LIVE: Lost Years, Still Alive, La Armada, A Wilhelm Scream @ Subterranean, Chicago

By Jim Howes

When I heard that one of my favorite local bands (Lost Years) was opening for one of my favorite national bands (A Wilhelm Scream)–around New Year’s, no less–I was severely stoked. So, I saved some New Year’s cheer, put it in my back pocket, and patiently waited to ring in 2015 right, jumping around and yelling with some of my favorite people to some of my favorite tunes.

After doing my standard pre-show ritual of chugging iced coffee and blasting Every Time I Die, I made my way up to Subterranean, a venue where I seem to end up weekly. I had seen A Wilhelm Scream (AWS) at Subterranean back in the Spring, and I think the venue’s intimate, divey feel suits them, their sound, and their crowd well.

I arrived promptly at 8:24 pm, and began double-fisting Miller High Life in preparation for Lost Years’ set. Hailing from Gary, IN (and in one part from Chicago), Lost Years have become a great deal tighter and more refined in the 8 months since I started seeing them. This was the best I’ve heard them sound live, and they seared through a short-but-sweet set of old and new songs. Frontman/guitarist Ryan Davis leads Lost Years through sets of rust-and-beer-soaked pop punk anthems that toe the line between the grit of Iron Chic and the pop sensibility of State Champs.

Next up were Still Alive, who immediately opened up a circle pit, which immediately cost me one of my beers and a few of my friends their footing. Such is life. A Chicago band, Still Alive play d-beat hardcore punk with ska breaks, and kind of sound like they grew up listening to a combination of Choking Victim and 311 (“This is Leftover Crack’s fault, isn’t it?”–an anonymous friend). It sounded great for what it was, it’s just that what it was isn’t really something that I’m into. Such is life.

Onward to La Armada, Chicago-based latino hardcore dudes. I didn’t know what to expect from these guys, but I can say that I was actually really impressed. They do a combination–albeit a sort of spastic one–of Converge-style skronk, No Zodiac-style slamcore (complete with movie dialogue samples), and early Metallica. At one point, the song broke into a spooky guitar bridge that was straight vintage Kirk Hammett, and I uncontrollably yelled “OHHHH!” (“If the movie ‘Airheads’ were made in 2015, this band would be the subject.”–an anonymous friend). The same part of me that likes Guy Fieri, Kid Rock, and Outback Steakhouse LOVED this band.

The night had worn on, and I had worn through myself with continued double-fisting of Miller High Life, and it was time for AWS to take the stage. In typical AWS fashion, they immediately started ripping through songs, and the crowd went absolutely bat shit insane. I proceeded to jump around like an idiot and scream along to all the hits. This brings me to one of my favorite things about AWS: They really know how to put together a set list. Aware of the fact that “what’s your favorite album?” is a contentious issue among fans, they do a good job of playing a good mix of songs from across their discography. All the while humble and grateful that their fans are there to see them, they fly through the most technical of songs carefree, nailing all of the fills, guitar runs, and signature layered harmonies. Of all of the shows I go to, AWS shows are some of the most enthusiastic crowd-wise, and I can’t help but think that a huge part of this is how deftly the band handles all of the aforementioned things. When Nuno Pereira belted out the last few lines of “Check Request Denied,” backed by the voices of nearly everyone in the crowd, I think everyone felt a deep sense of satisfaction at what they had just experienced, whether they were decade-long or first-time showgoers.