After 20 years in the game, the Lawrence Arms are a full-on Chicago punk institution | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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After 20 years in the game, the Lawrence Arms are a full-on Chicago punk institution

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The Lawrence Arms were born out of the same suburban punk network that gave us Slapstick, Alkaline Trio, and Rise Against, and for the past two decades they’ve been working to become the quintessential Chicago band. The trio’s aesthetic is so specific and well-worn that it can come across as self-parody: three white dudes, including one with a pretty voice and one with a boozy rasp, sing loud, anthemic punk songs that name-drop various Chicago intersections, bars, and venues and glorify the downtrodden working-class misfits of the midwest. The Lawrence Arms have become celebrities in their microcosm of Chicago punk, spawning countless copycats, and this hometown love is well deserved—when it comes down to it, they’re a fucking good band. Bassist Brendan Kelly growls through the pop-punk bangers while guitarist Chris McCaughan handles the smooth, sensitive tunes, and every song is ridiculously fun and catchy. The Lawrence Arms make no-frills, to-the-point punk-rock albums, including their latest record, 2014’s Metropole, but they’ve also dabbled in over-the-top conceptual excess, such as the 2003 opus The Greatest Story Ever Told. In 2015 they launched their own annual three-day mini festival, the War on X-Mas, and the band’s nightly performances there are often the only times they play Chicago all year. Each bill is also full of like-minded acts, offering fans a chance to celebrate and revel in the legacy of Chicago pop punk. Twenty years is a long time to grind it out as a punk trio in this town, but the Lawrence Arms still own—and something tells me they’ll keep bringing it for years to come. With a formula this airtight, why stop now?   v

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