THE LAWRENCE ARMS
Friday, May 26
MacEwan Ballroom (U of C)
Hailing from the windy city of Chicago home to Oprah and the magnificent mile The Lawrence Arms are one of the hardest working bands in punk.
Renowned for their politically inspired vehemence and hard-drinking lifestyle choices, vocalist-bassist Brendan Kelly, guitarist-vocalist Chris McCaughan and drummer Neil Hennessy have been a staple of the punk revival scene since they joined forces back in 1999.
Releasing their debut album, A Guided Tour of Chicago, the same year, they hit their stride early, producing a second record, Ghost Stories, a mere six months later. Thirteen months of intensive touring later and The Lawrence Arms found themselves a new home with the punk-friendly Fat Wreck Chords label. Their fiery Fat Wreck debut, Apathy and Exhaustion, hit in 2002, followed by The Greatest Story Ever Told in 2003.
Since then fans have had to make do with last years offering, a best-of compilation bearing the tongue-in-cheek title Cocktails & Dreams. The bands relentless touring schedule has finally allowed them to return to the studio and the result is Oh! Calcutta!, a 12-track foot-stomper abounding with irreverent humour and raucous energy the calling cards of The Lawrence Arms.
"Basically, we chose the name for our new album because it sounded pretty cool," says vocalist-bassist Brendan Kelly. "Sure, we have all kinds of elaborate explanations on hand that we feed to the press about the origins of the title. Theres the erotic Broadway act of the same name from the 60s featuring all-male, gay, naked dancing and the like. Theres also a great quote from Mother Teresa in which she refers to the south-side slums of our hometown Chicago as being the worst squalour she had ever witnessed. Worse than Calcutta!... But really, calling the album Oh! Calcutta! is our disingenuous stab at the idea that you cant just name a rock album something just cuz it sounds cool.Keeping things simple and close to your roots is a time-tested formula that has brought The Lawrence Arms farther than they would have ever expected while growing up in the Illinois city. And though they have reportedly never considered themselves to have a Celtic "twang" to their rowdy pint and punch-up anthems, Kelly, Hennessey and McCaughan cant help but acknowledge the underlying influence that the immigrant population of Chicago has on their musical heritage.
"My Irish grandfather would be proud," muses Kelly of the unexpected comparison to Celt-Punk mainstays like the Swinging Utters, The Real MacKenzies or Bostons own Dropkick Murphys. Still, the affinity the band feels for its hometown has had an impact on their identity and their ideologies.
"I heard that the Dropkick Murphys are the official band of the Boston police. Were for Chicago. Were for the people not the army that suppresses them," asserts Kelly. "Being from Chicago just informs everything we do. We all grew up here and its hard to put into words just what it means to us. Its like asking what your parents have to do with how you turned out. It completely defines who I am."
Putting their stage-savvy crew to the test once more, the ever-joyous Lawrence Arms have just returned from a tour of Europe only to begin preparations for a North America tour-de-force with pop-punk legends NOFX. Provided they can make it across the border. Maybe its that well-earned bad boy reputation or maybe its just rotten luck, but The Lawrence Arms have a troubled history when it comes to travelling internationally, especially where Canada Customs is concerned. According to Brendan Kelly their last attempt to enter our fair country landed them "A huge kick in the collective dick," as border authorities confiscated their merchandise and levied a huge fee against them. They were denied entry and, to top it off, they never saw their money or their stuff again.
Thankfully, these lads have a high tolerance for pain and a short attention span, which means that they arent holding any grudges and are more than eager to get back on the road to the Great White North.
"Weve always been a touring band, but we never seemed to time it right to coincide with the release of an album - until now. Usually things are all fucked up and by the time were organized, nobody cares anymore. Fat Wreck Chords makes sure we dont go fuckin up."