Friday, November 6, 2009

My basement band boys grow up to become your must-see band

I guess this is becoming a largely music-themed week on the blog. What can I say? Sometimes I feel like music is up there with food, water, and air. It's essential. I need it to live. I waste away without it. I don't have devoted listening time like I used to when I commuted to work everyday. I've almost been neglecting my music habit, so I binged. I bought a bunch of CDs in the past couple weeks and I got out to see some live music. Last night's show with Social Studies and Love Raid was particularly inspiring and I'll tell you why, along with why you must go see Social Studies if you are in Detroit, Ohio, Boston, Danbury, NYC, or Philly where they are touring over the next couple weeks.

Last week when I visited my high school (and for details about the visit and how it got me reflecting on high school English curriculum, check out my blog entry at Teen Fiction Cafe from yesterday), all the kids had questions about what my real life as a teenager in Oak Park was like. Was it similar to the book? Did I hate Oak Park? Why? What happened?

Yes, I hated Oak Park growing up. Why? It's pretty simple. From day one at school, kids were cruel to me because I didn't adhere to their standards. The diversity claim seemed like bullshit. Sure it was more diverse than other suburbs, but kids who weren't white and privileged were treated like crap. I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere until high school when I started hanging out at Scoville Park. Was my experience at Scoville Park like Kara's? Not entirely. It was a path I could have gone down. I knew some pretty messed-up kids and I *was* a really, really messed up kid myself. I was a depressed girl who escaped in whatever ways she could find. Sometimes these ways were negative (ie. cutting, substances, bad relationships, etc), sometimes they were positive, through music and through a group of friends that had a much brighter impact on my life (unfortunately I pushed them away at times; if I'd been able to work through my issues and spend more time with them, I might have been a happier person).

One aspect of my Oak Park experience that I didn't really bring into Ballads of Suburbia (it was a lot more present in earlier drafts, but since the book *is not* about my life, it faded out as it didn't fit the story) was how huge music was in our lives. It wasn't just about going to shows at the Fireside or other places in the city, or even about driving around listening to music, which was pretty much all we did, it was about all my friends in bands. Almost everyone I hung out with was in a band. I tried to play guitar and form a band at one point because I was just so surrounded by it (but I suck at music, the writing thing is what I do best). I spent so much time after school in people's basement watching someone's band. Almost every guy I dated in high school was a musician (two drummers and a singer/guitarist). There was a show at someone's house or a community center or somewhere almost every weekend.

My favorite local band was these guys, The Slackjaws:

That's Mike on drums in the background, Tom on guitar to the right, and Matt on bass to the left. They were pretty much my favorite pop punk band of the mid-nineties. Seriously. And not just because they were my friends. They were crazy talented and just as good as the bands we listened to back then like Screeching Weasel and The Queers. And they were teenagers. I first saw Tom play a show when he was thirteen with his band the Skexies in my (psycho) ex-boyfriend's basement. He blew the high school kids out of the water. And Mike is the best drummer I've known (and not one of the ones I dated, he's like a little brother). It was always so much fun to watch him play.

This is Mike's current band Social Studies (he's on the right):

I hadn't gotten to see Mike play in over ten years. I'd heard his band Social Studies, downloaded their songs from iTunes, but since they were based out of San Francisco and I'm in Chicago, no such luck. But last night Social Studies embarked on a two week tour of the Midwest and East Coast and they started right here in Chicago. I was quite excited to hear that Tom is playing with them on the tour, since it's also been like ten years since Mike and Tom shared a stage. Also, a Chicago band, Love Raid was opening for them.

I advise my Chicago friends to check out Love Raid whenever they get a chance. I went to high school with the guys in the band, but did not know really them back then. They put on a really great show and I can't wait til they get an album out.

It was an almost surreal experience seeing Social Studies (and I had this same kind of experience seeing Tom's old band Office). I knew how talented these guys were back in high school, watching them play shows in basements, garages and in battle of the bands at community centers. But to see my friends living their dreams in the way I always hoped they would, well I simply can't describe the way it makes me surge with pride. And it was like they were transformed up there. They weren't just my friends, they were an entirely new discovery. Natalia, the woman who sings and plays keyboards for Social Studies has a killer voice and you can't help but dance to their songs which they describe best on their website as "Social Studies tempers the Fiery Furnaces with a love of unadulterated pop songwriting and arms the Decemberists with Casiotones instead of accordions, dropping pop gems that aren’t afraid to be raw and gentle all at the same time."

Seriously, they are ridiculously good, rocking indie pop fun. And if they are coming to your town over the next week or so (tour dates here), do yourself a favor and spend the minimal amount of money to go see them because I have a feeling they are going to be huge and then you can say you knew about them first. I don't publicly go nuts over a ton of bands (Civet would be pretty much the only one I think I've been obsessively telling you guys you must listen to) and I am not doing this because it's my friend's band. Social Studies are much more than that, they are my favorite band of the moment. If you can't see them live, go download some of their songs. They have two for free available on their website here and after that you will want to get their album from iTunes.

Have a good, music-filled weekend!

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