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Cap’n Jazz brought their reunion tour to Chicago with Hop Along (pics, review)

Chicago’s newly opened House of Vans closed out their first summer of free House Parties with a bang, with a headlining reunion set by hometown-area emo heroes Cap’n Jazz. It’s been 22 years since the band originally broke up (and seven since they last reunited), but they’re still bursting with the off-the-rails speed and energy that made their music so exciting to begin with.

After a DJ set from The Blackouts (brothers Ako and Atiba Jefferson) that made mixing Fugazi into A$AP Mob’s “RAF” sound natural, Frances Quinlan of Hop Along took the stage. I hadn’t seen Quinlan perform solo in a few years, so starting the set with a completely stripped-down version of the already sparse Painted Shut track “Happy To See Me” without the rest of the band on stage was a really nice surprise.

If you somehow forgot just how striking Quinlan’s raw and shattered vocals are, “Happy” served as a reminder. The rest of the band joined her for some great performances of Painted Shut jams including a particularly crushing version of “Sister Cities” where guitarist Joe Reinhart really showcased those old emo noodling chops from his days in Algernon Cadwallader. Like in Brooklyn last week, there was also a quick taste of the band’s just-finished album. They played a new song that had verses noticeably brighter than anything from the last record, and one of the heaviest grooves in the band’s catalog in the chorus.

The space between Hop Along’s last note and Cap’n Jazz taking the stage felt interminable, with the restless audience rapidly crowding the bar to trade in the free drink tickets that came with every wristband to the show. It’s not like the crowd wasn’t into Hop Along’s set but the energy in the room totally shifted leading up to Cap’n Jazz.

“Oh Messy Life” kicked in and the crowd lost any semblance of restraint they had left. Within seconds kids were crowd surfing and screaming back every word Tim Kinsella spat at them. It was at this point that I kind of blacked out in bliss, screaming alongside everyone else to tracks like “In The Clear” (during which the crowd covered the entirety of the song’s iconic “A…B…C…” break) and “Basil’s Kite” while the band sped through track after track, feeding off the energy of the crowd, Tim spending at least a portion of every song flailing and kicking in the hands of the crowd.

I had to fight through to the back of the crowd at about the halfway mark, just in time to see the band’s classic cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” which the crowd lost their mind for. At some point Tim was sorting through the shirts and glasses that had piled up onstage and remarked that it was “just like an old hardcore gig. Is this a hardcore gig?” before trying his best to get everything back to its respective owner during the longer instrumental break in “Tokyo.”

The band was electric, all smiles and absolutely reveling in the crowd’s excitement and (relative) intimacy of the venue. Every song was explosive, Tim was constantly tossing both his tambourine and french horn out into the crowd only to kindly ask for them back one or two songs later, and even though he couldn’t get through the night without at least one snarky remark about reuniting (“What do you want from me? I’m a people pleaser. You really think I like being the lead singer of Cap’n Jazz?”) it was an incredible night. Cap’n Jazz didn’t realize they would become a bunch of kids’ religion back in 1989, but Saturday night’s show definitely showed that they appreciated it.

Cap’n Jazz also brought the house down at LA’s FYF Fest (pics/review), and they have more reunion shows coming up, including Brooklyn Steel and Riot Fest. The Van Pelt, who recently played some Sultans of Sentiment 20th anniversary shows, are opening the Brooklyn show.

photos by James Richards IV, words by Zack Baker

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