UPDATE: Confirmed on 2/7/2023, Steve Sostak passed away. RIP to killer sax player for a killer band.
Growing up in the 80’s meant I had a fascination with martial arts — karate, Bruce Lee, ninjas, SAMURAI SUNDAY on Channel 66 and of course, the Karate Kid. As an adult, I was super stoked to hear Youtube was doing a series on Johnny and Cobra Kai and it didn’t disappoint. When I was fifteen, I wanted to name my first band COBRA KAI (and fuck it, I should have), but the singer thought it sounded “dated” and too “eighties” and we should use something more “intelligent” and “ironic;” so Sycophant was born.
Anyway, all of that is tangential, because I’m not writing about martial arts or my first awful punk band, but rather about one of the best math rock bands to come out of Chicago’s extremely furtive math rock and post hardcore scene — SWEEP THE LEG JOHNNY.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t revisit Going Down Swinging because Cobra Kai is now on Netflix, but the truth is, I’ve been walking around the house yelling “SWEEP THE LEG JOHNNY!” This obviously lead me to the music room and pulling this LP off the shelf.
I’m fairly confident I’m not the only person in the mid 90’s who saw their name on the FIRESIDE BOWL list and automatically thought “huh, wonder if they’re a ska band?” I mean, after all, they had a saxophone. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw them, I went under the assumption that they were ska — thank Jah I was wrong. They were SO GOD-DAMNED-GOOD.
I probably saw Sweep the Leg Johnny both, intentionally and unintentionally than any other band. (editor’s note — I’ve seen THE BOLLWEEVILS intentionally more times than any other band. STLJ gets the one-two combo of opening for bands I wanted to see or added to shows I was already going to.) The 90s were wild like that. You could show up at the Fireside any given night and randomly, some band you love was added to a the gig.
What do they sound like? Well, if you’re asking that question, either you didn’t hit play on the Youtube link above or that link is dead. I would say maybe something like Slint meets King Crimson with a saxophone? If that isn’t enough for you to want to go dig in, I don’t know what else I can say.
Mix Tape of Similar Bands —
Lustre King – Horseblinder
Shellac – My Black Ass Live at the Congress Theatre 1998, opening for Fugazi (you can see my head bobbing up and down up front in some shots. Fucking stellar show. The Ex also played. )
Assembly Line People Program – Glass Static
Dianogah – What is Your Landmass?
Big’n – Song to End All Songs
The above bands are just a small snapshot of the Chicago post-punk/mathrock scene in the 90’s. I really should just write a post about the Fireside Bowl and cover all of the scenes that called that place home.