DS Show Review & Gallery: The Bouncing Souls, Blind Adam and the Federal League; and Vic Ruggiero. Chicago (03.09.2024)

The Bouncing Souls returned to Chicago for a three-day stand recently. Night Two had the Garden State legends playing its albums Hopeless Romantic and The Gold Record. Bouncing Souls were joined by Chicago’s own Blind Adam and the Federal League, as well as Bronx, NY’s Vic Ruggiero, of the Slackers, performing a solo set.

The Bouncing Souls, formed in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1989, is hitting four cities this year for 3-night, 5-record celebrations. Brooklyn, NY will welcome the band in April; Denver, CO in August; and Garden Grove, CA, in December. First up was Chicago with the band playing a full band acoustic set at Epiphany Center for the Arts on night one. The next two nights took place at The Bottom Lounge where the band played the records How I Spent My Summer Vacation from 2001 and 2003’s Anchors Aweigh on the final evening.

Night two featured the seminal 1996 album Hopeless Romantic and The Gold Record from 2006. The Bouncing Souls was in fine form, as energetic as ever, as it drove through its signature bursts of up-tempo and buoyant songs. Singer Greg Attonito roaming the stage as he belted out the songs; Pete Steinkopf, dynamic on guitar; Bryan Kienlen’s muscular bass playing; and George Rebelo’s potent work on drums added up to an outstanding set. Highlights for me included “Fight to Live,” Bullying The Jukebox, and “¡Olé!,” all off Hopeless Romantic.

I will add a personal note on that last mentioned song. As a long-time Arsenal FC, I find it to be fantastic pump-up jam play it on repeat when headed to cheer on my favorite football club. It’s also our second song on Dying Scene’s 2022 World Cup Playlist. Steinkopf and Bad Religion’s Brian Baker have been “football teammates” for a while. But I’ll have to wait until there is a Gunners-style kit as the one in the above link is an obvious take-off of Manchester City, FC, and that’s a hard no from me.

The Bouncing Souls (and Bad Religion) however, is always a hard yes.

Blind Adam and the Federal League, out of Chicago, is staunchly anti-fascist. Frontman Adam Gogola, who for a while ran a charitable organization called the People’s Pizza Party, is not shy about expressing his views and putting those words into action. This was made clear by the “Free Palestine” shirt he wore on stage. During the set, he also spoke of Nex Benedict, the 16-year-old Oklahoma transgender student who died a day after they were brutally beaten by three girls at school. Gogola urged the crowd members to do what they can to fight transphobia, homophobia, and other vulnerable communities, as well as to fight back against rights being taken away from women and others.

In addition, it was a family affair for Gogola, with his parents in attendance, and his wife, Jessica Ever, joining him onstage for a song.

Gogola, his bandmates Alex Simotes and Nick Cvijovic, and Sean McGill filling on drums for Athen Erbter, drove through a powerful set. It was heavy with songs from the band’s most recent record, 2023’s The Fields We Know, including “The Sower,” “Before It Gets Better” (with Jessica Ever), “Meet Me at George Floyd Square,” “One for the Bootlickers,” and “Cold Dead Hands.” It is worth noting that Pete Steinkopf of Bouncing Souls produced The Fields We Know.

Members of Blind Adam and the Federal League will be continuing their regular “Pick a Side” DJ night at The Native in Chicago on March 28, 2024. The event takes place every last Thursday of the month.

Vic Ruggiero, best known as a member of NYC’s ska/rock-steady The Slackers, hails from the Bronx. However, as he told me post-set, he hasn’t spent much time there as of late due to extensive touring.

On this night (he also opened up night 3) Ruggiero was a one-man band, holding his guitar; harmonica at mouth level, playing a kick drum with his left foot and a tambourine with his right. Ruggiero, as solo troubadour, looks as if he would fit in perfectly at the Greenwich Village coffee houses of the 1960s. Venues such as The Gaslight where Bob Dylan and others could be found. The casting agents of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel missed the opportunity to cast him in a cameo at The Gaslight Café where the eponymous character started her comedy career.

The charismatic Ruggiero jammed through an entertaining set that included “Vacant Stare,” “Junkie Parents,” and a terrific cover of the Ink Spots’ “I Don’t Want to Set The World on Fire.”

Ruggiero rejoins his Slackers bandmates for numerous upcoming shows across parts of North America. The band will then head to Europe just a few days short of the start of Fall for several weeks of shows.


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