The Poison Control Center at Schubas 7/27/11

As if sensing my growing doubt that anyone can rock as hard as Ted Leo, The Poison Control Center took to the stage at Schubas last night and unleashed a ferocious set that started loud and fast and never let up. Not a surprise if you’ve ever seen the band before. This show was number 259 or 260 of their neverending tour that started about a year ago, and their ability to crank out the jams after such a long haul is impressive as hell. The fact that afterward they looked like they were ready to play another hour was horrifying-are these men or robots sent from the future to rock our faces off in order to prevent some sort of Hitler-type stuff going down? Truthfully, they just love what they do. The end of their tour looming, I think they very passionately desire to finish up as strong or stronger than they started.

The opener for the show, a gentleman from Columbus, Ohio that goes by the name Dolfish, was about halfway through his set when we walked in. I saw Patrick from PCC so I stopped to talk to him, and he made one of the most brazen comments I’ve ever heard. He said he dug the guy on stage, and I said he sounded like John Darnielle (which, for that song, he did). Patrick looked at me and without hesitation said, “This guy may be a better songwriter.” I didn’t even know what to say. The guy’s talented, no doubt. Dolfish has a certain twisted sense of humor that I enjoy, and his banter with the audience was pretty good, particularly a story containing the word “boner” that I won’t recount here. After that initial shock, we stood and listened to the rest of his set, and the comparison to Darnielle waned a bit. By the end, I think my comparison would lean more toward The Tallest Man On Earth-still a great singer/songwriter. Definitely worth checking out, which you can do for free at the Afternoon Records site. Here’s a video I found from a show in Ohio:

Now for the main attraction (really there were two bands after PCC, but we left). If you haven’t been able to discern for yourself yet, I’m a big fan of Poison Control Center. Particularly their latest record, which is leaps and bounds better than their previous two solid efforts both lyrically and sonically. I praised the hell out of them in my Stranger Ballet album review, and at the year’s midway point, I ranked it second on my list of the best albums so far. If you haven’t heard it yet, you’re doing yourself a terrible disservice.

The band has a way of lulling an audience into a false sense of safety by being super sweet and charming when they aren’t playing, but when it comes time to rock, be prepared. One second someone will be singing all soft and then all of a sudden they’ll be screaming and doing headstands. The level of energy expended by an audience member is enormous, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the guys in the band. Take this video of the first single off Stranger Ballet  for example:

I didn’t watch the whole thing back yet, but hopefully you can see the amount of sweat pouring off of Devin. It’s seriously something I just look at and marvel. The effort these guys put into every show is astounding. Whether it’s a nice, decent-sized venue like Schubas or a house show or whatever, they always give it their all. And they make a big point of acknowledging their fans at every opportunity. I think they made three different mentions of how supportive Chicago has been, and all the wonderful people they’ve met on the road. I know most bands talk about how great their fans are, but with Poison Control Center, it goes way beyond the surface, and you can tell it means a lot to them. They even dedicated the song “Pacific Sunrise” to all their Chicago friends.

The set was pretty even-maybe a little heavier on the new stuff, which is to be expected. Of the older songs, I really liked the version of “When The World Sleeps” they played to close the show. Also very enjoyable was “After the Holiday.” Off of Stranger Ballet, they played (or what I remember them playing), “Church On Mars,” “Torpedoes On Tuesday,” “Dracula’s Casket,” and “Seagull.” I got a recording of “Seagull” the last time we saw them, which was back in February or March. I took a new one to see if there were any differences:

The only thing that stands out to me is how much more confident the song played. The band had finished recording last time, but the record wasn’t out. Playing new songs is always kind of nerve-racking I suspect, so having it out and people knowing the tune made it a bit easier.

I was trying to think of ways to describe in great detail what the experience of going to a Poison Control Center is like, and this is the closest I could get: If you’ve never been to one of their shows, but want to feel the rush that you get at one, find a cop, preferably a really bitter and mean one, call him/her a name they wouldn’t like very much (something more scathing than jerk or doodoo face) and then run. Don’t run too fast, because you will want them to catch you. One he/she has you in the sights of their taser, start in with more names, or make fun of his/her mother. When the taser hits, keep the names coming if you can, because you really want the volts to be cranked as high as they’ll go. Aside from losing control of your bodily fluids, the jolt should be pretty close.

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