to party. It's Thin Lizzy. It's Fast Times At Ridgemont High. It's guitar rock that makes you want to pound a beer and throw your fist in the air in complete adoration. As a band, Diamond Nights were tighter than I've ever heard them. I believe flawless would be an accurate word. Dueling guitar solos, vocal harmonies, dramatic drum fills - each done with so little effort that it seemed this band oozed music from their veins. The intense, driving and sexy "It's A Shokka", the hypnotic and intoxicating "The Girl's Attractive" and the dark and evil "Drip Drip" - Diamond Nights ran though just about every song on their debut. The best part is that frontman Morgan Phalen and the rest of the band don't rely on spandex jump suits and hair spray to make their music work. They aren't a gimmick. There's nothing cheeky or goofy. In "Destination Diamonds" (which they closed with), Phalen sings in a high falsetto, but they're not a novelty like The Darkness. They wail like demons from rock & roll hell that have come to shake you out of your monotonous, boring, everyday life, get you wasted, get you laid and have you waking up the next day trying to remember why your head hurts so bad, where that bruise on your leg came from, where your pants are and who that girl is laying next to you in bed. God bless Diamond Nights!
Oh, and in case you were wondering. I managed to get my hung over ass out of bed in time for the AM conference call. God bless Advil. And Gatorade.