THE (second?) GREATEST RECORD LABEL ON THE PLANET!!
Thank you Touch and Go Records for a spectacular weekend!
I had the great good fortune to travel to Chicago last weekend (September 8-10) and catch almost all of the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary celebration, hosted by The Hideout (at their Tenth anniversary block party) in a huge parking lot usually occupied by the City of Chicago's Garbage Trucks. Touch & Go has been a business partner, a mentor and a friend with Merge for as long as we've been a label, and it's hard to imagine where we'd be without their influence.
Friday night's set was supposedly amazing with Girls Against Boys performing the whole Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby album, and reportedly great sets from Ted Leo, Supersystem, Shipping News and !!!, but alas I was across town at Chicago's beautiful Metro catching an incendiary set from Merge's own M. Ward! There will be time enough to write about how phenomenal M. Ward is live and how fantastic his current backing band is after next week's show at the Cat's Cradle. I'll also have to devote a post to all the great places we ate in Chicago like Irazu, a place so good, M. Ward asked me to bring him two burritos from there for after his show...but right now I'm talking about Touch and Go.
(CONTINUED: (FOR MORE ABOUT TOUCH and GO's 25th ANNIVERSARY WEEKEND CLICK ON JUMP TO PERMALINK BELOW)
Simply said the Touch and Go 25th Anniversary celebration was the best organized music festival I've ever attended. The level of planning for this three day event was superb. Each band was on and off the stage at their scheduled time; there was a surfeit of food and drink vendors with decent prices and fast friendly service (and one who astutely served hot apple cider to a chilled and damp Sunday evening crowd); AND there were virtually no lines at the Porta-Potties. You tell me what music festival can boast any one of those bragging rights?
Chcago was slightly overcast and threatening rain on Saturday and people could have stayed home, but with the promise of a Big Black reunion and the return of David Yow to the stage with his pre-Jesus Lizard band, Scratch Acid, the crowds poured into Wabansia Avenue throughout the day and grew to 7,000 strong before it was all over. From the very first hushed notes of The New Year to an absolutely bone-crushing set by Shellac to the final horn blasts from Calexico, Saturday and Sunday were days for music fans to celebrate just how influential and important Touch & Go is; how vital they are today and how much of today's "underground" music AND "alternative" rock music, would not exist without the roadmap they laid out so long ago. I could write for days about how great every band I saw was and how much love and respect flowed from the stage as each band thanked Corey Rusk for bringing great music to people since 1981. But mere words can't do justice to the whole event. So in my longwinded way, I will try to keep the rest short...
The biggest musical highlight of the weekend for me was The Ex whose late afternoon set on Saturday, underneath a steel grey Chicago sky with the Sears Tower looming in the background, was a perfect representation of everything that Touch & Go stands for. Adjectives fail here, but The Ex's breathtaking performance was by turns abrasive, confrontational, mature, political, youthful, sweet, punk-rock, artistic and tuneful. Other highlights for me were The New Year's hushed set to start things off on Saturday morning; The Black Heart Procession (whose brooding music was enhanced by the early evening storm clouds rolling away from the city as the temperature dropped); Coco Rosie (who were the biggest surprise for me since I'd not been a great fan of their records); Pinback (the only band to give a shout out across the parking lot to the soundchecking band on the other stgage when Rob Crow yelled "Hey Calexico, we're looking forward to it!"); and Calexico's final tribute to not only Touch and Go, but to the city of Chicago - where they were the last of thirty bands to proclaim from the stage that Touch and Go was "The Best Record Label on The Planet." I may cede this honor to Touch and Go for now (and Man or Astroman claimed "best in the galaxy" honors for T&G, but couldn't definitively give them "best in the universe" status), but I like to think that Merge is closing in on them...
Seriously, thank you for EVERYTHING Touch and Go.