Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Last Thrash: Cheeky's Last Show EVER

On November 28, I was lucky enough to go to Cheeky's Last Show EVER. Held at Death by Audio, it was bigger than any other Cheeky show I'd been to, and drew a much larger crowd than I was used to. But there were plenty of other surprises that evening: between unexpected appearances from Ari Up and Jeff Rosenstock, covers of Fugazi, The Descendents, and others, moshing, circle-pitting, crowd surfing and stage diving, Cheeky's final performance felt less like a show and more like a carnival squeezed into two dimly lit rooms.

Cheeky chose their openers well. From Zombie Dogs' confrontational throw down, through Stupid Party's slow and dirty garage rock stomp, to Slingshot Dakota's joyful hymnals, the bands kept what would have been an otherwise long night interesting (I'm sure Shellshag was great too, but I spent most of their set socializing in the venue's other room, sorry dudes!). The openers turned in solid sets, interacted happily with the crowd, and offered paeans to the band of the hour between songs.

Cheeky's set, while strong overall, went through a bit of an awkward, adolescent phase a few songs in. After starting with a 15-minute burst of unadulterated energy, it suddenly seemed uncomfortably quiet onstage between songs. The show felt tense, and lead singer Kate Eldridge even apologized for not having 'anything to say'.

Want to judge for yourself? See Cheeky's last set, all of which is on youtube!

At that point I remembered that I was, after all, at a last show. A positive, spirited, upbeat celebration, but still, a celebration of the end of something. My friend Anna's friend summed it up while we were chatting outside between sets: "It's kind of weird," he said. "I'm excited to hear the new songs, but...I'm really not excited for it to be their last show." There were mixed feelings in the audience, and there must have been mixed feelings onstage as well. I'm guessing that it was maybe a harder gig to play than the band made it look. Both band and audience more than 'recovered' after Eldridge's apology; the audience even got kind of rowdy towards the end (the band was forced to admonish the crowd, reminding everyone to be respectful of people around them.)

Despite the mixed feelings they elicit, last shows are important. They provide a band a final opportunity to express their thanks and declare what they might have stood for, provide the audience a final opportunity to hear the music in its intended live setting, and in general remind us all that live shows are kind of the point of music. Records are just that: records of the music written by a person or group, a means of preserving a certain sound. Records are important, but they aren't a substitute for the experience of going to a show, and hearing and seeing how a band does what it does.

That night, Cheeky did what they did with bands that are their friends as well as their peers. They played their last set with even the stage packed with their friends, colleagues, bandmates from other projects, and significant others. They played their last set for charity -- the show was also a benefit concert for The Walk for PKD (look it up!), and raised almost $2000 for the cause.

Cheeky played their last set the way they played all the others I was fortunate enough to see: with guts, heart, and zero tolerance for the macho scene bullshit so many of their songs cleverly and concisely deconstruct. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I left that night feeling like it was everything a last show (last thrash?) should be.

***EDIT*** Read more about (and see some great photos of) Cheeky's last shows in NYC and NJ, as well over at Star Beat Music!!

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