On April 15 and 16, 2016, Local H celebrated the 20th anniversary of their second album, As Good As Dead, along with the surprise return of Joe Daniels on drums, with two sold out shows at Metro in Chicago. As a bonus, fans that purchased the special weekend package would be able to attend an intimate acoustic set early Saturday evening that would take place in Metro’s secret fourth floor Top Note Theater. 100 ticket holders were able to witness this special performance.
Fans lined up in front of Metro and patiently waited to enter the venue for the acoustic Local H show. Everyone was given a wristband and a “DISLIKE” stamp on their wrist. At the time, no one was told what the stamp meant, but all would be revealed later. Around 4:30 p.m., everyone made their way inside the building and up to the fourth floor. Everyone passed through what appeared to be an office before entering a small theater, complete with a small stage and chairs in an elevated semi-circle. I don’t believe there were more than 10 rows at the most. Everyone quickly chose where to sit, the front row however was reserved for family, and it didn’t take long before the room was full.
I’m not sure what the Top Note Theater has been used for in the past, but now, it is a pretty run down looking room. The walls had chipped paint and could have really used a renovation, however, the chandelier style lights hanging from the ceiling and the black drapes behind the stage gave it a cool of vibe. In all honestly, I felt it was the perfect place for Local H to play their acoustic set. I, and and maybe others, were slightly confused by the set up on stage. Prior to entering the theater, no one had been given any clue who was actually going to be playing the acoustic set. Thanks Local H for the mystery! However, aside from a smaller than normal drum kit, there were three chairs with three acoustic instruments next to them. One could deduce, Joe Daniels on drums, Scott Lucas on center guitar due to the pedal board and possibly Ryan Harding on another guitar. But who would fill the fourth seat?
I’m not sure if it was due to anticipation of seeing Local H acoustic, but there was an eerie quiet to the room. It was almost as if we were in a library and not allowed to speak loudly. Someone from JBTV, (they were filming the entire weekend for a future video release), informed everyone it was okay to take photos, just no flash. As the room continued to stay fairly quiet, someone spoke up and told everyone we could talk louder. There was some laughter, but then the room fell pretty quiet again. A couple people in two different sections spoke back and forth to each other, but even that was short lived.
At close to 5:00 p.m. the band appeared and the crowd started clapping. As the band got situated on stage, I think most were a little surprised when Joe did not take a seat behind the drums, but instead sat down to play acoustic bass. The man behind the kit? Gabe Rodriguez. With Scott in the center seat, the stage left chair would only remain empty for a short time. Scott joked that we should save our applause until we were sure they deserved it. Once they were ready, Scott said, “Hi everybody,” and they started with Smothered In Hugs (their Guided By Voices cover from the Sling Blade soundtrack), the first of fifteen songs. I will admit, it was very strange to see Gabe playing drums, but I couldn’t help but tap my foot along to his steady beat. Hearing Scott singing softer sounding vocals was also a bit strange, but also pretty amazing. Once the song was over, Scott told everyone the song was the B-side to High-Fiving MF. He also said, “This was Joe’s idea to do this,” and the crowd clapped loudly. I’m not sure if he meant the acoustic session in general or the layout, but Scott and Joe both mentioned that they used to perform this way in their practice space. Joe said they didn’t like nostalgia, but they wanted to bring it back.
They played Bound for the Floor which included Joe on backing vocals before going into Bag of Hammers, the first of four songs from Ham Fisted. Before the song started Scott told everyone the best part about these shows was Gabe on the drums and the crowd clapped in agreement. This was an interesting song to hear acoustic. That fast-paced dirty guitar intro played on an acoustic coupled with the quickly spoken lyrics, “You pin me down, you box my ears, I’ll get you back, Motherf–k, I’m no baby, I’ve made a meal, the first course is crow, choke it down, cause you suck, I’m no baby ,” was exciting and brought the biggest smile to my face. Acoustic versions of certain songs can bring on a whole new life to a song you never could have expected. This was definitely one of those times.
Next was Eddie Vedder from As Good As Dead and honestly, it felt like this was how the song should have always sounded as it translated very well as an acoustic song. Scott mentioned they were going to bring out Ryan to help out on guitar and the crowd reacted positively as he took his place in the empty seat. As they tuned the guitars and bass, Scott asked Ryan what he wanted to play and he answered with Fine and Good. (Pack Up the Cats) However, they didn’t get very far before Scott stopped and admitted he f–cked it up. Joe reminded everyone that this setting was supposed to be similar to their practice space and that they wouldn’t have an audience so an “F” up would be okay. Scott teased Joe about censoring himself in front of his own kid, who was seated in the front row. They started the song again. Now, even though it was an acoustic show, Scott still had a fair amount of pedals at his feet. In fact, during a solo part in the song, it sounded more like he was playing an electric guitar. As the song goes, “I really can’t stress it enough,” how awesome this song was.
Scott admitted he didn’t really want to play Lovey Dovey, but the the sight of Joe with a kazoo in his mouth was too hard to resist. (Normally Gabe is on kazoo duty.) As Gabe counted them off, Joe played bass while holding the kazoo in his mouth through to the actual time he needed to play. Once his part was finished, he let it fall to the floor. Now, who doesn’t love a good kazoo section in a song?
Scott told everyone since the acoustic session was Joe’s idea, they made him learn a new song from Key, Killer. One of Us is a great song with some interesting lyrics. While they were getting ready for three in a row from Ham Fisted, Ryan told a joke. “Did you hear about the corduroy pillow? It’s making headlines.” Good one Ryan. On Scott-Rock, Scott’s vocals really stood out in the acoustic setting and brought a whole new perspective to the song. They tuned down and Scott joked they were going to play some Days of the New songs. Instead, they played two more from Ham Fisted. User, with it’s super peppy tempo that you couldn’t help but react to and what I believe is Local H’s shortest song, Grrrlfriend, which barely clocked in at a minute and a half.
Nothing Special, the last song they played from As Good As Dead, was another one that really took on a life of its own in the acoustic setting. They kept the beat somewhat fast-paced and the steady drum and bass groove from Gabe and Joe along with Scott and Ryan’s guitar playing made this a really original version. While they were tuning for the next song, Scott mentioned they had a few more and then everyone could go home. To be honest, I think everyone secretly hoped they would play another hour. Joe asked everyone if the two day pass was worth it and people clapped and yelled out, “Yeah!” While they were still tuning, someone said, “Cha.” Scott replied with a very stern, “Uh, no,” and the crowd all laughed. (Local H played “Cha!” Said the Kitty during their Friday set. I bet they would have killed it acoustic.)
Scott told everyone about the next song, Summer Movies. He mentioned it was a song that never technically saw the light of day. Joe looked at Scott and asked, “Why is that?” Scott admitted that he felt it sounded too much like Bound for the Floor. Joe disagreed and Scott mentioned that it shared a chord structure. Scott told the crowd that playing it now, it wasn’t such a bad song. For a lot of songs during the set, Ryan sang backing vocals and during this one they were the most prominent. For those keeping tracks, Ryan plays drums, bass, guitar and sings. The guy is super talented. Summer Movies was also a really great to hear live.
Next was Hands on the Bible, a song from Here Comes the Zoo that I had been hoping would be played. Initially, Scott sang alone while playing those low tone notes on guitar for the intro and the band eventually joined in after the line, “rats in the attic, toys in the cellar.” This is such a powerful song and maybe even more so stripped down. Due to the line in the next song, Scott said, “This is not a song about the show last night,” and a few muffled laughs could be heard. They closed out the set with two songs from Pack Up The Cats. I should add, between Friday night and the acoustic set Saturday, I was happy to see all the love from the band for songs from this album. There was another cool sounding solo from Scott in All The Kids Are Right and when the band got to the part where the song appears to end, no one clapped. Scott paused before saying, “Oh, you guys are good,” and then the band finished the song. Someone said to give it up for Gabe and there was a huge response from everyone. Scott thanked the crowd and told them they were the best, especially for snapping up all the tickets so quickly. “We love you. Thank you so much.”
For the final song of the night, Scott joked about putting his “Weezer glasses” back on and said they were going to play Islands in the Sun. He started to sing the line from the song Seasons in the Sun, “We had joy we had fun,” when I believe it was Joe who continued with, “We had islands in the sun.” Scott laughed and sang, “We had islands in the sun.” It was funny moment but then Scott got serious and told the crowd, “This is the way you make us feel.” Once again, Scott’s guitar playing was phenomenal throughout Lucky Time and with the addition of his effects pedals, his acoustic guitar morphed into an electric and took everyone on one last 6-string journey. The magic he worked took you to a place you never wanted to leave. To steal a line from the song, it was indeed such a lucky time to be able to watch the band’s unique performance in a very stripped down setting.
As the crowd graciously clapped, the band left the stage and everyone filed out of the theater and back outside to get in line for the second and final evening show. Anyone with the DISLIKE stamp was able to get in a separate line to get in prior to everyone else that was already waiting in line while the acoustic set was taking place. On behalf of everyone at the acoustic set, Thanks Local H!
Pre-order your copy of the As Good As Dead Anniversary weekend video here.
*Special thanks to J.O. for the acoustic set photos