Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Snow Patrol w/ OKGo and Silversun Pickups @ The Aragon Ballroom

I generally avoid the Aragon unless there’s a band I’m dying to see. Returning there for the first time in over two years reminded me of the venue’s many flaws. The most important one is of course the absolutely horrendous sound quality. The Aragon is truly a big barn. I have probably seen about twenty shows there over the last sixteen years, and only two of them even had marginally acceptable acoustics. This show proved to be no different. All performances were booming and echoey. Whenever any of the bands took things down a level to play quieter parts, things got even muddier. Basically, if you’re going to play the Aragon, you’d better rawk hard.

They have done some renovations since my last visit. First of all, there’s some sort of purplish galaxy/constellation/1970’s-laser-light-show thing painted onto the ceiling. It used to have little lights that resembled stars, but this is a whole other deal. They’ve also updated the facades around the arena – where it used to resemble a Mexican hamlet, everything now looks more “castly”. Calling it a Mexican Medieval Times (Los Tiempos Mediamalos?) would not be far off. As expected, there were quite a few young kids. This was my first time at the Aragon over the age of 30, and if I’d been wearing a black leather jacket, I would have been the same thing to these kids as the dudes I used to view with scorn because they were busier drinking beer than going crazy at the show. Also, when I was that age, it was always 85% guys at every show. I couldn’t help but notice how many of the youngsters were girls. In fact, I think one of them asked me to Sadie Hawkins, but it was hard to tell because of the sound bouncing everywichway.

My brother is currently tour-managing for Silversun Pickups, so perhaps I feel more connected to them than I actually am, but I’ve seen them two previous times in the last nine months at much smaller venues. In those outings, they were thoroughly entertaining, with frontman Brian Aubert tossing banter back and forth to the crowd. He was a bit more laid back, and at first I wondered if it had something to do with their opening act status or perhaps because of the size of the venue. Turns out he was just really sick. However, that did not impede his ability to sing, jump around and generally bring the rawk. Other band members sounded great as well, although they had bassist Nikki Monniger’s microphone set way too low. The crowd was polite and attentive, but I got the feeling that there weren’t too many SSP fans there. I was able to confirm my suspicions about the demographics when they played their last song of the set, the hit single “Lazy Eye.” They were joined by special guests Dan Konopka, drummer from OKGo, and Pablo Wilson, jack of all trades from Snow Patrol. When introduced, Dan received a nice smattering of applause, but Pablo garnered a large ovation. “Lazy Eye” was the most rawkin’ of the set with a couple extended heavy codas. Opening at the Aragon can be tough, but clearly with the buzz this band has, people wanted to check them out and were receptive. By the end, they had definitely won most of them over.

This show was a homecoming for OKGo, so I was curious to see if their fans had packed the joint. The show had been sold out for months, and as stated above, it was mainly Snow Patrol fans. The band’s set had great energy, featuring the fun they’ve become known for. Frontman Damian Kulash was entertaining as always. At one point, he said, “We've never played here, and in all the time I lived in Chicago, I've never been to a show here. I thought this was like a sports arena or something. Hey, can we do the wave really fast?" And the crowd followed his direction, sending a wave from one side of the arena to the other. He then said, "Aw, thanks. That was great. You have no idea how hard it is to get a wave going at the Empty Bottle.” Good stuff. I do think that the sound issues hampered their set a bit more. They do a lot of harmonies and the vocals didn’t seem to mesh together as well as they have when I’ve seen them in the past. Again, I’m blaming the Aragon’s barn-ness. The highlight of their set was probably when they covered ELO’s “Don’t Bring me Down.” They played that a bit heavier. I wondered if the kids were going to recognize that one, but Kulash did say that it was for the older folks in the audience (all sixteen of us?).

As I said, my brother is on this tour with SSP. Consequently, I hadn’t seen him in quite a while, so I ended up missing nearly all of Snow Patrol’s set to spend some time with him. So I can’t really give a proper review. I can say that the crowd seemed quite devoted and they sounded tight and clean. But it would be unfair for me to say anymore as I wasn’t even in a place where I could see the stage. I do hear that they are wonderfully cool guys, though.

The bands did the most they could with the venue considering its sonic problems, and were definitely entertaining. So I have to say the return to the Aragon was a clear success. Now, does anyone know whether you still have to buy the girl a corsage for Sadie Hawkins?


Anonymous said...

I can give a tentative "yes" to the corsage question. Its been quite some time since I've attended a Sadie Hawkins but I'm fairly certain things haven't changed that much...
Agreed with your review of the show...being an "older" audience attendee was interesting but I quite appreciated the ELO cover :) I'm a super fan of the SSPU's so i'm interested in how your brother got involved with them. They recorded their album right across the street from my house in Milwaukee!

Reed said...

Hey Anon,

Shoot me an e-mail and I can give you the whole story, but it's really just kinda random. Thanks for the Sadie Hawkins tip. Turns out they were just seeking a chaperon who would buy them alcohol. I politely declined, but told them where they could probably buy without ID (Laurie's Liquors, yo!)...