Touch and Go 25th Anniversary Celebration
10th Annual Hideout Block Party, Chicago • September 8-10, 2006
Twenty-five years ago, Corey Rusk founded Touch and Go Records to document the burgeoning Midwest hardcore scene. Since then, Touch and Go became the nation’s premiere post-punk label, releasing ground-breaking discs from Big Black, Slint, The Jesus Lizard and a myriad of other like-minded boundary pushing acts. To commemorate their silver anniversary, Touch and Go hosted a three-day concert in Chicago, featuring 25 current and resurrected bands on the label.
The festival was a model of efficiency; bands did short sets, and with a two-stage setup, the gap between acts was only about 5-10 minutes. Beer was only $4. T-shirts were $10. There was plenty of good, cheap food, and the port-o-lets smelled like a combination of freshly baked cookies and newly mown grass.
I managed to catch about half of the 25 bands performing. Highlights included Girls Vs. Boys performing 1993’s Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby in its entirety the first night. The mix was great; a really heavy bass sound reminded me why every review of them had to use the word “sexy.” Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were up next. The trio did a few songs off the last two records, but the majority of the set was from an upcoming album, which preserves their sound of The Jam meeting Thin Lizzy with a couple of the Specials hanging around. They closed with a great cover of Stiff Little Fingers “Suspect Device.”
Pegboy was the first band we managed to see on an overcast Saturday, and they were clearly having trouble adapting their show to a large, outdoor arena. While they seemed unpracticed and sloppy on occasion, vocalist Larry Damore put on such an entertaining show that it seemed charming and they had the crowd singing along to a set that picked from all their albums, with a focus on their earlier work.
Killdozer sounded much better live than on those slow and sludgy albums I was tricked into buying back in the ’80s. At one point I saw a dad put his kid up on his shoulders to better see them perform “King of Sex,” which just seemed wrong.
The Didjits were simply amazing. They completely gave the festival a much-needed shot in the arm after the crowd had been standing in a parking lot all day. Rick Sims heckled the crowd throughout the set while giving his patented Ric Flair meets Little Richard rock star poses. They stuck to stuff off Hornet Pinata and “Hey Judester,” the latest song they played was “Who’s Ready to Get High?” which is just how it should be.
The Negative Approach reunion came off great, even with only half the original members. They were always the most angry and intense of the first wave of American hardcore, and lead singer John Bannon’s voice is still as raspy and scary as it was in the ’80s. They opened with the classic “Can’t Tell No One,” and played pretty much everything from their discography after that.
After 20 years of not playing together, Scratch Acid were amazingly tight. They opened with “She Said” and “Cannibal.” David Yow kept his clothes on from what I could see.
Man or Astroman didn’t have the usual assortment of stuff up on the stage, although they did unveil a 7-foot Tesla Coil at the end of their set which crackled and sparked electricity onstage. After a fast-paced and energetic set, they handed pieces of the drum set to the crowd, so for the rest of the night, you’d see a guy walking through the crowd holding a cymbal or something. This reporter was a bit put off by the fact that they weren’t as costumed as they could have been and had, like, beards and stuff. They don’t wear beards in the future!
A crowd of 7,000 waited to see Big Black’s mini-set, and they didn’t disappoint. They fired up a brick of firecrackers, then did a short set — “Cables,” “Dead Billy,” “Pigeon Kill” and “Racer X,” with the original line-up. The sound was just tremendous, like a jet plane taking off. Steve Albini did his best to play down the event; “This was much cooler in the ’80s,” but for those of us who spent the ’80s in Florida, it was pretty damn cool regardless.
Shellac was in the unfortunate position of having the final spot of the day after so many historic reunions, but their set was remarkably good, probably even better than the time I saw them in Atlanta which ranks as one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. They did a collection of songs off their three albums and some assorted singles, as well as some songs off an upcoming album.
Sunday was drizzly, cold and overcast, the perfect day to see Seam, who may not be the most exciting band in the world, but they sounded great, especially the drummer. They perfectly matched the weather. Next, Brick Layer Cake did a two-song, 20 minute set, which sort of vibed the crowd out.
My group left soon after that, and throughout the weekend we missed several bands we intended to see, but catching 13 legendary bands in three days isn’t too bad. Even now a week later, I am still in awe over the whole thing. I can’t wait to see what happens at the 50th anniversary in 2031.
Touch and Go Records: www.tgrec.com