StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114003813210613.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jonathon Hicks’, ‘The Felix Culpa performed before 350 crazed fans in the basement of Emmanuel Lutheran Church Feb. 10.’);
Editors note: The following is part one of a series documenting The Rock River Times hour-long interview with local band The Felix Culpa. The photo banner above this story was created by Jonathan Hicks.
By Jonathan Hicks
It was a night where nothing seemed to go according to plan. Even this story seemed in doubt at times. It was a night that was more than a year in the making. Hometown boys were making a triumphant return. It was a night that was eagerly anticipated by 500 fans; 150 of them would leave disappointed.
But it also was a night that was so important and so special, that a year from now, kids will lie to their friends about having been there.
Friday, Feb. 10, The Felix Culpa returned home to Rockford, a full year since their last show here, and for the first time since the release of their DVD/EP ThoughtControl. Emmanuel Lutheran Churchs BasementThe ELBplayed host to the event and was filled to its capacity. In fact, not only was the venue filled to the brim with excited fans, there were an additional 150 outside who were turned away at the door.
Those who made it in were not disappointed. After a solid start courtesy of openers El Oso, Inspector Owl and The Killer Apathy, members of The Felix Culpa took their places at the center of the room. Literally surrounding the band, the mostly teenage fans clamored for space, climbing on tables and chairs to gain better vantage points.
After a blistering hour and 15-minute set came to a close with only the bands second encore ever, the crowd dispersed, still wearing the smiles and sweat that had made their faces glisten all night.
As The ELB emptied , the spotlights were switched off and the music faded, leaving only the steady drone of still ringing ears. It was then, just after midnight, that Mark Hladish, Tristan Hammond and Joel Coan sat down to talk about their band, where theyve been for the last 12 months and their thoughts on the Rockford music scene.
We would spend the next hour together in the relative quiet of the incredibly well-furnished ladies restroom, deeply involved in what the band would later call The most in-depth interview weve ever done. The band members showed both their propensity for honesty and sincerity, as well as their unique senses of humor hence the interview from perhaps the most exquisite ladies restroom one could imagine.
In a church basement, that is.
Jonathan Hicks, The Rock River Times (TRRT): This was your first show in Rockford in a year. Why the long wait?
Mark Hladish (MH): The lack of a venue, to be honest with you.
Tristan Hammond (TH): A good venue, anyway.
MH: Minglewood was around for a while . Theres Kryptonite, but we obviously cant do all-ages shows there.
TH: And were not exactly a bar band, either.
TRRT: Obviously, Rockford doesnt exactly have a lot of places to do all-ages shows, but how would you describe the music scene here?
Joel Coan (JC): Its improving.
TH: Its really flourishing, but its just needing somewhere to play. I think the kids in the bands from this areanothing will kill them because Rockford certainly has tried. Ive seen more venues in the Rockford and Loves Park area shut down over the last three or four years than Ive seen start up.
MH: Its definitely thanks to people like Steve (Kess) and Lucio (Aldana) at this place that go out of their way. They clean up here and put a whole lot of their own time and effort to make sure that stuff like this happens. Rockford needs places like this. I think an actual all-ages venue would do really well. Its obvious that people would come out, because 500 kids were here tonight.
TRRT: Do you think that the near lack of a scenealbeit an improving oneand the lack of venues makes it harder for Rockford bands to get recognized outside of here?
TH: If youre from an area, you need a home, you need a base of operation. And if that cant happen, I can understand it being very hard to get a push or get a foot in the door other places. But at the same time, there are so many ways you can go about the business aspect of being in a band.
MH: Its kind of hard to start a groundswell following when theres not a venue for that to start at; when theres not an actual place for you to draw kids to. We consider Milwaukee, Chicago, DeKalb, which are all hour-plus driveswe consider them as local.
TRRT: What is the best part about being home to play a show?
TH: More familiar faces. Its very nice to play places and see people that are familiar with you and what youre doing and know you as more than just the guy in the band. Its also nice seeing new faces, but for me, thats the best part of being home.
JC: Ironically though, theres actually more pressure playing at home than it is on the road. At home, there is a level expected of you already, whereas on the road, usually people are just finding out about you.
MH: Tonight really surprised me. You go out and you play all over the country, and there are always a couple of kids that have heard your music before and might know a couple of the words. But you come back home, and tonight it surprised me that during one of our songs how many kids were singing along.
JC: Over the music even!
TH: That was just so humbling and so energizing.
MH: Thats definitely one of the best parts about playing a hometown showhaving that much support and that much love is just great.
JC: It makes it more intimate. It makes it more personal.
TH: Especially at a place like this where theres no stage, and youre just face to face with the kidsI love feeling that.
TRRT: Whats the best part about being away from home on tour?
TH: Its like were doing what were supposed to be doing. Its a feeling of being content.
JC: We actually function the best as a band when were on tour. You would think in those conditions, away from home, we would be at each others throats, but
MH: You kind of pull it together and do what you need to do.
Read next weeks issue of The Rock River Times for part two of our interview with The Felix Culpa.
From the Feb. 15-21, 2006, issue