Truth: The idea of summer evolves over time. For years and years, it used to be this “great escape,” where assignments and books were tossed aside in lieu for swimming pools, greasy rock ‘n’ roll, and late-night debauchery — something director Richard Linklater captured pretty well. It’s a little different for someone in their late twenties. We still hate our assignments, but we actually love our books (let’s hope), we’re far too critical of rock ‘n’ roll, and a wild night is usually predicated on how much money we’ve wasted on drinks we’ve puked up in some lonesome alley. That’s not even the part that sucks; what’s really annoying is that life gets complicated with each passing year and the proverbial school bell that rang in the lazy days fades away into oblivion time after time.
Since winter decided to sit this year out, The Windy City has been more or less That-Hot-and-Humid-Place-on-the-Lake, and it’s been that way for a good three months now. Yet despite what’s probably an indication that our planet is fucked environmentally, the Midwestern spirit of strangling every summer weekend remains as feverish as ever. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon once championed Chicago as the best place to be in the summer, and this past weekend gave credence to his words. Roger Waters built his Wall at Wrigley Field on Friday, the tacky Guy Fieri spoke at Weber’s Chill and Grill in Waveland Park (only to be outshined by an appearance from Duke, AKA the most popular dog to ever promote baked beans), Chicago Blues Festival drew tens of thousands to Grant Park, and Brad Paisley kicked the bricks aside and whistled in the cowboys at Wrigley Field on Saturday night. So, yeah, you could say people heard their summer bell somewhere in there.
I heard mine late Saturday night at Chicago’s Metro. With a beer-battered bill headed by Deer Tick and Turbo Fruits, there really wasn’t any way this night was going to be a failure. A quick checklist of all things necessary for an amicable Saturday night was 100% guaranteed from the get-go. There would be rock, there would be roll, and there would be debauchery. Having arrived late to the gig – something I blame on a certain game that could have negated the aforementioned guarantee, I made it just in time to see Turbo Fruits cleaning up a crowd already willing to blow their brains out on alcohol and bro love.
Working off their forthcoming third studio LP, Butter, the Nashville garage rockers highlighted a number of new tracks, specifically “Harley Dollar Bill$”, “Colt 45”, and the madhouse chaos of “Ain’t The Only One Havin’ Fun”. They’ve seen some years so it was no surprise that all of them mucked up the stage with speakeasy precision, but lead guitarist Kingsley Brock really drilled into each track, garnering attention from even his own bandmates. “He just had a filet mignon,” vocalist Jonas Stein added with a smile, though he found his own inner psychosis soon after, which involved a screaming fit on the ground. As if that weren’t enough, Deer Tick’s John McCauley came out to join in on the fun, only adding to the party’s anything-can-go vibe.
That vibe was only amplified by Deer Tick, an act that desperately wants to fill in for The Replacements. On their latest LP, Divine Providence, McCauley’s guttural vocals belong to Paul Westerberg, and the songs reanimate concrete themes that sutured each ‘Mats effort. For some reason, I’m okay with that. I’m willing to look past the blatant fanaticism (they named their latest EP, Tim, for Christ’s sake) and sing along with carbon-copy anthems like “Let’s All Go To The Bar”, “Main Street”, or “Kiss Me on the Bus” (oh wait, that last one isn’t theirs). Still, one would think there would come a time when the Providence outfit would want to be themselves. They don’t really seem interested, though, and on Saturday night, they took the stage in quaint multi-colored suits, looking like an army of Westerbergs circa the Eventually-era.
Here’s the thing, though: The band’s actually at their best when they’re spitting out the Providence material. Their slow, folksy fluff like “Dirty Dishes” comes off as filler in comparison to boozy tunes like “Funny Word”, “Something To Brag About”, and “Main Street”. The band’s just more alive during these moments — especially McCauley, who, at one point, licked the neck of his guitar, fell to the ground, and shotgunned a bottle of beer while solo’ing. This energy bled out into a crowd that was always just as rambunctious and charismatic. In fact, early into the set, a fan up close even gave McCauley the shirt off his back (a Nirvana one), and to offer thanks, the frontman hung it on his amp.
This sort of camaraderie made the show feel so real, and because of this, the band were able to do whatever the hell they wanted, including obvious covers by The Replacements (“Kiss Me on the Bus”), Nirvana (“In Bloom”), Alice in Chains (“Man in the Box”), and Beastie Boys (“(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)”). That latter cover sealed the deal, though. On any other night and from any other band, it would have been cheesy and so staple, but on this night, it was exactly what it needed to be: The bell that rang in summer.