Show Review: Thursday and Braid at The Metro in Chicago, IL

“This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games. All games are basically hostile. Winners and losers. We see them all around us: the winners and the losers. The losers can oftentimes become winners, and the winners can very easily become losers.” — William S. Burroughs

September 16, 2003, saw the release of Thursday’s War All The Time, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard 200—only one spot behind Beyoncé’s Dangerously in Love. Earning the band a coveted spot on Conan O’Brien’s Thanksgiving special—the highest-viewed TV spot of the year—Thursday treated the late-night viewers to a performance of the title track.

Shifting the scene drastically, many bands—The Used, HIRS Collective, Against Me!, to name just a few—look up to this album immensely for both its lyrical and musical contributions. In fact, during their summer tour in 2022, singer Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance referred to Thursday in an impassioned—and slightly theatrical—speech against the war in Ukraine, citing the song “For the Workforce, Drowning” as he destroyed a printer on stage, because “Much like the lyrics, we just keep making copies of copies, of copies of wars?”

Twenty years later to the date exactly, Thursday treated fans to a birthday celebration for their beloved album, ringing in the occasion at Chicago’s Metro for a Riot Fest aftershow that will surely be remembered for years to come.

The festivity started with support from the Illinois-based band Braid. With influence from Fugazi and Jawbox, Braid carved out a spot for themselves in the scene as they are often hailed as one of the pillars of the second wave of emo. Similar to Thursday, Braid has broken up and gotten back together numerous times, reuniting permanently back in 2011.

Kicking off at 11 p.m., Braid gave the audience the shot of energy they needed to power through the rest of the night. Also celebrating a big anniversary, Braid predominantly played songs off their record Frame and Canvas, celebrating twenty-five years of this timeless record. “The New Nathan Detroits” commenced their thirteen-song set. The title of the song comes from a character featured in the musical, portrayed by Frank Sinatra. The group immediately launched into “Killing a Camera” for their second song, frantic and off-kilter—in the best way possible.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the set came when the band treated fans to a performance of “A Dozen Roses.” Vocalist and guitarist Bob Nanna sang, “You’re moving like a movie. You still move me,” the crowd shouted along with him, word for word. As the clock got closer and closer to striking midnight, the four-piece played a couple of other songs from Frame and Canvas: “First Day Back,” “Breathe In,” and “Milwaukee Sky Rocket,” the last of which closed their set.

By the end of their performance, the band had brilliantly re-captured one of the finest moments of the era in all its glory.

Fans yawned and quieted during the interval between Braid and Thursday, tired from the long, rainy day at the festival. As soon as Thursday took the stage—at 12:30 AM—it was almost as if a switch had been flipped in the venue, electrifying the audience into an almost manic action as the drums and guitars crashed into being. The packed venue came alive all at once and didn’t stop until long after the band finished playing.

Without pause, Thursday seamlessly transitioned into their second song “Between Rupture and Rapture,” whose timeless lyrics help capture the unpredictability of life and its fleeting nature. Taking a moment to pause before continuing with “Division St.,” vocalist Geoff Rickly made a joke about bots and ticket scalpers, saying that he heard that the show had sold out, but “For some reason, twenty people on Twitter are trying to sell me four tickets each,” he laughs before adding,” Sorry, it’s midnight.”

A high point of the set was getting to hear Rickly speak a little bit about his and the band’s feelings toward War All The Time. Offering an unseen insight, Rickly said that he really didn’t care for the album when it was released—later realizing he was wrong—and because of this, the band didn’t often perform “Marches and Maneuvers” and “Asleep in the Chapel.” Of course, the band indulged fans and played these songs to complete the album play, though more recently they’ve begun performing these two songs more frequently.

With “This Song Brought To You By A Falling Bomb,” it’s almost as if Rickly tapped into a distant memory. Eyes glistening and on his knees, he almost crooned the melancholic song with a raw intensity that dripped with emotion. This brief, beautiful song is a portrait of intimacy as Rickly sang without accompaniment, besides the piano, of course, leaving him nothing to hide behind, and it captured Rickly’s impressive vocal range. because of that fact.

After “Steps Ascending,” Rickly took a break to joke with the crowd. He told the audience that he was used to playing “War All The Time” as a closer to the set. “Since we got back together, we always close with this song, so it feels really weird to play it right in the middle. I have this Pavlov’s Dog thing going on where I want to just walk off stage after it’s over. I’m not going to do that,” he laughs, “My partner says I’m a golden retriever. I just need to be trained I guess.”

Surprisingly, the band included “Jet Black New Year” in the album play. Rickly explained that he always felt like “Jet Black New Year” was a sister song to the record as it helps capture the full story, allowing the album to depict both  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

As the band came back on stage for their encore, Rickly limped on stage—one leg dragging behind—arms in front of him as if a zombie. At this point, it was nearing 2 AM. Before kicking off “At This Velocity,” Rickly regaled stories of near-death experiences he and his bandmates had endured such as jackknifing in the ice down a hill, a near plane crash, and even—to a lesser extent—Rickly’s incident in which he fell off a stage and broke his ankle. With this context, the song took on an added meaning that clearly touched fans. Thursday brought the show to a close with “Cross Out the Eyes” and, of course, “Understanding in a Car Crash.” Swinging the corded microphone in the air around him and catching it, Rickly sang his iconic lyrics “I don’t want to feel this way forever,” as the crowd shouted the lyrics along with him, louder than they had sung anything else in the evening.

Thursday’s set was one of a kind. The energy present in that venue was something that only comes around once in a blue moon, which was more than fitting for the triumphant occasion.

The unsung hero of the show would have to be drummer Tucker Rule, who would go on to play three sets in the space of twelve hours—a Thursday performance at Riot Fest the following morning and a show with L.S. Dunes (marking the one anniversary since their live debut). One of the most dedicated musicians in his craft, Rule displays a passion and love of music unlike any other.

The rest of the members, Norman Brannon, Steve Pedulla, Stuart Richardson, and Rickly, would also go on to play the first time slot of the festival the following day due to the hazardous weather conditions. Thursday welcomed everyone to Riot Fest, beginning their set as soon as the gates opened.

All-in-all, Thursday’s aftershow is one that will—or at the very least should—go down in Riot Fest Late Night Shows’ history. Braid and Thursday played songs from albums that came out within five years of each other, though they perhaps might’ve been the most pivotal five years in recent history. The combination of these two influential bands helped depict the extreme progression that took place in the scene during this tumultuous time.

More than anything, these two bands proved that they’re at the best they’ve ever been.

Thursday

Braid

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