If you look at any of the other pieces I’ve written for this site, you’ll see that as someone pretending to be a Very Serious Rock Photographer/Journalist Person, I’ve mostly stuck to the standard second-person when writing. It’s like they say, “you have to remain separated from the subject in order to give a truly unbiased review” (NOTE: no one has ever said this).
And yet, here I am. Using all of these first person words and talking about myself. Me. I. Hello. I’m the problem, it’s me. Nice to meet you all. I’m Rich and I’m assuming that you have some level of familiarity with me if you’re reading this. If not, welcome! Please stick around and I promise to try and reign things in a bit.
So, now that introductions are out of the way, you might be wondering why I chose this moment to break through the fourth wall and address you directly like a modern day Zach Morris. It’s because we’re talking about Local H playing The Metro, a sentence that could only be more Chicago if it was dipped twice and smothered in giardiniera. It’s because Local H at The Metro is a show that 1998 me would have snuck out of the house to attend, if I was old enough to drive or cool enough to do things like sneak out of the house. It’s because The Metro, my favorite Chicago venue, is spending this year celebrating its 40th birthday just like I am. It’s because, even after 30+ years as a band, Local H at The Metro still means something in Chicago, especially when closing out an event as awesome as CIVL Fest, a month-long city-wide festival that funds everything from venue staff & artist mental health programs and safety initiatives to equal access & equity campaigns. Organized by the Chicago Independent Venue League and bringing in support from Shiner and Chicago’s own Heet Deth, Local H was set to kick off CIVL Fest’s closing weekend and 14 year old me was ready to re-live the days of my youth listening to them on Q101, hopefully with way less teen angst and general awkwardness than the first time around.
Kicking off the night was Chicago’s own Heet Deth, a noise-rock duo seemingly intent on making the maximum amount of noise this minimum number of people can make. Looking like the White Stripes if they crawled into our reality from the Upside Down, drummer-singer Julia Bard and guitarist-singer Laila Eskin pulverized their way through a half-hour set covering most of 2021’s Heet Deth Hooray! If you’re a fan of Death From Above 1979 or Japandroids but you wish they traveled to literal hell and back, check out Heet Deth live and don’t forget to pack an extra spine after their set crumbles the one you have to dust.Next up was Kansas City’s own Shiner, just as much the rock veterans as Local H, forming in 1992 and spending their early years playing with bands like Jawbox, The Jesus Lizard, and Sunny Day Real Estate. Reuniting after a decade-ish break, the band (singer/guitarist Allen Epley, bassist Paul Malinowski, guitarist Josh Newton, and drummer Jason Gerken) opened and closed their 11 song set with tracks off their 2020 album Schadenfreude, whose supporting tour was canceled 3 years ago due to the COVID pandemic. Eply and the band seemed to be making up for that lost time this evening, building a complex and incredibly layered sound without ever sounding muddled or crowded. It takes a certain kind of confidence and trust to be able to pull off this complicated of music live and have it come through crystal clear to the audience, the kind of confidence that comes from decades of playing together.
Also, these dudes can ROCK. Not that I was expecting a church choir or anything, but wow did they rock.After spending the first 23 years of my life in Illinois, I moved out to Los Angeles. It was there that I learned that somehow, Local H was not a household name in Southern California and across the rest of the United States like I had always imagined. I’d just assumed that everyone knew Local H, the way everyone knows the Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers, two bands that were in constant, multiple-times-an-hour rotation on Los Angeles’ KROQ. Add to that the fact that just about everything in LA is some level of weird and I thought that maybe it was everyone else that was uninformed. Turns out that wasn’t the case. Also turns out bands sometimes bands have more exposure and popularity in the parts of the country where they’re actually from (who knew?).
(There’s also the tiny detail that Local H has an entire song dedicated to how sick they are of songs about California. I’m sure that didn’t help.)
Turns out it was their loss, and anyone else that hasn’t been listening to Local H for the last 25+ years. The bad news is that you can never fix those Local H-less years of your life. The good news is that, as a band that’s been steadily recording and touring for that many years, you’ve got a wide variety of studio albums, live tracks, EPs, concert films, and a whole bunch of fantastic covers to get caught up with.
With that much ammunition at their disposal, a band like Local H can go in just about any direction with their setlist. With this being a hometown show at a venue they’ve played a whopping 38 times prior, guitarist/vocalist Scott Lucas and drummer Ryan Harding tore through cuts so deep, it was like a rock and roll hatchet buried all the way to the bone. How deep? If you look at the band’s top 20 songs on iTunes, only six of them were played amongst the 18 song set the Metro crowd moshed their way through, touching on nine albums and EPs from their 30+ year history. On top of all that, Harding was also on baby watch, and actually had to leave the show partway through due to potential delivery (turned out to be a false alarm And he was back behind the kit a few songs later).
Taking a shot with the crowd before closing out the night, the group of varying ages and creeds that made up the crowd, it felt like a homecoming. There’s something special about a band that can play a venue for almost the fortieth time and still make it feel like a once-in-a-lifetime event. But here we were, 1,100 rowdy fans feeling in their bones that it was 1996 all over again. Or 2002. Or hell, how about 2023? Doesn’t matter. All that matters, regardless of the year, is getting together and rocking out.
And when it comes to that, no one has rocked, continues to rock, and will always rock Chicago like Local H.
And I got to be there without having to sneak out of the house.Local H Setlist – Metro, Chicago 2.24.23
Defy and Surrender
All-Righ (Oh, Yeah)
Leon and the Game of Skin
Turn the Bow
Hands on the Bible
All the Kids are Right
Heavy Metal Bakesale