Full Circle. Days of the New at H.O.M.E. Bar Chicago in Arlington Heights, IL
For those that don’t remember, the self-titled debut album from Days of the New was released in 1997. About a year and a half or so later, the original line up everyone came to know and love officially dissolved. News reported lead singer, Travis Meeks had fired his band (who, as a result, went on to form Tantric with Hugo Ferreira) and he eventually continued making music with new band members under the Days of the New name. For me, my journey with DOTN ended with that break up. I thought, “How could a singer fire his band?” I remember being quite mad over this and of course back then, the internet wasn’t what it is today. While I did see Tantric live a few times in their early days, it was years before I would find out the Days of the New breakup didn’t go down quite the way I thought. Regardless, the first night of the Full Circle reunion tour was not only a full circle moment for them, but for me as well since it was only my second time seeing the original line up. I for one could not be more excited. Based on fan postings on their Facebook page leading up to this show, I wasn’t the only one.
The venue that held the prestigious honor of kicking off the Full Circle reunion tour was House of Music and Entertainment aka H.O.M.E. Bar Chicago, a sports bar and live music venue located in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago (Arlington Heights). When you first arrive you are slightly deceived at the size of the venue, until you walk through the entrance of the 15,000 square foot theater located at the back of the bar main bar area. About 30 minutes prior to doors, fans started lining up. I found out after the show that Days of the New arrived at the venue late, which probably explained why you could hear sound check taking place after the 8pm posted door time. No problem though. 30 minutes later and everyone filed in and found a spot, got a drink or purchased merch. I’m not sure what happened with one of the opening bands, as there were two on the bill, but Righteous Hillbillies from Joliet, IL got the night started. Their style was full on Southern rock and to be honest, they were pretty good. This 4-piece band entertained the crowd for an hour playing originals, Steel Yard Train, Black Jack Mama, Money Train Blues, Mexican Rodeo and She’s Righteous to name a few. They also played classic covers of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil and a short medley of Doors songs during the middle of another song.
By the time their set ended, the room was pretty packed. Prior to the opening band playing and during the lengthy 45-minute stage set up for DOTN, I overheard numerous fans around me talk about and praise Travis for his talent and to some degree their surprise that he was even alive for the occasion. They also shared stories with each other of past shows they had seen. However, many couldn’t believe they were about to witness the original line up. For some, I gathered this was their first time seeing the band live, for others, they had previously only seen the line up with Travis and the second version of DOTN. Then there were folks like me, who had once upon a time seen the original line up. Regardless, you could feel the anticipation in the air. The excitement of witnessing what was about to take place. They were about to see all four original members, Travis Meeks (vocals, guitar), Todd Whitener (guitar, vocals), Jesse Vest (bass), Matt Taul (drums), of Days of the New perform together again after 17 years.
As everyone patiently waited, there were three acoustic guitars and a small kick drum center stage for Travis and I spotted five acoustic guitars off stage for Todd. Jesse had two basses stage right and Matt’s drum kit was pretty big at the back of center stage. Eventually the lights dimmed and one by one the band took the stage to loud cheers, whistling and clapping. The time had come. All the years of wondering if the band would ever get back together again were coming to an end. This was really happening. The original members of Days of the New had made peace with each other. They had found a way to get back to what mattered. They were about to contribute to the Rock ‘n Roll history book. I’m guessing for many in attendance that night, Days of the New were about to make a lot of people very happy.
As the band started playing the opening notes of the first song, Travis paused a moment as he decided which of his three guitars to play. With a short strap, he maneuvered his body through the narrow opening. After what appeared to be some technical issues, he chose another guitar. Making sure everything was okay, he started pacing back and forth a few times in front of the mic while strumming. Possibly getting the feel for the guitar. Possibly even thinking to himself, “Is this really happening?” The band eventually launched into Flight Response from Days of the New (1999). As Travis sang, some of the crowd were mesmerized while others sang along. Rockin’ the crowd with dual acoustic, you couldn’t help but move to beat and groove of this song. The crowd responded with more cheering as the song came to an end but the music never stopped. With some minimal tuning from Travis, who had picked up a different guitar, it was a fairly seamless transition into Enemy, from the same album. To watch Travis and Todd play side by side, singing together and to see Jesse rockin’ out, head bobbin’ and to watch Matt play with a steady groove was just wonderful. If you never knew this band’s history, you would never have guessed they were playing together for the first time in 17 years.
Off and on during the night, to me, Travis appeared like an eccentric musical madman as he would pace back and forth in front of his three guitars. I assumed he was trying to decide which tuning would be best for the next song. (Note: Since the posting of this review, it was pointed out that Travis’ guitars were most likely lined up incorrectly which conflicted with his set list numbering.) As a result, the guitar tech was often seen squatting down next to the guitars, waiting to see which one Travis would use so he could take the one just played to check the tuning. It was sometimes distracting, but I guess it was a necessary evil. All in the name of Rock n’ Roll, right?
Once again, Travis chose a guitar, started strumming, then took it off and chose another. Everyone was then treated to The Character/The Threat. Unfortunately Todd had technical difficulties during most of the song. Despite his guitar issues, you could see him singing along throughout the song off mic. He was finally back on track for the last few notes. After the song ended Travis commented to Todd that he was missed. With the tone in his voice, I took this in a way that one might reflect back on time missed with a long lost friend, Next up was Shelf in the Room from their 1997 self-titled debut album. This of course, brought on loud cheers from the crowd. Once the song was over, Travis talked about how it had been 17 years since they last played together. He mentioned they never thought it would happen again, and he bet we never expected to see them on stage again.
Off and on all night fans could be heard singing along and a lot recognized songs after the first few notes. This crowd was definitely into it and showed their appreciation for the band after each and every song. Next up was Running Knees from the 1998 Godzilla movie soundtrack. At one point, Todd was strumming his guitar so hard I thought he was going to break a string. The energy of the band was super high during this song. They slowed down a bit with What’s Left For Me? and ended with Travis stating, “I gotta say, I really like that tune.” They continued with Touch, Peel and Stand before surprising everyone by playing a brand new song. Travis mentioned people were asking them if they planned to release new music. He confirmed that they were. He said the song was still in the works and that these things take time. “You can’t perfect them right away. You gotta let them breathe and shit.” For me, Magic Man was quite an interesting song and the crowd was very receptive once it was over. Again, history in the making.
Travis quickly spoke to the rest of the band and they all left the stage. He mentioned it being a Days of the New tradition and played the majority of Dancing With the Wind from Days of the New (2001) alone on stage before the rest of the band came back out and joined him. They ended their set with two songs from the debut album, Solitude and The Down Town. Once they were finished, the band thanked the crowd, handed out set lists, picks, etc, waved good-bye and were gone. The hour and 20 minute kick off of the reunion tour had come to an end. When it was clear they were not coming back out, the crowd started chanting but alas, the show was over. Eventually, one by one, each band member came out to meet with fans, take photos, sign posters, CDs, set lists, etc.
I remember at one point towards the end of the night, Travis made a comment about how it was nice to see things in a new light. One might guess this had to do with his current vs past state of mind or maybe his appreciation for being back together with the original line up and playing music again. Either way, if the remainder of this tour is anything like the first night, fans are going to thoroughly enjoy each and every moment. Oh and it probably wouldn’t hurt to cross your fingers and toes that new music will be released much sooner vs much later than expected.
Keep up with the band below:
Days of the New Facebook
Days of the New Tour Dates
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