June 3, 2005
CHICAGO, IL (RMR) - The Q101 Block Party is a two day outdoor “festival” which brings some respectable acts to Chicago for a decent price ($15 a day in advance $20 at the gate or $25 for a two day pass). The crowd just has to put up with the introductions of the annoying radio personalities and I just have to put up with the annoying crowd (previous years have led to fights with bouncers and popped collars dudes). I was well prepared to face whatever adversity came my way to see Interpol, the main draw for me. Queens of the Stone Age were headlining and Hot Hot Heat was opening. With no ticket in hand I exited the Red Line at North/Clybourn and headed to the New City Y.
Thanks to the scalper my brother and me already had our tickets and decided to cut in line again and within five minutes we were inside rushing the stage. We set up right next to three young teens chain smoking camels and wearing Korn trucker caps and looking extremely awkward. I noticed them because crowd watching was more entertaining than watching Hot Hot Heat. I am not familiar with the new Hot Hot Heat album, Televators, nor am I that big of a fan of the band in general, but I really enjoyed the about half of the dancey tracks from 2002’s Make Up the Break Down. The dance feel of Make Up did not translate well live and their latest tracks are mostly mundane. Hot Hot Heat basically just stood playing their instruments, presumably trying to look “cool”. Lead singer Steve Bays made an attempt at creating some sort of stage presence, but his attempts fell horribly flat; an occasion leg kick and shout does not translate into energy. The band looked extremely made up, too made up, all wearing black button down shirts and some sort of quirky clothing accessory; for instance, Bays had a black jacket on with some gaudy gold trim that somewhat matched his outlandishly curly mop of blondish-brown hair. The apex of their performance was “Bandages” from the Make Up the Breakdown. The band failed to capitalize the energy created by the song and lulled the audience back into a head-bobbing stupor.
Although not too exciting I do give much credit to Hot Hot Heat for being so musically tight performance-wise. So often bands get a little success and then get sloppy with their performance. Hot Hot Heat may have rehearsed their songs to near perfect but they skimped on the energy. The overall set was not so horrible, but from a casual fan’s viewpoint, or a non-fan for that matter, my attention was not held. I drifted off into the crowd a few songs before they left the stage.
After meeting up with the rest of my friends I headed to the beer tent. The long line took my mind off my giddiness; Interpol was next! I had plenty of time to muse over my relationship with Interpol while waiting for my Bud Light: at first I really disliked Interpol and wrote them off as a droning bore when I first heard Turn on the Bright Lights. When I heard Antics I saw the development of Interpol and really grew to love the band. With two beers in hand and eight dollars lighter I pushed my way back through the crowd as roadies hit high and low E strings.
Some Q101 low-lifes came on stage to try and hype the crowd, as if Interpol needed the crowd warmed. I quickly finished my beers as Interpol took the stage looking sleek in their dress blacks (pulling off the look much better than Hot Hot Heat). Best outfit definitely goes to bass player Carlos D. Even though his eyes were shielded by large mod black goggle-glasses the whole crowd knew they were saying “look how skinny I am, I’m a mother fucking rock star!” The drags from his cigarette screamed “MY HAIR IS BLACKER THAN NIGHT! I USE FERIA EVERY DAY! WORSHIP ME!” Knee high black boots and a black shoulder gun holster rounded off the attire. From the first notes of their opening, “Next Exit”, I was catapulted into a melancholy euphoria. Very tight performance and high energy while still exuding composure and cool. Interpol played for about an hour, but it felt as thought they hardly started when they left the stage and since they weren’t headlining we knew there would be no encore. Many of the crowd streamed to the exits.
After the set two friends and I headed to the bathroom, but as you can imagine, the lines were ridiculous. I was in no mood to wait and decided to pee on the fence behind the port-a-potties. Interestingly, there was also a line to pee on the fence, but it was much quicker than actually peeing in a toilet (using a toilet? how un-rock and roll).
None of us are huge Queens of the Stone Age fans. We only stayed for two songs to appease one friend. Their performance was appallingly sloppy. Josh Homme had a snobby “fuck off” attitude that was just a tad over the “rock star” norm. Still on an Interpol high we left the New City YMCA and thus ending a surprisingly conflict free Block Party.
This was not Q101’s best offering (but considering the music that Q101 plays pretty damn good), but overall a nice show with beautiful weather to match. Interpol stole the show here, not surprisingly. Q101 is becoming better hosts with each passing year and making the Block Party an event which is turning into a tradition and definitely worth checking out.
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