The last thing this world needed was another cover band, especially one as ugly as the Chicago Sound. But these guys elevate their run-of-the-mill bar-band shittiness with their unabashed high-concept buffoonery. A predetermined set of about eight classic-rock songs that might include anything from Judas Priest's "You've Got Another Thing Coming" to the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" plays through the monitors so that only the band can hear it. What the audience hears is ten drunk idiots (dressed in spandex pants, pit-stained Journey T-shirts, bandannas, and rocker wigs) jamming along on untuned instruments (mostly guitars) like it's the good ol' days, before you could fit a computer in your house. Set lists tend to be organized thematically: highlights of "Tribute to the Cowbell" included an impromptu thump-along by five guys during Def Leppard's "Foolin'," while for "Night of 100 Beers" the band had about 27 minutes to spray or drink 100 cans of Stroh's. (By the end of the performance one of the guitarists had sprained his ankle.) Songs never really start or stop--there's just a bunch of squealy noise, then occasionally an almost identifiable chorus. But though the project might seem like a colossal in-joke, especially considering the personnel--U.S. Maple's Todd Rittman and head Flying Luttenbacher Weasel Walter (who also happens to be my roommate), plus members of bands such as 7000 Dying Rats, Panicsville, Velcro Lewis & His 100 Proof Band, and Hott Lixx--it's really an all-inclusive celebration of the Inner Jackass. (They've even inspired a bunch of guys in Pennsylvania to start a Pittsburgh Sound.) Audience members become part of the show, singing and doing hesher karate kicks along with the band; once the guys get too smashed to care, they start passing around their instruments and sharing their beer. It's a giant free-for-all in which anyone within ten feet of the stage ends up wet and girls actually lift up their shirts when some slob yells, "Show us your tits!" After five years it keeps getting funner, but unfortunately, with Walter splitting town at the end of the month, this will probably be the last we hear of the Chicago Sound. Wednesday, January 15, 7 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Yasmin Fatah.