In a wildly unexpected twist of fate, the long-standing punk house which was the host of the night’s show was having some police trouble. Apparently, cops had been showing up during band practices, so the show would have to start on time. The house itself will also remain unnamed to avoid unwanted hassle for its fine inhabitants. Anyway, bands started like clockwork, potentially bringing a new dawn in the landscape of Chicago punk.
The first act of the evening was Carbonleak. Despite being a newer band, this group is composed exclusively of veterans of the local scene. Their “ex-members of” list would take the rest of the page, so I’ll spare you. What’s important is that Carbonleak is great. They played a quick set of gloomy by-way-of pretty shoegazey post-punk. One thing that puts this band above the pack for me is their ability to layer some hooks into the repetitious nature of their genre while also managing to keep things from getting too long-winded. I look forward to Carbonleak’s continuing existence, as they can only get better from here.
Chicago’s Empty Isle was next. This band, also fairly new and boasting a mile long ex-members-of list, was a nice change of pace without being the odd band out at this show. They play a kind of twinkly, pop-laden emo rock that’s akin to bands like The Promise Ring. There are nods to plenty of 90’s acts, but the songs they played that night certainly hold up in 2013. Empty Isle’s multiple vocalist approach helps keep things engaging as well.
The first touring band of the evening, Kater Mass, was touring in a rather small SUV and therefore had to borrow gear from Empty Isle. The switch time was cut down and Kater Mass blasted into their first song. They stumbled a bit at the beginning of their set, but quickly pulled it together and by the end of the first song, they had tightened everything up. The result was a powerful attack of melodic Midwestern punk by way of Athens, GA. Kater Mass also utilizes three different vocalists and this keeps things interesting and fresh. That said, the band manages to maintain a cohesive sound despite the multiple songwriters, especially in their newer songs. My favorite part of watching this band is seeing their soft-spoken sweetheart of a guitarist, Phil, turn into a rabid, un-caged animal during the songs in which he handles vocals. They’re recording new material soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
South Carolina’s finest punk band, the mighty Rubrics, was up next. They play a brand of punk that is totally unique to them. Their eclectic mix of Propagandhi and Fifteen style melodic punk infused with everything from crust to hardcore to d-beat to powerviolence makes for an entertaining, often surprising, set of songs. The instruments and vocal styles do stop-on-a-dime changes that somehow manage to fit together and work in context. Music aside, this band has energy like you’ve never seen. Their guitarist removes his shoes and runs, jumps, and otherwise moves about like an excited kid just released from school for the first day of summer vacation. Their message, one of equality, mutual respect, and compassion for the earth, animals, and other human beings, is delivered with an equal helping of energy. Rubrics deliver everything you could want in a punk band’s live set. I can’t recommend seeing them highly enough.
Finally, Like Bats prepared to close out the night. This Lansing, Illinois trio plays a dark, but very catchy brand of pop punk that is uniquely Midwestern. They draw influence from bands like Alkaline Trio, Lawrence Arms, and Banner Pilot, while mixing in some heavier parts, slowing things down a bit, and even throwing in a nu-metal part here and there. At least, I consider them nu-metal parts. They might disagree. Either way, the basement was filled with many long-time friends of the band, including nearly every ex-member of the group, so the show ended with good vibes and solid heckling all around. It’s also worth mentioning that it was one of the finest Like Bats sets I’ve seen in some time. They’re supposed to release some new material soon and I for one am looking forward to it.