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field trip!
burning airlines live at the cradle
by joe procopio (@jproco)

Okay, I'll admit something to you. I haven't been to an honest-to-God rock show since Peppers/Foo Fighters at the Alltel shed in Raleigh last year. Mind you, at that show I had my shirt off by the opening strains of the Pepper's second number (the shirt-off-worthy "Around the World") AND I touched Dave Grohl.

In a good way.

So as you might expect, the pressure is on to top that experience, the sheer rock thrill of which was almost enough to make me give shows up for good. Well, that and the seven-and-a-half giant, warm, expensive Alltel-sanctioned beers I consumed.

In a state of rock comradery, the entire lineup of brilliant, plus a bunch of friends and a few general degenerates, attended what would become an amazing show at the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill. The Cradle, like CBGBs and maybe the old Roxy, is one of those legendary venues that is known across the country but only to a select few. You can say the same thing about the band we saw at said venue, DC's Burning Airlines.

I've known these guys from back when Smug was still vital (former Airlines bass player Bill Barbot and I wrote for them way back - this is how I know the band), and I catch the Airlines every time they come to town or close to town. They never, ever fail to deliver a solid, awe-inspiring show, whether it's in front of 50 or 500, and I've witnessed both.

Unfortunately, this night would be closer to 50. However, as I mentioned, the show became amazing.

Because the show was for us.

First up, my friend Jake apparently had a lot of time on his hands. Seems that on the day of the show he won two pairs of tickets. From two different call in contests. On the same radio station. Within four hours.

That alone was a beautiful thing. And it allowed us to bring an even bigger group to the show, people who would not have gone if it had not been free, but wound up really getting into what they heard.

While I was disappointed with the turnout, it did give me a chance to catch up with J. Robbins, Airlines singer and lead guitarist, and introduce them to my brothers and my friends. J. was beyond gracious, and made one of my brothers, the one who was star struck and I won't mention which, feel like rock stars were worth being star struck over. Even those who were about to take the stage in front of 50 people.

Then we got much more than our eight dollars worth of rock.

Bonus #2: Our little group had no problem claiming the front of the stage for the show.

I lost count, but we got at least 11 from the first record, Mission: Control! and 8 from the second and most recent, Identikit . They opened with my personal favorite from the new one, "A Lexicon," and during the night tore through "Carnival," "Pacific 231," "The Escape Engine," "Outside the Aviary," and the new single, "Paper Crowns."

The only thing I really missed was "Crowned," or maybe "3 Sisters" from Control!.

The addition of a second guitarist, who also served as utility keyboard guy, was surprisingly welcome for a band most associated with DC punk. And they were tighter than one would think possible, with lots of no-counts and huge shifts in dynamic.

At one point, J. asked the crowd to shout expletives, and then nearly recoiled from the vivid and, well, just plain disgusting imaginations of a bunch of drunk twenty-and-thirty somethings.

Bonus #3: The woman behind me shouted the new most foul thing I've ever heard.

We also drank all the PBR they had in the bar.


As it is, I'm struck this morning, as I fight a vicious hangover and an equally painful case of rock neck, by the thought that that show was so worthy of the money and the time, that I was surprised that they actually thanked us.

It makes we wonder if we could ever inspire that sort of thing.

And it sure as hell inspires me to try.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio


way metal
i get it now
by joe procopio
topic: music
published: 8.1.08

protest much?
too much!
by joe procopio
topic: music
published: 6.2.06


jael mchenry
7.17.01 @ 3:09p

This has nothing to do with Burning Airlines. Or this column. Or anything. But:


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