Chicago Jam Scene: Sexfist 4.13.10

I had been meaning to head to Rogers Park to see Sexfist for a while. But after spending the first few months I lived in Chicago in that neighborhood, I was intimidated at having to deal with the Morse Red Line stop at night. It is definitely a sketchy place, but it was time that I grew a spine and made it to the Red Line Tap for Chicago's resident bluegrass rippers. Especially because it was their last weekly show at Red Line Tap and it was sure to be a raging scene.


When I got to the Red Line Tap it was pretty empty. I didn't realize it at the time but I pulled up a barstool right next to the guys from Sexfist. I wet my lips on a Honker's Ale and turned around to check out the opening band. They were a bluegrass band called Mad Bread and they were pretty solid. The mandolin man/lead vocalist was a beast, especially when they tore up an awesome cover of Pink Floyd's "Time". I don't know what it is about Pink Floyd, but their songs make for some kickass bluegrass tunes. I turned my barstool back around to re-up on sauce and I realized that they had $3 tallboys of Schlitz. This changed my whole game and I switched beers for the night. It just felt right in this bar. The RLT reminds me of a place I'd drink at in the Upper Peninsula. Severed animal heads tacked to the walls and delightfully shitty beer in huge cans... this place knows what's up. The opening band ended and I finally realized that I was sitting next to Sexfist. I recognized Chuck "The Banjo Behemoth" Oakton and introduced myself, explaining that I was there to take photos and review the show. He was stoked.


The intermission was long and it got hot in the bar as the Sexfist fans began to pile in. The only relief from the heat was an occasional blast of cool air from the stage door being opened. I stuffed a tallboy in the pocket of my flannel shirt and posted up on the wall right in front of the stage. After about 20 minutes, the band finally came out to shred. The band assumed a classic position, clustered around a microphone in the center of the stage. This orientation really seemed to add to the group dynamic of the band-- they are constantly shuffling positions and allowing each other to step to the mic. Their snappy dress clothes and unique huddled approach give this band a classy & sophisticated vibe. The show began with a wild & somewhat jammy "Syracuse" where Chuck boomed his powerful brand of vocals to go with a filthy banjo riff.


Not long after this they slipped into a different gear and laid down a Bill Monroe classic, "Blue Moon". This is as traditional as bluegrass gets and this song featured a killer bassline from Bradley Longwood that seemed to have a little more slap than usual and added a subtle percussive element to the song. After this the band decided to drop a bolt of lightning into the crowd to really get things going. They launched into a sizzling bluegrass version of "Helter Skelter" and set the tempo of the show at a fantastic pace.



The opening set continued to shred on with an Earl Scruggs tune called "Bringin' In The Georgia Mail" that kicked up the tempo and got the crowd steppin'. They brought back their own catalog soon after with a passionate "Carolina Moon". This brought a fresh group of dancing fools to the front of the stage and around this time the venue was totally packed. I could sense some more jammyness in this song and it made me feel good inside. Before I knew it, over an hour had passed and it was time to bring out some guests. The band taking Sexfist's place at RLT, The Mudflapps, came out for a collaboration. They sang one raucous song the lead singer claimed was, "written by drinkers for drinkers." It was exactly how it sounded... a song about getting loaded and having a King Hell good time. This ended with a rowdy cheer from the crowd, who definitely could relate to the subject matter. Chuck then stepped to the mic and announced he had some poetry. It was a touching epic about their love for the RLT and their Rogers Park fans, but a desire to move on and bring the ruckus to another neighborhood. They brought the first set to a close with another shoe melter, "High On The Mountaintop". This song made the crowd go nuts once again and I noticed how appreciative everyone in the crowd seemed to be. It was a mixed bag of very cool & unpretentious people who looked generally like hipsters but ones who would fit in better at Summer Camp than Pitchfork.


By the time the second set rolled back around, I was feeling pretty hosed and so was everyone else. The song "Shadow Of The Man I Used To Be" kicked off the second set with almost flamenco-like guitar courtesy of Clutch Johnson, some sweet & gentle fiddling from Jeffrey Chestnut, and some more thick vocals from Chuck. The crowd was good & greased up and Sexfist had this place hopping way more than necessary for a Tuesday night. A song that must have been called "Lonesome Blues" really stuck out around this time in the show. Mr. Chestnut busted out some wobbly & howling vocals that almost made me feel like I was canoeing in West Virginia and sounded like bluegrass ought to sound.


serious highlight of the entire night popped up around this time of the show. "If you wanna set me freeeeeeeeee, Go Down On Me!" put the crowd in a fantastic mood and made me chuckle the whole time. The lyrics to this song are fucking hilarious and Clutch Johnson completes the mood of this song with some slurry & intoxicated sounding acoustic guitar. The second set raged on and brought me one of the coolest songs I've ever heard. I've already established my love for bluegrass covers, especially of classic rock songs, so when the boys busted out a serious version of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath", I had found my Elysium. I fucking love Jethro Tull and this rendition did the song tremendous justice. I got a video of this song but couldn't help my drunk ass from singing during the song, so it's pretty lame.


Before I knew it, 2:00 am had rolled around and the bar was kicking us out. The band was apparently having way too much fun, however, and decided to carry the concert out to Glenwood Avenue for a little Outdoor Encore. Unfortunately I ran out of room on memory card to record this, but believe me, it was fucking amazing. It didn't take long for the scene to get rowdy and the bar once again had to shoo people along. I was drunk enough to put my head down and beeline it for the Morse L station. I was scared, but I was so charged up from Sexfist I think I could have punched some thug's skull clean off... not really, but I could have ran like hell with "Locomotive Breath" still pumping through my veins.

Sexfist is fucking righteous and they are moving to Jerry's at 1938 W. Division to continue playing weekly Tuesday shows. These guys are doing it the right way and will blow your mind with bluegrass. I will be there tomorrow and I'm looking forward to another ass kicking.

-Frazier
chicagojamscene.com

Comments

  1. Dude, great job. I really wanted to make it out to the Red Line to see Sexfist. Reading your review, I got goosebumps and felt as if I were there. Great job, Frazier!

    -J-man

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  2. Locomotive Breath?!?!? WHaaAAh! Thats probably one of the coolest songs a bluegrass band could ever do. Sounds like I need to get hit in the face with some Sexfist sooner rather than later.

    Good to see some CJS material up on The Headstash. You got a good thing goin' here. Keep it up guys!

    T-Bone

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