And four nights. It was an impressive feat for an old guy like me who should be home watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns or making birdhouses in my workshop. But instead I took on a series of four consecutive outings that would make Paris Hilton proud. You know, if she liked doing fun stuff instead of doing those dumbass poses on red carpets or making appearances at clubs playing crappy music.
Night One – Cheap Trick – The Vic Theater
I’ve been hassled for liking these guys before. But how can you forget the magnetism of Robin Zander or the charisma of Rick Nielsen? How 'bout the tunes? The dream police,
da-na-na-na-na-na. Your mama's all right, your daddy's all right, they just seem a little bit weird…
Okay, so when I saw them at a summer festival a year ago I’ve never seen a bigger collection of jean shorts in one place. In a rare scenario, I was like the coolest guy there. But in 8th grade everybody had a copy of Live At Budokan, except for the poor kid with the used Doris Day record, and somehow in the last 30 years they’ve managed not to screw things up too bad. Even though they’re probably sick of playing some of those songs more than a lifer at the Cook County pen is sick of the commissary oatmeal for breakfast every day, they still include every one of those hits on their set list. They add a couple deep cuts for the truly geeky fans. And then drop in a couple new ones in case anyone didn’t know they were still releasing new records. The climax of each show is the waiting to see if Robin can still hit the high note in The Flame. Yes, he can. And they do it without looking bored with it all. (Although Bun E. Carlos looks exhausted by the end of the night and thought they were just going to be playing a few bar gigs when they recruited him 30 years ago.)
Line of the night from Rick Neilsen – after a failed bit in which they brought out a little kid with a miniature guitar who wandered awkwardly around the stage before they sent him away – “Boy, that was a really dumb idea.”
Opening were The Avatars, who just happen to have a singer named Ian Zander. But I’m sure that had nothing to do with them getting the gig. Poor Ian seemed to have a very difficult time coping with his guitar problems and spent most of the set wandering between half-assed vocals and hanging out with the roadies/techs trying to fix his guitar or amp. Fortunately for the crowd, the other guitarist shares vocal duties and the Avatars were a much better act as a power trio without Ian and his silly haircut, skinny jeans and wimpy strumming. Poor Robin must feel like a professional athlete who has a kid who throws like a girl. Oh, and just so you don’t think I’m sexist, I’m not talking about those highly-skilled, empowered women athletes who could probably beat me into submission if they read this. I was only talking about the rest of you girls who throw like, well, girls.
Night Two – The Chicago Bears – Soldier Field
My co-worker has two season seats and after afflicting various friends with frostbite, he needed a new buddy to brave single digit wind chills for a few hours at a Thursday night game that nobody would see since it was being broadcast on the NFL Network. I think you can only get the NFL Network if you find the one cable or dish installer who knows the activation code and you bribe him with a bratwurst and some fried cheese curds.
I reluctantly relinquished my assless chaps and busted out my long underwear. Added some wool socks, a thermal shirt, flannel shirt, ski jacket, ski gloves, and an officially NFL licensed Chicago Bears touque, and I was ready to go.
Unfortunately I was ready too early and got there about 45 minutes before kick-off. Since I took the train, I couldn’t wait it out in my non-existent car so I just snuggled up to a nearby large woman munching a bratwurst and some fried cheese curds.
Getting there early paid off, as the Bears ran back the opening kickoff for a TD and gave me a chance to jump up and down and try to force some circulation into my toes. Midway through the game, meteorologist Amy Freeze (yes, her real name) advised the crowd via the Jumbotron that we should be free of any meteor strikes that evening. What would we do without meteorologists?
It was a great game, but the last thing my toes needed was an overtime period. So the Bears decided the wintery weather was a fine time to hibernate in the second half, letting the Falcons take the lead, and then coming back in the last minute to force the game into, yep, overtime. Thankfully they made short work of the Falcons and sent us on our way before tissue death set in, and I managed to regain some feeling in my feet during the twenty minute walk back to the train.
Night Three – Monte Montgomery – The Morse Theater
I took the festivities back inside the following night to the newly remodeled Morse Theater. It’s an awesome venue, but almost too sterile. Oh, Monte, yeah, he was incredible as usual and I can’t stress enough how you need to go to one of his shows if you appreciate guitar playing, standup comedy or even just plain old rock and roll. But back to the venue. Monte’s music is the kind that’s made to be played in a bar. An old bar with neon beer signs and a gruff doorman and a sticky floor (not the kind of sticky floor you find in a porn shop, you pervs). But there are always a handful of moron sots that pay a $15 cover to try to talk over his set. And they usually stand right behind me. So while that element was gladly removed from the Morse, so were the other roadhouse type elements. So, Monte, awesome, but I’ll defer my verdict on the Morse.
Night Four – The Supersuckers – Reggie’s
I’m embarrassed to say that until recently I was unfamiliar with the work of Eddie Spaghetti and his bandmates. Thanks to a swell bud’s recommendation I made arrangements with Moist Rub to catch their show when they rolled through town on their 20th anniversary tour. What gift do you give for 20 years? Lace? Chinese plastic?
The Supersuckers look like what you would expect from a band that has been on the road for 20 years. Except I think they skipped the whole rehab thing and haven’t wussed out like Aerosmith. They also perform a show reflecting their efforts to not bore themselves to death over the same timeframe. This means they come out and assault you with a fast and heavy sound that has the crowd flashing devil horns, banging their heads, moshing, shotgunning beers, giving each other jailhouse tats, and losing track of how many licks it’s taking to get the the centers of their Tootsie Pops. Then The Supersuckers transition to a country themed set list that has the crowd scraping the Judas Priest bumper stickers off their Chevy Novas and instead mounting gun racks on their pickup trucks while their buddies sit on the tailgate sipping moonshine from a pickle jar. Cha cha cha. Then, just as you’re longing for a trip out to the country to count telephone poles, or as you’re getting really pissed off because you hate this backward ass country crap, they turn the amps back to 11 and finish the assault they initiated at the beginning of the show. Good times.
Reggie’s is right on the border of a neighborhood that began sprouting expensive condos and a neighborhood that is not sprouting much of anything except general plight. It’s a cool place with two venues, a bar and grill and a great record store, but there is also a liquor store with steel bars on the windows next door and a fried chicken joint around the corner with bulletproof glass. But all things equal I’d still think I’d like to take my chances there rather than a night at the Morse.
I also stepped out of hermit mode and shared these four nights with a total of seven different people. I didn’t even think I knew seven different people. Before you know it, I’ll be joining Paris on that red carpet. I’ll be the one with the assless chaps.