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The last Blackout. Ever. It was a saddening prospect, sure. As someone who attended for four years running, the Blackout had become a very special event year after year. At first, it was all about the bands for me. The first year I attended (2003) I didn't really know anyone, save for a couple of Buffalo expatriates now living in Chicago and perhaps some members of touring bands I had become acquainted with. All of my energy was spent concentrating on the show itself, with little time spent socializing and small-talking (although I did meet the almighty RFA that year). The next year, I had more acquantainces and friends, and more the year after that. So as I flew in for this last ever affair, I came to the obvious realization that the Blackout had really become more than a music festival. It was the one long weekend a year I got to see many friends from across the country. And that was really the reason I was going. One last party. The bands are certainly the glue the shindig is held together with, but to see the people and soak in the vibe one last time was essential. It was hard for it to not be anticlimatic. It wasn't as if the whole weekend was like a funeral, even though a lot of people were wearing black. Maybe more like a wake where a lot of people got inappropriately drunk. I mean, had 2005 been the last Blackout, when we had not had the knowledge that it was to be the last Blackout ever, it would have been different. There would have been no expectations to skew our memories. But, with everyone knowing this was it, we all expected it to be the best of everything, the most drunk, the most amazing bands, the most delicious sausages at Hot Dougs, the most mindblowing shit is what we were expecting. And of course, no matter how hard everyone valiantly tried, this Blackout couldn't possibly cash the gigantic check we had written for its ass. Was it a letdown? No, I'm not saying that at all. A ton of bands played. I was surrounded by a lot of friends. Lots of beer and food. And Chicago has become one of my favorite cities to visit. I went there for a fucking party, and that party was delivered in spades. But The Flakes and Black Time both had to bail out, two of the bands I most wanted to see, and that certainly put an unintentional damper on things. And you know, at the end of the day, a fest is supposed to be about the bands and that's really it. Perhaps we've become spoiled with this fest-a-month scehdule of the past couple of years and lost sight of the big picture. Burned out. But the HozAc guys were right to pull the plug, as some of the innocence was gone from this year's festivities. I'm not saying most people were going just to "make the scene", but I will say this thing was one good year away from being a total fashion show/knitting circle. So kudos to the guys in charge for killing things when they did and for putting up with us all one last time.
Looking back now, months later, I think I remember the important things. The truly great performances. And the good ones as well. The headliners are always exciting, but more often than not, it turns out to be the middle-of-the-bill or opening bands or matinee shows that end up being my favorites. I usually write a four page blow-by-blow chronicling every hot dog I ate and every hand I shook, but I think at this point no one wants to hear it, especially me. Let's just say Hot Dougs was visited, too much White Castle was consumed, there were a bunch of leather-daddies staying at our hotel, some people got some tattoos, I spent some quality time at Delilah's and palled around with a good portion of the TB staff. But as I said, a fest is about the bands, and that should be the only category on which any fest is graded. So looking back now, here are the five Blackout performances (out of about thirty-some bands I saw this year) that I will remember most. My favorites, in order...
The Feelers @ The Mutiny, Thursday afternoon
The Mirrors @ Empty Bottle, Friday night
Cococoma @ Empty Bottle, Saturday night
Marked Men @ Empty Bottle, Wednesday night
Angry Angles @ Empty Bottle, Thursday night
So, yeah, those are my five highlights of the last ever Blackout. What? What's that you say? "B-b-b-but the Oblivians played, man, how was that not the best thing you've ever seen?" Well, the Oblivians were certainly good. And as someone who never saw them back-in-the-day, it sure was nice to hear those songs live. But they were never the be-all-end-all for me that they are for a lot of people. The Mummies, that would've had me in tears. To me The Oblivians were a great band who turned in a great set. Plus, being absolutely exhausted and in a hungover-yet-still drunk four day haze didn't help. Dead Moon? Very good too, and I've seen them a few times before. Legends for sure, and we should be cherishing them while we can. King Khan & BBQ? Hey, I love these Canadian rascals as much as anybody. But I've seen that set like four times now. I'm ready for some new stuff. Cheater Slicks? Definitely the best of the headliners. Mesmerizing. Really really good. Honestly, I was so drunk I don't remember much of it. Clone Defects with A-Ron on bass? Definitley good. Time Flys? Hell yeah they were good, but I wanted them to be better. I did get the bonus of getting blasted point blank with the singer's spray of Gold Bond medicated powder which led to people telling me the rest of the night that I had some powder on my nose, ear or face and leaving me looking like I just did a Tony Montana sized pile of blow. Dutchmasters were good too, even though I missed half their set. Live Fast Die with a cameo by Eric Lastname? Yes, I enjoyed it very much. Persuaders triple flying V assault with smoke machine? Yes, I was digging it. Demon's Claws were disappointing, as were Mind Controls. Mullens put me to sleep. Tampoffs? Probably the worst band to ever play the Blackout. Cuts? Never liked 'em, still don't. Goodnight Lovin' were a big surprise, they were everything I always hoped the Mystery Girls would be live but never were every time I saw them. Missed the last ever Catholic Boys show, which was the biggest disappointment of the weekend for me, but what can you do. I hear they got by just fine. Carbonas, Frantic and Terrible Twos provided a good matinee. Good, good, good. A fest with a lot of good performances, a few great ones and a few stinkers. I had a great time, no doubt. I will miss heading to Chicago every spring for sure, but I think it all ended well. I have a great bank of memories to look back on, The Blackout Years, and I thank everyone I partied with and everyone who made all the shit possible. HozAc closed the book at just the right time, and we should all thank them for that as well. Case closed. Forever.
To read past Blackout reviews and an interview with Todd Killings and Uncle Ted go here.
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