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Show Review

The Fifth Annual War on Xmas: Night 1 – Lawrence Arms, The Flatliners, & Q&A Panel in Chicago, IL

Keeping it Healthy

Photo: Kendra Sheetz

Kaylin and I were standing in an alley just outside of Chop Shop, Kombucha bottles in hand, when Hot Sauce Kyle sauntered by. “Hey man! Just keeping it healthy!” we declared as he made his way into the venue for the Fifth Annual War on X-Mas. We were not keeping it healthy. My “Cayenne Cleanse” Kombucha was actually Vodka and White Grape flavored seltzer water and it was disgusting. It tasted like a bootleg dollar store cough syrup. My initial though process when I saw the ‘White Grape’ flavor was “oooh, I wonder what this tastes like?” completely oblivious to the fact that Grape is already a flavor that I have had and despised. The Fifth Annual War on Myself had begun.

We left our outside drinks in the alley, and made our way into the venue for the subtitled night “Grandma’s House.” Mike Park was supposed to be hosting a kind of Q&A thing, but he had to bail out at the last minute due to illness. We were promised a “litany of spectacular surprise guests” to now host the Q&A, and as we walked into the venues back room, were greeted with Deanna Belos of Sincere Engineer (Yay!) and Intruder Green of Masked Intruder. They brought out and began to interview The Lawrence Arms, Intruder Green podcast style, which I learned was an unfortunate thing. Deanna’s awkward charm couldn’t cancel out Intruder Green’s painful humor filtered through his shitty fake New Jersey accent. We lasted about five minutes before we found ourselves back in the alley drinking with newly arrived Minnesota friends Tim Andrews and Kristin Kaley.

Back inside with a fresh Chop Shop approved drink in hand (we are not complete scum bags) we made our way to the front for The Flatliners, throats ready to scream “Yeeeeeeeeeeeah, I hang my head” at each other. We didn’t have to wait long. The Flat’s must have heard our battle cry and opened with the polyp inducing song. Other than that, it was a pretty standard set pulling mostly from their last three releases, including Kaylin’s favorite “Filthy Habits” off Cavalcade. Speaking of Cavalcade, The Flatliners are so fucking good live and this cemented the idea of figuring out a way to get to San Diego in May to see them perform the album in full. It’s one of the best album of the decade, even if the 2-Kools-4-Skool kids want to say Dead Language is better. They are wrong. Idiots.

I was curious to see what The Lawrence Arms, in their fifth year of playing three days of shows with no new music to speak of would do to keep things fresh. Short answer is: absolutely fucking nothing. They came out playing the same handful of songs they’ve been playing five years running. Basically if it made it onto their Best Of album, We Are the Champions of the World, they played it during War on X-Mas. I love The Lawrence Arms, and I love being able to watch them play live once a year, so whatever. Although with the benefit of hindsight, Night One of War on X-Mas 5 was my least favorite set.

Spoiler alert: according to the set list, Night 2 looked like the best night, but that is another story for another day (tomorrow, probably). The good news though is that they completely did away with the stupid fucking encore and closed the night with two of my favorite songs, “Great Lakes/Great Escape” and “Hey, What Time is ‘Pensacola Wings of Gold’ on Anyway?”

Ugh. Night One was over what with it being a Thursday and all. There were plenty of options to keep the night going with after parties and whatnot, but I’m in my 30s and had work in the morning! The full on rage partying and Statue of Liberty Shots would have to wait for Friday and Saturday.

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