Friday, June 20, 2008

June 19, 2008: Chinese Telephones, Potential Johns, Birthday Suits at SubT

It's been a while since I've gone to a show on a Thursday night. But I'm glad I went, it really broke up the week and tricked my mind into a sort of early weekend mindset. Then I remembered that I work all fucking weekend.
Anyways, my first time at the Subterranean in Chicago was a good one. I went to see the Chinese Telephones and to check out the Potential Johns (who the Telephones did a split 12'' with) and Birthday Suits, who I've only heard of.
The Chinese Telephones were great. They played a decent set with a good amount of songs from their self-titled album as well as off their 7 inches. They played "I Can't Be Right," "Back To You Again," "It's Starting Again," and many more.
Their bassist, Andy Junk, was either very energetic or very drunk. The band has an interesting stage presence. Justin Telephone, the band's lead singer, takes a pretty serious approach to the stage, but it's nicely balanced by Andy as well as guitarist, Daniel James, who reminds me of someone just plain goofy. Not to make any jabs at all, but in a world where pretty much everyone in punk rock does the same sort of thing with the chucks, tight pants, short hair, etc etc, Daniel James is reverse that. He looks a bit older than the rest of the guys with his receding hairline and strikes me as a joker. The guy knows how to play though. He is not only fun to watch, but adds a catchy and energetic kick to the music via his guitar playing (does VIA strike you as a yuppie trendy word?).
More or less, at a glance, the Chinese Telephones appear to be a conglomerate of all sorts of different tastes, and their music kinda reflects that. I can't exactly say, "Oh yeah, the Chinese Telephones sound like (insert catchy pop punk band here)." I know this much, though: They're damn good. And every time I see them, it's a great show.
Next in line were the Potential Johns from Denton, TX. They were interesting. The vocals are reminiscent of very early punk, distorted, hard to make out and fast. I almost want to say garage-style, but without the indie and grunge implication attached. They sound like someone...ah, it'll come to me.
The lead singer of the Potential Johns played the last couple of songs with the Telephones because for some reason, Andy left the stage. He was taking pictures of his band, shirtless, with the lead singer/guitarist of the Potential Johns. Maybe he was too drunk to play? Maybe the band needed more pictures? Maybe both? Maybe neither. I will never know, and in the last 10 seconds, stopped caring.
Anyway, I learned the Potential Johns are more or less of a side project of The Marked Men, also from Denton, TX. I looked 'em up and they sound the same to me. It's my first time hearing both bands, so I'll have to listen to more of each to note the distinctions, but for the sake of somewhat of a review here, I'm just gonna make a note of that. Oh! You know what they sound like? The Kinks on speed and maybe a little bit of Toys That Kill. Yeah. That's what I'm gonna leave it at. Very good, by the way. I ended up getting their split with the Fones. I'm excited to become a little more familiar with their music.
Last up of the three bands was Birthday Suits from Minneapolis, MN. They weren't like anything I'd seen before. Actually, that's not true. They were a two-piece and it immediately reminded me of Local H. However, they don't sound quite like Local H. Birthday Suits' drummer is really into drumming. Like, a lot. The guy seriously went ape shit on his skins. The vocalist/guitarist was crazy in his own way in that he would jump around, lay down and play, etc...etc...
His vocals were high-pitched and fast, along with the drumming, making for a pretty entertaining show. I can't say I got into their music, but watching them perform was very entertaining. I was surprised there wasn't much of an audience even by the end of the show. All of about 30 people showed up and were more or less lounging around, nothing too crazy. Don't get me wrong, it was nice! It was great being able to stand up in the middle of the place and enjoy a beer without sweating my balls off or having it knocked out of my hand. I like being able to focus on the music and not on who's going to kick me in the back of the head next.
I can't really compare Birthday Suits to any bands in particular for ya's. The two of them are so intense and quick with their instruments and all-around so sporadic, that it's really difficult to place them anywhere. The best I can do is say they are like one of those indie bands that just bangs on shit real fast and randomly and yells into the microphone in an off-beat way. I didn't hear a lot of what he was saying, but that's something all three bands had in common last night. All the vocalists have a way of making it so you have to look up the lyrics somewhere to translate the mass of sound and what you think they say into factual lyrics.
It was a good night, with the $8 well-spent. The beer was a hell of a lot more than that all together, but that was good too. I haven't seen a place that carries Dead Guy Ale on tap in all my 11 months of going to bars, but drinking that is always a treat.
Before the show, something cool happened. A semi truck was driving under a bridge outside of the Subterranean, and the truck was a few inches too tall, made a horrible thundering noise as it passed under the bridge, and a big, flat chunk of truck roof fell into the street with an assortment of twisted metal bars from either side. The truck did not stop to assess the damage, as it landed on the front corner of someone's car.
It somehow fit the persona of the show I was about to witness. A loud, fast mass of stuff going at a steady speed, tearing shit up and not turning around or even stopping to see what it had done. That's kind of how the bands played. Thumbs up.

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