In December of 2015, I was standing outside the Double Door in Chicago smoking a cigarette. I needed a break from the sweaty mess that was happening inside. It had been a whirlwind few days filled with plenty of Malört, a metric shit ton of good friends, and The Lawrence Arms. This was the first War on Xmas. As I stood out in the cold exhausted from three days of non stop partying, something wet and cold hit me square in the face, knocking the cigarette from my hand. I looked up and saw two kids on the train station above, laughing as they rained down snowballs on the unsuspecting smokers below. I decided right then and there, I’m moving to this fucking town.
Cut to two years later and here I am, an official Chicago resident. With my new residency comes the opportunity to attend new shows without having to take time off work and fly halfway across the country. Ian’s Party in January. Riot Fest in September. Punk Rock Pig Roast also in September. And of course, The War on Xmas in December. Now in it’s third year of existence, the War on Xas is Double Door-less (R.I.P.) for the first time, opting instead to split time between smaller Cobra Lounge for the first night, and the Bottom Lounge for the next two.
The bad thing about having a three day party like this in the city I live in is that, well, I live here. Which means I got to work. Night one of War on Xmas was on a school night, so I had to take it (relatively) easy. Which meant instead of a Double Big Gulp full of whiskey, I settled for a Super Big Gulp. Kendra came and picked me up to head to David’s for a quick pre-game drink before we all hoped in a Lyft, bound for the show. Apparently word on the street is Cobra Lounge actually has some delicious food, and after a quick discussion, David and I landed on splitting the “bucket of meat.” Pretty sure that’s not what it was actually called, but that’s what was brought to our table. And you know what? It was good. It was real good.
This isn’t a Yelp review on the Cobra Lounge’s food though and it was time for the music. Starting off the debauchery was Chicago’s Fuck You, Idiot, who were always one of those bands I wanted to check out strictly because their name is awesome, but then I just kind of forgot to do that. Super fucking professional music journalist. Anyway, just like our bucket of ribs, Fuck You, Idiot were great. They got the crowd into the Christmas spirit by throwing out presents between songs, such as an eye pad (get it?), signed copies of The Lawrence Arms records (signed by who though?), a burned copy of The Lawrence Arms at the Fireside Bowl in 1999 (I got that one), and a square F.Y.I. pin that if you got it, Toby Jeg of ‘Red Scare Records’ would pay your bar tab. Merry fucking Christmas, you filthy animals.
The Ridglands were up next, a band I was vaguely familiar with from the Punk Rock Pig Roast in Blue Island earlier in the year. I say vaguely because yes I saw them play it, but I was all very drunk by that point. Well now I got to see them soberish and they were pretty fucking tight! They brought along their own Christmas spirit in the form of a cardboard cutout of Cher wearing a Santa hat that I know you already know got crowd surfed around the room. It was weird getting kicked in the head and turning around to see Holiday Cher’s dead eyes staring you in the face.
The Cobra Lounge isn’t exactly the biggest venue, so it was feeling pretty crowded by the time The Lawrence Arms took the stage. I was curious to see how the Arms were going to make this show different than the last time I was at War on Xmas, since you know, they play three nights and they only have so many songs in their repertoire. The simple answer is: they don’t really. And it doesn’t fucking matter. Tonight they played heavily off Cocktails and Dreams and The Greatest Story Ever Told, with a Crimpshine cover thrown in there for good measure. The crowd chanted ‘Hen-nes-sy’ and a Christmas tree was crowd surfed. It was more or less the exact same thing as War on Xmas Year 1 (and I’m assuming Year 2) but amplified in the much smaller room. And it was still amazing. The Lawrence Arms are just one of those bands that I will never get tired of seeing play live. Plus, if you think about it, they are playing roughly 54 or so different songs over three nights. When they play anywhere else, it is basically 16-18 go-to live songs. War on Christmas is the other 37 or so songs you will never get to hear outside of your phone speakers, except on these special three days. Trust me, I did the math or whatever.
That was basically it. It was a Thursday, so not a lot of people were willing to party including myself. Kendra and David both took the next day off, so they were ready to fucking go hard, but I was ready for a nap to get me through the next day. Friday was my go hard day. After sitting around and having a couple drinks to try and figure out exactly what to do, we eventually just all took a Lyft home and I fell asleep slightly later than I wanted to. It was an anticlimactic end to a great night, but honestly I didn’t fucking care. There was still plenty of time to party over the next couple days. Or so I thought.
TO BE CONTINUED…
P.S. Shout out to Chel Boren over at the Cobra Lounge for being the best. That is all.
** below photos by Patrick Houdek
** below photos by Kendra Sheetz