Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chicago

Today we had the longest drive of the tour. We left the motel just outside of Nashville, via a quick stop at Waffle House just after nine thirty am. and arrived outside the venue in Chicago just before six thirty pm. We've done far worse in the past but nine hours in the van is a long stretch whichever way you look at it.

It was good then that we started the day off with a solid breakfast at Waffle House. You can't argue with three eggs, hash browns and coffee for six dollars. One thing I really love about the south is how friendly the people who work in the service industry are. I know they're working for tips but still, the friendly middle aged waitress calling you “baby”, or “honey” every time you speak to them really makes you feel warm inside. Maybe I'm missing my wife, I don't know but I'm a sensitive guy and need some love every now and again.

So this is what a nine hour drive in a van, cutting north through four states on a barren highway looks like this:

Matt at the wheel, full on driving machine mode, earphones in, listening to either Iron Maiden, early Metallica or some hair metal band, focused on the road. “Sometimes listening to crappy heavy metal is very fulfilling” according to the man himself.

Andy sat behind me on the back seat, inflatable neck cushion supporting his head as it yo-yo's up and down, earphones in, some form of punk or hardcore playing to oblivious ears, the rest of us taking the odd photo of him now and again, purely for our own entertainment.

Jon sat behind the driver's seat, either reading a book about Russian prisons or something about the secret destiny of America or sleeping with his swollen, bare foot resting on the cooler box between the driver seat at the passenger seat. Jon actually sleeps more than any other person I know, in transit at least. He must have slept for at least seven of the nine hours we were in the van today.

Johan in the passenger seat, either the Jamie Carragher autobiography (a great book I might add) or playing Angry Birds on his Iphone.

And then there's me, sat behind Johan, either writing my diary, reading my Hank Williams book or looking over Johan's shoulder, hoping for a shot on his Angry Birds game. Today we actually passed an hour or so, playing a game of chess on Johan's Iphone. I won, I might add...

All things taken into account, the journey did not seem so bad today, we somehow even managed to avoid city traffic as drove over the Chicago Skyway and down into the city streets. We'd all been bitterly disappointed with yesterday's frankly awful Chinese buffet dinner and today we had our hearts set on some quality Mexican food, that is usually always really good in Chicago. So we were delighted when we pulled up to the venue and saw that the show was actually taking place at a Mexican restaurant. Or so we thought. It was actually a Cuban restaurant, but there was a Mexican restaurant on the next block, so we loaded in and went straight there. And it was good. Very good. The outlook for today was already positive.

The promoter for the show tonight was a young, friendly faced guy called Vito. The venue was actually a rectangle room connected via a hallway to the Cuban restaurant beside, with a long bar down the left wall and a low stage against the back wall. The place looked it had potential.

After we ate, we just kind of hung around outside the venue for a while, with not a whole lot to do. As is usually the case, it would have been fun to take a trip into the city and check it out for a while, but there just wasn't time. I've been to Chicago four or five times now, and have been lucky enough on one of those occasions to have a close to a whole day in the city, the other times have all been like today. It's definitely a place I would like to come back to on holiday sometime though. Anyway, being so full of Mexican food I thought I might puke, I decided to tag along with Andy and go for a walk. Johan stayed behind to set the merch table up, Jon still can't really walk far on that foot of his and Matt followed us as far as on block until he found a liquor store and decided to stock up the cooler in the van. Andy and I didn't get all that farther. We walked a couple of blocks, found a record and book store, checked that out, walked another couple of blocks and decided the area we were in was getting decidedly shady and turned back towards the venue. Still, killed a half hour or so.

When we got back to the venue an old friend of Johan and Andy's, from their home town of Nyköping, has turned up. Jonas is married with kids here in the States and has been living in Chicago for ten years. It's been close to fourteen years since the guys saw each other. It was really nice to meet him. We stood outside the venue, chatting away for a good while, before the three of them went off to the bar beside the venue. I headed into the venue and sat by the merch stall, watching the other bands and drank a couple of beers wit Jon.

The venue filled up steadily throughout the night. It was an early show tonight, we were playing at ten fifteen. By the time the third band went on the place was pretty full. It's good to be back in Chicago. I had a good time sitting by the merch table. We were selling pretty well and I got to meet a bunch of good people. At one point this girl came up to me and was telling me how much she loved the band. We got talking for a while and then she wanted to buy a shirt. I bent down under the table to pick out a shirt from the box underneath and knocked my can of beer all over the floor. Felt like a right tit. The girl insisted on buying me a new beer, which was very kind of her. And then she bought a t-shirt and refused to take any change from me. Another guy did exactly the same thing. Friendly town.

The old guy who owned the bar, Pancho, was another real character, in much the same way as Brad from Nashville was a character. Pancho was working the bar, and by working it, I really mean working it. He had an entertainment show all of his own going on. Very happy. Very vocal. A constant big cheese spread across his face, he stood and joked with the patrons of his bar the entire night. When the third and final support band were on stage, he pulled up a large percussion jug and a drumstick and starting jamming along with them. And then it was maracas. And the next thing you know, he's got a saxophone in his hands and he's jamming along with the band from behind the bar. He's fucking ace too! He can really play that thing. Before the show is over he's made his way on stage with the sax, cheesy grin spread wide across his face between blows, and he's jamming along with the noise core band, loving it. I stood there pissing myself. Great old guy.

By the time we go on stage, the place is filled out all the way to the back of the room and the it's buzzing. It's a great show, although I personally don't play that well. Just before we went on stage, the PA blew up, leaving only enough capacity for vocals to go through it. This being the case we have the amps cranked full and the feedback is pretty hard to control. There is a lot of energy on stage, and the room full of punks are giving a lot back, but I hear myself numerous times missing notes. It's probably only myself that notices it, but it still bugs me a lot. By the time we get to Nowhere in Time, about half way through the set, I've sorted it out. I feel a little disappointed in so much as what is turning out to be a great gig otherwise is being a little tainted personally by my sloppy playing. We're forced into an encore by the chanting crowd anyway, and we blast out the Avail cover again, which is quickly becoming a fixture in the set.

Afterwards, we hang out for a while at the bar, having packed down immediately after the show. I get talking to this friendly guy called Lee, who has just moved here from Philly. The girl from earlier, who's name is Britney, also comes over to chat. The three of us enjoy conversation until old Pancho starts closing down the bar, telling us that if we load out within the next ten minutes he'll shout us all a shot. We're done in around seven..

Unbelievably, the van has been given two fucking parking tickets, despite the fact we're parked in the loading area that the club itself pays for. Apparently Matt and the lady from the restaurant had gotten into an argument with the traffic police as it was happening, but the cop didn't want to know and stuck the ticket on the window anyway. The cunt comes back fifteen minutes later and bangs another one on, just for good measure. Matt couldn't really give much of a fuck to be honest, he doesn't have any intention of paying it. As it is, Pancho is annoyed by the incident and tells us he'll sort it out. He then ushers us back into the bar and dishes out the shots of Patron, which is beautiful and in all honesty, knocking it back in one is a waste of good tequila. But out of courtesy, I knock it back all the same. We sit there, chatting for a while, although Pancho is a little hard to understand, he seems like a really good guy though. Jonas is still hanging out as well. He was really impressed with the show, and we have a laugh talking about old times and old bands. Jonas played bass in a few of bands back in the day with such brilliant names as Metal Suicide, Concrete Heads and the curiously christened Mr. Hang Pike and Adam's Leave. Apparently Andy's first band shared a rehearsal space with Metal Suicide. Apparently Jonas was a really tight bass player, but the bands weren't so hot.

We say goodbye to Jonas, Vito and Pancho and then it's time to leave. After that shot I could easily be persuaded to go to a bar somewhere for a few drinks, take in Chicago for a while, but it's not to be. We don't really have anywhere to stay tonight, so we have no choice but to take in a roadside motel again. Which means that Matt has to drive again unfortunately and understandably wants to get it over with, after so many hours already clocked up on the road today. We're expecting a good party tomorrow in Cleveland anyway, since we're staying around and the drive to Pittsburgh the day after is only two hours. Chicago is definitely on the list of places to visit without the band in tow though, although it's been on that list for years now..

As we drive out of the city Matt spots a large casino off in the distance to the left. We discuss the idea of staying there tonight, since the rooms are always really cheap at casino's, being that they want you to spend all your money on gambling instead. We decide to go for it. Maybe tonight we will have a party tonight anyway.

As we approach the casino, we're all in the back of the van, gearing ourselves up for a night of booze and gambling, Matt threatening to take all of our money from us. He's quite the poker player. Of course, we pull up to the parking house, looking in vain for a place to park the van, there seems to be height restrictions on all the parking lots, and the guy tells us there is no hotel at the casino. Fuck. That's that idea fucked then. We head back out to the highway, stopping at a run down petrol station to buy crisps and other shite and then go back to looking for a Red Roof Inn.

Losing a hour through the time zone, we find one just before four am. Matt does the usual and sorts one room out for the four of us, meaning we have to sneak in through the side door. Matt even charms the lady behind the desk into giving us an extra hour in the morning to check out since we arrived so late.

I've been sitting in my sodden wet t-shirt since we came off stage. I desperately need to shower.

3 comments:

  1. Hangpike & Adams Leaf were pretty cool! Or so I thought when I was 15. Hasn't aged well, but a fun listen nonetheless:

    http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_songs/1775862

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  2. Happy to here no 'trouble' in Chicago ;-)
    And even if i repeat myself, keep it short buddy, i am such a slow reader...
    and bring me an iPad2 or at least a Dan Hardy x Blood For Blood x Deathwish Collaboration T-Shirt :-)
    Love you

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  3. Damn, no NewYork show at the end but hopefully flights will be going again on Monday. Irene sucks ;-)

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