Chicago was the place to be over Halloween weekend, as a horde of our favorite musicians blew through the Windy City and enveloped it with sonic bliss and a touch of evil. People had to make tough choices; moe. at the Aragon, Steve Kimock Band at the Vic, Karl Denson at the House of Blues, North Mississippi Allstars at the Congress Theater, Tea Leaf Green and the Midnight Monster Session featuring George Porter Jr. et. al. I tried to do it all.

moe. | 10.31.03 | The Headbangers' Left Ball: An Evening of Heavy moe.tal
Aragon Ballroom | Chicago, IL
Set 1: Enter Sandman > meat.*, Breaking the Law, Stranger Than Fiction, Sweet Leaf, Akimbo, The Trooper, Threw It All Away, Unchained, Faker > Reboob, Godzilla, The Ghost of Ralph's Mom, Shout at the Devil ^**, E: Beth, Flying High ^, Seat of My Pants

* with Enter Sandman jam. ^ with Jim on bass., ** with "Shout" teases at beginning

The Headbanger's Left Ball: An Evening of Heavy moe.tal was the jumping off point. The Aragon Ballroom and I go way back. Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Testament, Savatage, Nuclear Assault, all old friends. Aaah sonic memories of my rebellious, angry, suburban youth. I hoped to taste their evil once again, reincarnate in five guys from New York. As an aside, Slayer performed a ripping show on Tuesday night (with a full performance of Reign in Blood, I might add), whose dark effects could still be felt.

Anticipation was high, possible covers debated. Costumes were amusing and some predictable. Several Steve Bartmans. Captain Americas. Mullets abound! Freaks aplenty. But when the lights went down, and the stars that illuminate the ceiling of the Aragon began to twinkle, all that was campy and innocent was crushed by the metal smackdown laid upon all by moe. and our friend and captain for the night... Satan.

Beelzebub appeared early and often, called upon by his most devoted servant, Al Schnier. "Enter Sandman" set the mood for the evening. "Exit light, enter night!" Indeed. They nailed it. They nailed everything that night, from the covers to the Whitesnake-like ramps that wrapped around the drum riser and into the crowd, to the poses each big-haired member struck, mocking the grandiosity that was the forte of so many metal groups.

"Sandman" segued into a heavy, heavy "meat," replete with big bass and crunching guitars. While "meat" leans more towards the darker side of moe.'s repertoire, this version was particularly evil. "Breaking the Law," the Judas Priest anthem, and "Stranger Than Fiction" were fun as hell. The Prince of Tyranus was certainly enjoying himself.

But when the first five chords of Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" were shredded, our group went ape shit. This song defined me for so many years, not just as a dope smoking anthem, but as a simple, straight ahead, power chord orgy. Jim came out (as he often did during the set) and nailed the vocals. Who knew? Could have been the Prince of Darkness Himself up there, belting out the passionate verse, "I love you sweet leaf!"

The Father of All Lies really made his presence felt during the slowed down yet delightfully evil version of "Akimbo." Chuck's vocals were particularly slow and greasy, and Mr. Schnier made sure that all in attendance knew who Satan was that evening - couch. Al was overcome with the power and spirit of The Son of Perdition.

Abaddon demanded more from his minions and they happily obliged. Belial was granted the delights of "The Trooper," "Threw It All Away" and Van Halen's "Unchained." Hit the ground running you filthy maggots!

It was at this point that my fiance began to tremble. Derkomai Eblis can have that effect. But when the 'd-a-b-g' progression that signaled the beginnings of "Faker," her thoughts were somewhat settled. But as was the case throughout the set, Asmodeus would not allow for those things gentile or delicate, as the first half of "Faker" usually tends to be. All songs were thoroughly rocked and none would be spared. Mean People RULE!

Sadly, our visit with The Morning Star and moe. had to end, as our goal for the evening was to experience both light and dark. The heavy sounds of "Faker" drew softer as we walked out the doors and onto the yellow glow of Lawrence Avenue. I wondered, did those on the streets know what evil stirred just inside the doors of the Aragon. Good night, Baphomet, it's time to ride the K-Waves...

10.31.03 | The Steve Kimock Band | Vic Theater | Chicago, IL
Set 1: Thing One, A New Africa, Bad Hair, Bronx Experiment, Better Get Hit In Your Soul*, Tongue 'n' Groove*
Set 2: You're the One *, Sabertooth, Mr. Potato Head *, Moon People, Footprints *, Hillbillies on PCP

The Vic Theatre is a five-minute ride on Chicago's historic 'L'. And boy were the freaks riding the rails. Most on our train stayed far from me and my fiance as we were still dripping with the evil sauce poured on us at the Aragon.

The feeling and vibe of The Vic was like coming into an air-conditioned room after being stranded in the Kalahari for two weeks. Any remnants of evil were quickly and thoroughly washed away by the delightful sounds of the Steve Kimock Band featuring, "A New Africa" while "Bad Hair" kept the All Hallows Eve groove moving along.

The interaction between Kimock and his rhythm guitarist is remarkable. And Rodney Holmes is simply one of the most talented drummers anywhere. I can always lock on to Mr. Holmes and be floored by his abilities. He has a style and energy that is unmatched. They were truly evident during "Bronx Experiment."

Chicago saxophonist Frank Catalano joined SKB for the last two songs of the first set, "Better Get Hit In Your Soul" and "Tongue 'n' Groove." Catalano fit in well with the foursome, adding tonal textures to an already colorful sonic landscape. He knew when to pull back and step up at the right moments.

The decision was made at setbreak to head over to Chicago's legendary Metro. Why? So we wouldn't miss a second of Tea Leaf Green, arguably one of the most energetic and feel good bands of late. As Walfredo says, "who knew then what would happen next?"

10.31.03 | Tea Leaf Green | The Metro | Chicago, IL
Set: Gasaholic, Vote on Tuesday, Warmup, Been So Long, Panspermic De-evolution, Hot Dog > Sex in the 70's, Freedom

We arrived at The Metro at 12:00 midnight. Witching hour. The pinnacle for all that is evil. So where the fuck was everyone? There were eight of us on the dance floor as Tea Leaf Green took the stage. Didn't matter. We were about to be treated to an hour of energetic, improvised bliss. I saw them last at High Sierra Late Night and couldn't wait to be treated to their delights again. This time, in ChiGoGo.

With simple paper plates and sunglasses attached to their faces, TLG ripped "Gasaholic" for the eight of us who were going to dance like nobody was watching. Oh yeah, nobody was. Heh! Minute by minute, though, The Metro began to fill with freaks from all corners of Chicago. As shows let out from Uptown to the Loop to Lakeview, the truly hard core and thirsty for more came in and were helpless against the good vibe pushed by the four lads from The Bay.

"Vote on Tuesday," a tune I don't think I'd heard before, got the b'donka donks shakin' and new arrivals movin'. "Warmup" is not an apropos song title, as it, as well as every other song, was pure energy. By the time "Been So Long" kicked in, the crowd had swelled and the band was swimming in a sea of ChiGoGo's freaky Halloween energy. The trio of "Panspermic De-evolution," "Hot Dog" > "Sex in the 70's" truly raised a ruckus and had every man, woman, child, Bartman, donkey, pirate, Sosa, Guarani/Clarkson, light plug and socket groovin' and movin'.

"Freedom," a simple, joyous diddy, capped TLG's set and the many first timers were treated to a great set from Tea Leaf Green. One word describes it: energy. Bass player Ben Chambers bangs hard. Reminds me of Cliff Burton. Josh Clark, guitar, is all smiles, all the time. He and keyboardist Trevor Garrod exude pure joy, loving and savoring every moment, waiting for the music to flow through them. on drums, ummm, rages. Playing for eight or 800, TLG truly love the music they create. And so did we.

Midnight Monster Session w/ George Porter Jr., Anders Osbourne, Johnny Vidacovich and Frank Catalano.

George Matters. So do Johnny, Frank and Anders. Tasty beeehotches. George and Johnny exude that greasy, swampy bayou thaaaang we don't get too much of in Chicago. They lay so far back on the beat you're sure they won't catch the next one in time. Silly wabbit. Ugh!

Sadly, I can't provide you hungry freaks with a full review. By this point I was pooped. Amateur! I can tell you that the first song was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It built and built and built and built and built and built to a crescendo that exploded into a deeeeeeeeeep funk assault that displaced many a hip. Why I'm alive. JV was filling with the greasiest, nastiest licks, the likes of which I hadn't heard for a long time. Pure hard groove. Mike Gordon once said that good funk is best played slow. Damn skippy, Cactus.

Well that's it. No mas. Exhausted. But what a night! So many styles and genres explored, so many mullets seen.

Shout at the devil, you worms!

Words by Beelzebub
JamBase | Chicago
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[Published on: 11/20/03]

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