Sunday, November 16, 2008

Claustrophobia in the '80s

I think I've had my fill of '80s hair metal/hard rock for a good long time.

A few buddies and I went to Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb, on Saturday to see a Y&T show.

"Who??" you ask.

If not for one particular song in the mid- to late-'80s, my reaction would be the same. But lo there was a song (and video) that stuck in the mind of an impressionable boy during that decade, and one of my favorite one-hit wonders has always been Y&T's "Summertime Girls."

My buddy's a fan of the group, and another buddy lives in the Chicago area, so the decision to road-trip was a logical one. Nothing like a three-hour drive to see one song live. But I can be quirky that way when it comes to concerts...and I'm almost always up for a road trip.

The venue turned out to be a decent-sized sports bar that held about three or four hundred people to see a show, with a stage on one end, and a sign that caught my eye that said, "Every Thursday Is Kareokee." (maybe they spell it differently in Illinois.)

I should back up a bit and say that on the drive down we found a new station on my XM called "Hair Nation," which of course provided an excellent primer for what we were about to experience. I'm not a big hair band aficionado, but I knew my share of the groups, and don't mind some of the songs that got radio play from that era.

The opening group, Cutlass, played for about an hour, and TheKid (if you read the comments, you know who I'm talking about) and I noticed they had many of the requirements of a wannabe hair/metal band...a bass player with long hair that he liked to throw around a little bit (although he needed more practice because he'd basically lean over and pause for a second to let his hair fall down, and then stand back up really quickly so it'd flip back up over his head. not the smooth hair-flipping transition that more seasoned long-haired rockers possess) and The Lean, where he'd stand next to other members of the group, lean back into them and pluck a few bass notes, and then go back to his assigned position...a lead guitarist who made strangely unnatural faces during his guitar solos because he thought that's what a guitar player had to look like while he was "feeling" the music (again, more veteran musicians can pull that off without it looking so forced...I think this guy just wanted to impress the crowd. he, um...didn't.)...and a drummer wearing a skull cap, who was clearly the most talented member of the group.

They surprised with a couple covers, though..."Barracuda," by Heart, in which the lead singer (a guy) sounded eerily similar to whichever one of the Wilson sisters has the lead vocal on that song (too trivial to do the research), and a rocked out version of "Fire & Rain," by James Taylor, a song which should best be left out of the hair band genre. But it was entertaining.

During the half hour break between bands, the adrenaline level got amped up a little bit, and the crowd became more and more tightly of those crowds where it was an effort to lift your drink because the person in front of you was standing so close. Didn't help that it was about a hundred and nine degrees in the joint, either.

So Y&T comes on stage, this band formed in the mid-'70s, and now featuring rockers in their mid- (to late-??)50s, and they played a couple songs that immediately took you back to the decade of the hair bands, complete with plenty of guitar...and then more guitar.

After hearing two songs, and assuming it would be well into their set list that I'd hear the song I came to hear, I squeezed my way back through the crowd to the sports bar part of the bar where there was room to breathe and it was about fifty degrees cooler, and I could actually stand and people watch and drink my beer.......and still see the band on stage from my new and improved, less crowded position.

And that's where I spent the rest of their set...watching them rock, thinking that maybe the song I was hearing sounded much the same as the last song...or two or three or four...that they played. And talking to a drunk dude from Milwaukee who changed his opinion of the group about half a dozen times during our conversation, from "they're not bad, huh?" to "they really know how to rock!" to "I've got all their CDs" and back to "after about an hour, they get kinda old, don't they?"

I responded with, "I'm really just here to hear 'Summertime Girls.'"

Which was pretty good, by the way. There was a cool, slow lead-in guitar solo to the song, and they gave the song a pretty good effort. They played it about an hour and a half into a two hour and fifteen minute set. (that's a LOT of hair band...especially when you add Cutlass onto the front end of that.)

On the drive home Sunday morning, my XM Radio was tuned to ESPN Radio the entire way, and I didn't even give Hair Nation a second thought. I think I've had my fill.

But it was all about the road trip.
And a bit of a walk down one-hit wonder memory lane.

"Pop music, disco music, and heavy metal music
is about shutting out the tensions of life,
putting it away."
—Peter Tork

1 comment:

  1. Once again have to thank you and the boys for indulging me Saturday night.

    Being a big fan and that being the first time seeing then in such an up close venue...that was outstanding!!!

    Had a great time and would eagerly go again if they do indeed come back next year.

    I've already started banging the drums on their blog/forum about Summerfest. And when we make it through winter, i'll bang on Summerfest themselves.

    I mean, with some of the crap that gets a side stage at Summerfest how would Y&T not instantly become one of the more crowded stages?

    Again, much thanks buddy.