When I first set foot in the crumbling warehouse-like space that the folks from the Empty Bottle would transform into the Velvet Perineum, site of this year’s Blackout, my brain reeled back to all the punk shows in squats I attended in my wide-eyed youth. Back then, I had no fear of scabies, rabies, hepatitis, arthritis, deafness, sciatica; I was resilient and invincible, eager to make up for all the live shows I was deprived of in my teens. But with age comes a craving—nay, need—for creature comforts, and I’ll admit the Velvet Perineum’s indoor portapotties, concrete floors scarred with foot-deep crevices, generators, and lack of seating filled me with some dread.
Yes, I am a wuss. I am not my friend Alejandro, who arrived in Chicago from San Francisco via a harrowing two-day bus ride and walked 3.5 miles each way (he was on a really tight budget) to his room in a hostel by the lake and still managed to spend as much time at the front of the stage as I did.
Luckily, the only real bummer (if it can even be called that) was the four-foot-high stage–great for watching bands but lousy for taking photos. The sound was great, the crowd was friendly, and the space was…well…spacious. I daresay this two-day festival was physically more comfortable than the last two Blackouts at the Empty Bottle, although it was definitely weird leaving the venue without a hairful of beer, the sweat of strangers on my clothes, and a crop of colorful contusions.
As for the music, I appreciated that the line-up was composed mostly of bands on HoZac’s roster. I only wish the Flips and Myelin Sheaths could’ve made it.
Some highlights from Night 1 (in order of appearance):
1. Christmas Woods (of Mickey and ET Habit), dressed as Clive Jones of Agony Bag, performing “Rabies Is a Killer” with Squish
2. Mickey’s trashy, glammy, glittery swagger
3. The Happy Thoughts’ charming lo-fi pop gems, even though they didn’t play “Happy Thoughts” (note that they’re no longer “Eric and”)
4. TV Ghost’s electric mayhem
5. K-Holes skronky sax
6. The Brides’ goofy banter in between blasts of rock’n’roll adrenaline
7. The Spits’ Ronald Reagan masks and trademark flaming drums (but right before they go on, Christmas Woods scuttles like Spiderman on the skylight above the stage)
Here’s a smattering of images from the evening’s offerings. For a more expansive look, click here.
(Despite the drunken frenzy that erupted at the front of the stage during the last two bands, the portapotties were in shockingly good shape at the end of the evening—no vomit, no wayward turds, no upended stalls. I doubt a real bathroom would’ve fared so well.)