Most of us in our thirties or late twenties cringe at the thought of going to a show on a Sunday night but when it’s a specific band that you have practically killed yourself seeing multiple times in your early twenties or late teens, the decision of going out is definitely with out question. I spent my evening on Sunday, February 25th at the Bottom Lounge in the good ol’ meat packing district of Chicago, Illinois to witness one of my all time favorite bands, American Nightmare with the support of No Warning and Spiritual Cramp.
Bottom Lounge is always a weird spot for me with attending punk shows. The newer location is nothing like its old, dingy one in the Lakeview Neighborhood which is now a CTA platform, but at least it’s cool to have a venue to see such bands than none at all. The crowd wasn’t particularly large, which left an obnoxious hole in the center of the room during the entirety of the show. On some level it felt kinda like an awkward high school dance. Weird.
Spiritual Cramp from San Francisco opened the show. They busted out with so much energy on the stage that I felt many people generally didn’t know how to react to it at first, but I was digging it pretty hardcore right off the bat. They had a strong vintage Power Pop Punk sound reminding me of a similar band from the Bay Area called Culture Abuse. Little did I know at the time that members of Spiritual Cramp and Culture Abuse were once in a blistering hardcore band called All Teeth. The one thing that stood out the most about this was the fucking TAMBOURINE player! Yes, these guys were cranking out some Maximum Tambourine on stage. I surprised this dudes fingers weren’t breaking. I liked Spiritual Cramp’s vibe on stage. They seem to let loose in a “we don’t take ourselves overly serious, let’s have a good fucking time” type of way, which is pretty rad for a hardcore show.
Just after Spiritual Cramp finished their set, I was stopped by the security in the venue informing me of their NO Flash policy. I am not one to really start shit with anyone but I knew since I was singled out, that my chances of slipping in my strobe light was very slim without getting kicked out from the show. Hardcore shows typically require the need for additional lighting when everyone and everything is moving quickly so I felt like my chances of capturing anything were going to royally suck for the remainder of the night.
No Warning from Toronto, Ontario played second. The crowd finally broke up the giant hole in the center of the room with a wave of kids dancing and moshing. The stage diving commenced with the start of the first song. It’s always a pleasure being in the front with camera gear for that, but it finally felt like a hardcore show. I haven’t seen No Warning live since 2002 in Aurora, IL and the time before that at the famous Fireside Bowl in 2001. I really haven’t kept up with their catalog but they still put on a pretty fucking insane live show. Interesting fact about No Warning’s Vocalist Ben Cook – he was once a child actor that appeared on a Canadian TV show with Ryan Gosling as well as appearing as an annoying little shit in an episode of Goosebumps. Youtube it! No Warning just released a new record this last year called Torture Culture. They will be touring in Europe this spring.
Finally, the moment I was waiting for all night came. All the anticipation and excitement was ready to unfold and explode for Boston Hardcore legends, American Nightmare. They hit the stage with the opening song “Hearts” and vocalist Wes Eisold was not even 20 seconds into it before smashing the shit out of the microphone on the stage. I was getting killed in the face repeatedly for a good half of the set by stage divers landing on me, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying myself. The set was structured pretty well with the incorporation of 95% of the songs from their latest Self Titled release that came out this year on Rise Records and the notable jams and sing alongs you would hear from their first full length Background Music and second full length We’re down til we’re underground. Around 3/4 into the set, I jumped in the front with my camera gear to snap a few shot with flash. I figured “Fuck it! The security can’t get me here. HAHA!” It was at that moment they played “I Saved Latin” which is where I fully succumbed to losing my shit screaming the words with my fist in the air right back into the face of vocalist, Wes Eisold.
I have been seeing American Nightmare livepu as far back as the summer of 2001. Every show back then was terrifying but it was the best fucking time when you’re a kid. In that moment my 34 year old self felt 17 again. At the tail end of the set, they played two of my favorite songs from their newest record, “Crisis of Faith” & “Colder than Death”. These are longer and slower songs with a little more of a darker Post Punk feel that seem more natural and evolved than that of what everyone is familiar with in American Nightmare’s traditional Hardcore Punk style and sound.
There’s always going to be that nostalgic piece of American Nightmare that I remember seeing at the Fireside Bowl from the early 2000s, but I am so fucking pumped that they’re making new music that is natural and organic to them and still performing these intense live shows. I can’t wait to hear what comes next from this band. Check out the dark, gothic photos from the show below and be sure to check back for further updates on these bands and much, much more.