Influential punk band Screeching Weasel hits Chicago for only show of 2019

Ben Weasel, frontman of legendary punk band Screeching Weasel, said the band's upcoming Chicago concert date feels a bit more special than usual.

First, the show brings Screeching Weasel back to its home turf. Second, it's the band's only show scheduled in 2019. The show takes place at House of Blues Chicago on Saturday, July 27.

“We're excited this date worked out for us, and we're planning to put it all out there on stage,” Weasel said. “It's our only show this year, and we want to make it count. It helps that it's a Chicago show, because that's where everything started for the band.”

Screeching Weasel's roots stretch back more than 30 years, to the Northwest suburbs during the mid-1980s. At the time, Weasel was a Prospect Heights teen known as Ben Foster. He co-founded the band with a friend from Mount Prospect, John “Jughead” Pierson.

The band combined the three-chord sound of the Ramones and the serrated punk of the Descendents, adding to that mix a uniquely sneering, and self-deprecating, sense of humor. Early songs such as “March of the Lawnmowers,” “K-Mart Blues,” “Mad at the Paperboy” and “Teenage Freakshow” resonated with disaffected suburban youth of the day.

“One thing about Screeching Weasel is that we embraced being suburban,” said Weasel, who now lives in Wisconsin with his wife and children. “The trend back then was to act tough, wear a big mohawk, like you came from the mean city streets. But we didn't bother with any of that.

“There were things I didn't like about the area where I grew up, which I think is true of every teenager. But the suburbs also gave us our start. I remember hooking up with Durty Nellie's and getting punk shows going at that venue. A lot of great bands came out to play there.”

Screeching Weasel released albums steadily throughout the '80s and '90s, earning critical acclaim, gaining a small but devoted following and influencing numerous bands, such as Green Day and blink-182, that would strike gold with Screeching Weasel's melodic punk sound. All of this despite multiple lineup changes and Ben Weasel's growing distaste for the rock-band grind.

“It started to get exhausting because I was wearing so many hats — managing the band in addition to writing and performing,” he said.

Today, Weasel is the only founding member left in the band. He records and performs at a much more deliberate pace, but he remains committed to Screeching Weasel and its fans. The band is nearing completion on a new record to be released in 2020. Weasel said he hopes a tour will follow.

In the meantime, fans from the Chicago area and beyond have the July 27 show to look forward to. Screeching Weasel's shows are renowned for their raucous energy and Weasel's crowd-baiting persona, though Ben Weasel says he's not as focused on provoking the audience these days. (At a South by Southwest performance nearly a decade ago, Weasel got into a physical altercation with heckling fans — an incident he regrets.)

“I started to bait the crowd a little bit in the early days to hide what I thought were our flaws as a performing band. I figured, might as well give them something to remember,” he said. “But now, after performing for what, 30 years or more, I think I've gotten to the point where I can be comfortable on stage without doing as much of that. And the people in the band with me now are all fantastic.

“When we play now, there are people in the audience who've been with us since way back when. Sometimes they bring their kids. We want to make sure they leave feeling good about what they've seen.”

• • •

Screeching Weasel

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 27

Where: House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, Chicago,

Tickets: $29.50

Screeching Weasel got its start in Prospect Heights in the mid-1980s. The band is working on a new album and plays July 27 at Chicago's House of Blues. Courtesy of Brian Santostefano
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