It's a dripping-hot June night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and a crowd of a couple hundred is packed into the Stone's Throw Bar as the Ike Reilly Assassination takes the stage. The band rips through the cigarette smoke with a high-spirited rendition of their epic COPS-inspired song/story, "Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights." As Reilly's plaintive tenor closes the song with one last "It doesn't even matter now/anyhow," the drunk frat boys in the front row start shouting for the band to play "Put a Little Love In It," one of the songs off IRA's first critically praised and undersold album, Salesmen and Racists. Reilly leans out over the crowd, frowning bemusedly at the hecklers. "No," he spits out, "tonight's not about love. Tonight's about hate." And though First Avenue has traditionally hosted the Assassination's "love" shows, it's clear that the gulf between hate and love, evil and good, and dirty and clean, are the fuel beneath Reilly's songwriting. From bigoted, impotent men to women with one-punch knockouts to the quiet resignation of soldiers leaving for war, Reilly's songs seek out beauty, not underneath the grime, but inherent within it. The band's latest album, We Belong to the Staggering Evening, heralds a return to vintage IRA, with brash choruses, two-step anthems, noisy riffs, and the no-bullshit attitude we've come to expect from the band. With the Alarmists, the Falls, and Ezra Furman. 18+.
Wed., Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m., 2007