After leaving the Charter One Pavilion At Northerly Island (formerly Chicago’s Meigs Field for you history buffs out there), I only had one thought left… I haven’t seen a rock show like that in a LONG time!
So, here’s what led to this singular thought as I jockeyed for position in the over-crowded over-sold parking lot. I had been speaking with Cage The Elephant‘s front of house engineer Bruce Wheeler on the phone since we brought the band on as endorsers at about this time last year. We never met face to face, so that was objective number one for my visit to the venue on the lake. I was also granted the opportunity to interview Matt and Brad Shultz, the two brothers from Cage and get some live shots of the band in action via one of our favorite local Chicago photographers Karen Hoyt. For the record, the band was certainly “in action” that night, but we’ll get into that in a moment.
I met up with Mr. Wheeler in the parking lot and we proceeded to head towards the band’s bus for the interview. I had brought along a UHF-R Wireless system for the band’s bass player Daniel Tichenor to try out… it seems the cord from the bass and the cord from front man Matt Shultz’s SM58 are getting into an unhealthy knot throughout the show. See the band live and you’ll understand why, Matt is not one for standing still nor staying on the actual stage for very long.
Once on the bus I met the band and the rest of the crew, all very polite and inviting of the new comer to their traveling domain. The brothers Shultz grabbed some couch and we let the camera roll for a quick interview on the beginnings of the band, the tour, the new album and all of the Shure mics one will find on the Cage stage. Look for this interview on our MySpace page very soon…
I let the guys get back to pre-show rituals and preparations and joined one of our Applications gurus, Tim Vear for some wireless trouble shooting with Cage’s monitor engineer on the stage. I got a call earlier that day about some trouble he was experiencing with wireless interference while sharing the stage with Stone Temple Pilots. I suggested he speak with the expert on all things wireless, Tim Vear to solve the issue. Next thing I know, Tim is on his way to the venue, problem solving apparatus in hand to come to the rescue. There was definitely a lot going on… antennas on the stage, a gigantic concave LED light wall for the STP portion of the show, and of course the Sears/Willis Tower and its looming antennas all can certainly create a situation for anyone wanting to join in the spectrum with a wireless product.
Low and behold, Tim saved the day and it’s safe to say Jay the monitor engineer was grateful and learned a thing or two in the process.
The backstage area was beginning to shift into show mode, so I headed to the front of the stage to catch Fang Island from Brooklyn, NY. There are lots of good things coming out of the east coast these days, especially Brooklyn, and Fang Island can certainly be added to the list of “good things.” The sound is very orchestrated and artsy… Wikipedia calls it math rock and the band describes the sound as “everyone high-fiving everyone.” The band blazed through their 45 minute warm up slot at break neck speed as the outdoor venue began to fill with a mixed bag of seasoned STP fans and Cage The Elephant die hards.
The stage was at a fever pitch as Fang Island left and Cage The Elephant was there momentarily to replace them. Almost instantly, at the first crack of the snare drum and the first strum of the guitar, frontman Matt Shultz began frantically convulsing and delivering his frenzied vocals to the audience packed at the front of the stage. He soon joined them in one of several stage dive/crowd surfing moments, and this would become the routine for the rest of the set. The band’s stage tech had perhaps the most interesting duty of all for the evening… fishing a 100′ cable through the crowd, which was attached to an SM58 being held by Matt as he floated above the masses tossing him around like a half inflated beach ball.
My favorite moment of the evening was one of pure rock chaos one seldom is witness to these days. As Cage approached the end of their set, Brad Shultz sensed failure in the guitar he’d been vigorously strumming throughout the evening and abruptly shoved it to the stage floor where it bounced and seemingly clutched the side of the amp it landed next to, begging for a second chance to perform. Brad obligingly grabbed the guitar by the neck, strapped it on and gave it a strum… nothing. At this point the guitar was removed and holding the body of the guitar, Brad cracked the neck across the front of his amp and tossed the guitar to its final resting place amongst the pedals and cords that accompany the rest of his rig. Without skipping a beat he rushed to the front of the stage taking in the thunderous cheers that followed his rock n’ roll spectacle and soon joined his brother in the crowd surfing ritual.
Once back on stage the brothers Shultz continued to get the now packed venue wound up and ready for STP. Matt bounced around the stage kicking and flailing while his band continued to bound through the set closer. Brad had now taken position behind drummer Jared Champion, and with a drum stick he pilfered from the spare stick bag, began to crack away on the crash cymbal until the band hit the last note and abruptly left the stage and the screaming masses at the foot of it.
Once back stage, I congratulated the guys on a great set, as did the DeLeo brothers from Stone Temple Pilots. I talked to Brad about the guitar incident, and it turned out that it was one of his favorite guitars. As Cage The Elephant wound down in their dressing room, STP was just about to hit the stage and I was told to check the show out from the crowd to truly appreciate the LED light show and sound coming from this now legendary band. I did. It was all that I was told it would be and the crowd was hanging on every note.
Towards the end of the evening, as STP was finishing their hit list, I began to say my goodbyes and firm up any last minute details back stage. I ran into Mr. and Mrs. De Leo, the parents of the brothers DeLeo from STP. They seemed to really be enjoying the show, and I commented to Mrs. DeLeo, “The boys sound great tonight, they still got it.” To which she replied, “I know, they sure do.”
This was a good night for rock n’ roll and as the rain began to sprinkle the crowds heading to the parking lots and to their respective vehicles, I joined them to jockey for position out of the one exit in existence that lead to the road home. Clearly my ALL ACCESS pass was not going to get me anywhere in this situation.