“One of the ideas of going with it, the 12 months, was that you could sort of go back and forth,” he continues, “so, say on something like ‘Summer Of Boats,’ when you’re talking about it happening in May and you’re starting to accept that this is over, and then you go over the next three months, and you still don’t accept it, you go back the other direction, and then you have to go through this whole acceptance situation again, four months later.”
The record culminates with the eight-minute “Hand To Mouth,” a song as loaded with subtext and open to interpretation as any H have written yet, that ominously promises “You’ll learn/what really matters/You’ll know/what really counts/You’ll hear the chitter-chatter/they say/When you’re living hand to mouth.” It’s a song, Lucas says, about total collapse, which may or may not be such a bad thing.
“When you do hit the bottom, I think there’s a point where you . . . can put things together,” he suggests, “and that’s the best point. You’re like, ‘All right, this is what really matters. What matters isn’t all this bullshit that I thought that did, but what really matters is that you can find somebody who completely and totally understands you, and understands you for you.’ And, I don’t really see that as an unhappy ending.”
If finding someone who’s there for you isn’t an unhappy way to close things out, then, by comparison, the group’s Beat Kitchen residency is practically a fairy-tale ending. The stint welcomed a sizable portion of the Local H faithful, many of whom have shown support since the beginning. It was a week that offered a rare glimpse at a band’s development in chronological order, with album favorites battling covers-loaded encores, not to mention long-forgotten rarities, soundtrack cuts, and singles. From “Purple Rain” and “Don’t Fear The Reaper” the first night to an impassioned version of Guided By Voices’ “Smothered In Hugs,” fan-favorite Concrete Blondes cover “Joey,” and closing assorted nights with Cheap Trick’s “Goodnight,” the stand delivered plenty of pleasant surprises. Night six even focused exclusively on the surprising volume of rarely heard tracks amassed over the years, including melancholy ’90s deep cut “Tag Along,” as well as an encore that included the whole No Fun punk-covers EP.
Tonally, the difference between certain nights was more pronounced than others. The residency’s third night, for example, focused on Pack Up The Cats, and was easily the most pop-centric of the stand, as Lucas and St. Clair delivered the record not only in its entirety but in its original playing order, including the album’s numerous transitions and segues. It was a tactic that proved effective, notably on upping the impact into “What Can I Tell You?” out of “500,000 Scovilles.” The highlight of the evening, however, was album closer “Lucky Time,” a perfect indication of the gleaming sheen that coats the majority of Cats.
Other nights offered different flavors of the band’s development. Local H blended their rawer punk tendencies with inherent pop sensibilities throughout night four, where the group focused on Here Comes The Zoo. Lucas prefaced the evening by remarking, “It’s nice to be playing a record about aging really badly, and losing your edge . . . on your birthday. Ha ha, very funny, God.” And while “Keep Your Girlfriend Away From Me” stood as the performance’s most sing-songy moment, for the most part a heavier, strong-armed approach ruled the evening, as evidenced during “Creature Comforted” and “Half Life.” As became the tendency for the residency, the duo saved some of the most remarkable and epic selections for last, with Zoo’s dark closer “What Would You Have Me Do?” serving as no exception. The song, a New Year’s Eve gone horribly wrong, played out with more speed before reaching its eventual and drawn-out ending, and St. Clair spacing out the song’s final beats, waiting longer between each crash. Lucas, meanwhile, howled and let the feedback bleed all over the room, smearing it all over St. Clair’s hits, before eventually letting the reverb stand alone as the drummer exited the stage. It was a performance made all the more surprising by the sudden appearance of a birthday cake.
It was a reminder that, as Lucas signed off on another year, the crowd around him, too, had aged — a fact nights one and two drove home. While Lucas seemed (understandably) rusty on Ham Fisted’s material (once commenting “Did I miss that bridge? Fuck that bridge!”), songs like “Mayonnaise And Malaise” held up surprisingly well. Night two, meanwhile, hosted a number of Local H’s most widely known selections, including their breakthrough single, “Bound For The Floor.” The most celebrated moments of the evening, however, came in adrenaline-fueled and angst-laden cuts like “High-Fiving MF” (a song decrying meathead fans that ironically spawned a fairly ballcap-clad mosh pit), as well as boredom lament, “Fritz’s Corner.” Both served as examples of H’s tendency of writing angry material that’s more clever and self-aware than it originally lets on.
It was a tendency that carried over to Lucas’ onstage persona, as he engaged the audience and countered snarky crowd banter with a bit of his own. Such was the case on night six when one audience member remarked a song was a jam, to which Lucas coolly replied “I know.” “I thought you need the encouragement!” the fan responded, prompting Lucas to admit “I do. That’s why I’m playing seven nights. I can’t get enough encouragement,” before adding “I think I need a couple shots of encouragement.”
It was nights five and seven, however, with H’s most recent works, P.J. Soles and Months, on display, that demonstrated a culmination of everything the group had displayed up until that point. Soles‘ “Heaven On The Way Down” and “Hey Rita” remain two of the most mature — and melodic — H selections to date, with the latter evolving into a longer jam dipping into a tease of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” that warned, “And if you’re worried about the weather/You picked the wrong place to stay.” But it wasn’t until the end of the group’s Months performance the true paradox of Local H revealed itself, with Lucas closing out the entire week-long stand by way of a solo performance of “All The Kids Are Right.” There’s a certain telling irony to the fact he would close out a string of celebrated, capacity shows with one of the group’s most beloved songs — one steeped in self-deprecation. It’s actually entirely likely that, by being so ever-present all this time, Lucas isn’t even aware of the impact his group has made in the city over the last decade-plus. It’s a concept that suggests Local H may never stop playing, bringing to mind the lyrics “I’m in love with rock ‘n’ roll/but that’ll change eventually,” sung all the way back on the third night’s “Hit The Skids Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Rock.”
“I think that line is kind of about people who get into music, and eventually they stop listening to music, ’cause, that’s their job,” Lucas offers up simply. “And I don’t really not listen to music. I continue to do it, and I always have.”
Probably because he’s one of us.
– Jaime de’Medici
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