Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An AT&T electrician, a CD/DVD replicator, a grocery store manager and a full-time musician by day, The Methadones by night

My favorite band to see live announced it was calling it quits this past June. The Methadones will play its final show this Saturday, 11/13 at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago with The Soviettes, The Copyrights and The Jetty Boys. I've never had such a conflicted set of feelings for a show in my life. I have seen The Methadones over 20 times, more than any other band. Ever. I've made friends at their shows, met significant others at their shows and all-around had way too much fun singing along to Dan Schafer's infectious pop tunes (and had an indiscernible number of guitarist Mike Byrne's grey picks stuck to my forehead after being in his mouth. And spit at me, for that matter). Seriously though, no other guitar player will encourage you to flip things up on stage (guitar picks, bottle caps, etc...) and into his mouth while playing a song.

My hetero-life mate, Jerry Cola (who I befriended after many-a-Methadones-show years ago) and I have been yelled at and had things thrown at us by drummer Mike Soucy for stealing Byrne's microphone at past Beat Kitchen shows and drunkenly singing with our favorite songwriter, Dan Schafer. Pretty much every time, it's a blast to talk to bassist Pete Mittler. Most of the times, he's hammered and says things to me like, "I hope I remember this song" or "I'm not gonna fuckin' remember this song." This past June in Baltimore, he's even condensed it down to, "I'm drunk. Shit, we go on soon." But he's always pulled through, and it rocked. I've seen The Methadones have really, really good nights and I've seen them have off nights. I've seen them play venues that are no longer venues (first Bottom Lounge on Belmont Ave. and School St., Stage 83 in Lemont, etc...). I've seen them play dives. I've seen them play huge stages. I've seen them in Illinois. I've seen them multiple times in Maryland. I've seen them go through lineup changes. I've seen them revert back to the old lineup. I've seen those guys on the wagon and I've seen them off the wagon. I've seen them play Riverdales songs. I've seen them play Sludgeworth songs and I'm pretty sure I even saw them take a crack at a Screeching Weasel song before the whole Weasel get-back-together thing (it was The Methadones or The Mopes at the Beat Kitchen in 2006, I can't recall). I've lost my voice a lot, dealt with a combined total of weeks of ringing ears and have been overly tired the following day because of this band. And I wouldn't change a thing about it. Except for maybe wearing earplugs sooner.

The first time I saw The Methadones play was June 12, 2005 at the old Bottom Lounge. They were opening for The Lawrence Arms, a band whose live shows I was also pretty new to at the time. A Wilhelm Scream also played that show. That was during the band's Thick Records days: a label that treated them like shit, skipped out on any forms of payment and from what I understand, ultimately ignored any and all of the band's attempts to contact them. "Not Economically Viable" had been out for about 7 months and I was completely oblivious to anything Methadones. I didn't know that that Sunday, the day Mike Tyson announced his retirement from boxing, would be the first time I would see one of my future favorite bands and be the start of a few new friendships at shows and outside of shows.

I headed back to the car my ma let me borrow that day - or to the Metra - hooked. I couldn't take my eyes off their guitar player, Mike Byrne. He was running back and forth across the stage like a fucking madman and I'm pretty sure he was intoxicated and/or on something. He was pogo-ing like crazy and I thought, "Man; these are some pretty poppy hooks but if this guy is that into it, there must be something more. They must be worth checking out." That's exactly what I did when I got home. I checked 'em out. I fell in love with his lead guitar on songs like "Mess We Made" and especially, "I'm About To Crack." I told my best friend from high school, "You gotta check these guys out with me, you'll LOVE them" and it became a thing between me and that friend to catch The Methadones whenever they played Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.

I started a zine called Squid Pro Quo in January of 2008 after I discovered my passion for writing and then actually getting published. Frustrated with various music publications not publishing me (but moreso, my unwillingness to try over and over again only to be rejected or even worse, ignored), a light bulb clicked on in my head and I said, "Fuck it" and decided to start my own zine. It didn't sell all that well, but online, it got and still gets a lot of hits and I interviewed some pretty fuckin' cool musicians (Joe Queer, Dan Schafer, Mike Byrne, Derek Grant, Mikey Erg!, Jess Margera, etc...). Anyways, this isn't about the zine, it's about The Methadones. My favorite outlet with the zine was each issue's column by Mike Byrne. I'd e-mail him, knowing that he always had something funny to say and always had a story to tell whenever I saw him in person (I remember this one time at a show before I knew him, he and a friend of his were drunk and we were both wearing white T-shirts. His had a front pocket and mine didn't. He put his arm around me and pointed out the fact that had my shirt had a front pocket, we'd be matching. Then he told me to work on that).

He wrote me two columns and they are my favorite and most fun articles I published. The first one was an article he wrote in 2008 about meatheads. The second one, which he wrote in 2009, was published in the print copy of Squid Pro Quo issue #2, and tells all about The Methadones' European Tour, mainly detailing all the joints and weed that accompanied them and telling fun anecdotes about the drummer just deciding to end "Annie" in the middle of the song and so on (I gotta type that one up and post it).

Sometime in the next couple of days, Mike Byrne will submit a third piece chronicling The Methadones' 10-year run.

Thinking about this Saturday, I'm flooded with butting emotions. I'm as happy as I was when I was a teenager looking forward to jumping around, getting drunk and singing along, losing my voice and yelling for them to play "Transistor Radio" and "Bottom Out" (the latter of which I don't think I've ever heard live). At the same time, I'm bummed. I'm really, genuinely bummed that this will be the last time I will experience The Methadones. No other band since June 12, 2005 has made an impression on me quite like The Methadones did. That's not to say I haven't gotten really into any bands since then, but The Methadones were and are unique. The four-piece are all very different personalities with their own unique lives, and they've always set that aside and collaborated to play these songs. My relationship with each of them as friends has changed how I initially viewed them, but only for the better. As I've grown up and played in my own bands, I've shared bills with Pete, I've hung out with Mike Byrne, had beers with Dan (while being too afraid I'd come off as just another obnoxious, attention-starved pop punk fan) and engaged in some things I cannot publicly speak of with Mike Byrne now that I really think about it.

It will be a bummer knowing that part of my teenage years/early 20s is gone. Fortunately for me, the guys of The Methadones all have different musical prospects going on so the good thing is, I won't lose out on the music they make. Dan Schafer's in Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales and Noise By Numbers, Mike Byrne is in Cliff Johnson and the Happy Jacks, Pete Mittler plays in Explode and Make Up, The Bomb and The Neutron Bombs and Mike Soucy plays in The Bomb. I'm excited as I will ever be to see The Methadones one last time at Reggie's this Saturday, but I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't bummed out as well.

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