It was a test to see just how dedicated their fan base remains -- despite the Chicagoans' not touring or putting out any records in the past four years.
The dedication remains.
Local outfit Sink the Bismark took the Firebird stage first. Their tightly-wound, pop-punk melodies quickly burned through their stage time. This seemed to warm the half-frozen cliques in the club; people began to spread out across the venue instead of huddling together as if sitting around high school lunch tables.
Australian knights of metal Lord provided a change of pace on the heavy pop punk bill. The crowd nodded along to the crash-kick-crash drums and were driven to frenzy by the hornet swarms of guitar. Neil Hennessy, drummer of the Lawrence Arms, filled in on rhythm guitar. Though he looked out of place, he fit right in sonically and enjoyed himself.
Red Scare label mates the Holy Mess were the last to warm the crowd and stage. Following in the Philly sound tradition of Lifetime, as well as the stage banter of the headliners, they fit the bill proper. Between their anthems of life and the pursuit of rock they pondered the whereabouts of important pillars of society like the best (read dirtiest) strip clubs and Imo's pizza. People in the middle of the crowd switched between swilling PBR, to faux moshing, and then to updating Facebook from their phones in the span of 15 seconds.
After the trio from Chicago set up, the club went dark. Miley Cyrus blared from the speakers. An unexpected intro maybe, but fitting for a set populated by jokes about genitalia and pedophiles. Midway through the first song, the crowd had completed the transformation from individual frozen globs to an amorphous mass of beer-soaked hands, feet and screams. Hopefully no one was trying to update Facebook because thumbs were held over the holes of PBR cans and drunks made it rain like punk Cristal.
Like true drunks, there were a few musical hiccups but these were more than made up for by the sheer enthusiasm of Brendan Kelly. He careened across the stage spilling his charisma everywhere, though his vocal counterpoint Chris McCaughan stared into the nothing for most of the set. Only at the encore did he turn his mic to face Brendan's à la the "Oh! Calcutta!" tour. Most of the set was culled from that album and they did not reach back any further than the "Present Day Memories" EP.
The band lived up to its reputation for witty banter. After the crowd serenaded the group for an encore with "Lets Go Cardinals!" Brendan returned with a riposte: "As you continue to bring superior baseball to our town, we will continue to bring yours superior punk rock."