I was fortunate enough to get to see a handful of Naked Raygun shows back in the day. Along with Sludgeworth, Screeching Weasel, The Vindictives, Big Black, and all the other beloved late 80's/early 90's Chicago punk bands Raygun provided a full-throttle soundtrack to my teenage years. When I heard that they were playing (yet) another reunion show I secured a ticket (thanx Nate) and quickly booked a flight back to the middle of west. I'm still kicking myself for missing Riotfest, and couldn't live with myself for missing this one.
I was amazed that there were still tickets available (for the late show) at the door. Ms. Dena tagged along in hopes of scoring a ticket from a scalper, but just walked up to the ticket booth 15 minutes before show time and scored one. She didn't even have to pay the damned Ticketmaster service fee - I guess it pays to procrastinate.
First off, House of Blues sucks ass. I'm used to non-smoking venues, but all of them out here in DC allow you to go outside for a cigarette - not HoB. Granted, after my 4th $5 can of Bud I discovered the super-secret smoking lounge - The men's room. Everyfuckingbody was smoking in there. Once I saw two of the security staff guys smoking among the crowd, I figured that it was fair game and grabbed one quick Winston before heading back out for the rock.
I have no idea why the show wasn't held at The Riv or some other larger "classic" Chicago venue. HoB just seemed like an extraordinarily odd place to hold an olde-tyme Chi-Punk show. Go figger.
Onto the show - The Bollweevils started off the show. I've seen these guys a bunch of times, and got to know Darryl and Ken from the 7DA days (Ken was in Callaghan, one of the bands on my record label). They're great guys, but I never really have been the biggest Bollweevils fan. It was good to see them again, but I was only half there.
The Dillinger Four were up next (members of Billingsgate, Cleveland Bound Death Sentence, and Scooby Don't) . I've found that you either love D4 or HATE them (I'm way over on the "love" side), and the crowd was a pretty even mix of the two factions. It doesn't help that Pat is one of the biggest loud-mouths ever to stand behind a microphone - His stage banter is hilarious, but only if you're on his side. I've haven't seen so many projectiles hurled at a band since the Elgin Turners shows back in the day. D4 was fairly sauced by the time they took the stage, but put on one hell of a great set. I could have happily watched them play for another hour or more.
The Special Guest turned out not to be a band. I had heard rumors of every damned old Chicago band being the "special guest". Pegboy, Ben Weasel, Vindictives, Smoking Popes, Shellac, Out of Order, and a shit load of other bands were mentioned as the possible "mystery guest", but none of them played - More on this later.
Naked Raygun took the stage, to the surprise of the crowd that was expecting another band before Raygun. As the first few chords were played I realized that this was totally worth the 750 mile commute and all of the HoB bullshit. There isn't anywhere else I would have rather been at that moment. Raygun busted out an incredible set - the lineup was exactly as it was on the 1990 "Raygun, Naked Raygun" album (Pezzati, Kedzy, Spicer, & Stephens).
About 45 minutes into the set, out walked Jake Burns, the lead singer of Stiff Little Fingers (a '70s era Irish punk band). Raygun had covered one of their songs (Suspect Device) on Jettison. Jake took over the mic and sang Suspect Device and another SLF song, Alternative Ulster. It was FUCKING AWESOME. Apparently, Jake moved to Chicago a few years back and has been hanging out with the NR boys. Story is that he's extremely grateful that Raygun covered Suspect Device and turned a bunch of their fans into SLF fans (worked for me) - Now they're all buddies.
Raygun finished up the set and took a break before the encore - Just enough time for a piss and a smoke in the men's room. When they came back out they played a couple more songs and then...
Fucking Dan Schafer (aka: Dan Vapid - Screeching Weasel, Sludgeworth, Riverdales, Queers, Mopes, & Methadones) came out and launched into my favorite song of all-time, the Sludgeworth anthem "Someday". I saw Sludgeworth open up for Raygun at the Riv back in '91 or '92, but I never would have imagined that Raygun would play that song with Vapid at the helm. It's like a rock-geek jerk-off fantasy come true - Okay, I'm at a Raygun reunion show and then everything stops and then out comes Dan Vapid and he starts singing "Someday" with Raygun on back-up and then all the beer becomes free and then all of the Suicide Girls show up and start making out with me and then... It's fucking ridiculous - but it actually happened (sans the free booze and Suicide Girls). I was in full-on drooling fanboy mode.Here's photographic proof that I wasn't hallucinating the whole damned thing.
Raygun played a couple more songs and wrapped everything up. It was one of the best shows I've been to - Period.
Afterwards I was so jazzed-up that Dena and I met Kathy up at the Continental (a late-night bar) - We closed that fucker down. Then I got to ride a Vespa back to Kathy's through the deserted streets of West-side Chicago. We didn't want to wake up her man, so we drank on her porch until the bright morning Sun chased me inside to the guest bed.
It was on hell of a fucking night. Y'all shoulda been there. But you weren't (unless you were), so you can eat it.