Review and Photos by Tony BonyataWith all of the tenacity of Madame Tussauds opening her wax museum in the sweltering heat of Nevada, a collective force of independent Chicagoland record labels set up shop last Saturday for the second annual Chicago Rockyards & Flea Market. With temperatures hovering near a hundred these owners dared the heat by setting up small tables on the 400 block of North Wolcott selling everything from CDs, posters and, yes, even wax.
Some of the most well known indies in Chicago were present, including Touch & Go, Bloodshot, Pravda and Thick (who hosted this event), as well as a record bin full of lesser known labels, all selling their wares at discounted prices.
While deals were to made for those with daring tastes in new music, the real bargain was in the whole street party atmosphere. While hundreds of music lovers were milling, grilling and soaking up the sun and fun, the real deal was on the main stage - where a handful of some of the most talented acts in Chicago ran through short yet spirited performances throughout the event. And all for free.
Miss Nora (from Andrew Birds Bowl of Fire) with just her acoustic guitar and sultry voice ran through an engaging set before giving way to Danny Black's Healthy White Baby. Black, the one-time leader of the late Chicago insurgent country act The Blacks, introduced his new offspring to those anxious to hear if it was as healthy as claimed. And indeed it was. Wrapped in dark shades and attitude, Black performed a handful of numbers such as the poppy "Strong Reactor," "Trying" and "Hard To Please" that, while still retaining a pinch of alt-country dust from his former band, help put the focus on what this guy does best, and that's write some damn fine songs. Borrowing from one of rock's greatest thieves, Black and company also managed to squeeze in a sinewy take of David Bowie's ode to rock star mortality "Five Years" before their own time was up.
With modern bands such as Green Day, Lincoln Park and the likes watering down the true spirit of punk rock today, The Arrivals hit the stage and unleashed a power station full of snotty attitude and raw, unbridled energy that brought back the true meaning of this reckless genre. While their sound may pay homage to former Chicago punk greats Pegboy and Naked Raygun, their jacked-up speed punk and thrashy swagger made for a full-throttle experience that was uniquely all their own.
While there were other acts to fill the bill there were two, however, that the crowd were really geared up for. The Tossers, a Southside quintet with a sound not unlike The Pogues, unleashed their toxic stew of traditional Irish folk music mixed with piercing punk sensibilities and scathing political messages. With mandolin, tin whistle and banjo, the band ripped through fiery versions of their folk-punk songs to an enraptured sweat-soaked crowd.
One of the most entertaining acts of the day, which ironically also turned out to be the least talented, wasn't an act at all, but rather 8 acts. In what was billed as "8 Bands in 24 Minutes Thrashfest" some of the sloppiest, ugliest thrash metal bands this side of Hades, blew through their 3 minute sets with the precision of a lobotomy performed with a chainsaw. It was an ugly sight, but, not so surprisingly, was also one of the guilty pleasures of the day.
With great music to either be purchased or soaked up for free, the Chicago Rockyards & Flea Market turned out to be one of the great unsung Chicago street festivals of the year.
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