Blackout Fest, an annual showcase of garage, punk and power pop music curated by Chicago’s HoZac Records, returned to the Empty Bottle May 15 and 16. It wasn’t quite as raucous as these shows have been in some past years, but both nights had solid lineups of bands both old and new.
The headliners fell into the “old” category — both were groups with cult status from the 1970s. On Friday night, it was the Real Kids, a Boston punk and power pop band led by singer-guitarist John Felice, who was also an original member of the Modern Lovers (alongside Jonathan Richman) and a Ramones roadie. Somewhat surprisingly, the Real Kids started their Blackout set with their best-known song, the super-catchy “All Kindsa Girls.” But the band had plenty of other great tunes to play during its set, including some from last year’s album Shake … Outta Control and a cover of the Beatles’ “You Can’t Do That.”
The headliners on Saturday were the Avengers, a San Francisco punk band that made its recording debut with an EP in 1978. The group didn’t last for long after that, but founding members Penelope Houston and Greg Ingraham reunited in 2004. They were in top form during their charged, energetic Blackout show.
The early acts on Friday night were Chicago’s MAMA and Milwaukee’s Platinum Boys — both playing power-pop songs with classic-rock-style guitar riffs — and Cozy, a group from Minneapolis with a giddy glam songs and a playful attitude to match.
On Saturday, the night started with another string of bands playing lively guitar rock: Gross Pointe, Thing and Nervosas, followed by Sweet Knives, a Memphis group featuring members of the Lost Sounds, a band that featured Jay Reatard, playing new versions of that group’s old songs. The riffs barely let up all weekend.
The Real Kids