Music genres have always given me a complex. Are you supposed to label genres based on each song, album, or artist? I give each artist one genre to make things easy. While tagging, I’ve always avoided using the word ‘pop’ in any way, shape, or form. At the mere site of the word, my skin would crawl. At least that was the case until recently.
Now that I’ve learned to embrace pop, I can call bands like Steel Train exactly what they are, pop. Listening to their sophomore album, Trampoline, the songs fixate on love, a fundamental of pop. While I became a fan listening to these guys on CD, their live show is where the real money is at. When I saw these guys at Lollapalooza ’08, I was blown away by the set they played. The album may be pop but the live show is most definitely rock. The most noticeable part of the set was the lack of shoes on stage.
Lead singer, Jack Antonoff, is one of the best frontmen that I’ve seen in a while. Even though the crowd was small, he made sure to keep them engaged and played as though it was a sold-out show at Metro. I didn’t realize the practicality of playing without shoes until their show November 15th at Bottom Lounge. If Jack were to wear shoes while playing that close to the crowd, people would most definitely die. Broken faces and decapitations would abound. Jack jumps higher than most of the people on my high school basketball team all the while playing his guitar and sometimes singing. Jack plays as though he is all hyped up on Mountain Dew and to say he goes nuts on stage is an understatement.
Ok…so that might be a bit of an exaggeration but I was pleasantly surprised to see these guys rocking out instead simply gazing into the crowd and singing a few songs. They genuinely have a good time (at least it looks that way.) During “Firecracker,” Jack kept knocking over Evan’s xylophone, poking him to break his concentration…even the drummer, Jon Shiffman, took some time to give Evan shit.
Towards the end of the set, a fan shouted “sobriety is the new addiction” to which Jack responded “I’ve been saying that for years. Everyone asks me to smoke pot after the shows but I’d be crazy…I’m crazy now.” That segued into talk about cubs vs. white sox and Jack admitted to liking Frank Thomas when he was younger. “What did they call him again?” – the Big Hurt a fan shouts – “yeah, I guess you guys could call me the big asshole, it embodies my personality perfectly.” And with that, the guys launched into a new song “Soldier in the Army” that supposedly has only been played about 10 times. That usually means it’s been played at every stop of the tour.
Now if anyone read this far, you’ll notice that the photos are from an outdoor concert, not fitting to Chicago in the middle of November. The photos are from their set at Lollapalooza this summer since I managed to leave my compact flash card at home for this show…I hate when that happens.
Photos of Steel Train: