REVIEW: 25 YEARS. LOCAL H AT METRO IN CHICAGO, IL

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Billed as part of the CIMMfest weekend in Chicago, Local H, whose roots started out in the far Northern suburbs of Chicago, were also celebrating their 25th anniversary as a band at Metro. I’m not sure if it was good luck or good timing, but the show also fell one day before their very first performance at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater back on April 20, 1990, which is pretty damn cool if you ask me.

On a rainy Sunday night, fans were lined up down the block before doors were even open. The Metro sign stated tix were still available, but at some point it was definitely sold out. If you weren’t there, you missed out. Once inside, it was a pretty short wait before the opening band started. While I wasn’t familiar with the local Chicago band Fig Dish, based on the responses I read on social media prior to the show, apparently it was a pretty big deal that they were reuniting for this particular show. Before they even took the stage, a scene from American Psycho started playing on the curtain behind the stage. Parts had been dubbed over, but it was the scene where Christian Bale’s character talks about one of his favorite songs before he murders Jared Leto’s character with an axe. Nothing like starting a rock show with a good death scene. In what I can only imagine had to be an homage to the past, The Bunny played bass alongside original members Blake Smith and Rick Ness. After the first song, the mystery man was revealed. It was the only and only Scott Lucas. He played with the bunny head on top of his own for a couple songs before eventually taking it off. Doing very little talking between songs, Blake and Rick traded off vocals during the night. While both played guitar, fans were really into their set and the band seemed to be enjoying the moment. At the end of their set, Blake said, “We’ll see you guys in 2025 when people are walking on the moon.” Well, alright then.

View my photos of Fig Dish here.

For those that aren’t familiar with Local H, they are a two-piece band that know how to make a hell of a racket on stage. Newest member and the third drummer to play in Local H, Ryan Harding, joined the band a couple years ago. Scott Lucas, the main man for the past 25 years, pulls triple duty as singer and guitarist/bassist. (He uses an extra pick up in his guitar to achieve the bass sound). Local H have long been known for their high energy sets and rabid fan base, but after 25 years, with 8 studio releases not to mention a few EPs, how in the world do you decide on a set list? For one, you play for almost two hours. Not only did they show off their brand new album, Hey, Killer, (released a few days prior to this show), they pretty much picked a song from every studio release, not to mention those super hits from back in the 90’s that had the crowd in a constant uproar.

After an almost 30-minute set change, Ryan’s kit sat stage right and Scott’s myriad of pedals and effects, along with his monitors were set up in a semi-circle stage left. It was like they each had their own circle of sound. As the lights went out, the intro started and Ryan and Scott took their places to the sound of cheers from the eager crowd. First up was Last Picture Show in Zion from Hey, Killer. The mostly dark stage, with just a bit of yellow light illuminating both Ryan and Scott as they started playing, paired nicely with this pretty laid back song with deep sounding vocals. However, the energy quickly picked up when they launched into Cynic from Ham Fisted. Only two songs in and Ryan was killing it. In fact, he was a BEAST all night. He is definitely a great fit. All the Kids Are Right from Pack Up the Cats was the first sing-along of the night and included Gabe Rodriguez, their long time “3rd band member” who came out for a bit to help with vocals and play tambourine. It was also during this time that a camera that had been aimed at the front row was turned on and projected onto the curtain behind the band. I wonder how awkward it was for those fans to watch themselves in a larger than life situation.

The second new song played from Hey, Killer, was Gig Bag Road. This happens to be a personal favorite of mine. There’s just something about the combination of that deep ominous sounding guitar/bass combo running throughout the song. Plus it’s so damn catchy! Next was Another February from Hallelujah! I’m A Bum. As the song started, the crowd was clapping along. For a song about probably the worst month of the year weather wise, musically, it’s super happy sounding. Combine that with Scott’s furious singing and you have one hell of a song. I swear it was literally only two notes into the next song when the crowd erupted into loud cheers and clapping. Scott yelled, “Come on!” and together, everyone started singing,

“I’m not mad
I’m just bored
And everything I do is only because
There’s nothing much else for me to do
And that includes you
And that includes you”

…and the crowd lost it.

Other than the first line of the second verse, Scott let the crowd sing by themselves,

“And I’m wasted everyday
There’s nothing much else for me to do
And that includes you
And that includes you”

At the end of the Fritz’s Corner, once again, the crowd was more than willing to yell out the words. With middle fingers in the air, Scott let the crowd sing by themselves, “I fucked over everyone I know. Everyone I know.” Eventually Scott called out for Gabe and he helped with backing vocals once again, “I’m always ashamed, and that’s no way to be.”

It wasn’t until after the sixth song that Scott finally addressed the crowd, “Thank you. We’re Local H. Hello.” After a short pause, he thanked everyone for coming, paused again and asked everyone to give it up for the Metro. He mentioned their new album had come out a few days prior, and introduced another new song, City of Knives, which also brought Gabe back out on tambourine. This fast-paced, punk sounding song seemed to go over well with the Chicago crowd. In fact, pretty much all night people were moshing, crowd surfing, jumping up and down, had their fists pumping in the air and were singing along. The sold out Chicago crowd was clearly happy with the set. The Misanthrope, another new song with dark lyrics fit well with the quick time changes and frantic drumming.

Another personal favorite came with Hands on the Bible from Here Comes the Zoo. Clearly I wasn’t the only one as the crowd started singing and clapping along right away. I think the first crowd surfers also came with this song, which is kind of funny since this isn’t even the craziest song they have. This immediately lead into another new song, Leon and the Game of Skin. The drum intro and the song in general reminds me a lot of the song Hold Tight, which was used in the movie Death Proof. I couldn’t help but think of the crash scene in the movie as this song was playing. Regardless, this is another awesome song from the new album.

Up to this point, Scott still wasn’t talking all that much to the crowd, instead, they were focused on the massive 20-song set list that was partly a great tribute to their 25-year history and partly a huge focus on the present as they ended up playing 8 of the 11 tracks from Hey, Killer. For some reason or another, I never really got into the 12 Angry Months album, but The One With “Kid” made the cut that night. Another fast-paced song to keep Ryan on his toes. Gabe came out once again to help with backing vocals on one of catchier new songs, Mansplainer, and damn was it a good one. So, let me see a show of hands from people that don’t like songs about California. This song from the Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? album always struck me as odd, but as they started the song, the crowd cheered loudly. Scott said, “Goddamn! Are you still with us?” Yes, Scott. Yes they were. Of course, the crowd stepped up with the line, “And fuck NY too!” But it was really cool when Scott changed the last line of a verse from California Dreamin’s to, “Mother fuckin’ Fig Dish on the radio.”

They jumped back to the early days with Back in the Day, another from As Good As Dead. Even after all this time, the angst is still very evident. Plus, considering it’s just the two of them on stage, there was a huge amount of volume coming from these songs. This lead straight into another new song, John the Baptist Blues. With major distortion, a dirty sound and the opening lyric, “Yeah their heads will roll,” the song was everything you’d want and more. I really can’t say enough about this song. With the variety of tones and effects, Scott was really working some magic with this one. Also, the title of the album appears to come from this song.

Once again Scott thanked everyone before they left the stage for a few minutes. While waiting for them to come back out, the crowd started chanting, “LOCAL H! LOCAL H!” Based on the set list I saw after the show, someone must have called an audible because they played another new song,  the very punk sounding, short 2-minute, I Am A Salt Mine. Personally, Local H could do no wrong that night. Sure, there were other songs they could have played, but honestly, if anyone complains about the set that night, well, I just don’t know what to say. It was a great night!

Once they came back out, Scott spoke to the crowd, again thanking everyone for coming. He continued, “25 fucking years. In about 2-1/2 hours it’ll be 25 years since our first show. I want to thank you guys, at whatever point you came on board. Thank you very much.” He said he had to give a shout out to someone that had been with the band since the beginning. Gabe Rodriguez. Gabe came out and he and Scott hugged. The crowd started chanting, “GABE! GABE! GABE!” Scott said, “Couldn’t do it without that dude right there!” He told everyone Gabe would be downstairs selling stuff and to go say hello and thank him, “…because, he’s the man. For real.” Scott also thanked Ryan, and the crowd cheered in agreement. Scott continued saying how great it was to be playing at the Metro for their 25th anniversary. He said, “When we started, I wanted to play this club more than any-fucking-thing in the whole world. Then we got to play and they’ve let us play over and over and over and over. Metro, fuck, yes! I love you.”

 

 Scott mentioned that at this point in the night they usually played a new song, but they were going to play a really old song. People started to cheer and he stopped them because he said most people probably wouldn’t know it. He then used the word “really” five times to describe how old the song was. He said it was a song they probably would have played the first time they played the Metro. It was called Elephant. Admittedly, I didn’t know the song, but by the time it was over, HOLY SMOKES! The song was awesome and included a sweet guitar solo. I looked it up later and found out it was one of three songs on their first official release, on a 7” record, back in April 1991. I’d love to know if any of these are still in existence. I’d also love to know what, if any, flashbacks Scott was having while playing this song. You can fit a hell of a lot of memories into a 25-year span. Regardless, I’m glad they decided to play it. I guess if you’re going to celebrate 25 years, you might as well play one of your very first songs, plus, it was pretty fitting to come full circle like that.

The last three songs were full of crowd participation. Whether it was singing along, moshing or crowd surfing, you could tell, everyone was enjoying the night to the fullest. First up was Bound for the Floor, followed by That’s What They All Say from the P.J. Soles album, that included plenty of singing from the crowd, “Yeah, uh huh, that’s what they all say.” My God people. That dirty tone Scott created throughout this song sent it over the top. Ryan capped off the song with a fairly long and aggressive drum solo. Seriously, this guy is a BEAST. Once finished, Scott walked near Ryan’s kit, lifted his guitar as if it were a sacrifice, and Ryan started the drum intro for the next song. You knew it was coming people, but were you ready? Why yes, yes you were.

Just before 10pm, Scott walked to his backline and pretended like he was going to throw his guitar at his amps, when in fact, he was creating those strange and wonderful opening notes to what most people would say is their most popular song, High-Fiving MF. After a night full of aggressive playing from the band, the crowd really lost it. Towards the end of the song, Scott grabbed a drum stick from Ryan and as he hit it against his guitar strings, it made these weird sounding steel drum sounds. It was awesome. Once he was finished playing around with some pretty cool effects, he told the crowd, “Thank you, good-night.”  But people weren’t having it. He jokingly said he understood that it was Sunday night and that everyone wanted to be home watching Game of Thrones. He did too. It was pretty funny. He asked for some “fucking enthusiasm” for a little bit. All night the crowd was into it, but I knew they could give just a little bit more. With the end of the song, it was like all hell broke loose, both on and off stage. I couldn’t think of a better way to end an almost 2-hour set that night.

During the night I wondered if Scott would crowd surf. Well, he did not disappoint. Once the song was over, he took off his guitar, walked to the edge of the stage, stepped on the barricade and like Hands on the Bible, the crowd passed him all the way to the back. He stood up in front of the soundboard for a few seconds as the crowd cheered. He then climbed back onto the crowd and surfed back to the stage. He had some help getting back onto the stage by Blake from Fig Dish and someone I wasn’t familiar with, but Scott must have been happy to see him, because once on stage, Scott gave him a huge bear hug and wrapped his legs around the man’s body.

Local H are heading out on tour, find a date here. Go on, it will be fun!

Read Scott Lucas’ reflections on 25 years of Local H here and check out their Facebook page for links to a ton of old videos, demos, etc, documenting the band’s 25 year history, like this one, which is the original demo version of both Lead Pipe Cinch and All The Kids Are Right.

Keep up with Local H below:
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