Friday, November 5, 2010

Regret Found

I used to keep a list of all the shows that I almost went to. The '82-'83 Zappa tour, The Clash at the Aragon Ballroom right before the breakup, The Who's first farewell tour in '82, The Dead Kennedys at the Metro at Midnight on Halloween, Stevie Ray Vaughn's last show at Alpine. I had access to tickets and a ride to every one of those shows and for various stupid reasons I decided against going. The list is much longer that this but, at some point the list just got so long that I stopped keeping track as it became depressing.

Last month Lucero was coming through Chicago supporting Social Distortion. I had missed Lucero on their last turn through the midwest so I figured I should catch them this time. Social Distortion is a band that I know pretty well. I have three of their albums and, while I like them all, none really ever grabbed me the way my favorite albums do. To me, they were collections of good songs, played well, but lacking any real serious punch.

While planning for the show I learned that the Riviera did not allow cameras of any type. I had the thought to drop a note to the pedal steel player from Lucero (Todd Beene, also of Glossary) who I had had the opportunity to meet on a few occasions and ask if he knew of any way I could get an OK to bring my camera in. I did not hear back until I was driving down to the show and an email came across telling me I he had put me on the photo pass list.

Traffic coming into Chicago combined with a terrible lack of parking options around the Riv to get me to the venue late. I entered, figured out the photo pass thing and headed to the stage just in time to be told that I had missed my chance to take any pictures of Lucero from the front. I could take pics from the crowd, but not from the stage.

I settled into the crowd about 15 yards from the stage to enjoy the show and snap a few shots but not be too much of a nuisance. Lucero was great. Only real complaint would be that they seemed to keep the house lights down. The lighting was super underwhelming, like a show in someone's basement. Very dim white or red lights with little to no changes throughout. The dim setting made it clear that they were the supporting band. I get it, they are playing first, their set is short, they are set up in front of the other band's stuff. Come on man! At least give them some light.

The crowd seemed to be spotted with Lucero fans, fists pumped in the air, singing along to Tears Don't Matter Much. There were also a good number of Social D fans who seemed to be interested and getting into them but don't be fooled, this was clearly a crowd of rabid Social Distortion fans. As soon as Lucero was done the already packed floor in front of the stage became even more packed. Just as it was getting truly uncomfortable the security guy who had earlier told me no pictures grabbed the back of my jacket and tugged me into the photo pit. "Now you can come in."

Being on the photo pass list means that for the first 3 songs of each band's set you are able to get between the stage and the barriers that keep the crowd away from the stage. It is about 4' deep and fills up with photographers about 15 minutes before the bands come on. During those 3 songs you are able to take as many pics as you can, then you have to clear out so the fans can have unobstructed views of the band. I mention this photo pass stuff just to explain how I got the pics I share here.

As Social Distortion took the stage the big banner lowered from above the stage and the low blue lights started coming up. As soon as the instruments were plugged in the band launched into The Creeps. I am not great at math, but Mike Ness has to be older than me but from the energy on stage you would have thought he was 23. The sound was thick, not blisteringly loud, but full. I had read a few past reviews where people had criticized Mikes voice stating that he had clearly lost something. To my ears his voice sounded more full of life and vigor than any of the albums I had. He moved from one end of the stage to the other between verses, slinging his guitar with authority.

The first song was followed by Another State of Mind and Mommy's Little Monster. After that, the security guards flashed their lights and told us to clear out. I moved to the back of the room as the room erupted with Sick Boys. Later in the night they played Machine Gun Blues which I think is going to be the first single off the new record.

Yeah, I had two different chances to see Social Distortion. I never really regretted that I passed them up. One while still in High School, maybe the Metro, then after High School at the Cubby Bear. I can almost justify missing the Cubby Bear since I lived in Milwaukee by then, but that High School show was missed for no good reason.

I guess I owe it to Lucero for bringing me down to this show. Thank you, for regret found.

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