Sunday, April 3, 2016

Shellac - 3/30/16 @ Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL

I had been meaning to see Shellac for more than a year and a half.  They had last played Chicago in July of 2014, and had fallen off my radar, so I missed them.  They play randomly, it's not like they're announcing their tours on Pitchfork.  When I first heard about this show, it was already sold out.  Luckily I was able to get a ticket from a girl on craigslist.

Actually, it was two tickets, and I paid $45 for them.  I ended up wasting one of the tickets, and I could get into the whole situation about how I tried to give them to certain other people (it's really interesting stuff, trust me) and write myself into oblivion, but I'll just admit that I wasted one ticket.  Still, I had been toying with the idea of going to Barcelona in May to go to the Primavera Festival just to get to see them.  This was a bargain.

However, I showed up at 8:00 and had to wait 15 minutes to get inside, the line out the door.  It was raining outside.  As we got inside, I could hear the distinct sound of Shellac playing "Dude Incredible" and "You Came in Me."  At first I presumed they were just playing the latest album to psyche people up or something in the restaurant/bar area of Bottom Lounge, but when I got into the view of the doors people were entering through, into the venue space, I noticed the sound got louder, and that was actually Shellac playing.  Fuck.  They were the opening band for MONO.  When I had checked the website earlier, MONO had a huge write-up, and at the bottom of the page was a line or two about Shellac.  I thought this was their idea of a joke.  Like, yeah you don't need to know much about them.  It's fucking Shellac.  But I don't know, maybe they just wanted to get to bed early?  I certainly was worrying about being up too late, so I appreciate the sentiment if that was actually the reason they opened.  Regardless, immediately I rushed inside excitedly, and got a beer quickly at the bar ($6, not too bad, not gouging you--this is one important reason why I think Bottom Lounge is a good venue).  I moved up as far as I could--maybe I could have moved up closer but I would have needed to pretend I was getting to a friend near the front.  The picture above is a fair representation of my vantage point.I heard them play the following songs.  (I may be off on the order):

A Minute
Squirrel Song
Surveyor (which was meant to be "All the Surveyors")
Steady as She Goes
Riding Bikes
End of Radio

Just getting to see that?  Worth $45.  Especially since I feel bad about not buying Dude Incredible.  Afterwards, I hung around.  I texted a friend.  I waited for MONO to go on, because I had to watch at least one of their songs before I left.  Then out of nowhere, I saw Steve Albini walk right in front of me.  I was like holy shit, if I want to talk to him, I totally have a chance.  I saw a couple people take selfies with him.  I didn't want to annoy him.

I don't know what I would have said.  In any case, it made me think about it, and a minute later I realized there was a merchandise table, and Bob Weston was sitting there.  So I bought a t-shirt off him and remarked that I was surprised it was only $15, I'd seen a lot of bands selling t-shirts for $30.  And he was like, "Well, you're getting ripped off."  I just thanked him profusely and mentioned that I missed the last show, and he was like, "Was it that long ago?"  I asked him to please play again soon because I missed the first 15 minutes because I didn't realize they were opening.  I explained about the website and how it made me suspicious, and he seemed to laugh at that.  If I am ever able to make the musician/idol I encounter laugh, then it is a gratifying experience.

It was worth the $45, but I still wish they played more songs.  I would have liked to have heard "Watch Song," "All the Surveyors," "This is a Picture," "My Black Ass," "Dude Incredible," "Prayer to God," "Billiard Player Song," and who knows what else.   I would watch them play for 2 hours.

Most evident in their performance is Albini's increasing ability to improvise.  Clearly, the best moment of the concert was the opening of "Killers."  It seems like they will always play this combo at most shows and everyone seems to know that it is the highlight.  In short I got super excited and it was an incredible performance of "Wingwalker," though not as loud or as brutal as I was hoping.  Albini's monologue was one of the better ones I've heard, with him proclaiming that we were all brothers and sisters descended from the same great grandmother and that he loved each and everyone one us but if he was up in the sky in the plane, and he had been trained to experience pleasure when he pushed the button, and he could so easily turn us all into dust, which is the problem with the fucking plane.

For the last song, everyone seemed to get excited, but I don't really like "The End of Radio" that much.  It's super boring, in the same way as "Didn't We Deserve a Look at You...," but I would rather hear that Terraform cut early on in a concert than "End of Radio" closing it out.  Clearly, "Watch Song," is the superior closing song.  Albini was quite clever in his improvisation for this one as well, but it didn't detract from the vague boredom I felt.  You can't dance to this song.  It's basically performance art.  And there was a cheer when Albini said something about apologizing to alien civilizations in 10,000 years for the shit that got played on the radio, which was nice, but yeah, I prefer their sinewy locked-in instrumentation, mixed in with Albini improv.

During the Q&A, they were asked, "What is Shellac's least favorite Shellac song?"  They could not give any by name, but Albini remarked that a whole bunch of them were batting .180 and were about to get cut.  I hope he didn't consider "This is a Picture" in that category.  If there's one critique I can make of Shellac it's that their setlist is fairly predictable.  Don't get me wrong, I am glad that "Killers/Wingwalker" always gets played, but I would like to hear some stuff off Terraform too.

Here is the T-shirt I bought.  Can anyone tell me what it means?

I'm not sure what that logo represents.

In any case, I went home and spent $17 on a cab.  What a waste.  A very memorable evening though and I am glad to memorialize it here, since my review of Dude Incredible is turning out to be surprisingly popular.  Maybe I should just write more about music to get more activity on this site.

I think that's pretty much everything I have to say about that.

No comments: