Event Review: Pegboy
Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
It is a testament to the intertwining legacies of the punk bands Pegboy and Naked Raygun that The Empty Bottle was packed to view a bill highlighted by Pegboy. The bill also featured Dillinger 4 and The Arrivals. A young band, the Arrivals' performance certainly warranted converts to their fold; young punk veterans Dillinger 4, with roots in both Chicago and Minnesota, brought in a small but geeked group of followers. It was Pegboy, however, the keepers of Chicago punk's flame in the early nineties, formed by defectors from the even more highly regarded 1980's group Naked Raygun, that stirred up a the most excitement with a rare performance, their first in front of a hometown crowd in a year.
Naked Raygun was a force for many years making rhythmically tight, rapid, Y-chromosome punk music with hooks. Their beer swilling, anti-sex, anti-enthusiasm fun ended in 1989, when guitarist John Haggarty left to form Pegboy with his brother Joe, a drummer. The group gained momentum in the 1990's, touring constantly and working with highly regarded alternative music producer Steve Albini. Their music is witty, self-aware, and almost always self-loathing. The current lineup features the Haggarty brothers, singer/guitarist Larry Damore, and bassist Pierre Kezdy.
1997's Cha Cha Demore was their last album, and April 12th's performance is a good indicator that age (possibly maturity) is the reason for the minuscule number of live performances over the last few years. Lead singer Larry Damore explained to the audience that he's been playing with Pegboy for "over fifty-six years," and he's tired. Damore was tired. He could only play guitar for a couple of songs before giving it up out of exhaustion. He was covered in sweat and barely able to stand up. Getting drunk and playing a set is certainly a younger man's pursuit for a reason.
It would be an easy assumption that a punk band of wheezing, sweaty guys in their late thirties would be depressing. Pegboy's set, however, was electric. The group fed off an enthusiastic, loving audience, and did everything in their power to blow the place apart. Singer Larry Damore was clearly suffering under the lights, but he still managed to scrape up enough energy for each rapid song. Through the buckets of sweat and the panting for air, Damore was extremely charismatic and vibrant. The band utilized the raucous crowd, nicely frothed by the previous band Dillinger 4, and gave the sell-out audience their money's worth.
The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney aside, the idea that rock musicians can age is a strange notion to consider. The aesthetic of punk music, especially, does not allow for gray hairs and maturity; it's hard to be dignified and randomly pissed at the same time. In reality, though, the prospect of aging is fairly maddening, and for most of us the passing of years only breeds more and more bitterness about the world around us.
Much of Pegboy's music over the last decade has centered upon the battles, stupid, destructive, melodramatic, and otherwise, that a man wages on himself. Sweating, falling down, about to die on stage at the empty bottle, Larry Damore and the rest of Pegboy (but especially Damore) were visual aides to go right along with the music. It was a multimedia performance. Damore's banter with the audience in between songs demonstrated that he was aware of what it looked like to the audience. But, along with being a vibrant, drunken riot of a show that definitely delivered the goods, the whole performance was true. There's nothing more punk, you motherf***er, than the truth. Go Pegboy.
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