Saturday, February 20, 2010

Smoking Popes Live Upon My Couch

I am old and fat. Perhaps not as old and fat as those who are older and fatter, but old and fat enough that I cannot comfortably stand in the same place for extended durations. Which means that while I don't necessarily love but still can occasionally tolerate the cost/hassle involved with getting to, parking near, getting into, dealing with crowds at and passing off-stage time before & during rock concerts, I no longer can comfortably attend those that don't offer a seating option.

So although I still--and conceivably always will--love rock 'n roll, and love it best in live form, I'm pretty much limited to shows at arenas, stadiums and theaters. Although I usually stand much of the time at those, I can periodically sit if I need to. But unless/until I drop 40 lbs., clubs, festivals and other SRO venues are likely a thing of my past, except when extreme fondness for a certain act convinces me to suffer. But fortunately for me, if perhaps unfortunate for rock 'n roll's future, most of the acts I favor have long-since reached the level of touring seated venues almost exclusively (Springsteen, U2, REM, Paul McCartney, etc.)

I don't know if it's because I'm making less of an attempt to know about them, or if there aren't really that many I should know about, but there doesn't seem to very many acts that make me wish I were younger and fitter enough to go to the Metro, Double Door, Schuba's, Aragon, Pitchfork Music Festival, etc.

Anyway, to get to my real point by way of a crude transition, the Smoking Popes are a punk-pop band hailing from Chicago's far northwest suburbs that I really came to like in the mid-90s. Their 1995 (Born to Quit) and 1997 (Destination Failure) albums were two of my favorites of the post-grunge era, and I saw them live once "back in the day" and--after they went on a long hiatus--in 2007 after their reformation.

When I saw that they would be playing at a new Chicago club called Reggie's Rock Club yesterday and tonight, I took note but didn't rush to get a ticket. I assumed Reggie's to be an SRO venue and already go to more than enough live performances for someone without a job. But when my sister mentioned the Popes' shows, I took another look at the website listing. I considered putting the show on my calendar, but not with much real conviction, but then I saw something interesting accompanying the show listing.

It said that for $1--the show itself was only a $15 entry--you could buy a live feed of the show as it happened, to view on your computer. Or, in my case, as I already have a projector (rather than a TV) connected to my DVD and cable box, upon my wall, simply by connecting the computer to the projector rather than the monitor. So I did.

Mind you, while I have tons of concert DVDs and watch bunches of music clips on YouTube, nothing replicates seeing a band live. And I urge those of you with the fortitude, to forever support live music. But given that my set-up allowed much better comfort and image size than watching on my computer, that the "as it happened" aspect gave it an important sense of immediacy, and that webcast technology has gotten pretty good with the necessary bandwidth to eliminate most (but not all) buffering stalls, for someone old & fat, who would've skipped the show or gone alone, thereby devoting 6+ hours to a show where the headliner played for 75 minutes, watching the Smoking Popes live upon my couch was pretty damn good.

This is short video clip I shot of the show upon my wall; if I didn't tell you it wasn't shot live at Reggie's I doubt you would know the difference:

Sure, I should've been walking on my treadmill while the show was on, so as to lose those 40 lbs., but I had already done so while watching the Rolling Stones and Nirvana on my wall (from DVD) earlier in the day. Anyway, not that I universally applaud technology that makes us anti-social, but this really worked out well and I'd happily watch other shows this way again. Besides, club shows in Chicago aren't the same now that you don't come home smelling like an ash tray.

(One brief note: after signing up for the live-stream, I didn't get the confirmation email I was promised, so I called Reggie's. Far from the mono-syllabic interaction history had led to me expect when calling bars & nightclubs, I spoke to a guy who was really nice and explained that I didn't need the email. He also revealed that Reggie's does have a balcony with some seating, so that I could conceivably comfortably attend shows there in person, and I look forward to doing so. Especially if the couch isn't an option;)

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