Monday, September 28, 2009

Trail of Dead/Secret Machines at Logan Square Auditorium

After the Thursday show at the Bottom Lounge two nights before, I was hoping that the Friday night show was going to get me back into the grove and make me stop feeling like an ancient old man at the shows. I headed to the Logan Square Auditorium with very high hopes, and luckily those were met.

There were three bands on the lineup that night, the new Chicago band Pool of Frogs (who I knew nothing about), and co-headliners the Secret Machines and ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. I got there pretty early and grabbed a spot right at the front of the stage, and didn't need to move from there the rest of the night.

I had never heard of Pool of Frogs before Friday night, so I had no idea what to expect, but I very quickly became a big fan of theirs. The band played fairly straightforward rock, but much like Matt & Kim a few weeks before, you can tell they were greatly enjoying what they were doing, and looked like they were having the time of their lives opening the show.

On top of that, they had one of the best new performers I've seen in a while. Their drummer, Will Duncan, is a complete madman who reminded me alot of Jack Black if he played the drums, and their set was fun enough just watching him go nuts for the half hour or so. They'll definitely be a band to watch, and I know I'll be seeing them again in the future.

Next up was The Secret Machines. I had last seen them at Lollapalooza 2006, where they played a midday set in the baking sun after the release of their debut album. The band is a trio, but the most outstanding member is their amazing drummer, Josh Garza. I definitely picked the right spot to stand that night, since I was surprised to find that Garza was setting up his drum kit right on the edge of the stage directly in front of me, close enough that I could have rested my hand on his bass drum, although I was not worthy to do so.

Garza turned out to be a very nice guy, he politely warned everyone standing close that he was about to do a soundcheck for his drums, so he suggested that everyone ought to put in their earplugs at that point. It was definitely a very wise idea, or my ears would still be ringing four days later. I have to give him credit too, he spotted a guy two or three people down from me who was passing out midset, and he tried to pass a bottle of water to the guy to keep him from passing out. Pretty impressive for a guy drumming like a maniac the rest of the time.

The band surprisingly opened with the closest song they've had to a hit, "Nowhere Again," and the vantage point I had was like having a master drum class done 3 feet away from me. The band skipped around their three albums during their 50 minute performance, but when they wanted to get the crowd going, they always went back to the songs from their great debut. When the set was nearly over, a guy next to me who was dangerously teetering on the annoying jackass/really spirited fan line was begging Garza to have them play their best song from that album, "First Wave Intact." Garza shook his head like it wasn't going to happen, setting off a minor wave of disappointed groans, then launched into the dinstinctive drumbeat that opens the song.

"First Wave Intact" is an incredible live song, it starts slowly with a great drumbeat with a droning bass line, and slowly over about 6 minutes builds into a massive, earth rumbling conclusion. Garza and the rest of the band performed it perfectly, whipping the front rows of fans into a frenzy.

After a short break, it was time for the Trail of Dead to take the stage. I've seen them several times in the past, they can either be one of the best bands you can see live, or they can be a bad sloppy mess, all depending on the level of alcohol they've taken in before showtime. Judging by their performance on Friday night, they probably didn't have a drink for a good week before the show, because they were solid and firing on all cylinders.

The band, which has grown into a six-piece, even with two drummers, took the stage quickly and opened with "Isis Unveiled" from their fantastic album from this year, "The Century of Self." The song is like a cyclone swirling madly into itself, then seemingly dying out, before exploding open once again. With barely a moment's rest, the band then tore into "It Was There That I Saw You" from their landmark album "Source Tags & Codes," with the roller-coaster song whipping along at breakneck speed and threatening to rumble off the tracks at any point, but managing to tear all the way to the end.

Trail of Dead, with main leader Conrad Keely steering them on, continued to play a solid set, varying between the most recent album and "Source Tags," with a few highlights from another album, "Worlds Apart," thrown in. Another highlight of the set was when the band managed to get the crowd to be absolutely silent along with them, then they without warning exploded into the furious opening of "Will You Smile Again For Me." Another highlight was when alternate lead singer Jason Reece took over the mic for his standout track from "Worlds Apart," "Caterwaul," which after about one line of the song he jumped into the audience and spent the remainder of the song singing it from the pit, while doing his part to keeping the shoving and dancing going there.

The band wrapped up their set with a couple of songs that were pre-"Source Tags" as a treat for their long time fans, keeping the thriving pit going to the very end of the night. Despite their old reputation, not a single instrument was damaged during the entire night, which is not how their shows ended in the old days.

In all, this was a pretty incredible night of music that will probably never happen again in Chicago, so I was pretty thrilled that I was there to see it. It was definitely the best concert of the year to date. To top it off, I got news from Michele that our newest nephew was born that night as well, so it was a good night for the world all around.

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