Review: Fall Out Boy – Lake Effect Kid

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It’s a cliché at this point for bands to try to rediscover their roots or pay homage to their hometown. However, Fall Out Boy’s Lake Effect Kid EP is one of the few that feels genuine. Brief as it may be, these three songs not only form a love letter to Chicago, they offer a brief history of the band’s evolving sound. What could have easily been a quick gimmick is actually a near essential piece that quickly and unapologetically shows Fall Out Boy paying attention to their own legacy.

You can buy or stream Lake Effect Kid on Apple Music.

“Lake Effect Kid” is a B-Side that has made the rounds online for quite some time. Without a proper release or context, it could be easy to overlook. I have often enjoyed the song, but understood why it had been cut from Infinity On High or Folie à Deux. However, this new mix sounds more refined and complete. Additionally, when paired with “City in a Garden”, the song takes on more body, context, and heart.

“City in a Garden”, though it may be a Chicago-centric love fest, is arguably Fall Out Boy’s most accessible and singable single since “Thnks fr th Mmrs”. Oozing with nostalgia, hooks, and dreamlike drumbeats, “City in a Garden” is for Chicago what Jason Mraz and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are for California. While it sonically sounds like a ballad off an older release, the synth and beat are distinctly part of FOB’s new era. “City in a Garden” manages to encapsulate almost every aspect of Fall Out Boy that could make a person fall in love with the band.

Lake Effect Kid’s biggest strength is how reflective it is, while still pushing ahead for the band. “Lake Effect Kid” is the pop punk older fans have been craving for years. “City in a Garden” is the kind of pop song the band couldn’t have written even a couple of years ago without the experience they have now. Meanwhile, closing track “Super Fade” moves forward with experimentation in a place that won’t ruin the flow of a full album. Borrowing heavily from the divisive single, “Young and Menace”, “Super Fade” sounds like a slip-up of a song. However, this EP is the ideal place to work out the kinks of this style of songwriting.

Lake Effect Kid not only pays homage to Chicago as the band’s stomping grounds, it pays homage to their past work. The EP is an answer for anyone who has claimed that the band sold out their sound over the last few albums. Equally as exciting, it shows Fall Out Boy’s willingness to look back on themselves with the same reverence and enthusiasm they’ve shown when looking forward.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and makes a gosh darn good apple pie.

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Underoath: Hiding in The Subterranean

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Underoath, appearing in Chicago for a secret show to celebrate the release of their new album,Erase Me, brought with them a day of sacrifice. Freezing temperatures and strong winds mocked those waiting outside The Subterranean for hours for one of the few entrance wristbands, and then again later in the evening just to get inside. However, the effort to make it was rewarded with a short, intimate set with the band that couldn’t have happened any other way.

Small, dark and doing its best to look like a basement, The Subterranean is a small venue. The stage rises just above the crowd and leaves little room between the performers and their fans. It is a perfect venue for cutting out the negative space as much as possible. For those in attendance, it was hard earned.

“I got here around eleven this morning to get a wristband, and the line was already back here,” one guy said as he pointed to the entrance of a Starbucks down the street from the venue. A particularly cold gust of wind caught everyone off guard, but he just shook his head at us. “It was colder this morning.”

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For all of their effort, Underoath appeared and rewarded the crowd of 200 with a short, brutal set. With the audience leaning directly on the stage, vocalist Spencer Chamberlain figuratively, and then literally, stood on top of them.

The secret show was a reward for the diehards. Starting with “On My Teeth”, the 40-minute set traded singles off of Erase Me (“Rapture”, “No Frame”) with some of the most popular songs of old. Announced as dedication for their older fans, Underoath jumped straight into “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” and “Reinventing Your Exit”. “Writing on the Walls”, the only song from Define the Great Line closed out the evening.

Keyboardist Christopher Dudley traded smiles with the crowd. Guitarists Timothy McTague, Grant Brandell and James Smith bounded with what limited movement they could muster on the tiny stage. Aaron Gillespie, hidden in dark and masked with fog and shining lights threw all of his energy into decimating the drumset.

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Short, sweet chaos.

For fans, spending the day waiting was worth it. Everyone seemed abuzz with how amazing it had been, all whispers of the cold long forgotten. “I waited 15 years to finally see them,” said one person waiting to retrieve their coat, “I can’t imagine a better way to have seen them for the first time.”

There is an excitement that swallows fans when a band reunites that wraps them in nostalgia. But the energy that follows a new release is something else entirely. If the excitement they showed Chicago to be in full motion once again is any indication, the future of Underoath is promising a lot of great things to come.

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by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and got into a Secret show. He is officially cool. Don’t take that away from him…. Please?

The Self-Destruction of Saves The Day

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UPDATE: On October 26, 2018, Saves the Day released their ninth studio album, titled 9. It’s pretty good.

The Chicago Bears lost their first regular season game this weekend. To be honest, I don’t know anything about football, but it’s a well-known inside joke that, although the Bears haven’t performed very well the last few years, their fan base continues to follow them relentlessly. The same can be said of Saves The Day.

Though most people know the band’s first few albums, their experimentation over the last decade has been met with enthusiasm from fans willing to listen to anything “Chris Conley and friends” create. However, the events of the Chicago Bears Block Party showed that even the most loyal fans have limits, and sometimes a band can damage the goodwill given to them by being obnoxious.

I love Saves The Day. They were one of my first obsessions in music. I’ve seen them almost annually for the last decade. At the Chicago Bears Block Party, they were the headline event with Lucky Boys Confusion (one of my more well known loves) performing immediately before them. Lucky Boys put on a stellar performance, per usual.

Almost from the moment Saves The Day took the stage, Chris Conley seemed off. From the slow build up to the first song (“All-Star Me”), to the point where the band was actually getting booed on stage, Conley was an example of nearly everything musicians are mocked for. Even now, a few days later, I can’t tell if it was the worst show I’ve seen, or the most entertaining. I don’t even know if it was because he was too inebriated or if it was some type of Shia LaBeouf ‘performance art’ horseshit. But I am worried for the future of Saves The Day. And Chris Conley.

***

Let’s start at the band level. Though the rest of the band played well enough, it seems like they barely played more than 10 songs (including the clusterfuck that was a 10-minute-long session of “A Drag in D Flat”) in a set that was over an hour long. About 20 minutes in, to say that the band looked annoyed would be an understatement. The fact that they continued to play at all, is merit to their professionalism as musicians.

I don’t know what was wrong with Chris Conley in Chicago, or if it is a bigger problem that is plaguing the group. The band actually said at one point that they had “drank all the free beer,” but this appeared to be something more serious. Between the continuous shouts of, “We’re alive! We’re alive!” and the non-stop references to how “crazy the world is and we’re all alive together in the cosmos,” it became far too easy to speculate about Chris’ state of mind.

I would like to say that the low point of Conley’s night was the off-key vocals or stopping to tune his guitar three times, instructing an already pissed crowd to “talk amongst yourselves.” It could have been when he stopped playing music entirely for nearly 10 minutes (I might be exaggerating, but not by much) to talk about how great it is to be alive while the crowd started booing him. Or that during one of his monologues, the crowd actually started chanting “LBC! LBC!” for Lucky Boys Confusion.

But none of that compares to the disastrous performance of “A Drag in D Flat”, a beloved song off of Through Being Cool. Even now, I am not entirely sure that this was the song they were even playing, because I was so focused on how fucked everything was. The band turned a three-minute pop punk anthem into a 10-minute sadness nightmare.

Though Chris seemed like he was about to sing several times, he instead proceeded to turn the song into an extremely long guitar solo and jam session, followed by him looking skywards, seeming to be lost in the continuous verse of guitar riffs from Arun Bali. Then he passed out.

I assume he passed out. I don’t know how else to describe someone toppling over, knocking the mic stand towards the crowd, and laying on the stage for about 30 seconds. The rest of the band continued to play, looking down on him until he returned to the guitar solo while lying on his back. When he got up, he stumbled around the stage and leaned on bassist Rodrigo Palma and Arun for support. This happened for what seemed like minutes at a time. The crowd (at least in my section) alternated between laughing at him and looking around nervously. One woman wondered aloud if “someone should get a medic.”

Chris Conley has always been quirky, which is what gives his music so much charm. Listening to any number of podcasts or interviews he’s been a part of shows that. His music harnesses an innocence interlocked with anger. Conley hasn’t been as angry in his last few recordings, and it’s healthy for artists to change over time, especially if it is towards a happier mentality. But this isn’t healthy, and I’m fucking worried about him.

If this is where Conley is in his life, I don’t know if I want to continue following the band. Everyone has a bad night on stage. Everyone experiments a bit. But there is something darker beneath the surface when a crowd of faithful fans start cheering for another band. At one point, the crowd shouted at the stage, “play a song!” Conley responded with “We can just talk. We’re just people, and we can talk to you.”

***

Saves The Day never make the same album twice. Conley even announced that this was the last show they were playing before going into the studio to record. I hope he is just worn out and blowing off steam before recording. Because if not, I have no idea how this entire process won’t be an absolute mess.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a musician wanting to banter with the crowd or give a message during their set. Usually, the music punctuates those statements into something meaningful. This was someone shouting the same nothing sentence over and over.

I don’t know where his mind was or how annoyed his bandmates were. I don’t know if it was an isolated incident or a more common problem. I hope it’s out of his system. I have a new fear that I never expected: that Chris Conley could ruin his own music if he’s approaching his own work like this.

As much as I have given to support this band over the years, I hesitate to say if I will see them live again if this is how they treat their shows. More than anything, I’m worried about Chris. That wasn’t healthy behavior for anyone. I hope he finds whatever he’s looking for and gets help if it’s needed.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and saw Saves The Day as his first concert ever. He drove three hours to see them, multiple times.

Review: Lucky Boys Confusion – Stormchasers

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By the time I had discovered Lucky Boys Confusion, save for one collection of demos and B-Sides, the band had already released all of their material and the various members had decided to split off to work on their own projects. None of that stopped a large group of us from driving hours to Chicago to see their annual one-off shows.

You can buy Stormchasers on iTunes.

In the time since then, several events, namely divorce and the unfortunate passing of guitarist Joe Sell in 2013, acted as a catalyst to reevaluate and spawn a new spark of creativity for the band. Once known for drinking songs, the group has tempered themselves slightly, finding the same lively spirit in rebuilding themselves once the party is over. Stormchasers isn’t a depressing record. It’s the concept of following the havoc in life and cleaning the wreckage into something new, for better or for worse, while looking back fondly on what came before.

Picking up where the How To Get Out Alive EP left off over a decade ago, Stormchasers forgoes many of the ska and hip hop elements of early LBC in favor of the of the immediate punk and waves of Americana rock of guitarist Adam Krier’s side project, AM Taxi. However, that’s not to say that it doesn’t sound like a Lucky Boys record – Stormchasers is loud, aggressive and quickly gets to the heart of the issues that may have held the group back before breaking free of those constraints to forge a natural progression of the band.

As a concept record, LBC addresses the elephants in the room within the first three songs; feeling stuck at this point in life (“I Slept with the Devil”), divorce (“It’s After Midnight”) and carrying on after losing Joe Sell (“Stormchaser”). However, instead of wallowing in sadness, Stormchasers uses nostalgia as a tool of empowerment to search for a better future (“Good Luck”).

The evolution in sound for Lucky Boys Confusion is obvious to anyone who has followed the band. They have doubled down on the rock aspect of the music, forgoing the hip hop genre that aged their older albums. While it negates the unique draw of their early discography, it verifies the band as an essential punk band and the flag bearers of the modern rock scene in Chicago. Adam Krier’s guitarwork comes in waves of stiff power chords that create walls of sound while maintaining extraordinary melody. Whether loud and erratic (“Insomniac”), gentle and subdued (“Sun in My Eyes”), or a throwback to the band’s classic era (“Stormchaser”), Krier is at his best, carefully bringing the band’s sound back from into the modern age.

Bassist Jason Schultejann has ample time to carry the songs entirely (“Burn a Little Birghter”, “Name In Lights”), providing substance to a genre that can easily out-loud the bass. Drummer Ryan Fergus is a powerhouse, carrying tempo across the spectrum and maintaining a foreboding presence even in the softest moments.

Vocalist Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav once again proves himself as one of the best vocalists in rock. Pandav pushes himself in nearly every song, maintaining every ounce of the enigmatic energy that made him a captivating singer two decades ago. His voice was made for pop punk, and the effect carries through effortlessly (“Sun in My Eyes”, “Your Friends Are Whispering”).

Thematically, Lucky Boys delve into finding the hope at the end of the dark moments. “Slept With the Devil” sets the tone, as Pandav chants, “Our dreams are burning, we breathe the smoke / There’s only so much time before we choke / So stop complaining, embrace the thrill / There’s only so much time here left to kill”.

However, the darkness they describe runs deep. Pandav finds the helplessness through the hell of divorce on “It’s After Midnight”, pleading, “You stopped loving me right when I turned around / I wasn’t chaste enough for you / You took the battleground, you won the war in a wedding gown”. “Stormchaser” particularly strikes deep, reflecting on Joe Sell. “Welcome to life as a stormchaser: searching for love and black bitters /… and I’m tired of being cynical, but it’s catching up / And I’m tired of being practical, but it’s catching up / And I’m seeing the possibilities, and they’re catching up to me / But you’re catching up to me”.

However, the use of nostalgia is used as a tool to pave a way forward and creates a message of hope out of the initial depressing lyrics. On “Sun in My Eyes”, Pandav sings, “How did we go from getting so high off of feeling shallow? Most of these days we make it up as we go”.

One of the true highlights is “Good Luck”, an AM Taxi-esque rocker that gives guitarist Adam Krier lead vocals. He reflects on memories of the band’s inspiration and career, making a declaration of what drives the band to keep going after everything. “Got a varsity letter? Screw ‘em, we get endless memories / Playing songs together, keeping up all the neighbors on your street / And if we burn out fast, come whatever / Summer songs will last, that’s forever. Now and forever, good luck”.

Stormchasers is a massive return for a band many had thought was more or less put to rest. Without retreading ground already covered, the band picks up where they left off. While the songs may not be the soundtrack for hard drinking, the mature aspect refines the storytelling that LBC are known for that cuts through what would be a sad album and makes it one of that yearns to find hope when there doesn’t feel like any.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has so far seen LBC live twice in 2017. It’s not creepy if you call it “enthusiasm!”

Reviving the Future: An Interview with Ryan Fergus of Lucky Boys Confusion

Last week, Lucky Boys Confusion released their first new single in nearly a decade. “It’s After Midnight” is an aggressive rock song that finds a slick balance of crunching harmonies balanced against a swirling story of a relationship spiraling out of control.

As a long-time fan of Lucky Boys Confusion, the song is a refreshing answer to the curiosity of what a band that hasn’t written a full record for almost 15 years looks to create, and how it balances against the rest of their career. For a smaller band, Lucky Boys Confusion has an exceptionally strong and loyal fan base that follows them from show to show, and “It’s After Midnight” certainly beckons their attention.

With just a month until the release of new album Stormchasers, I spoke with drummer Ryan Fergus about the build up leading to its creation and what it means for the future.

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First off, “It’s After Midnight” is awesome. I’ve been listening to it since it was released and it really feels organic for the band. Do you think it reflects how the album sounds stylistically, or does it branch and venture out more?

Oh thanks! Yeah, we’re really excited about it and it’s been getting a lot of really great feedback. You know, when you go away for as long as we did, and we really created this record in a vacuum, you get a little bit nervous. We really love this, we’re really jacked about this but we don’t know how people are going to receive it. It was such a relief to finally get at least one song out there to kind of show people what we’ve been working on, and the reception has been really positive, which is really encouraging for the rest of the record.

To answer your question, it would definitely be a song that we thought would kind of bridge the gap, so to speak, in terms that it does sound reminiscent of a lot of songs off of Commitment or Throwing the Game. It’s really reminiscent of the How to Get Out Alive EP, but it is a bridge. There are a lot of songs on the record that sound like the older stuff, but there is some modernization and maturity to it and we’re trying different things.

It’s probably our most cohesive record. It’s very fortuitous that we’re talking today, as we just got the final master of the whole record back today. To hear everything together as one rolling, cohesive piece, I’m just on cloud nine right now. We’re really pumped up about it.

That’s fantastic! I was going to say, the single reminds me of How to Get Out Alive. It’s interesting that it’s more cohesive. Closing Arguments, I know it was a mix of demos and B-sides, but it did feel like a patchwork of songs.

Yeah, it wasn’t as coherent. It was basically seeds of what would have been the next record, and obviously that would have changed a lot. And we had a chance to start fresh. We didn’t revisit any of those old pieces so this is all new ideas and arrangements. All new ideas we really cooked up in the last year, year and a half. Once we started working on it and decided that we could do this, it all came together very quickly. It does feel like one piece. There’s no little skips, there’s no 30-second interludes – it’s 12 songs, and it’s a story.

Really, it’s closure in a lot of ways. That’s not to imply that this is the last thing we’re ever going to do, because if anything, we’re more invigorated than ever. What I mean by that is everything that happened to us over the last four of five years, we didn’t really comment publicly on it. Most notably, our guitarist, Joe Sell died suddenly, tragically and very young. I think we left a lot of people in a lurch. We didn’t really have a way of addressing everything we’ve been through in the last few years.

This is kind of our statement to everything that has gone down and what we’ve been through, and there were some pretty dark times, I won’t lie. But I think this has been really therapeutic for us, and we’re all in a really good place. And we’re excited to be working together. We really couldn’t be more pleased with how everything came out.

Everyone has been kind of focused on their side projects for quite some time. Was it natural to be writing together again? Especially since Stubhy (Pandav) and Adam (Krier) went their own way for a while and wrote in their own ways for so long, did things mesh well when everyone came together again?

Yeah, it felt like home, I think, a lot for all of us. Especially for the two of them from a song writing perspective. What happened after Joe passed, it kind of spun us all out in different directions. For Jason (Schultejann) and Adam, they started AM Taxi. Stubhy had multiple projects that he was involved in. My project was kind of having a normal life. Having a job, getting married, having two great kids and living a more normal day-to-day. To do that and then come back into this, and bring a lot of lessons learned with maturity, the things we’ve gone through and bring those together… It was comforting.

The joke of it is, the creative part of this thing has been the easy part. The songs really came together quick, we didn’t have a lot of knock-down, drag-out arguments about arrangements. Even the recording process was a really smooth situation. Honestly, the difficult part for us has been everything else.

We’re doing this completely self-sufficient. There’s no label, there’s no manager, nobody. If anything, the difficult aspect of setting this up and launching it is that we’re doing everything on our own. Every day is a thousand tiny decisions with a constant text thread between the four of us during all hours of the night, starting at 7:30 in the morning. It’s just an ongoing dialogue for a year of, “Hey, did you call that guy?” or “Johnny K (producer) needs an answer today for the mix.” The difficult part has just been the little technical aspects. The creative part was actually quite wonderful and really did feel like coming home again.

Listening to “It’s After Midnight”, the lyrics are about a pained relationship, and they’re fairly vindictive. Lucky Boys have been known for a slight storytelling aspect as much as you are for party songs. With everything that has happened, is Stormchasers more of a serious record, then?

It’s not a kind record, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. If anything, it’s a celebration record. It’s celebrating life, death, love, losing love. All the aspects that kind of make up the human condition. There are darker aspects and you can make the claim that the world is going in a darker direction than it was five or 10 years ago. It’s definitely a reflection, and I think people will see a lot of things they identify with on the record.

There’s a lot of stuff about Stubhy’s marriage, which he’s been very open about and I’m proud of him that it’s out there. But his marriage ended. He’s since fallen in love again, engaged and getting married this summer so it’s been this roller coaster in a lot of ways. He’s been very transparent about that. There are a lot of lines on the record, where you just go, “Wow, he went there.” And I’m so proud of him for not holding that back and not pulling punches.

In that regard, I think people will be surprised at the lengths we’ve gone with some of this stuff and ultimately, it’s a lot of things people will identify with. We got older, but a lot of the folks that are listening to us have been along for the ride and gotten older too. They’ve got responsibilities, they’ve got relationships they’re maintaining and dealing with, someone in their family that have been through some pretty tough times as well. It’s stuff people can relate to, tear apart and identify with.

Speaking of the fan base, I just moved to Chicago a few years ago, and everyone I’ve met who has any kind of interest in rock music knows who Lucky Boys Confusion are. A lot of them seem to have the same type of story, where it’s almost an urban legend where someone finds a copy of Throwing the Game tucked away in a closet somewhere and just falls in love with it after listening to it. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed being at live shows, it’s a lot of the same people coming again and again, talking about past shows. Do you pick up on that from the fan base in general?

It’s stunning to me. It’s stunning to all of us. I’m not sure that you know this, but this year is actually our 20 year anniversary. We started this band when we were 18 years old and just out of high school, and there are a lot of people who have been there since year one or year two. It’s unbelievable. We’re starting to get to the point where some of these folks are starting to bring their kids. Their kids are old enough to go to shows now. It’s definitely a surreal thing.

But you’re right, there are so many stories about, “my older brother left the CD with me before he went to college and then I got into you guys.” It’s really been amazing, and what we’ve kind of said all along is that if they keep coming, then we’re going to keep showing up.

Especially for this long stretch here where we weren’t putting out any new content and you start to think, it’s gotta be here, right? You’re gonna start to see a drop off, kids are going to stop coming and we’re kind of back where we started, playing for 30 people. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

That was definitely in the back of our minds, but these folks have been coming out to hear the same older songs for however long now and we owe them something new. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we wanted to come out with something new, especially for the folks that have been around for so long and have been patient and just waiting. We thought maybe there never would be a record. We’re excited to make that happen for the diehards throughout the many years and we’re just so appreciative of that.

I know it’s a hack question, but do you have a favorite song off of the new record?

[sigh] No, it’s a great question. [laughs]

No, it’s probably changing by the day. Again, it’s a record that finally feels like a whole thing. But we’ve got a song called “Sun In My Eyes” that’s probably going to be our next single. That’s going to come out this month, actually when the preorder goes up on iTunes and whatnot. But I think it’s going to throw some people for a curve ball. It’s a bit more different than anything we’re really tried. “It’s After Midnight” is a call to arms and the announcement that we’re back and Lucky Boys are grown up. “Sun In My Eyes”, I think is something totally different. It’s poppy, kind of a mystical tune but it really crunches, it really rocks. It still feels like us, and I’m really digging that right now.

We close the record with a tune called “Candle in the Window” and it’s the same thing, it’s really different. It sound kind of like an old Elvis Costello B-side or something. It’s really powerful and kind of punctuates the record. And there are a lot of different fields and different directions. Listening to it today as a cohesive piece, it really feels like one statement. I’m really excited to get it out there.

Lastly, what do you think Stormchasers means for the future of Lucky Boys Confusion, especially after you said everyone seems more invigorated now than they have been for a while?

You know, its funny. I like serial dramas on Hulu, like “The Americans” and shows like that, and a lot of these shows are in a bubble. They don’t always know if they’re going to be renewed, so what they do is have this year end finale that wraps up the current storyline and resolves those problems, but it leaves the door open for more story. I think it’s an analog to Stormchasers in that, if it ends up being the last record, I think it’s turning the last pages of the book.

But it’s not a full resolve. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of time, a lot of hard work, a lot of intense moments here and there, but overall this was a really pleasant, really great experience. A lot of that was based on working with our producer, Johnny K, who is just amazing. He produced it, engineered it, mixed it so that this became one single vision.

I would feel very open, and I think the way the guys are feeling right now, that they would probably agree that there’s no reason that this couldn’t be the beginning of a really nice creative era for us. This year is really about the new record, and celebrating the 20 year anniversary. We really want to mark that and will probably be doing some stuff later in the year to mark that. It’s kind of a big deal – not many bands get to 20 years.

But there’s nothing saying that there couldn’t be more in the future, especially with as excited as everybody is right now. It’s definitely viable.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been to a Lucky Boys Confusion show at least once every year for a decade. Their shows have never once gotten stale in that time. It really was an honor to talk to someone who has kept the attention of myself and my nonsense friends for that long. My apartment suddenly smells like spray paint, and that can’t be great.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #7 Lucky Boys Confusion Show Their Commitment

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In 2009, I found myself standing front row at the Double Door in Chicago for the CD release party of what we all thought was the final Lucky Boys Confusion album, the fittingly titled Closing Arguments. While it was all new material to me, it was released as a collection of unreleased demos and b-sides they’d collected over the years, but I was thankful for one last record from one of the most unique and underappreciated bands I know.

Since then, I’ve seen them sell out the House of Blues and half a dozen other venues at least once a year to a frenzied audience that can’t seem to be satiated. For a band that has been more or less defunct, save for the occasional live show, LBC continue to be at the forefront of the Chicago punk scene with some of the most loyal fans I’ve ever seen.

How fitting then that on New Years Eve, standing in almost the same spot inside the Double Door as I watched the band ring in 2017, they announced the title of their long-gestating return album: Stormchasers. As a band that is still active, nearly exclusively because of a fanbase that refuses to quit, this new release is something that can’t come fast enough. Stormchasers is set for release on April 15.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Review: Showoff – Wish You Were Her…

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Timing is key. Releasing an album at the right time can make or break a band and catapult a style of music to fame. As a recent fan of Showoff, I’ve been unaware of most of their history in the Chicago music scene, but the people who grew up with them will tell you that they came “this close” to making it big before they seemed to just disappear in the early 2000’s.

The band’s follow up to 1999’s self-titled album was only just recently released within the last couple of months online. Recorded in 2001 (Thanks Wikipedia!), Wish You Were Her… is a throwback to an era when pop punk was exploding. Had it originally released when it was meant to, there’s a chance it could be regarded the same way that people talk about New Found Glory’s Sticks and Stones.

Wish You Were Her does something that few records manage to do: the songwriting shows its age, but the songs hold up as great pop punk songs by today’s standards. I say that they show their age because of how “simple” they sound. The guitars chug with a crisp determination, with gang chorus vocals and elements of ska from the late 90’s. The songs remind me of hearing New Found Glory or Simple Plan for the firs time in high school. It’s a feeling that most modern bands attempt to replicate, but sadly can’t pull off.

Unfortunately, due to a revolving door of lineup changes through the years, I have no idea who plays what parts on the album. The guitars grind out waves of skater punk (“Losing It”), only to suddenly be interrupted by a quick, succinct solo (“I Won’t Leave You”) or a few lines that remind you why pop punk caught on in the first place (“Jackie”). The bass thumps along as a hidden highlight (“So Long”), blistering under the guitars. The drumming sounds a bit simpler than the effort on Showoff, but is intricately spaced within the ska sound and reminds me at times of early Blink 182’s Travis Barker (“Waiting For You”, “Hello Again”).

Vocalist Chris Envy is phenomenal, throwing high notes and energy into most every chorus and lyric (“Losing It”). Depending on what fans liked about Showoff, they may be disappointed at the disappearance of most of Envy’s rap-inspired singing. The songs are incredibly fun. You won’t find much in the way of modern pop punk’s trend of social commentary or personal life experience. Instead, it relishes in the instantly memorable, sing-along-pop of relationships and angst.

The gang vocal chorus for “Losing It” of, “I’m drifting away, can’t stand to feel this way / Maybe it’s all of those little things / Tell me you’re using, seems you’ve been using me”. “Bad Date” is flush with the humor of the late 90’s, from bands like Blink 182 or Homegrown, and hearing the song made me realize how much I’ve missed it from modern punk. As Envy sings, “Lighting my cigarette, I accidentally set fire to her hair / I guess what I said had a lot to do with it / She said I’m crazy and I smell like shit / I tried to kiss her and I got bit / I guess I’m not getting laid”.

I’m sad that this album just became available. There are several songs that sound prime to have been singles in 2001, dueling on TRL with Simple Plan. “Losing It” and “Waiting For You” sound like they were prepped for radio play. Showoff in 2016 seems to be a Chicago-based effort, with Wish You Were Her a reward for longtime fans and a bridge for new fans (such as myself) to fall in love with.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has been listening to the townsfolk talk about Showoff for years before actually listening to them. You know, like an adult and a lover of music. Way to support the cause, dummy.

Mest and Showoff: Hometown Heroes

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Riot Fest is the gift that keeps on giving. Each year, the festival boasts one of the best line ups in the country, attracting an older, matured audience that has appreciated their music for years. All the more reason then, to be excited for Mest’s recent show in Chicago at the Concord Theater, sponsored by Riot Fest. Five solid hours of punk rock punctuated by a nearly sold out house supporting Chicago-based and local bands. If there was ever a way to feel the love of the genre, it’s seeing homegrown bands receive the groundswell support of the very city they helped establish the sound for.

I’ve worried for quite some time whether Riot Fest would return to Chicago at all, given the bullshit hassles the festival has had to go through over the last couple of years finding a park to house them for the weekend. How wonderful then, to see the festival sponsoring one-off shows throughout the year as a special treat to keep anticipation high. Much like the main festival, the crowd was filled with a range of ages, from teenage punks, to those in their mid-thirties reliving their youth in the circle pit.

Although all the bands playing were local punk bands, the three stand outs where the last half of the show- Much the Same, Showoff, and Mest. All three bands became success stories in their own way, paving the sound of Chicago punk in the late 90’s and early 2000’s before eventually breaking up sometime near 2005 (coincidence? I think not!). Ten years later, the bands had reformed in their own ways, much to the delight of the city’s thankful fans, who came out on their weekends off of work to see the music they worshiped in their youth.

I’ve made a big deal about Lucky Boys Confusion being the sound of Chicago, but the fact is that any of these bands could have held that title, and depending on who you/ ask, they do. It’s an odd thing to see a show where each band is just as loved as the one before it, all the while the crowd becomes more and more excited just to see any of them play one more time.

Much the Same was the first band to cause a pit to form. I’m fairly unfamiliar with their music, unfortunately, but their brand of high intensity punk shook the room. The band’s stage presence was quiet, maintaining minimal movement while letting the music speak for itself. The more energetic in the crowd made their way deep into the crowd to jump and use up their energy. It felt like a classic punk show, in that there was genuine love for the music regardless of the scene. Maybe it was age, but the band stood firm for the most part, looking out over the crowd calmly over churning guitar chords and the rampant drumming.

Showoff took the stage second to last to roaring applause. Going back to listen to bands that made it big in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, it can sometimes be hard to see why the band made it big when they did. Seeing them live, it entirely made sense before the end of the first song. A smooth mix of pop punk, skate punk and ska, Showoff blasted away to the sound of the entire audience reciting every lyric back to them.

They’ve had ample time to learn; Showoff just released their second album after 15 years. Their fans are a loyal bunch, dancing to “Ralphie” and “Bully” the way they did when they were kids. “Falling Star”, the band’s biggest hit, was a definite highlight of the evening.

Showoff’s appeal is how easily they sway through genre. What can be a common pop punk song can just as soon become a ska fantasy or hard rock. Vocalist Chris Envy peppered in rap elements amongst his singing, perhaps the only feature to remind you that the songs were written in 2000. “The Anti-Song”, one of the fastest songs on their Self-Titled album, closed off the set, sending the crowd into a frenzy before walking off.

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Mest headlined the evening, shredding the night away with classic pop punk. A good portion of their set came from their Self-Titled album, as “Until I Met You” and “Jaded (These Years)” met the audience to deafening noise. The band commanded the stage, raging through hometown classics. Lead vocalist Tony Lovato crawled onto a sea of outspread arms, singing while standing on platforms of hands.

Being unfamiliar with Mest for most of my life, I enjoyed the show as another pop punk concert. The people near me though, jumped to each song as though it were their favorite. One man, beer in hand, jumped from group to group, encouraging everyone he saw to dance while shouting, “I love Mest!” while couple of obnoxious fans kept calling for an early hit, “What’s the Dillio?” at every opportunity  between songs (this request thankfully never became fulfilled). Closing out the night was “Rooftops”, a song reflecting on the good times and listening to punk rock.

One of the highlights of pop punk is that it finds you in the formative years, and although there is a drop off with age, the songs you grow up with retain their rebellion and youth for as long as you’re alive to hear them. Mest’s show was a tsunami of nostalgia for the kids who grew up on Chicago’s chugging punk rock, and the basis for which countless bands based themselves on.

Seeing a concert hall packed from the outset, and not just to see the headliner, is something that rarely seems to happen, much less followed by the entire room falling in love with their rebellious spirit again. It’s the perfect spirit to be honed in on by Riot Fest, and the perfect bands to represent Chicago as a city.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and can’t get the taste of pita out of his mouth.

 

Nightmare of You Bring the Feels to Chicago on Anniversary Tour

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Ten year anniversary tours are a weird trend of late. Many times, it feels like a popular band just plays a record that made them so popular that they’ve actually been playing most of the songs for the last decade anyway. Other times, it pulls a band back from the grave to see what was in an attempt to regain the energy that made the album special.

I expected Nightmare of You’s 10 year anniversary tour of their ­self-titled album to be the latter, but their recent show in Chicago was a far different experience. Instead of being a show of what could have been, it was a celebration of what was and the appreciation of an audience that still cared about them.

Nightmare of You have always felt like an enigma to me, as they never caught on the way that they should have. Nightmare of You, their debut album was a stylized, glamour-soaked indie pop album that seemed keen to take over the music scene. In the mid 2000’s, bands of similar ilk (Panic! At the Disco, The Academy Is…, etc.) became household names quite rapidly. NoY’s sound was instantly ensnaring for those who heard it, light and sweet, but with enough sexually tense lyricism to make Pete Wentz jealous. Unfortunately, the band disappeared soon afterward.

Only in recent years have they seemed to begin working again, with a smattering of demo releases on Bandcamp and one-off shows. This anniversary tour, though, proved that their debut still held the attention of fans after so long and the shows reflect that. Chicago’s date was oddly intimate and drawn out as little as possible. Much like the album itself, the show was magnificently paced with significant impact, proving its point and leaving the enjoyment intact.

The only opening act, Chicago’s Even Thieves, is a relatively new band with just some singles online and an EP handed out after the show. However, they harbor a massive talent. Even Thieves cover the stage almost entirely with two guitarists, bassist, drummer, keyboardist and singer.

Even Thieves are a talent waiting to be found. Their music is a sweet mixture of Angels & Airwaves coupled with the steadied guitar work of a ‘wannabe’ Oasis. While some of their rock songs ran a tad long, although they would immediately jump ship  into a pop punk song and spring momentum back into the room. Their main flaw was just that not enough people knew who they were. Most heads in the crowd bobbed, but few sang back. But if anything can make or break a band, it’s a powerful closer.

Several members took to the back of the stage to join in on individual snare drums coupled with an amazing drummer, creating a massive marching band style percussion conclusion that ended their set on an incredible high note. Seeing them gave me the same sense that Nightmare of You instilled so many years ago – there is something great hiding beneath the surface that just needs to be uncorked.

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Taking the stage, Nightmare of You jumped immediately into album opener, “The Days Go By Oh So Slow”. For a band that has been out of the scene for a while, NoY sound nearly perfect live. Singer Brandon Reilly belted each song with an exact precision, despite seeming slightly nervous on stage.

While their songs sizzled, the night settled into a chilled scene, contrary to the energetic songs. The crowd barely seemed to move, save for head bobs and the rambling mouths singing along to each song. Rather than dance, the audience seemed more focused on hanging onto each and every note of songs that hadn’t come to Chicago in many years.

From the agonizing dance beat of “My Name Is Trouble” through to the whimsical finale, “Heaven Runs On Oil”, NoY created a hypnotic wave over the venue. Reilly spoke briefly between songs, not about the album or to give nonchalant thank yous, but just so the audience could get to know them a little better. It allowed the audience to become a part of the show as much as they were watching it. At one point, Reily invited anyone who wanted to recite a poem onstage, only to pull a man from the front row up who delivered some quick prose before disappearing back into the crowd.

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The anniversary tour of Nightmare of You is a celebration of continued interest and mutual respect. Rather than expect the audience to relive what the album was, the band invited them to remember what it meant to them. The entire show was a reflection about what made it special, without specifically addressing the fact, making the entire event a casual conversation with the very people who had supported it for so long.

This show meant more than the usual anniversary tour. It wasn’t a rehashed, fleshed out version of a usual tour date, nor a one off for a dead band. It felt like a memory playing out on stage. The laid back format, and the way that the band treated the audience like friends, as though they were playing at a wedding, made the entire performance feel more personal. Reflecting on an album and what it meant to you to begin with can be more powerful than just a casual listen through, especially in a room full of people having the same experience.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has nightmares of himself. WHAT?! OH NOES!

Pop Punk Legends Yellowcard and New Found Glory Rock Concord Music Hall

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A New Found Glory show can only be measured in one way: how drenched in sweat you are when it’s over. If you’re dry, you never cared for their music in the first place.

There’s an energy in the air the entire show, no matter who goes on before, or even after. It’s one of the reasons that their legacy and career has endured the rise, fall and rebirth of pop punk. It’s something that seems to emit from the bands that grew from the early 2000’s, and one that only another band from that era can replicate.

Yellowcard is one of those bands, and one of the most engaging. After almost two decades, the kids who grew up on these bands have refused to give up on them; a full house at the Concord Music Hall in Chicago consisted of everyone between the ages of 18 and 35 ready to open a circle pit.  As Yellowcard’s Ryan Key himself said, “If we had done this same tour in 2003, it would have been magical. But it’s 2015, and you’re still here.”

It was the first time Yellowcard and New Found Glory have toured North America together in their careers. If the first of their two night stay in Chicago was any indication, fans have been waiting a long time for this team up. Before opening band Tigers Jaw even took the stage, the room was packed. The sleek interior of the theater spaced people out nicely while filling the center, the entire eclipsing balcony full of onlookers. When Tigers Jaw finally emerged, they had a nearly full house.

Tigers Jaw mesmerized the room, jamming to a somber indie sounding version of pop punk. Dual vocalists, Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh trading and sharing vocals held firm against the popping guitar and hypnotic keyboard. Being unfamiliar with the band, I had no idea what any of their songs were or which album they could have come from. But they were wonderful. Their music took me back to a simplified style of songwriting that still managed to hit every correct note that hooked you in and refused to let go. I could understand why they had been around so long as a band, and why so many people had arrived early to see them.

Though they never hit the high mark of energy or noise of the rest of the night, their relaxed and steady stage presence paved their own path. The biggest mistake bands that tour with behemoths like Yellowcard or NFG can make is to sound like a pale imitation of either one, which is a trap that Tigers Jaw never fell into.

Yellowcard

Yellowcard

Yellowcard took the middle spot, demolishing the room upon entry. Guitars blazing and violin ripping, they tore immediately into the early catalog from Ocean Avenue with songs “Way Away” and “Breathing”. Every major single was hit, from “Lights and Sounds” to “Always Summer” and yet another riotous performance of “Ocean Avenue” enveloped the crowd, encouraging violinist Sean Mackin to do a back flip mid-song early on. One of the highlights of their set included vocalist Ryan Key alone on stage playing the keyboard for a softer, intimate version of fan favorite “Empty Apartment”.

The biggest detriment to Yellowcard is their range in discography. Each album has its favorites, and no concert will ever be able to cover everything fans want to hear. Aside from the hits, the band focused on two albums specifically; Ocean Avenue and Lift a Sail. “Crash the Gates” and “Lift a Sail” sound much better and harder in person than they ever could on an album, and it breathes new life into a record that sounds unlike anything else the band has put out.

While the band themselves put on an amazing performance, of note is current drummer Tucker Rue, formerly of Thursday. Longineu W. Parsons III is a brilliant drummer (my personal favorite), and filling his shoes is no small feat. Obviously a veteran, Rue managed to engage and make missing Parsons not hurt quite as bad.

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New Found Glory

New Found Glory headlined the evening, opening with a scorching rendition of “Resurrection”. From there, it didn’t matter what they played; each song might as well have been their big hit. Fan favorite “Hit or Miss” jolted the crowd early (rather than be a closing song) and spurred multiple circle and mosh pits. “All Downhill From Here”, “Selfless” and “Vicious Love” with a guest appearance by Brianna from Tigers Jaw were a few of the highlights, but the energy never so much as wavered throughout the set.

The only thing that paused the band from jumping across the stage at any time was when they pointed to a fan in the front row named Brad and not only invited him on stage, but asked him to pick a song that wasn’t on their set list and sing it was Jordan. He chose “Second to Last” from the band’s self-titled album, prompting the crowd to chant “Brad! Brad! Brad!” and guitarist Chad Gilbert to momentarily throw quick glances at the rest of the band to make sure they all remembered how to play it before rampaging through the song as though it were their big single.

New Found Glory remains one of the few bands that have not only retained their fanbase the entirety of their career, they have also kept their core sound intact while making each release sound new and intimidating among a new generation of musicians inspired by and evolving off of NFG. Every song they play, regardless of which record, sounds just as important as any song that could have made them a radio phenomenon. The audience jumped as though they had seen the band a dozen times before, and would see them again a dozen more. One man held his young daughter up on his shoulders in the back for her to see, and although she couldn’t have been more than five years old, NFG was already shaping her to be a new generation raised on their music.

Pop punk is a scene meant to push its way into your life, and immediately leave to some degree. Whether that means that you outgrow the sound, or the bands you love dissolve after an album or two, its rare to see a group stay together for a 10-year reunion tour, much less two bands together and better than ever after almost 20. Yellowcard and New Found Glory have carved their way into legendary status within music. Both have evolved with a generation of music that they helped shape and mold, and remain at the forefront.

I only managed to see the first of a two night headlining gig in Chicago, allegedly with different songs played each night for New Found Glory. But the fact that these bands can manage two nights worth of shows for fanatic listeners means something. Thankfully, it seems like they’re here to stay.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and New Found Glory was his first major band. Long live NFG!