The Empty Bottle is a staple for amazing shows and guaranteed to be a damn good time. I approached the door to find a rope outside of the entrance, much like you would find at a dance club. After checking in, I spotted three security guards posted around the room. It all seemed very controlled and unusually strict; I legitimately thought I showed up to the wrong show on the wrong night.
A diverse crowd is always welcome, but there was a surprising amount of unexpected concert goers that introduced a really different vibe compared to past shows. There were a number of older couples and groups of what one may call “bros” clad in pastel polo shirts and backwards baseball caps. Two men wearing identical Shame shirts were particularly excited by the predictable coincidence. A chorus of “Yessss, dude, yessss!” rang out over the nondescript hip-hop music blaring over the soundsystem as I checked the time.
I spotted a lone gentleman near the “Shame Twins” that looked rather uncomfortable. I noticed that it had been over an hour and a half past the start time and decided to kill some time and chat with him. He confirmed that the recent crowds have been a bit atypical as of late, reaffirming my initial impression. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was again, noticeably different compared to past shows there.
Soon after my conversation, C.H.E.W. finally opened with their quick (15 minute) onslaught of harsh, hardcore punk. The Chicago natives were raw and unapologetic with bursts of vitriol spoken word and rapid-fire riffs. But it was over in a flash, and the antsy crowd was left waiting once again.
Next up was Montreal’s Corridor. It was their first time playing in Chicago, so there were obvious nerves; but the audience was ever supportive, cheering them on at every chance.
The quartet was quite amiable in demeanor, a stark contrast from the night’s opener. They delivered a pleasant mix of soaring harmonies and dueling guitar melodies over a driving rhythm section. So driving, in fact, that one of the guitar players broke a string during the middle of the first song. A sound guy quickly came to his aid, setting up a spare guitar in a matter of minutes.
“Don’t break this one it’s the last chance you have,” the singer joked. And this really was the overarching theme of the night. Each band played their hearts out with abandon as if it were the last show they would ever play. There was a refreshing amount of passion that permeated throughout the venue, reaching its peak once Shame took the stage.
Shame are a young, raucous bunch from South London that have been stirring things up across multiple continents.
It’s easy to spot the influences as they take cues from predecessors like The Fall or The Buzzcocks, but they do it in their own bag, untainted by expectations. Their performance transcended trends, with tons of enthusiasm, showmanship, raw stage presence that damn near rivals the likes of Iggy Pop. It’d be easy to call it angsty or post-punk, but they keep things light with a clear aversion to taking themselves too seriously. It’s pure, unadulterated fun with zero pretense.
Although the night started out slow, it quickly gained momentum and ended with a bang; a worthwhile wait for a moment of an unabashed release, just as you would expect from the Bottle.