Blackout Fest was back this past weekend at the Empty Bottle, and once again, Chicago’s HoZac Records delivered a fun package of garage rock, punk and power pop. I missed the first night on May 15 (an art show and opening party), but I was there the following two nights.
The headliners on May 16 were a pretty big deal: The Boys, a legendary British punk band from the 1970s, played a Chicago gig for the first time — and amazingly, it was only the fourth time the Boys had ever played in the U.S. As these older blokes ripped through their old tunes (including a bunch of memorable shout-along songs, such as “Brickfield Nights”), a bunch of young garage-rock lovers packed the dance floor in front of the stage, moshing and bopping up and down with reckless joy.
Friday’s lineup also included the Man (I showed up too late for their set), the fuzzy guitar riffs of 999999999 (apparently pronounced “all nines”) and First Base, a Toronto band with a slew of sweet and catchy songs. They even did a cover of the ABBA song “Mamma Mia.”
The headliners on Saturday, May 17, were another band that started back in the mid-’70s punk explosion: The Dictators, from New York City. Maybe the Dictators are actually a kind of proto-punk, since they formed all the way back in 1974. And on Saturday, as the current lineup played old Dictators songs as well as covers of songs by bands like the Flamin’ Groovies, they jammed more than you’d expect from punks. The frontman, Handsome Dick Manitoba, insisted on telling stories to the audience in his gruff New York accent, which slowed down the pace of the gig a bit, but still proved pretty entertaining. He’s quite a character. For the most part, the crowd ate it up.
The rest of the lineup on Saturday was solid, with three bands playing the kind of straight-ahead, no-frills rock that HoZac is known for: Rainbow Gun Club, A Giant Dog and — my favorite of the bunch — Shocked Minds.