Saturday, April 23, 2011

"In Chicago We Like To Dance"

Blue Orchids: back when noisy bands were good
Last night I was at the downstairs room in the Black Cat watching the Crystal Stilts, a droning five-piece from Brooklyn (almost every male between the age of 18 and 35 who lives in Brooklyn is a member of a droning five-piece garage pop band), when there was almost a fight right behind me. Unusual, because indie-kids (and indie-grownups) in their drab, dark clothes and thick-rimmed glasses are usually too busy not smiling to get into fights. But then they’re not often getting whacked from behind by a bloke dancing like a rubber windmill in a hurricane.

Between songs, a lad in front of him turned around to complain. The dancer responded, “I’m from Chicago. In Chicago we like to dance.” He had a reedy voice a bit like the teacher in South Park. The sort of voice where, if this was a cartoon and not a real-life indie-gig, you’d expect him to get immediately flattened by a well-aimed punch that everyone would immediately cheer and laugh at. But the complainant just said something inaudible (perhaps, “Cut it out, you windmill-imitating dickhead”), and turned back to the band.

Then it was the turn of the woman next to me to get shoved in the back. At the end of the song, she too turned around and asked the windmill geek what he thought he was trying to prove. “I’m not trying to do anything,” he whined. “I’m just trying to have a good time.” For that, he could always have gone down to the front with the other enthusiasts, who all seemed to think this was the best band ever - they were surely all too ecstatic to mind being thumped by him.

I perked up when the band accidentally played a good song,
 until I realised it was a cover version of Low Profile by The Blue Orchids. You shouldn’t play songs that are 30 years old, and which had an obvious influence on your clearly inferior music. It just makes seasoned indie-boppers question the point of your existence.

Speaking of which, I’d been earlier sitting on a sofa in the bar area reading and wondering why I was not at home while the support band, The German Measles, indulged in a great big pointless and unlistenable racket. Who would want to be in a support band playing at this point in pop musical history in a venue this small, with people walking out all the time to the bar, or just standing there checking for text messages while waiting for the main band? Thank Christ I was never stupid enough to invest all that time and effort into being in an unpopular indie band. I wasn’t cut out for bad drugs and sleeping on other people’s floors.

I shouldn’t even have been in The Black Cat. I was supposed to be on the guest list at the 9.30 Club for the sold-out Iron & Wine concert, a gig I actually wanted to see. I had a bad feeling about that. It’s the first time I’ve ever been lucky enough to get on a guest list, but as I walked through the rain to the club, I just knew there was going to be a misunderstanding, because that’s exactly the sort of thing that happens to me when I'm supposed to be on a list. I'm never there:

Friend with connections: You’re on the guest list.
Me: Wahay! Thanks!

(At the 9.30 Club)
Me: Hi. Erm, I’m on the guest list.
Girl behind glass window (checking guest list, and perhaps sensing my insecurity): No you’re not.
Me (weakly): Are you sure?
Girl behind glass window: Yes.
Me: Can you just double-check? Please?
(Girl behind glass window checks again, but I know what she’s thinking – fucking ligger, thinks he can bluff his way in for free).
Girl behind glass window: Nope, you’re still not on it.
Me (loudly): Do you know who I am?

No, I didn’t really say that, especially as she’d just seen my driver’s licence, so obviously she already knew who I was. I thanked her instead for having taken the trouble to look again, all the while thinking that I should have said, “Well, I don’t care, I’m off to watch the Crystal Stilts instead at The Black Cat, and I bet they’re much better, and I bet I meet a ton more interesting people than the old Americana-worshipping bores that are gonna come and watch moldy old Iron & Wine.”

But I didn’t. All I found out was that in Chicago they like to dance. And I was reminded that, 30 years ago, The Blue Orchids were a great band.


nathan3e said...

Where is Ian MacKaye when you need him? I realize he rubs many people (and perhaps you) the wrong way, but he would have stopped the show until Chicago Windmill Geek stopped and/or left.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

I once saw Billy Bragg at the 9.30 Club demand that the lights be turned on so that some miscreant could be thrown out. "Hey, we don't do that 'ere!" he snapped, before pointing out to the bouncers exactly where the bloke was. What he had actually done, I've no idea. The rest of us just went silent, like schoolboys keeping a low profile while one of their class-mates takes a bollocking. Maybe he was just picking his nose.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

I should also point out that my 'friend with connections', horrified at the mishap, has now ensured that I'm on the guest list for a future concert. Report to follow, possibly.

Benjm said...

I feel your pain, Mr Indie-Pop - the same thing happened to me the only time I was on a guest list (or not). Adding to the humiliation, the headline performer was my cousin, who had supposedly sorted the list out, and I chattily advised the clipboard maven of this - thus elevating myself from cheeky blagger to delusional fantasist in the access fuhrer's eyes.

J3 said...

The only thing that could've made this any better was if he'd invited someone to come with who had to miss it due to spouse commitments. Oh wait, that happened. But had I been there, it would've been the second time for the 'not on the list' routine. Granted, the first time was when I was 16 and had won a radio station contest and had to walk past the line at a sold out arena concert while my friends and strangers laughed at me.

Dave Lifton said...

He's a liar. I've been to about 15-20 shows since moving to Chicago 2.5 years ago, in venues ranging in capacity from 150 to 20,000, to say nothing of the big summer festivals in Grant Park. I've never seen anybody dancing like a jackass. Crowds here are enthusiastic and love live music, but never obnoxious. I would have slapped that hipster's ass all the way back to Wicker Park.

J3 said...

Hey now, he could've been a Chic-a-go-go dancer.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Dave - it's possible that had he hit me in the back, this story might have ended in the way you describe. Which is why I'm glad he didn't.

Benjm/J3 - thanks for your stories of equal or greater humiliation - I can see them now as moralistic 1950s fiction for teenage boys: 'The Braggart Who Fell To Earth'. I'm glad that I was alone, and that I was able to slink away under the cover of a rainy, dark night without great crowds of people being able to point and laugh at me.

Dee The Soundie said...

Ach, you big Jessie.
You should've slapped the cnut and left a 'YOU'VE BEEN VISITED BY THE LINCOLN CITY ICF' card.
Iron And Wine are shockingly miserable anyway, you got lucky.
I'll guestlist you next time you're in Belfast.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Some of us love 'shockingly miserable', Dee. You don't think we go out to have fun or something, do you?

I could have left my business card, but it's very unthreatening and just says 'Freelance Writer'. I hardly ever give them out because the card raises too many questions I don't want to answer.

Dee The Soundie said...

Ooh, ooh, while we're on the subject of 'shockingly miserable' check out English folk noir septet The Unthanks - they were in our place a while back and were, well, quite stunningly beautiful, even did a clog-dance in a [I]When The Boat Comes In[/I]me- little- fishy-on-a-dishy stylee.

Give 'us a shout when you're next in town amigo and we'll do some Glam Rock drinks!

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

When the Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop international lecture tour hits Belfast, I'll be all yours for a night of Guinness and low conversation.