Irene Tu, Smoking Popes, Built To Spill & Jawbreaker at the House of Blues (Chicago)

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I love going to shows outside of the Twin Cities. It gives me a chance to check out other scenes and venues. From the people to the layouts to the sound, it’s almost a thrill when I walk into an unfamiliar venue so I was so excited as my boyfriend and I made our way to the windy city for a show. Sure, Jawbreaker was in Minneapolis last weekend but I had a different show I wasn’t willing to skip out on and he had plans for the night so we packed up my little car and made the six-hour drive to Chicago.

The Saturday night show was held at The House of Blues in the heart of Chicago. A bit of a hidden venue, I was instantly shocked by how intimate this place was. Although it has two balconies, the general admission floor area is really relatively small in comparison to the venue that this tour came through up here in Minneapolis which just added to my excitement. Unfortunately, that’s where my excitement over the venue ended. I think I forget just how spoiled I am by having First Avenue as my “home base venue”. From the sound to the staff to the overall feeling in the room, First Avenue is so much more personable, comfortable, and fun for me. It was hard not to compare everything happening around me throughout Saturday night to that legendary venue that I call home but I digress.

The Smoking Popes have a distinct sound that lends itself perfectly to the midwest pop-punk sound that I have always had a soft spot for.

Irene Tu was the first act to take the stage and although I was in the mood for music, having a comedian opening up the show was interesting to me and ended up being a favorite moment of mine from the night. Irene’s somewhat raunchy jokes had me warming up to my unfamiliar surrounding in no time. I’m obviously not going to give her jokes away because I want you to take the time to look her up and support her but I will say she had the quickly growing audience rolling in laughter throughout her quick opening set.

Following Irene’s quick set was The Smoking Popes, a personal favorite. The Smoking Popes are not at all a new band and had ironically toured with Jawbreaker when they first released ‘Dear You’ which this current tour is celebrating 25 years of so it was kind of perfect to have The Smoking Popes opening up the show. With powerful pop-punk vibes and an undeniable sense of fun flowing off the stage, their set seemed to be over in the blink of an eye but not before I got lost in that familiar cloud of nostalgia that I am constantly looking for. Even though this band had a long break in their career from 1999 to 2005, it’s as if they have never skipped a beat. They have a distinct sound that lends itself perfectly to the midwest pop-punk sound that I have always had a soft spot for and being able to see that in their hometown was just the icing on the cake. Even though you could feel the anticipation in the air for the headliner, there were a few people nodding their heads along to the beat and singing along to the songs.

The original BTS (as one of my Facebook followers called them) was up next. I’ve never been a huge Built to Spill fan but I love how distinct their sound is. A little jam band-esque with super unique vocals, I feel like I have caught this band before but I honestly can’t remember when or where so I was grateful for another chance. Much like the other bands on the bill, BTS has been around for some time having started all the way back in 1992. Although there have been many changes for this band over the years, vocalist Doug Martsch has remained a constant and rightfully so. He basically is BTS with the vocals that he brings to the group. I’m not sure how to explain them to you so you’ll just have to listen but they are super unique and absolutely catch your attention whether you like it or not. Being able to see this iconic sound being played out just feet in front of me was great and although I felt like their set got to feeling a little long-winded for my personal preference, it was a true treat to be able to see this band live.

Sure, I was bummed I had missed Jawbreaker in Minneapolis but it was one of those things where a decision had to be made and I was able to sleep with that decision.

Although all of the opening acts were amazing, it was the chance to see Jawbreaker celebrate their 1995 album ‘Dear You’ that got me out of Minneapolis and into Chicago. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Jawbreaker when they performed in 2017 at Riot Fest but that was a giant festival and I was so far from the stage that I really don’t know if it counts so Saturday night in Chicago was kind of a redemption of sorts for me and I wasn’t going to miss a single moment of it. Being that it was the fourth night of this tour being held in Chicago, the band didn’t just play straight through their iconic ‘Dear You’ album and instead scattered those tracks throughout other tracks that have become the foundation for so many bands in the scene today. Even though I didn’t get to hear “Kiss the Bottle” (which happens to be one of my favorite tracks), every song they played was perfect and I adored getting lost in the music and the crowd to Jawbreaker’s iconic songs.

Although I typically focus on how shows and live music every night makes me feel, really Saturday night wasn’t my show. I could have taken it or left it. Sure, I was bummed I had missed Jawbreaker in Minneapolis but it was one of those things where a decision had to be made and I was able to sleep with that decision. It was my boyfriend who couldn’t and really pushed to make this trip happen. Although getting me to go to a show will never take a twist of the arm, it just wasn’t one of those shows that I had to see so I felt like I spent the majority of my night watching him take it all in. I forget how lucky I am that I get to do this night after night. I know it’s beyond cheesy but watching him scream along to words that mean so much to him absolutely made my night. I know there will be many nights where he is stuck by my side while I scream along to words that mean everything to me so being able to experience him experiencing that was really all I needed to make Saturday a night that I will never forget.

All in all, our trip to Chicago was amazing. The music was great, getting out of town for the weekend was much needed, and getting to witness someone else get affected by a live show like I do so many nights of my life was just the cherry on top. All that being said, I am super excited to get back to a show here in Minneapolis. If going to Chicago for a show taught me anything, it’s just how amazing everything is about the live music scene here in the Twin Cities.

Line Up:

Irene Tu

Smoking Popes

Built To Spill


Venue: House of Blues Chicago

Smell-O-Meter: Nothing

Average Age of the Crowd: 42

Crowd Surfers: 3

Mosh-ability: 4 out of 10 (crowds in Chicago apparently suck)

Sausage-Fest Meter: 6 out of 10

Stage Divers: 0

Amount of Beer Spilled On Me While Walking Around: $2 (but it was my own doing)

Broken Bones: None Noticed

Spotted Flying Through The Air: A few bodies

Fights: None Noticed

Pukers: None Noticed

Idiots Taken Out By Security: None

How Many Times I’ve Seen These Bands Before (or at least how many times I can remember):

Irene Tu: 0

Smoking Popes: 1

Built to Spill: 1 Maybe?

Jawbreakers: 1

Celebrity Sightings: None

Overall Score: 7 out of 10

Show on Deck: FUZZ / Floodwater Angel

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