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2004 Horizontal Action Chicago Blackout - May 13th-15th @ The Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL

Why is it that dudes with stupid dyed blonde mohawks and lots of chains always stink? Is it the hair dye? Do they not bathe so as to not fuck-up the 'hawk? This question strangely occurred to me as stood at the rear of the Empty Bottle, recovering the culmination of a three day rock and booze bender known to most as the Chicago Blackout. Where did this guy come from? Sonny Vincent, a guy who was making punk records when I was still learning how to read, had just put the cap on the weekend in stunning fashion. I was spent, as were the other hundreds of my fellow music fans, many further away from home than myself. We shared our elation and tiredness as we all passed each other in the room, saying goodbyes, making plans, shaking hands, talking shit. We all had one goal in common for coming here, no matter how different I and Mr. Mohawk were, and that was to get drunk and see the finest bands of our time blow our collective mind. The mission was accomplished. And soon all of us were back to Buffalo, Atlanta, San Francisco, Montreal, Texas, Leeds... It was all over now. What next? What happened? Let me backtrack to the beginning and get it to all make sense for you...

DAY ONE

After an eight hour drive and then getting dropped smack in the middle of Chicago traffic for another hour, I hastily regrouped at my hotel and equipped myself for the show. 2 packs Newport box: check. Wallet: check. Lighter: check. Beer money: check. Digital camera with which to take one good picture all weekend: check. Directions to Empty Bottle: check. Out the door and into the depths of Chi-Town I went. I spotted the Bottle, parked, and headed to Ron Cozumel's pad for a quick pre-show soiree. I was greeted by HozAc ringleaders Todd Killings and Uncle Ted. The Real Losers and New Orleans Goner crowd goofed about in the living room. I ran into JonE Reject in the kitchen and had a quick PBR, and then it was showtime. Cozumel's place lay just down the street from the Bottle and on the way I conversed in English with Shake of the Real Losers. Nice 'bloke', he was. By the time I got in the bottle, located Trickknee and Lastname, and got a beer, openers Headache City were already halfway through their set. Shit was going down on time it seemed. HC includes ex-Motard Dave Head and Norah from Shit Sandwich Records on keys. Honestly, I missed much of it, but what I heard were some Modern Lovers-ish sounds that pleased me. They had a girl drummer who was was good. I think they switched instruments at one point. I dug 'em, and to prove it I bought the single. Then they were done. One down, thirteen or so to go.
Austin's Winks were up next. A lot of people would later comment that they were the worst band of the event. I was probably one of them. Their single left me flaccid, and the live show didn't do much to perk me up. Skanky looking chicks doing a lot of motherfucking, threatening to kill people, spitting on the stage, wearing ill-fitting clothing, and other bullshit. Lots of panty shots for the crowd, which I guess should be mandatory at a HozAc event. Not impressive in the least, and by that I mean both the crotch shots and the the generic punk rock. If you hated the Dirty Sweets, you'll hate the Winks even more. And I actually liked the Dirty Sweets.
Hitting in the third spot were The Lids from Atlanta, one of the bands I was most excited see all weekend. I fell in love with their single the minute it landed on my doorstep. I was a bit worried, as I had heard previous reports of incompetent live shows, but that was obviously bad information, because The Lids fucking killed it. Drummer, guitarist/singer, bass player, and a three girl harmony section front and center decked out in great duds and tambourines. And when I say girls, I mean the really good-looking variety. To steal a great description from my colleague Sir Mitch Cardwell, it was like "Supercharger meets the Shangri-La's in a dumpster" or something like that. They played the hits from the single and a bunch of other great songs. The girls had moves, and kept every guy's attention I'm sure. The one on the left was my personal favorite, but they were all lookers. Their bass player looked mean, and I quite enjoyed it when he kicked some dude with two-tone hair square in the face. Fucking cool. I later found out he was the guy who ran Die Slaughterhaus, and was a real nice guy. A frenzied dance party erupted in front of the stage. Girls were everywhere. The set was done, and I immediately gushed to anyone who would listen about how great the Lids just were. Most agreed. More good news: they delivered half of their full-length to Greg Lowery that weekend. I tried to steal the CD from G-Lo but was foiled. I guess we'll have to wait until October when it should be on the street.
With the night drawing to an end, the Deadly Snakes appeared to close the show down for the evening. I knew they were going to blow the lid off the place. I never dig their records much, but they are one of the greatest party bands around today. Horn section, manic keyboard player, great songs for dancing. It seemed as if their revival-style blow out went on forever. Maracas got whipped out. Bottles got busted. Drunk people danced as if they were drunk. Roy from CPC Ganbangs joined them for a song. I think I killed a twelve pack during during their set, and it was fun, fun, fun. Don't ask me what songs they played, 'cause I don't remember. I just remember lots of soul, lots of moving and shaking, and it being a great way to cap off the night. When the lights went on it was almost a relief. The place still stood. There was a post-show shindig at Cozumel's pad which I passed over for a ride back to the hotel, a delicious bacon cheeseburger at the Greek Restaurant next door, and passed out with record geek dreams of a Lids LP (and the girl on the left) in my head...

Eric Lastname's Horizontal Action Blackout 2004 Top 5:
1. The Reatards
2. The Catholic Boys
3. The Real Losers
4. Sonny Vincent/Testors
5. The Lids

DAY TWO

I fucking slept forever, awakened by room service wishing to clean my room. Go the fuck away, I'm recovering from a rock hangover of the greatest magnitude! I was due at Delilah's for afternoon drinks and a viewing of the semi-legendary Cunt Puppet video. Shit. Shower. Fuck shaving. The Baseball Furies were supposedly playing, but A-Ron told me last night it wasn't happening. And it didn't. There was the traditional cookout and I caught up with the TB guys and the Wisconsin kids (I believe half the population of Algoma was in attendance at the Blackout). Ate some burgers, talked shop, bailed on Cunt Puppet to head to Reckless Records and buy some shit. The Functional Blackouts were playing down the street at Johnny Dillinger's favorite cinema, The Biograph, as part of some horror movie fest that George Romero and Jack Hill were speaking at. Would've been nice if someone could have informed of this. The $10 entrance fee and LONG walk down the street dissuaded most people from heading there, so I stayed and had some more cocktails before heading to the Bottle for the greatest night of live music I've probably ever seen.
The Dirges were setting up as I walked in the door, and I swear even their soundcheck was killer. A-Ron plus ex-Bride/Zodiac Killer Ross on guitar playing soul-tinged R&B'n'R. They were deadly, although their set seemed way too short. They didn't play the Otis Redding cover. Ross is an amazing guitarist. The Dirges are destined for greatness. Or at least a good record or two. Batting in the two hole tonight were my friends the Catholic Boys. I've seen good Catholic Boys shows, bad Catholic Boys shows, and completely fucking amazing Catholic Boys shows. File this one under fucking amazing. They were shit-hot. They played all the hits: "Brainwash City", "Get Loose", "Psychic Voodoo Mind Control", "Sometimes Baby", and more. The rhythm of their set was thrown off a bit by technical difficulties, but once they got moving again they were just steamrolling everyone. Nick's guitar strap came off and was reattached by at least three different good samaratin fans. That's what duct tape's for Nick. I felt bad for the drum kit. Apnea was kicking its ass. JonE played bass. Paul is a great front-man. He kicked some dude off the stage. Got drinks thrown at him. How does he fit in those pants? The Wisconsin kids and everyone else sang along. Fists pumped. BRAIN-WASH-CITY-WHOOOO! It was genuine rock fucking action. And there was even more to come.
Hitting third, and hailing from Leeds, England: The Real Losers. I was unbelievably excited to see the Losers, as I never thought I would get the chance, what with that ocean separating us and all. But here they were in all their British glory. They were unbelievably fucking loud. Shake sported a Dan Electro or Dynelectron or whatever the fuck those cool shaped guitars/basses are called, along with a Catholic Boys/Real Losers tour shirt complete with swastikas. The Hand was on fucking fire, looking like a younger and slightly smaller Andre the Giant in a Flakes shirt. Shake puked a little. The Hand bled all over himself. Hot Dog laid down the beat in what could be described as the British version of a cheerleader's outfit. They are better live than on record, as the songs practically hypnotize you with their heavy pounding rhythms. Beautiful in their simplicity, I tell you. Shake played the crowd for all we were worth. He jumped on me at one point and I held onto him while he rocked us. It was fantastic. When they were finally done, I looked for my balls, because they rocked right the fuck off. If someone could check the lost & found at the Empty Bottle for a pair of testes and mail them to TB HQ if found, that would be fantastic.
At this point the night was reaching critical mass. Three bands, three rock'n'roll long balls over the right field fence. Moonshots, I tell you. Could we handle any more? Would we be alive by the time the Reatards took the stage? Well, we had to get through CPC Gangbangs to find out. Some people commented they were "too rock". That's bullshit. While I must say the recent recordings don't do much for me, the live show is something completely different. They were ferocious. And let me tell you something: Paul Spence/Lyle Sheraton/ The Mayor of Canada/The Deaner/or whatever the fuck else you want to call him is one of the greatest entertainers of our time. The guy is a thrill to watch, and has that type of affable charisma without any pretense that makes you love the guy. Plus, he never stops moving, throwing out fist pumps, howls, and a million other great rock moves. And Roy is no slouch either. Didn't even know half the songs, and they all blew me away. Paul played the last half of the set contorting on the ground or bouncing off of shit. Roy did some Lux-styled microphone swallowing. They poured sweat like gasoline ready to ignite. Shirts got torn off. Danny tuned Roy's guitar for him. Tom Skitsos managed to look normal amidst the fury. Danny is a great drummer. And don't think they wanted to ever stop playing. By the time they finished "Mechanical Man" I figured someone was going to drop dead. Didn't happen. Luckily, my balls were already MIA, so I took the rock beating like a champ. And the best was yet to come.
The anticipation preceding this Reatards reunion show was, for me at least, incredible, as I never had a chance to see them in their heyday. This classic line-up of Jay, Rich, Ryan/Elvis, and Sir Steave had already warmed up with a show in Memphis, so I was ready for total fucking destruction. Would Jay self-destruct? You just had the feeling someone was gonna get hurt, exacerbated by all the drugs, alcohol, and rock the crowd was riding high on. The place exploded the minute someone hit the first chord. I don't remember what was first. "I'm So Gone"? I think so. I was. S-T-A-C--Y-E! Ryan jumped from behind the kit after about the second song and leapt into the crowd. "Get the fuck back up here Ryan!" Jay shreiked. He had that demonic look in his eye. "I Gotta Rock'n'Roll". We all did. People spilled drinks on me. I spilled drinks on myself. Almost broke a finger trying to one-hand two beers amidst the craziness. I danced with Richard Adventure. Heart of fucking Chrome. Everybody lost their shit. Steve Albundy wore a rubberband around his forhead. It looked regal. Rich seemed steady, keeping things somewhat together. Maybe not. Jay did a header and ripped the disco ball from the ceiling. Booted the video-dude off the stage with a solid kick to the ribs. I think he tried kicking a bouncer too. "Bummer Bitch". Jay stopped playing guitar. He perched on an amp and looked into the crowd as if he'd rather kill us all. Saturday Night Suicide. Blew my mind. Jay disappeared backstage. The Reatards kept playing. He came back. They played more. We were all in awe. Down in Flames. Jay disappeared again. The Reatards kept playing again. And playing. And playing. Was he coming back? Was it over? No one seemd sure. I think Ryan and Steve could've kept going. Rich knew it was done, and finished it. It was just like a car wreck. Hurtling along, and coming to an abrupt and unexpected halt. The crowds head was buried in the dashboard. It was all so sudden. The ride of a lifetime, or at least the weekend. The Reatards alone would have been worth the drive. I don't remember going back to the hotel. I was fucked up.

Todd Trickknee's Horizontal Action Blackout 2004 Top 5:
1. The Reatards. Easily the best band of the weekend, and I'm not sure who would actually dare to disagree. Cardwell claims they were "crazier," and by extension, "better" when he saw them years back, but I'll bet this was in the same general ballpark, goodness-wise. Just really great songs given really great treatment. Motivated me to jump into the fray and "go crazy," something my age and general disposition rarely allow.
2. Testors. OK, so it's really RFTC + Sonny doing Testors songs, but I never thought I'd even get THAT, so there!
3. The 1-2-3 punch of Dirges/Catholic Boys/Real Losers. Heard that the Dirges are normally better (this was my first time), I know that the Catholic Boys played middlin', and I later (in Milwaukee) discovered that the Real Losers are capable of a lot more, but it was still the best 3-smack of the weekend. Oddly, it was the most sparesly attended portion - yer loss! Can't wait for some Dirges releases, cuz (especially as a huge Brides fan) I know they'll kill.
4. Every other band (with one exception) was at least good-to-great! Shit, musically, no festival comes anywhere close, and the HA guys create a fine atmosphere (further kudos to the Anonymous Goy show, with the Krunchies as musical guests and Tyrades as closers, great all!).
5. Meeting many folks for the first time in da flesh (Cardwell makes me feel like a horsejockey) and seeing pals I only see at the Blackout & maybe once or twice a year beyond that. Already gearing up for next year!

DAY THREE

Somehow I woke up early and feeling good. The previous night was absolutely incredible. I watched some TV, and checked out the record haul for the weekend. There was a ton of good shit for sale at the Blackout: clear vinyl Reatards live LP, an extra copy of the Tokyo Electron single (which I ended up letting Lastname have), limited edition Reatards CD-r entitled "Bedroom Disasters" which it turns out is incredible, CPC Gangbangs demos, Blackout DVD (although I foolishly passed on a copy of the MC5 documentary), and a bunch of other shit. Of course, being record scum, I bought early and stashed shit in the car so I didn't miss out on anything. Beer budget was doing well. Remembered to get to the Bottle early for The Brian Costello Show with Brian Costello, and I was on my way.
Drank some mid-afternoon beers with Tricknee and Co. and chatted with Mitch who was nervous for his guest appearance on the show. Mitch is big dude. Bigger than me. We talked records and shit for awhile as he pounded the Beam and Cokes seeking dutch courage. None of us were sure what to expect out of the BC Show. We took our seats as the Krunchies played the theme song or intro or whatever. They took the place of commercial breaks during the show, and were real good. There were funny skits, a monologue, and it all went pretty well. Much better than the Chevy Chase Show. BC is a regular Barth Gimble. The skit with him and sidekick Ken recounting their school days was great. Sonny Vincent did a great interview and looked well. Unlike the Marky Ramones of the world, Sonny is still in it for the love of music, and not such an obvious payday. The Timmy Vulgar segment was great, and he is a genuinely nice guy. Mitch's interview went well I thought. He was funny, and BC gave him some good set ups. I think the fame is ballooning his ego however, as he threw a star fit immediatley afterwards and demanded I speak to his agent if I wanted any more contributions for TB. The Tyrades were the featured musical guest, fresh off their European tour. I think their short interview segment was the funniest. Frankie told the story of this great band called The Toilets they played with in Italy (which Robert later recounted for me as well), where the drummer was wearing a one-pice Klaus Nomi deal and the singer hit himself repeatedly over the head with a pipe. If anyone has any info on this band, please contact the editor. "I Am Homicide!" "GO!" and they were off. The Tyrades are seriously one of the best live bands on the earth. They never stop moving. Frankie is manic behind the kit, and succeeds at getting yelled at by Jim or Robert every time I've seen them. Jenna whirls and keeps getting better as front-woman. I usually spend most of the set wondering if Robert is going to fall off an amp or something. He's got it down pat though: chairs, tables, monitors, amps, you name it, he can walk on it. And watching Jim is like watching a young Pete Townsend (but without the kiddie-love): windmills, kicks, jumps, that crazy, pissed off look in his eye. Brilliant. And musically, they're tight as hell. I was thrilled to have another chance to watch them. Outstanding.
Had some time to kill before the show started so I went book-shopping and ate Mexican. MOTO was playing across town, but there really wasn't time to make it. Got back in time to catch most of the Guilty Pleasures set, another reunion for the weekend. I genuinely like their unreleased record, but live, their singer really gets on my nerves for some reason. They were good though, and it's always a pleasure to see Jered play guitar. After the blow-out from last night, however, it would have basically took Stiv coming back from the dead to impress me. The Clorox Girls were up next. These kids confuse me though. Their single was great, their album good, but I'm not sure what to make of them. I swear I start thinking they should be on a Warped Tour stage somewhere, then a song like "Virgin Suicides" convinces me they're for real. They moved a lot. Youthful enthusiasm at its best. The bass player did some herky jerk steps. The drumming was tight. He wore a Spice Girls shirt. They dove around. Fell on each other. They were really good. The bass player fucked up his bass, cutting it short. They finished with "YMCA", whick a lot of people balked at. Give 'em a break, they're kids for chrissakes. The singer did try breaking a bottle over his end at the end. Give them some credit. Afterwards I got caught in a Rev. Norb/Richard Adventure conversation sandwich. Mind blowing.
In the third slot were Memphis' Knaughty Knights: Rich Crook, Jack O., and Shag. I thought they were great, seeing as I think the band isn't really officially 'together'. They opened with all the songs off that incredible single. "Goodnight Love" is great fucking song. Rich played a cool 'Pictures of Elvis' guitar. He was on fire. "Fuck you guys, you don't know the Knaughty Knghts!". They played a bunch more songs, a few covers. I remember "Wimp". "Fuck you, and fuck you. And fuck you pointing the camera at me." Hilarious. Jack played straight man to Rich's insult/fuck hurling. It was a great. They were a lot of fun. "Fuck all of you assholes!"
Next up: Lowery and his Zodiac Killers. I knew this was going to be a riot. I expected an all out heckle spree. Greg succeeded in pissing evreyone off by playing the Zodiac Killers video before they went on. I thought it was great. The vids were reminiscent of that Angry Samoans/Vom video, really cheesy and funny for the most part. They ripped the sheet down and launched into "Man of Action", which is pretty funny if you get the joke. Greg's always thinking. After that they played all stuff off the new album, if I remember correctly, including all the songs we just saw the videos for! I was surprised at how much the crowd was into it. I think the ZK's got one of the best receptions of the weekend, and they deserved it. They were a tight unit, and I think Greg only stopped one song. Lab coats were worn with those goofy shades. Jeremy was great. Bill is a great drummer, even with a costume neck brace on. Ruba Tuesday taunted the crowd. Lowery has trained them well. There was little, if any, animosity. Greg was actually in a good mood. "Is that all you guys got?" he queried, probably expecting the heckle-fest I was. Didn't happen. People just danced, and stage dove, and basically went nuts. I would've liked some older songs ("Kamikaze Attack" or something), but I was still satisfied.
One band left. I think everyone was secretly dreading the fact it was almost all over. I know I was. I think it should be a five day festival next year. At least four. Yeah right. I heard some people bitching that they shouldn't be billed as Testors, as it was just Sonny Vincent and some RFTC dudes. But I think it's justified. Sonny is the Testors. Can you even name the other Testors? Didn't think so. Sonny came on stage, and it was really awe-inducing. That this guy was still out there playing with the same heart he was all those years ago. A true rock'n'roll survivor, and I think everyone respected that. The RFTC dudes were no slouches. All the songs sounded great. Zooed out. People were going nuts. I did for a bit, until I realized I was so wiped out from the weekend for anymore nuttiness. I think I blew my wad (or at least my back) during the Reatards set. I retreated to the back to watch the place go crazy. The Wisconsin kids, the Atlanta people, the other bands, mohawks, old, young, Ron Cozumel, Goners, garage rockers, guys, girls, everyone was feeling it. I saw Timmy Vulgar bouncing amidst the fray. A guy who is probably our modern day equivalent to a Sonny Vincent, with nothing but an unrelenting passion for his music, who was just interviewed on the same stage, swept up in the sounds/feelings. We need more Timmy Vulgars, we need more Sonny Vincents, and to see them together like this in the same room gave me hope for rock'n'roll. Sonny came back for an encore. He did "Together" and dedicated it to Joey and Dee Dee. It was touching to hear it from a guy who was actually there, who probably really did miss them, who could very well be in heaven with them now. It meant something. Everyone in the Bottle was swept up in this genuine display of rock'n'roll passion. And then it was over. The lights came on. We realized it was time to head home. Last call for another year. Everyone extended goodbyes, thank-yous, phone numbers, whatever. And then the stenchy mohawk walked by me, and his odor made me realize something. We had all come from across the country to watch this incredible display of underground music. We were one in our love and passion for the sounds. There was no animosity. It was a love-fest. I realized, we're all a bunch of fucking hippies. Not all of us have long hair, not all of us stink, we are all different, but all the same. And so, to you, all my brothers and sisters from across the country whom I rocked and was rocked with, I just want to say I love you all. You fucking hippies. See you next year.

Mitch Cardwell's Horizontal Action Blackout 2004 Top 5:
1) Catholic Boys: In spite of the fact that Trickknee was talking my goddamn ear off during their set, I still believe that they were the best band of the entire event. If that was them sober, I can't wait to see them wasted.
2) Old Style: Tastes EXACTLY like Pabst (looks like it too). I felt like a dumb tourist ordering it. "Yes, I'd like an Old Style please." Sounds lame. I contemplated saying "O-Sty FOO!" or "Ol-Sty BEEEYATCH!", but thought my adult urban humor would've been lost on the charming Midwestern citizenry. Too "Chappelle's Show", perhaps?
3) The Brian Costello Show With Brian Costello: Yeah...I opened for The Tyrades. No big deal. Happens all the time. Looking back, I wish I would've elaborated more on the guilty musical pleasures thing and not limited my response to Journey. Naturally, forgetting Huey Lewis And The News, Kool And The Gang and Tony Tone Toni is crime punishable by death and/or castration! You can take the boy out of the Bay Area, but you can't take the Bay Area out of the boy.
4) People Shitting Their Pants: While I wasn't present for any of this, I sleep better at night knowing that it happens to others too. Shitting a thong???? YES!!!!!!!!!!
5) M.O.T.O.: Saw 'em play 4 tunes. Worth the train ride to the burbs.
Ultimate One-Up Dork Moment: Rev.Norb telling me he loved the new Henry Fiat's album because it was the only album in recent memory that features a cover from The Damned's second album. Sounds like somebody doesn't follow The Offspring.
Worst Moment Of The Entire Weekend: Having to leave just as Paul M.O.T.O. and NickG were about to unleash The Tears girls on me. Is there no end to this heartache?

Extra special thanks go out to Todd Killings, Uncle Ted, Brian Costello, and everyone else in Chicago who helped in setting up the Blackout, and especially Matt Williams and all the bands who came and played for us.

Article by Rich Kroneiss
Pics by Canderson

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