Touch & Go 25th Anniversary Wrap-Up
“More and more we are realizing what an honor it is to play here and that Touch and Go is much more than a record label, it’s a community.” Those were the heartfelt words uttered by Ex lead vocalist Jos Kley just before launching into the final song of the band’s 45-minute set:
It was one of many emotional moments that Saturday afternoon at Touch and Go’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, a three-day festival honoring the unique achievements of the Chicago-based label, as well as a historical setting for the temporary reunions of half-a-dozen influential punk bands from Big Black to Killdozer.
Much, much more after the jump…
Just prior to the Ex’s willfully abrasive, percussion-heavy set of angular art-punk, a decidedly more downbeat interlude transpired as Silkworm’s Tim Midgett and Andy Cohen took the stage in memoriam of their former drummer, Michael Dahlquist, who was killed in a horrific car accident in 2005. Speaking briefly about the scope of their loss and the impact of Dahlquist’s talent, the pair offered up 20 minutes of stark electric guitar and mournful vocals, deliberately drum-free and heartbreakingly raw with emotion.
The evening prior was aptly bacchanalian and giddy, thanks in no small part to a libidinous set by Girls Against Boys, who kicked things off with the dark, bass-driven throb of “In Like Flint,” and strutted their way through a perfectly chosen survey of their back catalog, focusing heavily on 1994’s Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby, 2002’s You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See and keeping things blessedly free of any of Freak*on*ica nonsense:
By the time the Ex left the stage on Saturday and anticipation began to build for the return of Scratch Acid later that evening, I was marveling at how beautifully put together the whole event was. Two stages flanked the grounds and bands alternated between each one, ensuring that change-over time between acts was minimal and crowd-flow issues were almost non-existent. The concessions—Whole Foods entrees, plentiful vegetarian and carnivorous options and reasonable prices for water ($1)—were a welcome change after feeling seriously shafted at Bumbershoot and other summer festivals. Short lines for beer (notably longer for liquor at the Hideout), well-maintained and plentiful bathrooms, and the freedom to roam virtually anywhere with your food or drink made the whole thing feel like an oversized backyard BBQ, especially when we ran into these fellow Seattlites:
Make that an international backyard BBQ; while the gender ratio was distinctly skewed in the straight girl's favor, the range of folks we met was rather amazing. Plenty of T&G fans were there from France, Japan, and Germany, like these nice guys we met en route for more cocktails:
Killdozer were rough, but still a messy delight, particularly when they broke out their cacophonous cover of ZZ Top’s “La Grange”:
Sally Timms was as charming as always, joking her way through an easy set of country-tinged yarns and providing a sharp contrast to what followed: David Yow’s noisy, sweaty return to stage with Scratch Acid. I could go on and on about how riveting Mr. Enigma remains, but you should just go see for yourself when they play the Showbox this Saturday, September 16. Sorry, it was getting dark and the camera batteries were running low:
Man…Or Astroman? were so good and so unexpectedly tight that I wish they’d just stop with all the teasing and clone bands and just officially reunite with all their original members. Big Black’s 20-minute set was, well, short, and Albini seemed almost happy to disappoint the fans pleading for them to play “Kerosene.” That said, Albini declared T&G to be the "best thing that has happened to music in my lifetime," they opened up with a flurry of firecrackers, and did give up “Cables,” so beggars can’t be choosers. Much more satisfying and engaging was the performance from Albini’s still-occasionally-active project Shellac, who capped the evening perfectly, swinging sharply between a hushed whisper and a sound akin to a steel mill imploding. In short, heaven:
This video will show you much more of Big Black than any photos I can include here:
One thing that I was really intrigued by was a guy who was obviously a close friend or family member of the band standing behind the drum kit. He was a handsome, lanky fellow, wielding a cane that he was pounding (in time, mind you) on the stage throughout Shellac's set. It was pretty fucking cool:
Very Seattle-like rain showers, overall exhaustion, and a much more pedestrian line-up kept me away from most of Sunday’s shows, though I did make it down in time to catch the Black Heart Procession and to see many tired-but-happy faces on the smaller, soggy crowd. All-in-all, it was a highly satisfying weekend, especially considering how economical AND philanthropical it was: tickets for all three days were only $35 and all the proceeds benefited Chicago-based non-profits, including Tuesday's Child, Literacy Works, and the Thomas Drummond Elementary School. I'm going to have a hard time finding another festival experience this affordable and unforgettable.