Mike Felumlee is a busy man. Besides drumming for The Smoking Popes, fronting The Bigger Empty, and helping run Dodgeball Records, he also does a bi-weekly video series called ‘Live from the Rock Room’ that showcases bands who tour through (or are from) the Chicagoland area. Just writing that was exhausting; I don’t know how he does it. On top of all that, this year Live from the Rock Room decided to host on a two day festival where Smoking Popes headlined both days and played a couple of their more iconic albums in full. We made our way down to Bottom Lounge on a Friday to catch Day One which also featured Red City Radio, The Dopamines, and Kali Masi.
I was stoked to finally see Kali Masi live. I listened to their newest album, Wind Instrument, late last year and didn’t hate it, which is always a pretty good sign for me. And they did not disappoint tonight. Between them absolutely shredding live and Red City Radio’s Ryan Donovan repeatedly whispering in my ear about how good they are their entire set, I remain sold on this band. Gold star, will see again.
The Dopamines staggered to the stage next. I will say that for a bunch of drunks, those dudes are solid live. I’ve documented in the past my struggles with making it to see The Dopamines when they played near me, so this is only the second time I have ever seen them live ever. And both times they played “Business Papers,” so color me happy. They took frequent breaks between songs to complain about being old and talked about how they had been drinking in the van since 10AM. Anyway, I gave Jon Lewis a high five in the bathroom later, so I’ve got that going for me.
I was real pissed when I found out Red City Radio wouldn’t be on The Lawrence Arms tour a few months back, but was immediately pleased to learn it was because they would be playing this show instead. I have been itching to see them since they put out the excellent “SkyTigers” earlier this year, and they didn’t disappoint playing three out of the five songs off the EP. I was crossing my fingers hardest for “In the Shadows,” and even though Garrett Dale didn’t whisper the “It’s Coming” part mid-song, the song fucking rips just as much live as it does on the record. This was the time of the night when I started to feel all the drinks I was guzzling down, because I remember screaming along to “In the Meantime” in my best Garrett voice loud enough to be heard over the music (and we all know I only get that loud when I’m drunk) to my disapproval of my girlfriend. I thought it was funny. Story of my life.
So, I have a confession to make. I have no longstanding association with The Smoking Popes. I’m not from Chicago. I didn’t grow up listening to them. Honestly, the only reason I have even heard the name ‘The Smoking Popes’ is because Mike started a new band (The Bigger Empty) and La Escalera Records in San Diego put out a couple of their EPs. That’s it. So, as an unbiased review of their show from someone who would be picked for the jury if this was a murder trial, they were okay. They were killing what they were doing and looked like they were having a great time doing it. The entire sold out Bottom Lounge was pumped, singing along to every song and sweating on every surface of the venue. Hell, they even had Brendan Kelly dad dancing in the crowd (it involved a lot of finger pointing). I had fun watching everyone have fun. Did seeing them live make me want to go out and immediately memorize every song off every album in their discography? No. Was I happy I got the chance to see a piece of Chicago punk rock history play in front of me? Yes. Would I see them again? Yeah, probably.
We left the venue and headed to meet Ryan Donovan, Garrett Dale, and friends at the GMan Tavern. Things started to get hazy. $2 shots were had. I think I gave Garrett a piggy back ride. Then I ate a hot dog and went home early because I had to work on Saturday morning. All in all, it was awesome to check out some new bands I’ve been wanting to hear and old bands I always love to see come through town.
Check out the gallery below: