Monday, April 03, 2006

Smoking Popes play Clearwater

Pop punk royals, the Smoking Popes, fronted by Elgin's Josh Caterer, play their greatest hits to a nostalgic sold-out audience at Dundee's Clearwater Theater.

It's Friday. With no concerts scheduled in Carpentersville or Lake in the Hills, where the Caterer brothers grew up, or Algonquin, where they went to school, or Elgin, where Josh Caterer lives, this is as close as the Smoking Popes are going to get to a hometown audience.

"How many of you went to school with one of the band members on stage?" Josh asks, and a third of the hands go up. Later when they do "You Spoke To Me" and he sings the line, "I came all the way from Carpentersville..." Screams and hollers and signage in the audience. It's a great night to be from Carpentersville.

Matt's got the rock star thing down to the leather pants. He tosses his pick into the audience. He kicks a leg onto the speaker, sweeps and swoops his arm down against the four strings of his bass, bounces his bald head. The girls love it.

The Popes' present incarnation includes the three Caterer brothers--as it did originally, but the original drummer has been replaced with Rob Kellenberger of Elgin bands Slapstick and Colossal, as well as Duvall. Kellenberger can take on a 10-man drumline, and because of him, the Smoking Popes sound better now than ever.

Maybe it's more than that. The Popes were always great musicians, but perhaps the 7-year hiatus has made them even better. The ambivalence about a rock and roll lifestyle, the self-doubt that marred some of their performances in the 90's, that fractured relations with their record label, and ultimately led to Josh's born again experience and the breakup of the band is gone. Now you see a rock band that knows what it wants and loves what it's doing.

The Popes opened with "Pure Imagination," and by the time they walk off the stage, they've done "Rubella" and "Need You Around"--two hits for which they recorded MTV videos, "Paul," "Megan"--one of the sweetest punk ballads ever, "Writing a Letter"--the song that convinced Mrs. Caterer they would make it as a rock band, and "I Know You Love Me"--the greatest song in the Christian punk canon, if there's such a thing.

The stage is now empty. But the audience isn't going anywhere. Suburban reserve prevents it from demanding an encore, so finally Elgin-born Eli--the demure one--ambles out.

"You want us to play more songs?"



So then Josh comes out and asks, "What do you guys want us to play?"

The answer is "Pretty Pathetic." So he starts strumming and sings...
You should have heard me sobbing
As I drove home that night
Got into bed and stayed there
For days I just laid there...
The audience sings along. And when they're done, the band transitions into Brand New Hairstyle...
I'm looking for a brand new hairstyle
One that I can call my own
One that says I'm not afraid to cut my own hair

One that makes you glad to see me
One that makes me glad to be me
One that I can wear with pride when I go outside
And the night is over.

Wow, who knew there was so much fun to be had in downtown Dundee?


Post a Comment

<< Home