HoZac Records, the untamed Windy City label, dipped under the radar yet again to pull together both new and legendary acts for this year’s four-day blowout at the Empty Bottle in Chicago (the one exception was perhaps power popmeister Dwight Twilley, whose songs “I’m on Fire” and “Girls” cracked the Top 20 in 1975 and 1984). I managed to catch 18 of the 19 bands (sorry, Population!) and was delighted by the following (in chronological order):
- Winter Bear (Milwaukee, WI): Refreshing jangly pop featuring Erin Dorbin (formerly of the Cave Weddings). Limited-edition cassettes are currently available on Etsy; debut HoZac 7″ is out in June.
- Buck Biloxi & the Fucks (New Orleans, LA): Primitive punk à la early Misfits (or the Spits)
- Unnatural Axe (Boston, MA): No doubt riled up about the alleged Christian group that was keen to shut down their performance (see the Huffington Post report), this Killed By Death outfit cranked out classics like “The Creeper,” “3 Chord Rock,” and “Summertime.” At one point, singer/guitarist Richie was so caught up shredding his sunburst Les Paul Gibson that he took a nasty backwards tumble off the stage. We feared the worst, but he bounded back on stage after a few minutes to continue playing, but not before he threw his guitar in my direction. Its headstock struck my lens, which in turn smashed part of my camera into my face (my brow bone still hurts and is swollen more than a week later!), but that was nothing compared to the blood oozing down Richie’s face. They polished off their set with the Plasmatics’ “Butcher Baby.”
- Wizzard Sleeve (Mobile, AL) with Quintron on drums: Sinister electropunk
- The Sueves (Chicago, IL): The only garage punk band to play the fest!
- Games (Brooklyn, NY): Catchy power pop featuring Jeremy Thompson (ex-Busy Signals, Carbonas)
- Pezband (Oak Park, IL): Technically proficient power pop—they were fun even though they didn’t do “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
- Dwight Twilley (Tulsa, OK): Master showman in a white suit; “Looking for the Magic” (originally performed with Tom Petty and the late Phil Seymour) was the encore
Incidentally, I somehow had energy for a Saturday afternoon show (Jook, Fake Surfers, Mac Blackout Band) at the Mutiny, and then another (The Beets, Wrong Words, Pink Films) at the Night Light in Oakland after I returned to the Bay Area, which brought my final band total to 22 that week. I’ll admit that capturing that many bands while getting smacked in the face by a guitar and being drenched in PBR and assorted bodily fluids requires a special blend of endurance and masochism, but there was a lot of magic to be had. Here are some of my favorite songs I heard during the course of those seven days (press the “play” arrow below if you’d like to start the soundtrack for this photo essay), followed by a smattering of snaps from the Blackout. Thanks, HoZac!