Getting’ OBLIVIATED, Memphis style, at the Windy City’s Empty Bottle and the West Fest this past weekend. Don’t forget to read our Oblivians interview elsewhere on the BLURT site, too. Yowsa!
Text by Allison Lukens / Photos by Marty Perez
There was no shortage of steamy gunk-punk bands during the mid ‘90s, but The Oblivians rocked that scene like no other. The trio’s two Chicago shows (one on Saturday night at The Empty Bottle and Sunday night at West Fest) delivered the familiar, raunchy Oblivians sound while flaunting the burnin’ hot tunes on Desperation, their latest record from In The Red Records.
On Saturday, the Empty Bottle packed with true fans from youngsters to silver-haired rockers, and the trio took the stage with rapturous applause as they cranked out feverish versions of “No Reason to Live,” “Strong Come On,” “Mad Lover,” “Blew My Cool,” “She’s a Hole,” and “Sunday You Need Love.” They also jammed on many of the highlights from the new platter, including “Loving Cup,” “I’ll Be Gone,” “Woke Up in a Police Car,” “Call the Police,” and “Fire Detector.” These new originals (and the zydeco cover) had contagiously catchy hooks that earned the audience’s love just as much as the ‘90s classics. Everyone knew all the words to the oldies like “Bad Man,” and it felt like everyone in the room completely absorbed the collective energies of Jack, Greg, and Eric. For me, an Empty Bottle virgin at my first Oblivians show, the experience was met with no disappointment. I didn’t really know what to expect beside what I have heard from the albums, but in all honesty you can’t really grasp the Oblivians until you experience them in their element, a dark dank rock pub.
Sunday’s West Fest show initially did not seem like it could top the previous night’s show. The disconnection of festival barriers and an exhausted crowd did not quite rev the band up at first. However, the crowd started shouting song requests and just gave the band hell, so the ass-kicking commenced from both the audience and the band. This crowd wanted the most they could get out of the band, and those boys sure gave it to ‘em. It seemed like there were more insane classics than the previous night, which suited the increasingly antsy crowd. The entire weekend just wouldn’t have been complete without the encore (never thought I’d say this but thank God for loud drunk people who called the trio back onstage). Greg said something along the lines of “a lot of my songs are cautionary tales about how NOT to live your life,” and the Oblivians erupted into an ass-pounding “Pill Popper,” a single that summarizes the frantic Memphis blues-punk-garage-garbage that this band, and only this band, can bring to the table.
One rockin’ chick I briefly met at West Fest summed up the weekend better than anyone else could have: “We been OBLIVIATED!!!”