I have some good friends in this band Faith In The Fallen, whom I’ve mentioned here before and play a substantial role in the Chicago music scene. As usual, FITF plays 90% of their shows as far from where I live as maps will allow. It’s like they’re embarrassed by me! All kidding aside, it has given rise to this blog and taken me to a variety of music venues I otherwise would not have seen. It is also a great opportunity to see new bands and meet musicians in the local scene. A Facebook invitation popped up on my news feed tempting me to come listen. The boys were playing with some other locals at a Northside joint called Nite Cap. I called TQ and we packed up the van to head North. It was a sweltering night in Chicago and although the crowd was a bit thin, Faith came out with a blistering set. We knew in advance they were playing with Paragon, who Dan Dobbertin highly recommended we see. I did a little homework, watched some Paragon videos, listened to their Reverb Nation stuff (here is where I start to get hooked) and I’m ready for their set.
Um, no I wasn’t.
Paragon hits the stage and the first two thing you notice is their tall bassist Tragic Johnson and the dreadlocks of lead singer/guitarist Nate Emetti. Kiel Tredrea sears you with his first note and Frank Suda snaps you into the groove with a few quick pops on his snare and BOOM! just like that Paragon has ALL of your attention. With a smooth Caribbean beat married to a metal guitar and punishing rhythm section, Nate lulls you into a rock n’ roll dream that is actually the first few “chugs” of a runaway freight train of sound. This is why I love original local music. THIS is what pulls me off the couch and hauls me in all directions to see live original music. These moments are NOT typical – anything but. You’ve heard the expression lightning in a bottle. Sorta like that. I refer to them as magic moments, surprising you with their honesty, depth and pure exhilaration about music. Magic moments are strong and emotional and real. Moments that connect the artists to the listener, where an understanding is born, where spirits become friends. It’s why bands like FITF and Paragon have such loyal followings.
Like all the bands who I love and write about, a live Paragon show is my preferred choice. Their two albums/CDs (showing my age again) are well-produced representations of their fine music and if you can get your hands on them, they are money well-spent. On the other hand, their live sets are transcendent. The emotional roller coaster of the lyrics, the relentless rhythm (you WILL dance, resistance is futile…), the intricate guitar work, Frank beating those cans like they owe him money! See what you could be doing instead of watching “All in the Family” reruns on a Friday night?
Dobbs was right; this band was FOR REAL. A cut above the usual. We meet Nate, Tragic, Kiel & Frank afterwards as customary and rained accolades upon them. They were full of humor and good conversation and we vowed to see them again, which we did. Fast forward to the June 2017. An invite to “Paragon Says Goodbye” hits my page, and I’m thinking this is some band shenanigans, a play on words or inside joke. As I read more, I realize this is true – the boys are disbanding and having one more show. I jump on the computer, alert TQ to the situation, book a room nearby and clear my schedule. This is a show not to be missed.
TQ, Lisa and I pull up to EvenFlow Music & Spirits in the heart of Geneva, IL. Once the old State Bank of Geneva, EvenFlow is a classic venue straight out of Hollywood. A classy joint with a nice long bar opposite the stage and room for what seemed a few hundred folks, their staff was friendly and attentive. Manager Ernesto Rivero reserved a nice table for us and our server Lupe made sure we had food & drinks all night. Even though our table sat furthest from the stage, the sound was very good and we had little problems seeing the band. If anything, the band riser could be a bit higher, but that’s trivial compared to the great look & feel of this room. Paragon rumbled onto stage and we were off….
Plowing through their impressive catalog, the band was as tight as I’ve ever heard; not only that, they were throwing their hearts behind every note. The band was smiling and having a blast and it was contagious to the audience. When they covered “Beautiful Disaster” by 311, the crowd started singing and dancing and the party was ON. At one point, Tragic introduced himself as “not the original bass player” and welcomed a former member of the band to the stage, Andy Felbab. Andy still had great form and sat in for a couple songs without breaking stride. In the blink of an eye, Paragon reeled off 2 full hours of music, highlighted by a great cover of “Sober” by TOOL and an astonishing rendition of “Zombie” by the Cranberries that should have been recorded. But they saved their best for last, and Paragon’s best is SO good. The final encore, “Supposed to Be” shook the foundation of the Old Bank and then the band was done. They left it all on stage. No one was disappointed tonight. 2.5 hours of pure rock heaven.
Riddums & Tuneage salutes Paragon, a great local band we certainly hope we haven’t heard the last of, in one form or another. We firmly believe that they are underrated but certainly not under-appreciated. Great guys to the man and great musicians, one & all. Good luck in your future endeavors, gentlemen and THANK YOU for the great rhythms and tunes you left behind….