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Monday, Feb 17, 2014 - Check 1, Check 2 | Music & nightlife

The Lawrence Arms live at The Casbah

Chicago punks age gracefully; their fans do not

By Ryan Bradford
lawrencearms TLA clown ICP in their video for 'Seventeener (17th and 37th)'

It's been eight years since I've seen punk band The Lawrence Arms. The last time I saw them was at an all-ages venue in Salt Lake City, supporting their 2006 album Oh! Calcutta! They'd been a favorite band of mine throughout high school, and I was excited to take this new girl to their show.  

Eight years later, and me and that new girl are now married. We have car payments. We have streaming video. We have a new president. And all this has happened in the time in the time it took The Lawrence Arms to release a new album: Metropole. 

As far as comeback records go, Metropole is excellent, just because it doesn't fall into the overcompensation that occurs when rock bands age. With lyrics like "I dream when I'm sleeping / I'll sleep when I die / I die every evening" and "My heart got kicked out of all of its homes / And dying young just didn't work so now I guess I'm dying old," it's a record about submission, and accepting your impending fall from relevancy, and admitting that Father Time is kind of a dick. 

Even if anxiety about getting older is fueling their strongest lyrical material, it was hardly apparent on Saturday night when they destroyed the sold-out crowd at The Casbah. With a set-list that pulled heavily from Metropole and Oh! Calcutta! (their best album, IMO), the band delivered a performance that had fists pumping with every lyric and drunk bros hugging each other. It felt downright triumphant. Even singer/bassist Brendan Kelly—usually one of the most caustic, sarcastic and funniest frontmen in punk rock—seemed to be humbled.  

However, one of the side-effects of aging is the enhanced ability to drain the glass half-empty, which is what happened when I realized that all the other times I'd seen the band were at all-age venues. It was a small trigger that made me pine for old days, when the pit was more about community instead of old drunks pushing against each other. And those venues never had security like The Casbah, who used excessive force to punish stage-divers and crowd-surfers. Honestly, I've never been a fan of crowd-surfers, but I saw a short brick of a man toss two concert-goers out by their necks. It was a sour end to an otherwise excellent night: angry at concert security and annoyed at the drunk punks, thinking about how it's unfair that things can't be like they used to be, and how we all might be too old for this.

 



Write to ryanb@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford

 
 
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