Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou, Juliette

Ending a relationship can be rough. Even if things haven’t been great lately, there are the memories of better times and wondering where things went astray. And if you think things have been going really well, an unexpected break-up can hit you upside the head like a foul ball in the 8th inning after you’ve been drinking for three hours and busy texting your significant other to let them know that you’re going to be a little late because there’s a special on Rolling Rocks at the bar by the ballpark and then before you know it you’ve got a tattoo of a Rawlings on your temple, your buddies are laughing at you and you’re thinking maybe you should have read the fine print warning on the back of your ticket stub a little more closely. Unfortunately, women don’t come with any fine print so even if you’re an overly diligent attorney you’re going to get hit sooner or later.

So in case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll spell it out for you: I’m breaking up with Juliette Lewis. We had a good run. If you remember we first connected back in 2006, but it wasn’t until a year later when the relationship got really hot. That’s when we bonded at her show with the Licks at Reggie’s back in December. I was acting like a lovestruck schoolgirl. More so than usual. I got a Juliette poster as the centerpiece of my shrine. I was going to incorporate one of those salami sticks hanging in the meat market since they’re very tasty, but I was trying to stay focused. I put the picture we took together on my nightstand. I asked Mrs. F’er if she would change her name to Juliette. I later suggested Joe Pesci after the beating she gave me. I also suspect she’s the one who vandalized the poster with a Sharpie mustache. But I digress.

The two and a half records she made with the Licks just plain rocked. Hard. Muscular. Nothing fancy – just loud guitars, driving drums and high energy vocals. We’re talking a two year-old on Red Bull and pixie sticks kind of energy. Her band were some no nonsense, jeans and t-shirt guys who got sweaty and didn’t comb their hair. Not the kind who spent a lot of time trying to look like they don’t comb their hair, either. And the show I saw back in 2007 was off the hook. Or off the chain. Whatever the kids say today when something is totally copasetic.

So Juliette and the Licks stayed on my playlist fairly regularly. Then she announced the Licks were no more. I wasn’t happy, but gave her the benefit of the doubt. She posted a new website for a new band called The New Romantiques. Now I was having some doubts, but sticking them in the far recesses of my brain. Back where I also keep the knowledge of where to find any cooking utensils in the house. I was in denial that we were growing apart. She finally released the new record and it was good. In fact, there were a few rockers that held their own with the best Licks tracks. Even a raw blues number that she is seemingly able to pull off. But there were a few that strayed from rocker territory. It’s like when one of your mountain bike buddies buys a road bike “just to ride when the trails are muddy”. Then before you know it he’s shaving his legs twice a week and talking to your wife about razor burn. But I digress.

There were darker tunes, more emotive tunes, and “sonically different” songs. There was even the pure pop goodness of “Uh-Huh” which I can appreciate but just seemed out of place. Still, I gave the CD multiple spins and looked forward to her show with the same anticipation normally reserved for the Little Debbie delivery man.

I talked people into going with me, and on the night of the big show the five of us were pretty much the first ones in the house. You know, ‘da house, dawg. The first opening band Juliette has been touring with must have called in sick or something because they were replaced by a local band called The Wanton Looks. Not the Wonton Looks. That’s that happens when you order some tasty soup at PF Changs. The Wanton Looks are a four rocker chick power pop quartet with a punkish edge. The singer/bassist had good stage presence, and although the guitarists seemed adequate they never quite inspired me to rip off my shirt like The Incredible Hulk and stab myself with a pencil. The drummer appeared to be immensely talented, much too talented to be hanging out with these broads. They need to step it up a notch. However, I stuck around for the whole set and feel I got my money’s worth for an opener. Plus I have to say that or else they’ll break my face the next I show it in public.

American Bang was the middle act and I had seen them open for The Pretenders earlier in the year. However, it was at The Riviera which is the Ford Focus of venues. It will get you there, but you won’t look cool and definitely won’t be rocking any rich Corinthian leather seats. I was also distracted by worries that I was going to find a parking ticket on my car. So I deferred judgment.

Turns out that at a small club like the Bottom Lounge, American Bang can tear that shit up. The band looks like it consists of three Nashville stoners who ditched class to listen to Black Crowes records, and a fourth guy who looks like he might have been recently released by Night Ranger. I’m not even sure he’s really in the band. I think he just showed up and the other three are still trying to decide who needs to tell him. In the meantime, they came out and rocked way harder than Juliette fans deserved. And did it all while “drunk as piss”.

Next up was Juliette. Funny, but I had just also seen her open for The Pretenders a couple months earlier – it was a short 30-minute set and never seemed to find a groove so I also deferred judgment on the new band and material that night. Tonight I would offer no excuses for them.

Let’s start with the band. All seemed proficient. But the drummer seemed bored. Seemed to sit there with a nonplussed look on his face. The bass player looked as if she were plucked from a Quentin Tarantino movie just for her exotic look. One guitarist was rocking a modified Flock of Seagulls ‘do. I didn’t find the other guitarist as bothersome but he was no Lick.

When I first introduced Juliette to Moist Rub a few years ago he was skeptical. How did he know whether she was a true rocker or just using her mad acting skillz to play a rocker? I thought he was the one off his rocker. Eventually, it seems he was satisfied that she was for real, but now I’m having my own doubts. The oft repeated line during her promotional appearances that her shows were about “communing with the gods” and some other mumbo jumbo I can’t recall. The new flair for the dramatic in the new songs. The posing and dramatic long stares during her performances. Ah, phooey. I know there is still a little rocker in there.

I even waited around to see if she was going to come out so I could get my liner notes signed and get to the bottom of it all. Nope. I get the hint.

I got my $15 worth. Definitely. But the shrine is being replaced with that stick of salami.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Me and Dave

I have an announcement to make. I intended to go to the grave with this information known only to me and to one other. Not my own grave, mind you, but the grave of Fatty Arbuckle, until I remembered that he was cremated, and his ashes were spread over the Pacific Ocean. I suppose I could have gone to the Pacific Ocean with the information, but it just wouldn't be the same without a headstone upon which to unleash my mourning and reflection. I wonder if they make floating headstones for burials at sea. If they don't I have dibs on inventing them. Don't even think about stealing my idea. Blogs are legally binding in patent court. You can look it up. I don't expect to have a grave of my own, choosing instead to fall from a cliff to be left in anonymity and natural disgrace as the wild boars of Dover feast on my corpse.

I can no longer keep my secret to take to anybody's grave, even convenient ones like that of Wally Dandrel, who put his grave on the Internet ( The circumstances surrounding my secret have become too volatile to hold dear, thanks to that blabbermouth, David Letterman. Since, as you may have heard in the news lately, the ex-weatherman late night funny man seems determined to scrub his dirty laundry on national television using the ancient art of monologue, not unlike the Sophoclean King Creon as he set forth a course for the demise of his own insouciant little world, I thought I had better fess up before I ended up in another Top Ten list (the other time was March 6th, 1989: Top Ten Microbial Disinfectants Used by the Supreme Court).

I had an affair with David Letterman.

There. I said it. I'm not proud of it, but I'm also not ashamed of it. He was good to me. Although our affair never made it to the orifice compromising stages many people associate with affairs, the emotions were the same, because there was magic in that hand shake on that bus that day. And like Oprah, he was gentle and tender with me and held me afterward as I wept.

I admit this now in the hopes of saving my family from further embarrassment and to keep the tabloids and paparazzi at bay. That, and I want to ensure they get my part of the story correct when the very special made for TV movie about the David Letterman Affairs is released in time for the February sweeps this television season (starring the caustic Danny Bonaduce as the ambrosial Moist Rub). I'm sure they will offer a generous royalty package for those of us who have become victims of Letterman's lechery as we are splattered across television sets worldwide. Also, look for a cameo by Richard Simmons as an anonymous shopper at Rupert Jee's Hello Deli. He's fabulous!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Demographic Awareness Month

In case you didn't notice all the pink around football stadiums this weekend (and I'm not talking about the cheerleaders), the NFL added some fab pink accents to their uniforms to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As the newest member of the mommy blogger community I'm all for breast cancer awareness, but given the typical NFL fan isn't the message a little displaced? With all the men in the audience, wouldn't prostate cancer awareness make more sense? Or given the amount of red meat being grilled up at tailgate parties outside the stadium make colon cancer awareness slightly more appropriate? I think it might take a little more prodding to get those prostate exams and colonoscopies done. Pun intended.

I'm sure all the football widows around the nation are thrilled that their husbands are offering to give them breast exams after a long day of drinking and eating bratwurst.

But seriously, take care of yourselves. See a doctor once in a while. Eat an apple. Go for a walk. Feel your boobies. And if you're a guy, you shouldn't have boobies so you might want to lay off the cheesy poofs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Knee Jerk Reaction of the Day

Okay, I got the message. Nobody reads the blog, everyone misses Moist Rub and the last post was outed as a thinly veiled attempt to show how cool I am by telling you about bands you never heard of.

I'm quitting, going to pretend I'm a woman, and join the mommy blog community.

Thanks and regards,


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Show Me The Way

In planning my upcoming concert calendar, it appears there are some conflicts... I think I already know which shows I'm choosing, but which would you pick? (This is also a covert way to see if anyone still reads this damn blog.)

Scheduling Conflict #1

Which show would you choose?

Juliette Lewis

Scheduling Conflict #2

Which show would you choose?

Screaming Females
Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

Scheduling Conflict #3

Which show would you choose?

Cage The Elephant
Poster Children

Scheduling Conflict #4

Which show would you choose?

Keb Mo
Meat Puppets

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Salute You, Brother

I just discovered that Jim Carroll died, died last Friday. I confess I've never read any of his stuff and I've never seen The Basketball Diaries, but damn if he didn't put out one of my favorite songs.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No Logic On The Horizon

I’m clearly schizophrenic when it comes to music. I scoff at popular music with nearly the gusto of the indie hipster with the fixie, but will readily ‘fess up to downloading a top 40 tune to feed my appreciation for the perfect pop song. I’ll make fun of those same indie hipsters, but then throw down a Neutral Milk Hotel lyric just to mess with people. I despise the big stadium show and make fun of people who go to see Elton John and Billy Joel in this decade. And then I get tickets to see U2 at Soldier Field.

And then come here to report that the show was absolutely spectacular. They’re really fucking good. Despite all that shit The Edge does with effects, the songs play well to a stadium show. The ridiculously large claw structure and video screen that they’re carting around the world is awe inducing. And that they can coordinate the sound, effects, lighting, video and technology for this event seemingly without a hitch is a logistical and production achievement that blows my mind and really needs to be seen. It was like being in the middle of an MTV video. In a good way. Not one of those Men Without Hats videos where they dance around a renaissance faire, either.

I’m Sid F’er, and I approve this tour. Save up some cash, sell a kid if you need to, but get yourself a ticket.

If I have some time I’ll add some additional details of our day, aka Mrs. F’er Bueller’s Day Off.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

F'er Living

My doctor gave me another six months to live with an option to renew, so I was feeling pretty good today. As such, instead of my mid-afternoon snack consisting of a can of Pringles crushed and sprinkled over a quart of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, I decided to celebrate my continued existence by treating my body like the Temple of Doom which it is and sliced up some sticks of celery.

I also learned that you're not supposed to put celery in a garbage disposal. Who the hell knew? Oh, I guess everyone.

I swear if they made levees out of shredded celery, New Orleans would still be standing today. After a half hour under the sink unplugging pipes (not a euphemism), I learned my lesson. Stick to ice cream and Pringles.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

On The Waterfront

I was a very strange kid. I wanted to be a meteorologist when I grew up. Well, not exactly... more like I wanted to be the TV weatherman. I even had one of those Junior Weatherman kits that you could use to measure rainfall, wind speed and temperature and a log to record it all. Of course, this was well before Excel was invented so I lost interest and took up something more interesting, like bowling. Now I'm embarrassed to admit I still don't really understand what the dew point is and why I need to know that.

I also don't understand why the weather report on the news takes five minutes. All we really care about is the damn forecast. Do I need to wear my slicker and rubbers, or can I just wear my "Somebody Went To Branson And All I Got Was This Stupid Shirt" shirt? Instead we get computer models, high pressure systems, doppler radars and a recap of the current weather in case we're shut-ins and just curious what it was like outside today.

But I'll let it slide as long as the forecast continues to bring the weather we've had this week - sunny and 70's without a cloud in the sky. It's even brought out a kinder, gentler Sid, and I've left the mean streets to take the slightly longer and more crowded lakefront path home on my bike. Click on images for full size versions if your eyes suck or if you just want to further admire my iPhone skillz.

Leaving downtown, just north of Ohio Street Beach, ferris wheel at Navy Pier in the background.

Accidental photo of me and my shadow and the evil black Trek since I don't have a new Globe bicycle yet.

A little further north at Oak Street Beach near the Gold Coast. Not sure what all those people are running from - probably some sort of sasquatch.

Just over halfway home looking back toward downtown from near Diversey Harbor. The woman is clearly not amused with my riding thong and is calling the authorities.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

You Don't Sing Me Love Songs...

I came home and found this today... I think my wife has a new boyfriend.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Globe Trekking

Anyone who has read this blog over the last 4 years and 500+ posts knows that bikes are a big part of my life. But this isn’t a bike blog. Just like the guy in the Dos Equis ads, I am striving to be the world’s most interesting biker rather than post reviews of the latest titanium water bottle cage to hit the market. You’ll also be more likely read about the great city of Chicago and the awesome events to which I can ride my bike, rather than just post videos of myself trying to perfect my track stand at the traffic light on my way to a superhero tap dance opera.

As such, I’m not sure I’ll be chosen to test out a bike as part of the Globe Experience Project that Globe Bikes is running to promote the rollout of their new line.

So my plan is to trick them by offering them a challenge they cannot refuse. The Godfather strategy.

You see, we have six bikes in our household of two people. It seems like a lot, but that’s only three a piece – two full-suspension Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bikes that guided us through Crested Butte, two nimble Specialized Allez Elite road bikes that survived the Hotter n’ Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, and an old Specialized Rockhopper that the Mrs. uses as a commuter bike. Wait, you say that’s only five? By golly, you’re right. I guess I left out my daily commuter/errand bike, a 1991 Trek 820 Antelope, of which I am the original owner.

Does Globe Bikes believe that they finally have a bike that can finally replace my 18 year-old Trek and make this an exclusive Specialized/Globe household? I’m willing to give it shot and show off their bike around town if they are.

This year alone the bike would have seen daily commutes to work on my 15-mile round trip, but also visits to events at Pritzker Pavilion, Grant Park, the Athenaeum Theatre, Lakeview Music Fest, i/o, Wrigley Field, the Vic Theater, and too numerous to mention shops and restaurants along the miles of bike routes outside my front door.

And if Globe isn’t up for the challenge, well, they just might wake up with a stripped headset in their bed.

The evil black Trek trying to steal the spotlight from the Specialized.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Summer of Sid

According to the all the Facebook updates I’m seeing from people about their little brats going back to school and how they’ll miss the annoying little buggers, I figured it’s time for my annual How I Spent My Summer Vacation essay. Never you mind that I haven’t done one before. I’m just hopelessly behind on posting and need to start taking some of these post-tit notes off my desk before Big Bird attempts to mate with it.

March 29 – Bob Mould at Old Town School of Folk Music
Husker Du rocked my Walkman in the 80’s so I was intrigued by the opportunity to check out their frontman at a small joint like OTS. However, this was risky as it was an acoustic show, and I wasn’t as familiar with his more recent solo work. I sampled some new stuff and it sounded promising, so I picked up a couple tix. Unfortunately, the show was like watching SNL. Sure there are some nuggets and it’s entertaining, but will never capture the same burn your tongue on a hot slice of pizza feeling of the original. I know it’s unfair to compare his solo career to what I remember from 20 years ago, but I’m pretty much a dick and he should have expected me to do that. Sorry. And another thing – I like a little banter between songs, especially at a more intimate venue. You know, besides hawking your new CD.

April 5 – Alvin Ailey at Auditorium Theater
Yep, while I was at the ballet pretending that I didn’t like pretentious dance events, I came right home and purchased tickets to another pretentious dance event I saw being promoted at the theater. Alvin Ailey isn’t really that pretentious, but it is still a dance show. And a pretty damn good one. I’ve seen this company twice now and I’ll go again. You can’t stop me. So you may as well just come with next time. And being the minority in the audience made me feel hip in a culturally diverse kind of way.

Mid-April included a trip to Orlando. It was hot, I had to wear a suit, there were large people with fat kids in tow on a quest to see a moose or a mouse or whatever the hell is down there, I don’t drink and I was at a conference where the primary activity is drinking. Those were dark days, my friend.

April 29 – Chorus Line at Oriental Theater
Okay, now I even think I need to schedule a night out at an Extreme Cagefighting event to prove that I do more than watch people in tights and attend musicals. Actually, those cagefighter guys wear spandex tights, too. Maybe I have some subconscious fetish. Or, as I tell myself, I bought the tickets as birthday presents for my mom and my wife, both of whom love this production. They talked it up so much that I was sure I would end up quitting my job to become a professional dancer just to garner their approval and live the dream. Didn’t happen. I don’t get it. I wanted it to be over more than my dental appointments.

May 17 – 11th Anniversary
On this day both me and the Mrs. realized that we were both just waiting for the other one to leave. But we’re both too stubborn to be the first to walk out of this loveless marriage, so we appear to be stuck with each other for at least another year.

[Actual quote from this last weekend: “Go eat your lunch before I stab you with this knife.”]

To further torture ourselves, we took a 2,500 mile round-trip road trip at the end of the month to celebrate our tolerance of each other. We rode the famous mountain bike trails of Crested Butte and she didn’t push me off the mountain. And I didn’t sneak any bear urine into her hydration pack. Maybe it’s love, after all.

June 19 – Lovehammers at House of Blues
I finally relented and picked up a ticket. And then woke up the day of the show with a bug that I would happily wish upon my worst enemy. However, I wasn’t totally heartbroken as the opening bands had the potential to be so incredibly annoying that I might have felt worse by going and listening to them. I’ll take my chances with a fever and body aches.

June 26 – Taste of Chicago
I went on opening night so I could be sure to get my sauteed goat. It doesn’t taste anything like chicken. It’s better. And it really gets my goat when people don’t believe me.

June was busy as I also had a trip to Vegas and two trips to Cedar Rapids. I kind of prefer Cedar Rapids. The hookers are less expensive, too.

I already told you about the Folk & Roots Festival. It’s a good thing I have a blog and not a podcast because somebody at work thought I spent the day at the Vulcan Roots Festival. Maybe because I wear my Spock ears to work every casual Friday.

July 26 – Chicago Criterium
Yes, I spent an entire day watching cyclists ride their bikes in circles around downtown Chicago. It’s the NASCAR equivalent for folks who spend more money on their bicycles than they do on Budweiser and who don’t outweigh their refrigerators.

I also already told you about the Dead Weather show, but it was so good I’m going to tell you again. I’m also on the verge of developing a mancrush on Jack White. Especially after seeing the movie It Might Get Loud. Since I mentioned it, how about a quick movie review…

Here’s the deal – the filmmaker gets Jimmy Page, Edge and Jack White together in the same room with a bunch of gear to talk about guitars and play a bit. Sounds awesome, right? Okay, so I guess it was, but it could have been so much better. It would be like having Pee-Wee Herman over to your house and him just wanting to sit on your couch and masturbate. Sort of. That analogy sucks. Gene Siskel could do a better review and he’s dead. Just go see it.

August 2 – The Rhythm Project – Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park
One of many free shows at the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion right downtown. The only problem… free. I am totally and completely against anything and everything free. Devalue anything like that and people treat it that way. While simultaneously going apeshit to get it. Charge a friggin’ dollar if you need to, just to weed out people showing up because it’s free. Regardless, I mostly enjoyed the show despite people hoarding and saving seats, the preponderance of children being forcefully exposed to culture they clearly didn’t give a crap about, and Type II diabetics stuffing their faces with fried chicken dinners because they can’t go without food for 90 friggin’ minutes.

August 15 – Air & Water Show – Lakefront
Show central is at North Avenue Beach. Screw that. For the second year in a row we set up shop about 1-1/2 north at Diversey Harbor. Rode our bikes down at 10:30 a.m. and stayed to the end at 4 pm. All the air show stuff was pretty impressive, but the F-15 stole the show. When it roared by, little kids cried, women fainted and men cheered. I also wondered when we’re bombing the crap out of these poor third world villages, if just for a moment, before the missiles are launched, they think that those jets are pretty damn cool, too. I doubt it.

August 18 – The Pretenders/Cat Power/Juliette Lewis – The Vic
This deserves its own post. How much more awesome could a single show be? The answer is none. None more awesome.

I also saw Moist Rub at the Pretenders show so I can confirm that he’s not dead or anything.

August 22 – Ruthie Foster – Old Town School of Folk Music
Gospel-tinged blues is how I would describe it. Better than a roadhouse. Better than a church. Get yourself some Ruthie – she’s good for your soul. And her stories and stage presence make you wish she was your neighbor so you could order a pizza and invite her over to hang out for a couple hours on the weekend. Whatever toppings she wants.

So that takes us through the end of August. Thanks for your patience. Hope your summer was swell. I mean that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Afternoon Delight, Pt. II - Beyond Blue

Like a whole month ago I took you on a bike tour of my neighborhood and promised to share the rest of that day. Well, I had a date with my wife that night to see Chicago Tap Theatre’s next production – a one night showing of new stuff called Beyond Blue – and I proposed we make it a bike date. She donned her bike skirt, I rolled up the cuffs of my fancy goin’ out jeans like a true bike geek, we pumped up the tires and hit the bike lane. I was happy she agreed since I nearly killed her on our last bike outing, but her bruises were nearly gone and apparently her memory short.

Our first stop was for dinner at The Art of Pizza, as we obviously had to carbo load for the 3-1/2 mile commute home. Besides having awesome pizza, Art scores by serving it up by the slice, including stuffed. Which means no waiting 45 minutes, and I can carnivore my ass off while the Mrs. veges out.

This time CTT was on the main stage at the Athenaeum Theatre, which is still pretty intimate without a bad seat in the house. Except the one behind me, as I refused to take off my helmet (helmet hair, y’know) which is typically adorned with peacock feathers. Unlike their previous tap dance operas, this was a pure dance show.

Here are my impressions of each piece (please remember I am not a dancer, tap or otherwise, but just a dunderheaded fan):

The piece was included after it won a contest funded by a grant from the Saints Foundation. I don’t think they’re related to the New Orleans Saints because this piece seemed to have nothing to do with football. There was a lot of white color, several ramps set up like a mini skateboard park, and a sheet hanging on a cross. There was dancing, but everyone seemed to get pissed off whenever someone went to play with the sheet. This was too much symbolism or interpretation for my obtuse head, and I feared I would be lost for the evening. It’s much easier to follow superheroes and fairy tale characters.

Same but Different
Okay, this one consisted of four dancers knocking out some decent steps. After the show, the Mrs. asked if I knew why it was titled as such. Of course, I did. This was a statement of how all of us in the world are different, but really the same because dance is common to all cultures except cultures with those religious sects that forbid dancing. You know, teaching the world to sing, buying the world a Coke kind of thing. Everybody getting’ footloose. Wrong. Damn CTT set me up looking for symbolism and stuff, when the Mrs. informed me the dancers were doing the same rhythms but using different steps. Or something like that. I clearly suck at this game.

Next up, the CTT artistic director Mark did some solo stuff accompanied by a banjo player. The banjo player wasn’t as funny Steve Martin, but the tap dancing was way better than Steve Martin’s happy feet.

About Her
I thought this one might be inspired by Beth Hart’s song By Her. I don’t think it was, but I still remember liking it. Maybe because it reminded me of Beth Hart. I should give her a call. She seems to be spending way too much time in Europe and I’m kind of getting annoyed with her. This piece obviously brought out a lot of emotion from within.

The banjo guy came out again and had a little hoe-down with three guys from the company. It was like The Devil Went Down to Georgia, except with tap shoes instead of fiddles. I’m happy to report the devil didn’t steal no souls that night.

Quiet Down
The girls took over again and to be honest I’m getting some of these confused. It was over a month ago, so give me a break. I do have some notes that say I liked the choreography. Hey, this ain’t the New York Times.

The banjo player must have taken offense to my Steve Martin remark, because the next interlude was Mark doing some solo stuff accompanied by a local slam poet. I finally removed my peacock feather helmet and replaced it with the beret I keep in my back pocket for such occasions. I snapped my approval but the usher did not take kindly to my clove cigarette.

Bad Businessman
I think most of the company came out for this one, all dressed up like the bad businessman from Mannix. The piece included props such as business cards and newspapers to show that business sucks and we should all be tap dancers. The less people working on CDOs and other crap like that, the better. All I know is that the taxpayers never had to bail out a tap company.

Speaking of which, go make a donation to the company. I enjoy them and if you’re reading this blog it’s your turn to subsidize my entertainment. Thank you.

The second half kicked off with Siren’s Song, featuring Mark and Kendra. They rock. As long as they’re dancing with CTT, I’ll show up. The same way I’ll keep buying Lucky Charms as long as it continues to be filled with pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers.

Mark came back out to dance to some slam poetry about a street musician, and again the usher made me snuff out my clove cigarette. The beret stayed.

A large wooden box was the centerpiece of this one. The girls all hung out around, in and on the box. Then they hit the box. Then they came out of the box and then went back in the box and then got back on the box and hit it some more while this was all going on. This was obviously all a metaphor for the paradigm shift in gender identity and the effects on self-actualization and resulting catharsis within a controlled environment with subthemes addressing the increasing prevalence of agoraphobia in affluent communities of certain Canadian provinces. I think. I’m open to alternative hypotheses. Regardless, I enjoyed this one.

The banjo guy got over whatever was bugging him and came back to accompany Mark. It was swell having him back. I missed him.

This was aptly named, as the dance included tapping each other’s shoes. I get the feeling that would be like trying to give a quarterback a manicure during a two-minute drill. Sorry about the football reference, but I’m bitter about that Saints contest not having anything to do with football. Despite the lack of blocking and tackling I liked this one a lot, but would have like to have seen it on a smaller stage.

Flying Turtles
If you’re still with me on this post, I’m guessing that you must be a member of CTT. Hope my review of the previous pieces didn’t piss you off too much. Because I really did enjoy the show, but you totally knocked my socks off with this one. Seriously. I don’t know Brenda Bufalino and I don’t know who to thank more – her for choreographing something like that or you guys for nailing it. Aurally it was rocking, even to an untrained tap ear like myself. Visually, I had convinced myself that there was no way that chaos was choreographed. When it kicked in toward the end it looked like moths in the light of a streetlamp. Except the moths were flying turtles. Not slow turtles like in the Comcast commercial, but maybe unusually fast turtles named Snappy. Eventually I fell entranced into the rhythm and was sure that I could slip into the mix without anyone noticing. Clearly I’m a moron. There are some outstanding dancers in the company and I like watching them rock out on their own, but when the ensemble is firing on all cylinders like this one it doesn’t compare to anything else I’ve seen. Well, maybe those OK Go! videos. Keep practicing - you'll get there. But I digress.

Keep up the good work boys and girls. If need any help with promo materials, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I was fortunate to catch Flying Turtles a couple weeks later as part of a free show downtown - there's a shaky video here that gives you a feel for the piece.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Assault & Cupcake

That was the title of the play. One of the thirty plays as part of a special Thursday night edition of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind by the Neo-Futurists called 30 on Thursday! The Neos are reprising 30 plays from the archives to raise money to take their play Beer on the road to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. I've written about TMLMTBGB and Beer before, so check out those posts if you need a refresher.

So when #6 (Assault & Cupcake) was called, a Neo grabbed the sheet of paper, tore the paper in half, and balled up each half, one in each hand. He went to an audience member stage left and asked him to pick a hand. After choosing, he gave him the balled up paper and asked him to read it. The audience member said "cupcake" and another Neo came out and presented the lucky player with a plate containing a delicious looking cupcake.

It was a small crowd, maybe 15 of us in the theater. So when the Neo started walking stage right where I was sitting, I pretended to look away. It didn't work. He asked me to pick a hand. There was only one hand left. He gave me the remaining balled up piece of paper, asked me to undo it and read it.

I asked him if I had to.

"It says 'assault', doesn't it?"

"Yes, assault."

As soon as I said the word, two other cast members charged toward and gave me a good 15-second soaking with their super-soakers.

I love these guys.

Other plays included full nudity, flying tortillas, sharing some avocado and chips, a monologue from a corkscrew, a sing-a-long, and a near drowning. And much more. In 60 minutes. All for only $15. Come join me some week. I'll buy you a cupcake. Or maybe not.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Back In The High Life

CareerBuilder never seems to have any postings for Drug Dealer. Same for Monster and all the other usual suspects. The job never seems to turn up on those thinly veiled Yahoo features about the best way to earn $50,000 a year while working at home. Or without going to school. Or without having any interpersonal skills. But I did get an offer for such a position many years ago.

After my first year of college I took a summer gig as a roofer. I got dirty, didn’t learn any useful skills, and had to wear jeans and a long sleeve work shirt in hottest part of summer. I also wasn’t very fond of heights. However, it paid a whopping $8 an hour when minimum wage was probably about half that, and I had a killer tan and stayed in pretty good shape.

We did good work, but it wasn’t the most professional company out there. The owner, Al, who spent most of his time on the ground finding the next job, was rarely around but could be reached on his suitcase sized mobile phone if needed. Mike manned the tar kettle at ground level and seemed to spend most of his time avoiding getting dirty or breaking a sweat. I forget their names, but the two supervisor type dudes looked like Joe Elliott and Phil Collen from Def Leppard and were as good at roofing as Joe and Phil were at getting sugar poured on them. Pretty damn good. The crew they were charged with included some characters I mentioned here before. Four guys, probably in their mid-twenties, who all carpooled together in a Dodge Aspen station wagon from parts unknown. Fatboy was bleach blond and fat. How he stayed that size working on a roof in the middle of summer I have no idea, but I’m guessing he lived on blubber and motor oil in the off-season. I found out the Dodge belonged to his mother, and he was the driver because I think the was the only one of the four with a valid license. Every morning Fatboy, Hillbilly, Pat and Earl would stumble out of the wagon like a bunch of hungover circus clowns and we’d haul ourselves up the ladder to whatever roof needed tarring. Sometimes, one of them would be missing, usually due to a meeting with their probation officer.

The only rule at this company was shared on the first day – “Don’t step off the roof.” Fortunately for Al, most of the jobs were complete before OSHA ever came around. About mid-morning, and then again at lunch, since I was the rookie and had a car I was sent to the nearest McDonald’s to get food and drinks. I didn’t mind so much – it got me off the roof, into a air-conditioned McDonald’s for a few minutes and I got to take a leak in an actual bathroom instead of peeing on a rooftop. However, the downside was that I had to climb back up the ladder with an armful of Egg McMuffins and a half dozen drinks. It was a little terrifying at first, but by the end of summer I was rocking that ladder like a Denny’s waitress trained at the Ringling Brothers Circus. As I pulled up they would retreat to a shady corner of the roof and roll their first joint of the day. I was merely providing the munchies.

I don’t remember a lot of stories from them – they mostly seemed busy just trying to keep themselves out of jail and in whatever current living arrangements they secured. I’m not really sure what skeletons they had in the back of that Dodge Aspen, but they seemed like decent enough guys and were certainly friendly to the dorky college kid trying to pick up a few dollars for tuition. In fact, I had expected they might have resented me infiltrating their world for 12 weeks to make a quick buck before scuttling back to the ivy covered halls, but instead they had this romantic vision of college through which they seemed to want to live vicariously though me. University life was clearly a world where beer flowed freely (mostly true) and every guy was up to his eyeballs in pussy and banging the cast of Head of the Class (not completely true for freshman dorks like me). It seemed as if they admired me for having the opportunities before me. You’d think that would have motivated me to be grateful and inspired me to greatness. Instead I got kicked out the following semester.

But I digress. As the end of summer was approaching, “Joe Elliott” ruminated about the profits he could probably make by having a distribution channel in a college town. I’m not talking about tar paper. I never took him up on his offer. I was too much of a chicken, and in retrospect, I’m thinking that was a good thing. But I often wonder how it would have turned out if I had worked out a deal and gave a little competition to Hookah-Man in that little college town.

Probably not good. All these memories were triggered when I read the story of Featherhead.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Dead Weather & Screaming Females - The Vic

Back when I was younger, my nights out would often stretch into the wee hours of morning, and I enjoyed driving past hundreds of homes where the owners slumbered their lives away while was living life. Even if it wasn’t the most productive life, it had to be better than sleeping. One of the girls I dated back then lived near a donut shop and on a good night as we stumbled back to her place the owner would be in there before the shop opened, making up the first batches. On a whim one night/morning, we stopped there and called him over to the door and asked if he could make an early sale. He obliged, and I have to confess we made a habit of these visits. He seemed to enjoy the visits or was at least amused and often refused to accept the cash we offered. I relate this story because somehow the show triggered that memory, but now I can’t remember what analogy I was going for. Oh, well. I guess the lesson here is to eat donuts. They’re good for you and it supports the economy and your donut shop guy is probably a cool dude. He makes donuts for a living. They all aren’t as beaten down as that “time to make the donuts” guy from those commercials a long time ago.

Regardless, Screaming Females opened the show and we got there just as they were coming on stage. Not unlike getting to the donut shop just as the first batch is coming out of the fryer. There’s your analogy. Note that it is not The Screaming Females, just Screaming Females. Makes sense if you think about it since it isn’t a band of screaming females. That would just be annoying.

This was a three piece from New Jersey – a wee female guitarist/vocalist in a Little House on the Prairie dress and her two dirty hipster sidemen. I wasn’t expecting much, but they done brought it. Marissa is a cross between Laura Ingalls, Ally Sheedy from her Breakfast Club days, Johnny Ramone, and perhaps Exene Cervenka. No, make that Kim Gordon. There's a better comparison there, but I'm just not finding it. Her vocals might get her kicked out of a karaoke bar, but they work in the context of this band and keep the music fresh. More importantly she tears the shit up on guitar. Crazy to see it in action. She seems like the kind of person who would be annoying to have as a neighbor, but I would love having her in my band. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to get their latest record; I need to listen to see how they sound in the studio, but I would without a doubt go see them live again if they come through town.

The Dead Weather
, in case you don’t recognize the name, is Jack White’s latest project. Not to be confused with Jack Black. In this case it does matter if you’re Black or White. Instead of paying $30 to see The Dead Weather, you’d have to pay me at least $30 to see Tenacious D. And buy me a chocolate malt after the show. And rub my feet. Mr. White took a break from the White Stripes while Meg recovers from her anxiety attack. He also took a break from the Raconteurs because he wanted to play drums and they already had a drummer who was a fine bloke and he didn’t want to fire him. So for lead vocals he recruited Alison Mosshart from The Kills, who I’ve been promoting for the last two years. I guess Jack was the only guy listening to me, but he owes me big-time because he could not have made a better pick for this band without going on prime-time television and hiring a homeless Canadian. We all know Jack already has some cred, but this show made me want to go out and hang a giant Alison poster on my wall. And when he let a roadie come out and take over drums midway through a song so that he could share a microphone with Alison it was hotter than any porn I've seen in the last 12 months. This band is awesome, especially live. I’d try to describe their music but I’d not do it justice and probably just end up talking about Shania Twain or Pokemon. If I tried I might make a comparison to the same energy and power that Concrete Blonde brought to their shows early on. I watched an interview with the band where Jack was asked to describe their music. “Perfect. Ferocious.” I think he was half-joking, but that pretty much sums it up. It’s the best show I’ve seen in the last 12 months. Looks like they’re headed to the west coast so please check them out if you have a chance. Or go to the west coast to see them. If you’re reading this it’s not like you have anything better to do.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Brian Johnson Massacre

Last night I had a dream that Brian Johnson got a hold of my iPhone during an AC/DC show and put some sort of virus on it that changed my home screen to a series of demonic images and made the phone otherwise inoperable. I was pretty pissed off and told him he was a fraud. He didn't seem to care.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Afternoon Delight

About 70 degrees, mostly sunny, and breezy. Shorts, t-shirt, and my bike.

Do newspapers still publish that Family Circus comic? The family was so white bread it was incredibly annoying. Add in some equally annoying children and I’m pretty sure that damn comic was one of the reasons I don’t want or have any kids. However, I could not help but follow that stupid dotted line around the neighborhood every time Thelma gave Billy a sawbuck to pick up some rolling papers at 7-11 and to come directly home.

We didn’t need any rolling papers today, but in case you feel like following my dotted line around the neighborhood…..

First stop – Dinkel’s Bakery. Two Sophisticakes – a nifty hybrid of cupcake and cake – one chocolate with white chocolate mousse and one chocolate with raspberry.

Second stop – Paulina Meat Market. One Polish, one Italian, two chicken sausage, three steak burgers, and a pound of dill cole slaw.

Third stop – Nhu Lan Bakery. Three fresh baked rolls for the aforementioned sausages.

Fourth stop – Harvestime Foods. Assorted produce, mostly fixins.

Fifth stop – Walgreen’s pharmacy. Better living through chemistry.

Sixth stop – Cardinal Wine & Spirits. Six-pack of Clausthaler.

Then after supporting my local economy, back home to my deck for a beer and a turkey and avocado sandwich. While listening to The The.

After a shower, it was back on the bikes… but I’ll save that for the next post.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Infatuations - Week Ending July 18, 2009

1. Suzanne Santo

2. Juliette Lewis

3. Zooey Deschanel

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Folk & Roots Festival - Part II

When we last left our hero, he was chillin’ with some watermelon at the Folk and Roots Festival. Well, it was 7 o’clock, time for a party, and I know what I wanna see…. Anybody remember the London Quireboys? Just me, huh? It was indeed an eclectic lineup, but no, the Quireboys were not at the Folk and Roots Festival. However, a duo called Honey Honey was due to take the stage. I checked them out beforehand and I really wanted to like them but didn’t think I would like them as much as I wanted to. Turns out I liked them more than I thought I would like them, and I wanted to take the female Honey half home with me. But I’m getting way ahead of myself…

Honey Honey is comprised of Ben, on guitar and bass drum, and Suzanne, on vocals, banjo and fiddle. They opened with ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’, a song that Sonny wrote for Cher, but was ultimately salvaged by Nancy Sinatra. This song served as an intro into their single ‘Little Toy Gun’. By this time I was already on the bandwagon and running for president of their fan club. And not only were they rocking the stage, but she was pretty darn cute while doing it. So much that I stole a cardboard sign and a Sharpie from a homeless guy so that I could scribble out a marriage proposal. Unfortunately, I think I displayed the wrong side of the sign and instead got a couple bucks for a sandwich and some thanks for serving my country. I suppose it’s for the best since my first wife was at the show with me.

We were sitting next to the sound board about 30 yards yonder from the stage, so I told the Mrs. I needed to get something to eat so that I would have an excuse to get a little closer to the stage. Though most of the crowd is sprawled across the park on blankets and camping chairs, the first 25 feet or so in front of the stage is usually commandeered by more hardcore fans standing, dancing, or stalking their favorites. I joined the crowd for a tune up front and shortly thereafter the power went out. I’m blaming Rod Blagojevich since he lives just a couple blocks from the park and was probably looking for something to do.

But Honey Honey was undeterred, moving to the front edge of the stage to finish their song for the lucky few, myself included, at the foot of the stage. As the festival staff were still in panic mode, Ben grabbed his acoustic guitar and Suzanne grabbed her fiddle and they did another impromptu jam for the crowd that had been sucked in front and center like a rugby scrum.

They were ushered off stage for a bit while some techy looking folk took up a collection of hemp clothing from the crowd to burn and fuel the festival generators. Several minutes later the power to the people was restored, and despite their time being up, Honey Honey was brought back to do a couple more songs.

After the set ended I wandered back to the Mrs. who wanted to know where my food was. I confessed that I got distracted and ended up watching the rest of the set from up front. Her reply: “You suck.”

We stuck around for the last act of the night – Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears from Austin. Some pretty solid, high-energy, old-school soul and R&B to round out the evening.

Since Honey Honey made me miss out on dinner, we made a pit stop on the way home at The Daily Bar & Grill, snagged a table out on the patio, and shared a ½ pound turkey burger, fries and a beer while watching the crowd wander home.

Put it on your calendar and meet us there next year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Folk & Roots Festival - Part I

As soon as the quitting time horn sounded on Friday afternoon to signal the end of a long work week, I slid down the neck of my brontosaurus and made my way home, stopping along the way at the Greek bakery for an ├ęclair and at the liquor store for a six-pack of Clausthaler. The Mrs. had abandoned me for dinner and I couldn’t remember if we had any Mac n Cheese so I decided to add a spinach pie to my tab at the bakery. Man cannot subsist on ├ęclairs and beer alone. I took my booty to my deck, where I enjoyed the cool summer evening and read an interesting article about Zappos, inspiring me to promptly order a couple pair of shoes. You really can’t go wrong with a black pump or strappy sandal. But I digress.

Saturday brought The Folk and Roots Festival to a park just down the street. You might expect to see a plethora of Joan Baez clones and a handful of rutabaga purveyors. However the organizers put together a pretty eclectic lineup, and several of the acts scheduled for the main stage on Saturday caught my eye. The weather couldn’t have been any better unless Mother Nature herself stopped by to give me a backrub, so I grabbed a couple beach towels, stuffed the Mrs. in my backpack and walked down to the park to catch the 4 pm set by Cedric Watson and the Bijou Creole.

I spent a lot of time in New Orleans after Katrina and have mixed feelings about the town. There’s more culture down there than a yogurt factory, but at the same time it seems a majority of visitors are more impressed by being able to stumble down the middle of Bourbon Street with a drink in their hand, oblivious to the transformation from French Quarter to ballpark restroom. When I visit, I try to get out early in the evening to get some dyn-o-mite food and catch some local music. It’s where I discovered Beth Patterson and also enjoyed numerous zydeco bands. So I jumped at the chance when Cedric brought some of that sound to Chicago.

There is no happier music in the world than zydeco. Period. I’m a grumpy mother-effer, but when I’m listening to zydeco I start farting butterflies and reciting 17th century sonnets. I dance with the homeless and buy ice cream cones for random children. It’s powerful stuff and Cedric Watson brings it like a juiced batter with the wind blowing out of the park. After he finished I bought some watermelon in lemonade while the Mrs. watched our spot.

Next up was the Caleb Klauder Country Band. Caleb brought a mostly classic country sound, I guess. I don’t know the difference between country and western so I really don’t know what I’m talking about. There were some drums, a standup bass, some guitar picking and some fiddling and probably some whittling but I wasn’t close enough to tell for sure. I found it pleasant enough, but the Mrs. seemed a little bored so went for a walk and happened to catch a show from the infamous PuppetBike. PuppetBike is a puppet theater built on the back of a bicycle, which rides around the city and puts on shows at seemingly random locations. It gets rave reviews and the Mrs. claims that it lived up to it’s hype.

I took a career assessment test several years ago when I was changing careers and it reported that my ideal job is puppeteer. Seriously. So maybe it’s best I missed the show or else I might have been tempted to hijack the bike and set off on a new career.

Now that I’ve wildly digressed again, I’ll wrap this up for today and be back to report on my newest crush in Part II. As Lou Reed says, “I love you, Suzanne.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Ain’t Missing You At All

Like Moist Rub says to me, “You are a dick.”

I know. That was in response to me letting him know I was unretiring. Like all those other dicks such as Brett Favre and Michael Jordan. You see, believe it or not, this is our 500th post here on Leper Pop. If you knew us, you’d realize that was seemingly as improbable as one of us breaking Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. It also caused me to have a mid-life blog crisis, so I told Moist Rub I was leaving him and starting a new blog. A younger blog with perkier breasts who still thought my jokes were funny.

Moist Rub even helped me name the new, young thang and find a new alias so that I could dump you readers who were holding me back from blogdom notoriety and riches.

Maybe it was poor timing – my day job was slowly creeping into evenings and my new, young blog was not getting the attention it deserved. I also missed the familiar rumble of my car wheels on the gravel driveway of Leper Pop and continued to post here. Of course, Moist Rub knew I was dick going into this venture, so he didn’t bother to revoke my posting privileges and just reminded me that I was a dick when I announced I was coming back before you even knew I was gone.

The other blog has been deleted, but I’m bringing a couple of posts over. If you think I’m a dirty traitor like Benedict Arnold as portrayed by Peter Brady or believe that I’m the Warren Mullaney to Moist Rub’s Greg Brady, then you can skip my posts on North Center RibFest and Chicago Tap Theatre’s Little Dead Riding Hood. Otherwise read on, and I promise I won’t go hiking on the Appalachian Trail again.

Northcenter Ribfest

Ribfest Is Rib-Rockin’-Best

With a name like Sid F’er, you don’t get many job offers for the executive suite so it’s probably no surprise that one of my first jobs, after college no less, was at a mulit-national firm called Red Lobster. I was positioned behind the bar and issued one piece of flair – a button exclaiming that LobsterFest is Lobster Best! It was kind of embarrassing to wear, especially when I forgot to take it off when I went out after work, but it has provided a cheesy, yet effective way to communicate my unbridled enthusiasm for every subsequent fest I have attended that was worthy of the honor.

But before I get carried away here, it was the music that saved this event from itself. I suppose since it’s called Ribfest, I’ll start with the food. Disappointing. I bypassed the offerings from the local neighborhood joints and went to the BBQ joints with a rib sampler (three baby back ribs) from Smoke Daddy and the same from Robinson’s. I’d think that representing at a fest you’d want to be at the top of your game, but the restaurants seem to lose something when they leave their home kitchen and take it to the streets. Like a team playing on the road. Although that might not be a good analogy tonight since I just watched the Penguins win The Cup in “Hockeytown”. Suck on that Wings fans. But I digress. I have a feeling their respective ribs might be better in more controlled conditions. The pool table sized grills seemed to suck the moisture right out of them faster than a vagina drying up during menopause. Nothing seemed to be falling off the bone, which is okay during contortionist orgies but not how I prefer my rib dinners. There’s a good hipster band name – Contortionist Orgy. But more about hipster bands later.

Fortunately, I did arrive early to check out an early band so I was able to avoid the painfully long lines that queued up starting around 7 pm, bringing the main drag to a complete gridlock normally only seen at the Circle Interchange during rush hour. I heard from a buddy in the area that the fest has grown exponentially in recent years, but I don’t think planners have changed the logistics of the layout. Even the TSA has tried some stuff to speed things up at the airport. At least I didn't have to remove my shoes to get in. Lincoln Avenue may not be as wide as downtown streets that host the bigger fests, but give it some thought and you might be able to avoid some of the logjams around ticket booths and the more popular offerings.

Also planted in the middle of the fest was an 18-wheeler tractor trailer combo housing a Playstation 3 arcade and marketing center. Serious, Northcenter? I hope they gave you some serious cash for that monstrosity because there was no other reason for it to be there. The irony of people going to a great outdoor festival in the summer in a neighborhood that I find attractive, only to line up to play effing video games almost knocked me into a vat of brown sugar BBQ sauce.

None of the non-food vendors drew me in – seemed like a lot of the same thing you see at every fest – dumb t-shirts, bad posters/prints (as if this world needs another Scarface poster), Cubs souvenirs, and some other accessory vendors that would seem more at home on Ebay Marketplace. Along with the usual suspects selling newspaper subscriptions and knockoff sunglasses. One other suggestion – lose the soap bubble gun vendors. Besides their obnoxious hawking in the middle of the street, it seems parents can’t say no to their kids and I was assaulted by bubble gun toting ankle biters throughout the festival. And parents, how about keeping the strollers out of my way. Especially the Hummer H3 versions you’re commanding these days. Seriously – your strollers are larger than my sub-compact car. So let’s keep it to carryout at Carson’s for ribs until Jacob and Emily can walk on their own.

Best Wardrobe Choice for Ribfest: The girl wearing the “Meat is Murder” t-shirt. Rock on. And no, she didn't look like a Smiths fan.

But before you completely disregard this event, stick around for Part II where I promise to shake the burrs out of my jockey shorts and tell you about some of the good stuff.

Northcenter Ribfest - Part II

When I was looking over the entertainment schedule at Northcenter Ribfest I didn’t see any familiar names, so I decided to research a few MySpace pages. Mostly for slutty teenage girls and Romanian prostitutes, but I eventually got around to exploring some bands. The one that jumped out at me was Deanna Devore. I have a soft spot in my heart for chick rockers, but she didn’t fit my normal profile. She wasn’t wearing fishnets and too much makeup and playing bass. She didn’t have the swagger of Chrissy Hynde. She didn’t have the manic intensity of Juliette Lewis. She wasn’t even a slutty teenage girl or Romanian prostitute as far as I could tell. The songs I previewed were on the mellow side but the melodies and rhythms had something extra, creating a mood I couldn’t quite define. But I’ll try – you know that feeling you get when you’re leaning back on a chair and you lose your balance and think you’re going to tip over but catch yourself at the last minute? Well it’s the opposite of that. And her voice drew me in. It sucked me into each song, placed me squarely into the groove and held me there like a needle tracking an LP. Even her promo photo was intriguing. Mona Lisa-ish. Not screaming rocker, not smiling, but definitely not angst-ridden or angry or brooding emo child. She’s Canadian, so maybe that was throwing me off. In any case, I decided to check out the show and bailed out of work a few minutes early to try to catch her set that kicked off Ribfest at 5 pm.

My first impression was how tiny she is – or maybe she’s just playing oversize instruments and only collaborates with large musicians. She was laid back, comfortable with her own command of the material and trusting her bandmates with their parts. She was solid on each of the three guitars she played throughout the set and even added a little percussion in a number early on in the set. Her stage persona and performance completely met the expectations I had going in, but the songs sound even better live. When music transcends garage rock sometimes you wonder if it will translate well from the studio to the stage, and this show had a vibe that washed over me like the smell of chocolate chip cookies. That’s a good thing. I like cookies.

The drummer seemed competent in several styles as he moved through the set like a marshmallow fiend in a box of Lucky Charms, whatever that means, and the bass player rounded out a solid rhythm section. The keyboard player made me nervous… for some reason I kept waiting for him take over and make it about him and his keyboards. Maybe because he was barefoot. Never trust a barefoot male musician. But I’m happy to report he kept it in check and added a layer to the music that bridged the rhythms with Deanna’s lyrics. I’m no Simon Cowell, but her voice doesn’t seem polished and I’m not sure she would make it through an American Idol audition, but in this case I mean that as a compliment. It’s real, it’s not off-key and it works perfectly for her. And for us. Oh, there was also a cello player, but I thought she kind of got lost in the mix at this show. It would likely sound swell on the next record.

I even did some journalistic digging. Not quite Watergate stuff, but I did run into one of the band while buying her EP and asked a couple questions. I hoped to get a word with Deanna but she stayed backstage. It was a small crowd so maybe she didn’t think anyone wanted to talk to her. Or maybe my stalker-like behavior scared her off. But rumor has it that the live shows may be limited for a stretch while they go into the studio to put together a new record. I’m bummed I may not see her again this summer, but I suppose we’ll all be rewarded with some new material. She did a tune I believe she said was called “Next To You”. It wasn’t a cover of one my favorite Police songs, but if it’s any indication of what’s to come the new record is worth waiting for.

Speaking of the EP, not only did she write all the material but if you believe everything you read in the liner notes she also played all the instruments on the CD. It’s too good to be true. It’s like a chef claiming he can make a killer risotto and a mean-ass bowl of venison chili. It's the kind of music I'd put on if I liked people and ever had them over to my house for dinner.

Finally, if I haven’t sold you on Deanna yet, I’ll share her Ribfest banter with you:

“I’ve never had ribs before. I’ll have to try one. We don’t have ribs in Canada. We’re born without them.”

I guess you had to be there. It’s all in the timing and delivery.

Thanks Canada, you’re finally starting to make up for Celine Dion.

I caught a couple other acts, which involved following Deanna’s drummer and keyboard player to where they were pulling double duty with Tom Schraeder and His Ego. Besides being named after my second favorite type of tire valve he seemed to have an alt-country type thing going on which can be hit or miss for me, but I decided to give him a chance while I tore into the first of my rib samplers. My first impression here was that the band appeared to be an updated version of the cast of Dazed and Confused. He opened with a couple acoustic tunes which were listenable but needed the band. When they came out, they put together a decent set that included some good hooks and catchy tunes. They claimed they were the gods of Oshkosh, Wisconsin the night before, and I can see them being a lot of fun to see for an evening in a dive bar type setting with some cheap beer and a bowl of peanuts. And they have a girl that plays the saw. How cool is that? She gets that sound that you hear in the old cowboy movies while they’re riding off into the sunset. I dated a girl once who lived in a rural community and when I went to her house for dinner once night, they had a crosscut saw with a landscape painted on the blade hanging on their wall for decoration. But I never saw any of them play it.

I wanted to see The Blakes, but I ran into a buddy and his family and decided to plop down on the dirty Chicago sidewalk and join them for my second sampler platter. Sorry, Blakes, I’ll catch you next time because I get the impression you can tear it up.

I bid my buddy adieu and decided to stick around to see what The Harlem Shakes had going on. It seems that the only requirement for this band was to own a hoodie, some skinny jeans and an interminably happy attitude. Needless to say this annoyed me and I had to find a television to catch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. So sorry, boys, but maybe you’ll catch me on a better night next time.

All in all, not bad for a $5 donation.

Little Dead Riding Hood - Chicago Tap Theatre

Executive Summary: The Athenaeum Theatre houses many performance companies and multiple stages. Leaving after the show, we were walking past some other patrons coming out of another show and I commented, “I don’t know what show they just saw, but ours was way better.”

The Athenaeum Theatre, which I’ll assume is named after the Greek goddess of heroic endeavor, Athena, is very appropriate for a Chicago Tap Theatre show. Last year I discovered them during their production of The Hourglass and the Poisoned Pen, their comic book superhero tap opera. After being completely engrossed in the adventures of The Hourglass fighting for justice in her knee-high yellow tap boots, accompanied by her sidekick Daphne in her Chuck Taylor tappers, I wondered if this year’s heroes, Red and her Mother Goose cohorts, would be able to keep my attention through a fairy tale tap dance opera.

The show was tucked away in the same third floor, 75 or so seat theater. No elevators so give yourself a few extra minutes if you’re out of shape or bringing old Aunt Ethyl. Stadium seating and only about 7 rows deep, so not a bad seat in the house. I sat in the front row again, in the same seat with the same duct tape, but I think they repaired the missing armrest since my last visit. Which is great since my arms get very tired from all the clapping. The setting was similar – a simple plywood stage with minimalist set.

The premise here is simple enough: Little Red Riding Hood, or “Red” as she’s called in world of tap opera, steals Mother Goose’s book of fairy tales, and as she taps her way through the forest encountering her fellow characters, she frees them from their story lines and respective fates by tearing pages from the book, creating a her own fractured fairy tale and obviously pissing off Mother Goose.

And in case you aren’t familiar with the tap opera format, there’s no dialogue – the entire story and character development is told through their non-stop tap routines, along with some fantastical costumes and some pretty darn good acting. Oh, and all to an original score written for and in collaboration with the company. No need to be polite – cheering for your favorites or booing the bad guys is explicitly encouraged.

Act I was definitely entertaining, but now that I know what they can do I kept waiting for them to bust out the big numbers. It wasn’t unlike seeing your favorite artist in concert. Say, Neil Diamond. Sure he may throw you a bone early in the show – maybe a “Forever in Blue Jeans” or “I’m A Believer”. He’ll keep you on your feet, pseudo rockin’ out, but the real action starts when the energy starts to build, finally bursting out with a little “Cherry, Cherry” and climaxing in the splendor of “Sweet Caroline”.

That was embarrassing. I can’t believe I just compared Chicago Tap Theater to Neil Diamond. What a digression. I apologize. I also just realized I called the costumes “fantastical”.

What I’m trying to say is that I enjoyed Act I, but in Act II I asked them to bring it and they done brought it. An angry Mother Goose tapping down Red, finally leading to a full-on no tap-out confrontation with the whole cast. Good effin’ times, my friend.

I read a couple other reviews of the show and concur with the Chicago Reader who gave it their coveted backwards R recommendation. But I read a review in the Chicago Tribune that gave the show 2-1/2 stars. I hope that’s out of a possible 2 stars, but I’m doubtful because the reviewer seems to have a problem with CTT adding a non-sanctioned woodsman character to the play, and further references a “muddled message” from inconsistencies in the otherwise entertaining character transformations. Serious? You went to a fairy tale tap dance opera, and you’re worried about inconsistencies in character development and a “muddled message”? Here’s a pretty clear message for you – why don’t you give your snooty arts critic steno pad a rest, turn on your heartlight and enjoy a show for what it is - some pretty damn good tap dancing, a creative storyline, and a chance to kick back for a couple hours at a unique theater experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Ignore the Chicago Tribune – they’re in bankruptcy so you can’t trust anything they say these days. If you ever get a chance, check out my new friends at Chicago Tap Theatre – they pay their bills and will show you a good time.

Unless they revive the production you missed out on this one, but be sure to catch their new show Beyond the Blue on July 18. Come join me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Singular Sensation

Notify the folks at Guinness. Not the beer guys, the world record guys. Although maybe the beer guys might be impressed, too.

This morning I made it from the nurturing mothership of my Speed Racer sheeted bed to sitting in my office signed in to my IM account in 69 minutes. Without really trying too hard. In fact, I had snoozed a couple extra times since I like to annoy my neighbors and get even for their general loudness, and I needed a few extra minutes. I even showered and shaved and brushed my teeth in case I got hit by a car and was revived by a cute paramedic. Maybe that guy from Emergency! Not because I’m gay, but because he’d take me to Rampart General Hospital where I would be nursed back to care by Dixie McCall. Scratch all that – I was just notified by Wikipedia that Julie London died nine years ago. And if she were alive she would be 82 years old. That means she was 50 years old when she was biding her time at Rampart. I wouldn’t have guessed that. At all. At least Randolph Mantooth is still alive. But I digress.

Once I was fit for public consumption, I hit the road on my trusty Trek and started out at my usual mellow pace all while enjoying the cool summer morning. However, as usual, my usual mellow pace yielded to a swifter ride, exacerbated by a fortuitous sequence of green lights. At the first red light, a young lass on her own trusty Jamis turned into my bike lane and shot down the block. My mildly competitive nature and more exacting male ego will not allow me to get dropped by a girl, so I maintained my cadence after the light changed. Turns out that this girl could ride – her legs moved that piece of steel at a decent pace and she had the instincts to keep it moving smoothly amidst the urban obstacles. Soon I found myself working pretty hard to keep within half a block, but close enough to satisfy my nagging ego along with the excuse that her skinny tire bike was built for speed more than my solid steel steed and semi-slick tires.

Eventually she peeled off to her destination and soon after I rolled through the alley to the bike racks beside my building. I casually unloaded, locked up, grabbed the paper and made my way up the elevator. After dropping my bag in the storage closet which I have commandeered as my changing room, I set up shop in my office and signed on only to be surprised at the time on my computer. A mere 69 minutes earlier I had been tucked away, snoozing like a cat on a sunny window sill with a bellyful of barbiturates. It didn’t seem possible but now that I know it is, I’m afraid I may turn my casual morning ride into a daily time trial. I don’t want that to happen. So if you see me in the morning, my hubris could probably use a good strong stick in the spokes.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

You Talking To Me?

Riding my bike is kind of like drinking. If I’m having a good day I’ll usually be a happy drunk, enjoying the ride, taking clueless drivers in stride, politely interacting with aware drivers and pedestrians, kissing babies and stopping at soup kitchens along the way to ladle out some caring to the downtrodden. If I’m having a bad day, biking can be a good way to de-stress and clear my head. Unless. Unless I run into a dickhead driver. Not necessarily clueless, but outright aggressive or rude. Then I become the angry drunk, looking for a fight and knowing the night is going to end with someone holding my hair back as I puke into the toilet.

In case you haven’t guessed, last Friday I was a little cranky riding home after a night out and, sure enough, as I’m riding lawfully along in my bike lane a car comes by and the passenger leans out the window to yell something at me. I didn’t hear exactly what he said, but I surmised it was something along the usual lines of “faggot” or “get off the fucking road”. Such people are not the most creative types. However, it was enough to piss me off, and as I’ve said before it’s not too terribly difficult to catch up to a car in the city. So I threw it in my big chain ring and hammered after the car and caught it at the next light. I pulled up to the curb next to him and asked assertively, “Did you say something back there?” The passenger leaned back out the window and said in a very flamboyant voice, “I said, “Honk, honk!’” And then flashed a very flirtatious smile. Crap. Here I was, all pumped up for a confrontation with some dunderhead, and instead I was being picked up by a gay guy. I wasn’t even wearing my spandex biker shorts. I was at a loss for words. I wasn’t sure whether I was still angry, flattered, or amused. The light changed and the car took off and I must have been amused since I did laugh a little before pedaling onward. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Hope y’all enjoyed Gay Pride Week!

Bonus Observation: Along my bike route is a place called the Old Town Aquarium. I always thought it was a trendy bar with the purposefully misleading name, but it turns out that it really is an aquarium supply store just named after what seems to be a trendy bar with a nautical theme.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Don't Belong Here...

When we last left our hero, he had just picked up his rental car with visions of sugar plums still dancing in his head. But a couple oddball moments….

It was some scorching weather in Iowa, so on Wednesday I wore my ironic Costco golf shirt. When I arrived at the client’s office he said, “Nice shirt.” First, he doesn’t seem to be the type to offer such a compliment. Second, not only did it cost me just $10 or some other ridiculously low amount, but I don’t golf and I hope I didn’t give them the impression that I do golf. I don’t think they got the irony. Crap. I need to remember only to wear it around people who know that the only time I set foot on a golf course is to roll around on the fairway when I’m feeling nitrogen deficient. My only hope is that he was meeting my irony with a dose of satire.

Next, on Tuesday night I headed over to my Cedar Rapids hangout - the Irish Democrat Pub & Grill. Good food, amusing servers/barkeeps, and a nice flat screen to keep me occupied. I had gotten a giant salad there the night before – it was in one of those deceptive bowls in which pasta is usually served where you eat and eat and eat and forty-five minutes later it doesn’t look like you touched your meal. But I was looking forward to the baby back ribs the following night. Fall off the bone deliciousness. As I approached the area I noted some trees down due to the storm that had passed through and some traffic lights were also out. The parking lot was unusually empty and when I walked in the manager told me the power was out and they were closing down. Crap. It was like a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break. And I wasn’t even wearing my ironic shirt.

So I capitulated and ended up at Texas Roadhouse, for lack of knowing any other options for my BBQ fix. The food is decent and the service is pretty good, but it’s just a little too cheesy and packaged for my taste. This coming from a guy with crushes on Crystal Bernard and Shania Twain. But I digress.

I mosey in and take a seat at the bar, and I’m greeted by the bartender with “Hi, can I get you something to drink, maybe a Fat Tire?” That’s cool – I don’t mind being mistaken for a guy who might enjoy a Fat Tire rather than the margaritas they seemed to be pushing on everyone else that night. I later found out there was a drink contest going on - you know, where they offer some sort of prize like sex with the assistant GM for the server who pushes the most specialty drinks that night. After I ordered, she then asked, “I’m sorry, I forgot your name.” I told her and she said, “I know I waited on you before.” She was correct – it was a slow night last time and, like oh so many others, I got most of her life story. But I still thought it was odd that she remembered me from one visit back on April 13. I looked it up on my expense report. That’s over two months. So that means she remembered me after all that time because I was either incredibly good looking or incredibly creepy. Crap. I know I’m not that good-looking. But I couldn't have been that creepy. Right? She spent most of the time standing over by me and initiating conversations. Some of the other servers even came by and joined in. All I know is that I’m paranoid now and I’m afraid to go back.

The general rule of thumb if you ever see me – just pretend you don’t know me. We’ll all be happier that way.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hertz So Good

Well I'm a highway junkie
And I need that old white line

Flying can suck it. I’m not afraid; I actually enjoy the experience of flight – the power of lift off, the aerial views, and managing to finish it all without a mangled, fiery mess. However, airports, the TSA, and the airlines themselves have sucked any joy from the experience. Between ridiculous fees for actually wanting to bring baggage on my trips to fees for having to scratch my balls while flying over Tulsa; from having to disassemble my carry-ons so that the TSA can see what kind of douche I use to having to watch Grandma Moses get strip searched for a suicide bra bomb at security; and to be treated by everyone involved as more of an annoyance rather than a customer, I’d rather just hop behind the wheel of a large automobile and ask myself, where does that highway go?

So when I have to make my routine trip to Cedar Rapids or any other location within 250 miles, I book a car with Hertz, load the iPod up with some road trip music and hit the highway. Hertz is a little more expensive than some of the other companies, but I learned my lesson after an ugly experience with Thrifty that it is usually worth it. My experience with Thrifty in New Orleans many years ago involved an unnecessarily long shuttle ride, marveling at the inefficiencies of the check-in process, and a prolonged “discussion” with the branch manager over a scratch which I thought was going to end up in a cage match to the death. I prevailed but since then I’ve been pretty loyal to Hertz, who have consistently provided good locations, decent customer service, clean cars, efficient pick up and returns, and even a slight inkling that they seem to appreciate my business.

When I’m not flying and renting from an airport location I use their “Local Edition” locations, most often a branch about two blocks from my office. As a somewhat regular customer it was easy to get #1 Club Gold status, which streamlines the process even more. It essentially allows you to pick up your car by using a secret handshake and a wink. However, as I picked up my car this most recent Sunday it didn’t go as smoothly as it usually does.

First off, apparently weekends like Father’s Day are big business for local rental companies. I’m guessing all those small town kids who leave for big city life rent cars to go visit their neglected parents back on the farm. Hijinx certainly ensue when Pauly Shore comes along. This leads to a little more pressure to turn over the fleet more quickly, and to do it with the skeleton staffing during the limited weekend hours.

Further, I showed up shortly after opening before the local agent had time to prep the pick ups for the day. And the agent was filling in at this location, and like that substitute teacher you had in 5th grade it didn’t exactly go without hiccups. This is where your business lesson begins. This lesson follows three simple assumptions:

1) Sexism is alive and well.
2) Men are dumb.
3) #1 and #2 do have their limits.

I guess now is a good time to mention that the agent was a young lady in her early 20’s, cute, with disproportionately large breasts, and wearing a shirt that certainly did not hide them, even less so when she bent forward to pick up keys, answer the phone, reach the printer or give the secret handshake. Did this influence how annoyed I got while waiting for my rental? See #1 and #2. Yes, it did. I was far less annoyed than if the agent had been a sloppy, unshaven, 20-something hipster doofus named Lance.

But now to Rule #3… my annoyance grace period would have expired rather quickly had she thought that a peep show excused her from actually fulfilling her duties of getting my ass in the driver’s seat of a large automobile. But I’m happy to report that she couldn’t have handled the situation any better.

There were three of us there, and customer #1 did not have a previous reservation, was not a Gold customer, and was being a little difficult. She got him somewhat placated, then jumped over to me and #3, then excused herself to make sure she had three clean cars up in the garage. When she returned, she asked #1 if she could get me and #3 going since we had existing reservations. He deferred and I stepped to the plate. There were some additional problems, either getting into the computer system or getting the contracts printed so she had to call for some support, but she kept me engaged by letting me know what was going on the whole time, making some small talk, and by bending forward to accomplish menial tasks. She thanked me for my patience and used my first name. I thought this was somewhat casual for a business transaction, but you know what, I felt pretty good being called Sid instead of Old Man F’er or Sir. And to top it all off (no pun intended) I got a nice new fully loaded 2010 model, and she gave me a free tank of gas to further thank me for my patience.

So there you go, Hertz. She’s a keeper. And to all you other businesses out there, I've said it before – if you have a largely male clientele and can find a good-looking girl who can use her brain as well as her looks, make her an offer she can’t refuse.