DS Show Review & Gallery: 8th Annual War on X-Mas. The Falcon, The Dopamines, Tightwire and others. (Chicago 12.02 – 12.03. 2022)

The War on X-Mas continues. No, not the fictional War on Christmas some people peddle as a political weapon. Here we refer to the 8th Annual War on X-Mas weekend stand, held at Reggies Rock Club this year and featuring The Falcon, The Dopamines, Tightwire; and Won’t Stay Dead on night two. The second night was a plugged-in evening with full bands but night one showcased singers performing alone with their acoustic guitars and a microphone.

Night One

As Sincere Engineer, Deanna Belos typically has a full band with her on stage. On a very chilly Friday night, Belos delivered a set full of warmth and humor. She set the tempo for the low-key enjoyable evening with a setlist including “Bottle Lightening Twice,” Shattering,” “Out of Reach,” “Overbite, and Trust Me.”

English singer-songwriter Sam Russo recently participated in our World Cup coverage and on this weekend, his own national football club was still in the hunt. As I write this, it still is. But his own performance was just as is strong, albeit on a smaller stage, as those of his fellow countrymen. Running through “Runaways,” “Letting Go,” “Small Town Shoes,” “Young Heroes,” Sometimes,” Russo most surely earned new fans. Oh and playing “Merry Christmas, Baby, I’m Sorry,” was a nice nod to the holiday known for its nog.

Josh Caterer performed a setlist mostly comprised of songs by his band The Smoking Popes. He started with “Simmer Down,” then followed it with “Let’s Hear It For Love,” “Rubella,” “Paul,” and “First Time.” Caterer ended his set with a cover of the Nick Lowe penned, made famous by Elvis Costello classic, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” He was joined by what seemed to be most of those in attendance. If it wasn’t quite Christmas caroling, it was close enough for this holiday season evening. It was also lovely.

Brendan Kelly, unlike years of X-Mas past, wasn’t fronting The Lawrence Arms. However, his X-Mas present to the crowd was a set full of the aforementioned group’s songs, including “The Devil’s Takin’ Names,” “Demons,” and “Quincentuple Your Money.” Kelly added “Suffer The Children Come Unto Me,” from another of his groups, Brendan Kelly and The Wandering Birds. In a tip of the hat to one of the night’s earlier performers, Kelly performed “Young Heroes,” by Sam Russo. Neil Hennessy, Kelly’s bandmate in The Lawrence Arms and in The Falcon, as well as a member of The Smoking Popes, joined Kelly onstage for “Old Mexico Way.”

Night Two

Won’t Stay Dead might seem well-suited for Halloween shows, with its spooky aura and members dressed in all black, in what might be called “punk rock semi-formal.” Not to mention the fact that the band page describes the group as “Grungy horror pop punk from Chicago.” However, the band composed of Saffron Lair, Violet Staley, Tyler Palermo, and Will Lange, fit in perfectly as the Saturday night kick-off band. After all, it was the War on X-Mas. They band was as sharp as a “Rivers Edge,” which was also the first tune they played. This was followed up in quick succession by the rest of the set, including “Wicked Plans,” “Hack To The Bone,” “Somebody Put A Cross On My Head (And It Burned)” and “Sink Your Teeth.” Won’t Stay Dead closed out its spirited set with “Damaged Brain.”

Tightwire from Minneapolis, MN delivered a fierce set including “Party,” “Six Feet Deep,” ”Body Language,” “Spell on Me,” and “Pentagram Tattoo,” “Bitter Pill.” Group members Tane Graves, Paul Mullaney, Noelle Stolpe, and Parker Thompson brought the energy and the fun as they tore the stage up. The crowd was there for it.

The Dopamines, from the Queen City aka Cincinnati, OH, had the weekend’s penultimate time slot. The band, comprised of Jon Lewis, Jon Weiner, Josh Goldman, and Michael Dickson, roared through its set, injecting the atmosphere with a heavy dose of adrenaline. Included in said set were “You’d Make A Good Horsecop,” “Straight Papers,” “Cincinnati Harmony,” and “Heads Up Dusters,” as well as “The King of Swilling Powers Part I, II, III,” “Ire,” and “Dan Teets Runs a Marathon.” Frenzied done right.

The Falcon closed out the weekend with a forceful set and a dash of cheeky humor. band members Brendan Kelly and Neil Hennessy were, on this night, joined by Joe Principe (Rise Against) and Kody Templeman (The Lillingtons). All four were sporting matching black t-shirts with The Lawrence Arms logo, except in this case, the logo was covered over by the iconic red “NO” symbol. A wink and a nod to the fact that The Lawrence Arms was unable to make this year’s show. The setlist included a collection of some of the most unique and colorful song titles you’re bound to come across over a stretch of time. The Falcon performed, among others, “The Celebutard Chronicles,” ”Huffing The Proverbial Line Off The Proverbial Dong Or The Blood and the Frog,” ”Hasselhoff Cheeseburger,” “The Fighter, The Rube, The Asshole,” ”Feed The Monkey, Drown The Worm Or Goin’ Home,” “Building The Perfect Asshole Parade Or Scratching Off The Fleas.” The Falcon surpassed the already-high expectations. So did the weekend as a whole. Looking forward to next year’s event already. Maybe The Lawrence Arms will be on the bill?

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