The atmosphere at Chicago’s Subterranean recalled Whodini’s rap classic “Freaks Come Out at Night”. Not only because it was Halloween, but also an all-ages show that attracted some of the rowdiest teens and tweens in the area. Why not? Los Angeles skate-surf-stoner-garage punk outfit FIDLAR were in town, and they invited out the pride of the Chicago suburbs, The Orwells. As a result, the sold-out crowd was a mixed bag of apes in lingerie, Santa Claus, and zombies in flannel, with a shared layer of sweat, blood, and sweat. Lots of sweat.
The Orwells hit the stage to deafening adoration and in response they zipped through their growing catalog. Nobody in the band’s of drinking age, but that didn’t stop them from looking the part of a seasoned musician. They are, though. Over the past couple of years, they’ve cut their teeth with the likes of sloppy brats The Black Lips and through multiple festival appearances at either South by Southwest, FYF Fest, Austin City Limits, or Lollapalooza. More recently, frontman Mario Cuomo has tapped into something special, carnal, and almost evil — a demented Joe Cocker man-child who teeters back and forth like a rabid chimpanzee. The rest of the band – Dominic Corso and Matt O’Keefe on dueling lead guitars; Henry and Grant Brinner on drums and bass, respectively — are essentially four John Entwistles. They’re all too busy with the music for any on-stage persona.
That’s okay when they’re pummeling out newbie hits like “Who Needs You” and “Other Voice”. Other highlights of their set, at least from the crowd, included: Twin Peak’s Clay Frankel going full Jesus with eyes closed and arms spread as he seemingly floated above the crowd; a kid in a Jack Skellington costume jumping off the stage a half dozen times before he made it past the second row and wasn’t just thrust back on stage; and Mario playing the part of Springsteen, even finding his Courtney Cox to bring on stage, albeit there wasn’t much dancing going on between the two. They were making out, in case that wasn’t clear.
The main event came decked out in church robes and ghoulish face — clearly FIDLAR thrive on Halloween. On an average night, the four piece is a personification of pre-ban Four Loko, playing with such reckless abandon and unhinged energy that it’s literally impossible not to bang your head and thrash around like a fucking maniac, and that’s exactly how they like it. During their Nick Offerman-less performance of “Cocaine”, posters fell off the wall during the show… it was that loud and wild. The Kuehn brothers, sons of Greg Kuehn of punk mainstay T.S.O.L., make it clear that punk is in your genes, not your jeans. The raw power produced by songs about smoking, drinking, and not being able to surf is pretty much capable of conquering the world, joint and 40 in hand.
For such a high octane show, however, things came to an abrupt end just before 10 o’clock, damning all the suburbanites back to their neighborhoods but not without a night of spooky memories to reflect on. Outside the venue, I heard a group of friends trying to figure out a way they could make it up to Minneapolis to see the next stop on the tour. They eventually decided that they would borrow Tim’s mom’s car because it has Sirius radio and leather seats so they could smoke in it. Ah, the infallible spirit of young punks, it’s a thing of beauty.