Saturday, April 30, 2011

Firewater Lounge

Trifecta, Part III

Full of music, movement, and art, we took our city chariot to the Firewater Lounge. The lounge was being held this evening in Café Luna.

Firewater Lounge is almost like a guerilla lounge, popping up when and where needed around the city of Chicago. The lounge is a firebomb of good booze, good people, good friends, and good naughtiness. Tonight it was needed as an after-party location for those attendees of the We Burn gallery, while also just being a generally cool place for anyone to go who was willing to pay the meager cover to get in.

More covers and stamps on hand, and Young Kubric, Krueger and I, entered the lounge. Kubrick and I received Firewater Lounge patches as part of our admissions, and we stowed them away in our swag bags as we moved further into the depths of the lounge. On one side there was a bacon sale. Not just any bacon; however, this bacon had been mixed to be specially flavored. There was chocolate, maple, candied, and butterscotch bacon on display, all made just for the event, and meant to be enjoyed. I, not being a bacon eater, offered to pick up three pieces for Young Kubrick for the purpose of sustenance and experimentation. He picked up three pieces of candy bacon, which he deemed edible, but not quite his thing. From there we moved back into the lounge.

On stage was karaoke, and I would have happily sung, but we’d arrived just moments before another show was to begin, and sadly were asked to leave off. Some other time, perhaps, for karaoke singing. I moved further into the lounge to find an old out-of-tune piano with a pretty girl sitting and playing. I sat with her and we exchanged names and tried to play together as best we could. I think she was better than I, me being a bit full of alcohol and a touch of angst. I eventually moved back on to the front of the lounge.

As I stood there a girl walked through with stickers. She was talking with her boyfriend and casually flirting with me, while being at the same time tragically straight and entirely a tease. She stopped in her conversation and says, “I like this.” Which she followed by putting a sticker on my chest. A sticker of a Facebook like thumb. I was amused, and Kubrick and I move on.

Here now, was the band for the evening. A lovely female lead crooning thoughtfully into the microphone, as the band supported her. I run into Denzien, a college friend from way back and she explained that her boyfriend was the tall blonde guitarist on the left. He did a fine of job of supporting the lead singer. I watched from the stage, until a hand showed up at my arm and Krueger said there was someone I needed to meet.

The someone I needed to meet was the Feral Kitty, the burlesque dancer for the evening. We talked for a minute as she was getting ready for her set which would be up after the band. Chiefly she was making some effort to get her pasties on and needed an extra hand. I volunteered one of mine and between the two of us we managed to get enough glue on to get them to stick properly.

As the stage was cleared for her performance she walked on with the sort of sensual surety you found in dancers. With music playing overhead she enticed us all in black corsetry and stockings and lace. She removed each piece carefully, setting things aside. She had on stage with her an umbrella, which appeared in front of her just in time for her corset to fall, and she kept the audience waiting for the final reveal for just enough moments to make us all gleefully titillated before a bum shake later, she was standing with perky pasties, pretty red hair in a bob, and lacy black panties. We were all happy to cheer her as she exited the stage.

Following Feral Kitty, Kubrick and I took a short smoke break to talk together in the quickly becoming windy and unbearably freezing Chicago evening. As we smoked, inside the Firewater prepared for a wet T-shirt contest, which we got back just in time to see as we warmed up. On the stage he contestants all stepped forward, lovely girls of all shapes and sizes wearing Firewater lounge T-shirts. Among the contestants were also a couple of strapping young men, hopefully contenders in the contest celebrating the best wet nipples.

Poochy, our master of ceremonies at the Firewater, brought each girl or boy out separately, and covered them with water as they danced and spun, and jutted their chests prettily out to the audience. We clapped and applauded and slapped knees for all of them, and of course, the men got quite a few cheers as well.

Once round one was finished it was time for the dance and vote off, with the cheers of the crowd being read by the Pooch-o-meter, and after the first round, only four remained, two men, and two women. The men went all out to win, the one with shaggy stringy hair and a full beard, strutted around, while the other, stout and bald and almost Greek looking, turned his beer bottle over his head while sitting and scowling haughtily at the audience. The two lovely ladies left, one of which was Feral Kitty, danced and jiggled moistened shirts at the audience, to win more applause then the men. A final dance off between Feral Kitty and the final female contestant resulted in win for the non-burlesque dancer, but Feral Kitty was a very gracious loser and wet hugs were delivered all around.

As the stage was cleared for the DJ, Kubrick and I had a final smoke in the freezing street and discussed how well our evening was turning out. At this point I had spotted a lovely girl, one of the participants in the T-shirt contest, and was hopeful to see her again.

I looked at Kubrick as the music began to spin out from the lounge.

“Let’s go dance.”

We rushed back in to a whirlwind of music and red and purple light in the bar. Bodies filled the dance floor and we mixed in with them. The lady I’d been eying earlier was soon in my arms, and I looked behind me to see Kubrick dancing with another fine-looking girl. While he spun off in hip-joined gyrations with his, I grabbed my own girl and we melded ourselves together like lovers in unison on the dance floor. As we pressed together breast to breast and swirled around, we saw Krueger walking around with tiny little shot glasses on a tray.

“What is that?” I asked.

He grinned a devil-may-care grin, a devils grin, a grin that should inspire terror, a madman’s grin, a trickster grin. He grinned at me and answered “Firewater.”

I recklessly took one for myself and drank it. I took a second and fed it to Krueger. I took a third and fed it to my dancing girl, and we lost ourselves in the power of the firey burning liquid traveling speedily down our throats. We were liquid heat now, consumed by fire gods. There were flames on the walls and they flickered and burned as we pressed into each other, with heat and fury, lips, and tongue, and fingers, of flame as we swirled around and lost ourselves under the late evening rush.

Everyone was a blurry swirl of light and colors and vague shadows and traces of desire as bodies and hearts and things lower thrummed in time with the beat and the rhythm of the music and the firewater. No one lounged, no one rested; we were too full of our passions now to stop moving. The air smelled like sex and lost control and forbidden pleasures.

As we come back to ourselves, and the firewater burned out of our system I found myself standing at the bar next to young Kubrick, wondering how I got there. The singer from early sat on the stage and I told her how I loved her music. She repaid me with a free CD. My dance partner came up to introduce me once more to Feral Kitty, who looked even more lovely now in her red wool coat preparing to brave the night. So lovely that I pulled off my necklace and swung over her neck, thinking it completed her look even more. I stumbled back to Kubrick and he turned to me, and I turn to Krueger.

“You guys want to ride with us?”

“Yes.” Us was Kruger and Sin; a better matched couple has rarely been found. Sin brought us out and sat us in her car to wait for her, while the last of firewater burned off the last of everything else we had drunk and Kubrick and I sat rehashing our dance-floor adventures. When Krueger and Sin joined us in the car they asked us how we felt about food.

And we felt just fine about everything.

Friday, April 29, 2011

We Burn II: Art Gallery Closing

Trifecta, Part II

We stood on the streets admiring the cold and windy, but beautiful, city while trying to flag down a taxi. I had thought it would be easier, but it took almost fifteen minutes to finally get into a cab and get to where we were going. Young Kubrick and I were happy to get out of the cold wind and in the back of the cab.

I called Krueger (who was waiting for us at the Burn Gallery) and told him we were on the way, giving a rough deadline of about fifteen minutes for us to arrive.

As we had time, Kubrick and I went through our swag bags.

We had:

Original Mad Magazine comics, his from 1967, mine from 1962.

An invitation to a cinema festival in July.

A notepad. The notepads had been recovered from the trash of some large convention event and were being recycled as part of the swag bags.

A package of Cheers cards with envelopes.

Lush beauty products. I ended up with a bar of soap, bath jelly, and lemon cuticle cream.

A pair of funny glasses, mine a Groucho Marx nose.

In all, we felt it was a rather worthwhile score. The Mad Magazines alone made it special. Kubrick had been a collector when he was younger, and I admit to having a great deal of fondness for Mad in my own youth. We were rather pleased with our swag score, and were able to get everything bundled into bags for our arrival at the Gallery.

The streets were floating colors when we walked across and into the next gallery. I donated the maximum amounts for both of us and we went upstairs looking for Krueger.

The Gallery was overwhelming.

Everywhere we looked there was so much beauty on the walls. A kaleidoscope of colors and sounds and feelings assaulted us as we moved up the stairs and closer to Kubrick. Some pottery was on the first floor, while the second was filled with the artist I came to like the most in the shortest amount of time. His work was composed of faces, features and colors. In particular, his purple series of trees moved me to near tears. It is so rare to see an artist work in purples, and truly more artists should have purple periods.

Purple is an underrated color. It is the color of sunrises on light spring mornings, and sunsets on violent summer evenings. It is the color of the hair of the goth girl you had a crush on in high school. It is the color of all things grape and sweet and saccharine. It is the color of erotic prose. The color of blooming gardens, royalty, voluptuous extravagance, dark wine stains, and blood running under the skin. It is a wonderful color to explore in depth.

Purple was the color of his trees.

On the second floor we found that there was to be more wine or beer, and since we had started with wine we stayed there. I went through to explore all the art by Kenneth Giddons (?) purple and otherwise, and to listen for a moment to the DJ spinning wildly funky beats as people mingled through near the closing.

I stumbled upon an anachronistic woman in the corner and commented on her dress, and she explained she would be performing a burlesque show in just a minute.

I was very hopeful to see her show; however, I also needed to find Krueger, who was still waiting for us the next floor up. Kubrick and I descended to the third floor to find Krueger. Before he were to get that far, we instead found the colorful photo work of a backlight artist on the wall. His work was all UV backlight with lasers and some body painting. The work reminded me a bit of the extraordinary work of one BodyMagick, without being quite as dynamic. I mentioned BodyMagick to them, as an artist who did UV body painting, which was at first accepted, but then rejected when they heard he was living in Germany. Their loss.

We finally turned the right corner and found Krueger deeply immersed in his own work, and he showed us around to some different pieces. There was the stage coach shopping cart from the Chiditarod, pottery, and other various works of art on the third floor. I was most impressed with Krueger’s pottery pieces. He had a few pieces that were slabbed and then glazed in a proper wood-burning kiln. They had desert colors in them, and reminded me of Krueger and his desire for fire and the desert sunshine. It was probably not intentional that the work spoke of fire, but certainly prefect that it did.

Once meeting up with Krueger I explained the burlesque that was going to happen downstairs, but sadly our quick decent was of no avail as the show was already over. However, she promised she’d be performing again soon, so we would just have to hope to catch her at some point in the future. The hour was fast approaching for the closing of the gallery, and Krueger worked to move us downstairs as things closed up. It was at this point that I ran in for a last fill of wine and was able to meet the artist who had composed the majestic purple trees, as well as the beautiful stacked sculptural pieces of oddly shaped faces. I told him I felt his work more than just saw it and he insisted on giving me a hug, which I could only accept.

From there we were working toward the stairs when Krueger said “There is going to be a silk show.”


“There.” He pointed to a girl preparing her silks at the end of the stairs for a demonstration of how the body can be manipulated on pieces of cloth that hang from the ceiling. She was rigged up the silks at the bottom of the stairs so she could do her areal display. We took up places to watch her. I pulled out my phone.

Kubrick asked “Does that do video?”


So I took some video as she moved.

She lifted herself straight up onto the silks, wrapping them around her arms and balancing her weight deftly as she did so. Her feet were in the air overhead, on the strength of her arm, a move that is both graceful and an prefect demonstration of the human body’s ability to be trained to feats that appear magical. She swung in the air, head over toes. She swung back feet pointed down lifted off the ground. She flipped back over and her hair dangled as her legs balanced over her head. Over and over again she twisted and turned with flawless ease. I loved her physicality, her fearlessness, and her form. The music wrapped her up as she dangled herself from the flowing curtains of silk, creating a seat, a womb, a ladder, making a place entirely her own inside the colored cloth.

Soon after the show finished, we exited back into the chilly Chicago night. A troupe of three now, full of music, and art, movies, food, and booze, and off toward the final destination of the evening: the Firewater Lounge.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

MoFest: A Chicago Cinema Event

Young Kubrick and I arrived at MoFest. The Portage Theater is a lovely throwback theater, all dripping and red and gold, with pretty art nouveau on the walls and columns that line the halls around the building. Truly lovely. As we walked in we took it all in and tried to decide what exactly it was we would do.



We got in line for the free liquor. The beer was being provided by Half Acre Brewing, and there was unlimited (or at least limited by the number of bottles they had on hand) red and white wine. I got a red, Kubrick a white, and then we walked into the packed little foyer where the food was being served. I was actually quite hungry, so I was happy to get in line and get some things to snack on from the buffet-style spread.

After hitting up the food bar, we walked into the actual theater proper. It was, in a word, absolutely HUGE. It was massively oppressive, make-you-feel-small huge. It was ominous. We walked down the slopping aisle toward the front and the art gallery taking place on either sides of the absolutely massive screen sitting center stage. The entire effect was one of the awesome power of cinema. Which is probably to be expected as the theater was built in the 1920s and is one of the oldest running theaters in the city of Chicago. It is lush and decadent and I admired it for those reasons. It is more lush in design than the Music Box, and more intelligently structured as well, with the floor designed to tilt toward the stage.

It took a minute to walk down to the floor and stand in front of the art from local artists. We saw a few collages that were well thought out, while being pretty to boot.

What caught the eye of Young Kubrick and I first though, were the semi-sculpted built structures. These pieces were combination of found art and female bust, and the detail was exquisite. It seemed possible that it was molded plaster on skin. The face was so real, down to pores and poc marks it seemed rather probably that it must have been, but it was hard to be sure. This perhaps made it so exquisite. The color was lovely, as was the composition, the wires for hair, and the settings in an old bronze fuel gauge. There were two, one on both sides, both different, but with some similarities in composition. We found them quiet interesting and unique.

During this first pass we glossed over the other pieces, before taking the long walk back up to the top of the theater to munch again, drop coats onto the coat racks, and head back for more wine.

I asked Young Kubrick what his agenda might be.

“Well, I need to meet a cinematographer.”

“Well then, we should find one.”

Which was easier sad then done, as this theater was starting to crowd with people, but it did seem that many were already in groups of friends and we were having trouble breaking in a bit.

“See all the people wearing plaid?” Kubrick pointed out to me.


“They are all in film.”

We smiled and giggled to each other while trying to work out exactly how it is that we should meet his cinematographer. Around that time we decided to get another glass of wine and check out some of the photo collections in the front of the theater. We found one series of photos just a bit too bland, too many people staring straight into cameras. Another collection from rundown buildings in Gary, Indiana was absolutely exquisite, however. Here each photo was clearly of a find, something that had been carefully worked out. The photos were exquisitely planned, lovely. We enjoyed them immensely.

We moved around to the other side of the theater to discover some different photos and it was at this point that we noticed a collection of bags, neatly laid out on the table. As I was looking at pictures Kubrick voiced a good question “I want to know how to get one of those bags.”

So I looked around for two people that had bags, went up and asked. They said the bags were for the taking, and as we circled back around to the table, this was confirmed by another person there. "Take them and enjoy them with our appreciation.”



We decided to not pick through the bags trying to find just the right one, but instead to choose one entirely at random, and see what we got.

So Kubrick and I both reached in and grabbed our swag.

Now, feeling rather complete, three drinks in, with a touch of food and swag, it seemed most appropriate to go out and have a smoke, and that was just what we did. It was also around this time that Kubrick started to talk about the lovely handsome man in the tie.

“Which man in the tie?”

“He’s gorgeous. I want to talk to him.”

“Well, keep an eye out and I’ll see what I can do.”

I have very little fear of going up and talking to strangers in many situations, and being that the original way I was coming to this event was alone, I had already geared myself up to do a lot of talking to strangers. With Kubrick there I was feeling bolder than usual.

“Let’s go smoke.”

I’m not much of a smoker. I will on very rare occasions now, mostly as a way of starting conversations. Smoking is the great equalizer. Anyone who smokes is, at least in Chicago in this day and age, saying that they are willing to be entirely outside the norm and completely judged by everyone else. They are also saying they don’t care.

I love that about smokers in the city of Chicago.

So, when I need to meet random strangers in the city of Chicago I find smoking to be an excellent way to do it.

We went outside with our swag bags, and rather than allowing Young Kubrick to light me up, I walked straight over to the nearest strangers and asked for a light. The stranger in question was wearing a set of sunglasses with flashing lights. A handsome, scruffy, bald gentleman. I liked his flair, but sadly realized within seconds that all my gusto would go to waste, as the first thing he wanted to tell me about was getting back inside to see his girlfriend.


“There he is.”

“What?” I turned to see what, or who, it was that Young Kubrick was pointing at, and there was attractive man in a tie, also smoking, wearing a walkie-talkie, and running around talking to trucks.

“Sweetie, he's working.”

“I know; he’s so dedicated.”

“All right.”

I could work with this. Talking to service people was even easier than talking to smokers. As he was headed back in our general direction I figured now would be a good time to ask a question I had been dying to ask: When do the movies actually start?

And I did.

Mr. Tie stopped and told us that the festival, while it said 6:00 to 9:00, was actually going to run to something like 1 a.m and that in reality we were in the drink-and-mingle stage, at which point they would eventually push people into the theater for the shorts. Once that had settled we mingled and got details about the history of the festival and the of course, details about Mr. Tie.

It turned out, that he was, in fact, a cinematographer. From there, Young Kubrick was able to properly network, exchange numbers, and flirt.

Following this we had to let Mr. Tie get back to being a good volunteer for the festival, and we went back to working on mingling. This sent us for a fourth round of drinks and one more look at the beautiful gallery at the bottom of the theater. It was at this point that we were rather impressed by just how beautiful one of the photos was, a photo we had only gently glanced at before.

The more we looked into it, the more we could see. It’s really difficult to describe it so, please enjoy seeing it.

As we were finishing up our turn in the gallery I was suddenly stopped by a thrumming “Sara!” and turned to see the Actress, who had finally arrived. I introduced her to Young Kubrick and we quickly caught up while she dragged us back up the theater to meet her director and the person responsible for the film she was showing tonight, Diversions. This was a short piece made on a small budget, but beautifully done. ( The Director, Chris, was an absolute sweetheart who had flown in from LA for several things, and happened to be in town for MoFest as well. We also met her costar Barret, who was nice, if shy, and several other people. Young Kubrick had more to talk about in this realm then I did, so I mentioned to the Actress that she really should get a swag bag.

As she was busy, and everyone else was talking, I made the trip round for it, and then went back to chat some more before checking the time and noting that we really were going to have to leave soon. Somehow we lost our group and were unable to make contact again, but the hour was fast approaching 9 p.m. and we had to get moving to make round two for the evening.

We made a last run through the theater to try to run into the Actress, with no luck. Who we did run into was an organist, playing a most excellent turn-of-the-century organ in the front of the room. The kind of full-body playing that is so rare to see anymore and so moving when you have the chance; the piece was one I recognized from film, but not I can’t recall the exact piece of movie the piece was from. Though I suspect it was one by Kubrick; however, that could just be my own blended memory.

We made our goodbyes to Chris and Barret and ran out into the cold crisp night to look for a cab for our second stop on Milwaukee Ave.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

Upon waking from my Zola Jesus hangover I looked at my schedule to try to decide what was next for me. I knew there were a lot of things going on that Saturday, and was also quite sure I would be able to achieve very little on the Saturday being 1) hung over all to hell, and 2) quadruple booked. With four things going on in the city all on the same night I knew realistically that something would have to give.

The morning started with the Bard and I running about to do some shopping. Originally we intended to do this shopping and get lunch. Using her Compromised Box of Knowledge (Steve Jobs compromises everything) we were informed that there would be a Chinese place somewhere in the general vicinity of where we wanted to go. An hour of driving around in circles later we were forced to conclude that such a place did not exist, or had gone out of business and settled for Falafel Shack before completing our shopping fete. The Bard had dinner plans with the Balance, so I was mostly on my own for the evening.

Once back at her place I began to research the actual options for my night. To do this I used Google Maps.

The thing about Korea is I can get in a cab and cover the whole of the city in Daegu in one night mostly by walking.

The thing in Chicago is that I am at the mercy of public transit as I know that cabs will be costly.

Once plotting the location of the first three events of the evening, though, I knew that a choice had been made. All three events were somewhere on Milwaukee Ave. All three events were within two miles of each other. Each of three events were starting in such a staggered time that I could potentially leave one, go to another, and go to the third without any real difficulty.

It seemed that the choice was clear. I was going to do not one, not two, but all three things that were happening that night in Chicago.

In order I wanted to accomplish:

MoFest: 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

MoFest, at the historical Portage Theater on Milwaukee Ave., is a consortium of people in the Chicago movie industry coming together to show short films throughout the weekend. The festival would run two days and include over thirty films, an art gallery of local work, and a buffet and wine/beer bar for the cost of admission.

We Burn II Art Gallery Closing: 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.

We Burn is part of the local Chicago Burner community and supports art and artist in the city. The We Burn gallery was a collection from Burner artists that included various mediums of art: film, pottery, urban chaos, physicality.

Firewater Lounge We Burn Afterparty: 10:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m.

The Firewater Lounge is run by a group of interested Burners. Can pop up anywhere in the city (or at least anywhere they choose to pop up) includes support of Burners through art, music, and the selling of homemade bacon. They also produce their own firewater, and work with a local consortium of wine makers.

I figured I could hit MoFest first, to support my lovely actress friend, move from there to the art gallery closing to support Burner-friend art, and from the gallery closing, accompany Burners to the Firewater, to finalize drinking and being generally merry.

Since there was a $25 cover for MoFest, I figured I’d eat dinner there so I didn’t feel so bad about the cost. That and get as liquored up as humanly possible to keep me good through the rest of the evening so I could save on the funds I would need to get the on cab I would take, first from MoFest to the Gallery, and then split a cab from the Gallery to the Firewater. With luck my friends going to Firewater would also take me home, but without luck I would be willing to (worst-case scenario), grab a cab back uptown. (I’m not a fan of public transit at three in the morning.)

This decided, it was time to find out if I could even get into MoFest, since I hadn’t purchased an advance ticket. However a phone call assured me that I would be fine. As I prepared for my departure Young Kubrick inquired what exactly I'd be up to that evening.

Then it hit me.

Young Kubrick.

Movie Festival.

Young Kubrick.

Movie Festival.

I slapped my head as the realization finally came to me that Young Kubrick would probably find a move festival quite useful. I explained to him what MoFest was all about and asked him if he would like to at least accompany me on that round of the evening. I explained my night of three, and assured him that I would not ditch him at the movies and he was welcome to stay with me as long as he could stay up. Since his plans that evening had mostly been to stay up all night and play video games with Tino, he was happily in.

We both showered, changed, critiqued each other's outfits, and fed the dog before going out the door. Tino, who had carefully planned to be playing video games all night with Young Kubrick, judged us as we walked out. We said goodbye to the dog.

He was not amused.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Goth in the City

Zola Jesus.
Zola Jesus.

Zola Jesus.

This was the thought that had been running through my head for basically the entire week leading up to the show. Zola, Zola, Zola.

She is not very well known. An obscurity, sadly, but with music and voice and attitude to make her terribly enticing. I knew it would be a goth evening at the Empty Bottle. It started off with a lovely Greek dinner at Santorini’s with the Bard. I admitted to feeling like I was cheating on the Parthanon every time we went, but I was starting to like the new place more. She gave me a ride down to the Bottle afterwards.

I’d gone with black on shades of black, and dark black makeup as well. I rarely wore makeup, but when you were going to a goth show you may as well go all out. Being that I still tried not to frighten normal people I saved the bulk of my gothness for when I actually got to the Bottle, where I did the rest of my makeup and generally let my hair down for the show.

The bar was crowded with Zola fans, a range of men and women, all decked out in various shades of black and blacker still. The first band up, Population, had a dreamy dark, Peter Murphy-esque lead singer that had everyone swaying back and forth. He took possession of the microphone and poured his deep dark notes into it, and everyone was quite happy to let him. At first I had the band confused with Cult of Youth, but fortunately I was confused.



Cult of youth took the stage in full goth/punk regalia. Ripped T-shirts on the keyboardist that looked like more clothespin than cloth. A dark surfer lead singer crooned into the microphone with throaty resonate vibes, impressing the crowd. The female violin player was in a one-piece dress that stopped mid-thigh, where her thigh-highs started and jetted down to the floor. The music was well put together, the lyrics meaningful, and the overall effect on the crowd was one of happy force.

Cult of Youth
Cult of Youth

Cult of Youth

But this was not who we were here to see. We wanted Zola.

As Cult of Youth left the stage we watched the roadies set up her act, which did not take much. At one point Zola herself was on stage, covering her face and body in a thick deep rich cape so no one could see what she was doing. She wanted to build the suspense. I was struck by how tiny she was.

Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus

She looked for all the world to be frail and small. Barely taller than five feet, and tiny thin. Her face was full of stark angles and shadows, and her eyes seemed to shine from under her hood as she finished up the final parts of her stage. Then she hit a button, lasers lit up, and she was on.

Zola was a whirling dervish as she sang. She never stopped moving; she was one place than another, flitting across the stage. She wore a red dress with a panel sewn on that could be a cape, or a sleeve or a hood, or just part of the dress. Sometimes she used it to cover her face, other times it blew like loose wings as she moved speedily across the stage. Her voice was the deep basso of power as she crooned out the songs over the intensely bassy keyboard, drum, and bass guitar. There was edge and softness as she sang and moved. The audience was completely caught up in it; watching her pace the stage like a caged animal we couldn't help but to feel her movement.

Zola Jesus
Zola Jesus
Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus

We moved, we screamed, we would do anything to make Zola happy as she owned the audience and all of us.

After she sang her last note and jumped down we all stood around, wondering now what to do. The bar, which looked very much like a goth club now, with so many there dressed in tight black leather, spiked Mohawks, dark black skirts, chains, and armor, began to clear out.

I sat at the bar and had a few glasses of water while talking to a Cult of Youth fan, who had never heard of Zola before. We chatted for a bit about his journeys in France as a janitor, and mine in Asia as whatever it is I do, before the last call finally rang out and I found myself wrapped up in dark thoughts in a cab headed home.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lucy in the Sky with Rhine

I kept telling the Bard that if there were a show playing at Lincoln Hall I thought she would want to see that I would take her there. In fact I’d spent the last weekend telling her just that. So when I learned that Over the Rhine would be playing it was really time for me to put up or shut up on the ticket front. I scored us a pair of tickets for Over the Rhine, let her know, and went back to working on the never-ending project I seemed to be working on.

As Friday finally neared I found myself quite excited about finally getting a chance for some quality musical time with the Bard. I knew that what we would really want to do was get some seats on the balcony. By checking show times, I also knew that we’d need to be there by at least 6:45 if we wanted to get seats on the balcony. This meant eating dinner in Lincoln Hall, which I was also very happy to do. I’d decided to browse the menu when I noted that you could in fact make reservations for the balcony with show tickets. That seemed to me to make the most logical sense. I sent the Bard a text asking if she was okay with that, but while I was waiting for the reply I just went ahead and booked the table. By the time she got back to me we were all set.

I got on the train, got the Bard and we prepared to get ready and get out the door for our dinner and drinking and music. As I had on a number of occasions, I checked out the pre-show. To be honest I did not enjoy the pre-show act that much, but figured I could sit through just about any form of music for a good band ( I had in fact stood in front of the stage in Australia and listened to an entire show by Spiritualized in 2009, so I was truly willing to do just about anything for a good band). As the hour approached we arrived to the destination via the El, and walked in just in time to stand in a line.

The crowd was older than I expected, and I was chatted up by a gentleman from Indiana who dearly wanted to express his love for Over the Rhine and peppered us with questions about how many times we had been to see them. I wondered if it was one of those kinds of bands with cults of followers who went out in droves. Apparently it was, but on a minor scale.

We were finally let in, went up the steps and to my happiness there was our table, perfectly overlooking the balcony, with my name on top. Excellent. We sat down, and a waitress quickly got us drinks and a specials menu and we were able to sit back and enjoy some food while waiting for the show.

“Who's the first act?”

“Relatively obscure person. A Linda Wainwright.”

“Of the Wainwrights?”

“Not sure.”

To understand this you must understand that the Bard is a great fan of both Rufus Wainwright and his sister Martha. In fact last year as a birthday present I had sent her to see Rufus on his tour of Chicago. This is where the Bard met Martha and they bonded over "La Vie En Rose." Rufus is definitely a love of the Bard.

As the hall got quiet and the stage lights went down in the back and up in the front, out walked a little girl engulfed by the stage with her guitar. She strummed once and let go. And she was truly exquisite. She had one of those soft breathy-on-the-edge-of-every-line musicians, who is folky but sings from the heart. Her songs were elegantly put together and each work spoke clearly and precisely about what she wanted to say. There was meaning within meaning and layers that were never fussy or distracting.

And she is a storyteller. Between each song were little stories or self-deprecating humor. She was lovely. She was cute-as-a-button adorable. You just wanted to take her home and squeeze her. The Bard was over the moon with happiness about her.

“Who is this?” she asked again.

“Linda Wainwright Roche.”

“She is just like Martha; this is how Martha was. I think she might be one of the Wainwrights.”

“What a bastard Wainwright?”

“I think so.”

I enjoyed all over the songs she sang, but it was "Statesville" that really made the difference.

Her set was exquisite and over sadly far too soon.

After she finished, the Bard and I spent many moments being entirely floored by how amazingly wonderful this discovery of a bastard Wainwright was. We talked of little else as we waited for Over the Rhine.

The Rhine show was full of joy, storytelling, and amazingly beautiful voices. The relationship between the band was palpable and made the show so wonderful to hear. There is something about her voice that just reaches right into you and turns on a place in your mind that you had shut out for a bit. She has that skill when she sings. It’s a skill I adore. I was transcendent with her sound and loved watching her as she moved about the stage and shared herself with all of us. It was a worthwhile show, but the surprise of Lucy was certainly what turned the evening from a good time, into an utterly overwhelming success.

As we left we hit the merch table where the Bard got a collection of Lucy songs, and I got an Over the Rhine T-shirt to add to my ever-growing collection of crazy cool music T-shirts that I hardly ever wore. We bundled into a cab and talked about Lucy and her heritage the entire time. Upon arriving home more research was conducted and we learned that she was, in fact, a Wainwright. Her father was Loudon Wainwright III, and her mother was a Linda Roche. Apparently in the folk world the Roches were well known for their ability to harmonize, so much so that they inspired the Indigo Girls.

“ Loudon must have just wanted to like father a whole race of musical geniuses.” the Bard commented.

“He does appear to have good genes.”

We smiled and listened to our favorite-of-the-evening Over the Rhine songs with Young Kubrick until we were chased into dreams haunted by the wafting chorus of "Statesville."

As an ending aside, the Bard was entirely entrapped by all things Lucy for several days following the concert. So much so that Young Kubrick, while never asking her to stop listening, did as her if she could skip the one song (a cover song from…) that was starting to follow him everywhere. As of now she has managed to be equally impressed to listen to Over the Rhine, but Lucy is on heavier rotation than Iron and Wine on the Bard's MP3 player, and that is saying something.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Afternoon at the BMV

I haven’t been to the BMV in a very long time. I always wonder why the BMV gets such a horrible rap. It doesn’t seem like a far circle of hell, and yet, when we speak of the place it does become like some far corner of purgatory better left unvisited. However needs must when the devil drives, and so I find myself at the BMV. Actually the fact that this particular devil cannot drive is why I find myself at the BMV.

It’s not that I am incapable. I love driving. However, I have also not set foot behind the wheel of a car since May 26, 2002. I know the exact date because a day later I landed in Korea and I did not drive myself to the airport. So I know when I last drove and I know that I have not done any driving since then.

While capable, I have steadily avoided driving over the last decade to the point where now, I realize, that I need to get a learner’s permit. I want to practice driving before I have to take the road test, which I will have to take in order to get permission to actually drive a vehicle. With this in mind I went in to get the learners permit.

I hate taking the driving exam. It’s not something I particularly enjoy since when I went for the first learners permit I failed the test five times before I finally managed to pass. Granted, the test included questions about driving tractors and how to respond to that on the road. Small-country tests. Also, at the time I didn’t realize how very little understanding of driving was necessary to pass the test. The test was about whether or not you read the book and memorized things appropriately. It is the worst kind of “gotcha assessment” and the best example.

“Gotcha” assessment is any kind of test where what you learned and what you are being tested on are entirely disconnected. What you learned was in your class, or in your lecture, or what you studied with your group. What you are being tested on is whether or not you also read the book. Nitpicking is what some might call it. For example, knowing the percentage of accidents caused by bad drivers is a gotcha question. Being offered four choices of models of bad driving and picking the exact one responsible for the most accidents on the road (when D is all of the above) is a gotcha question. Yes, driving under the influence, driver action, and running red lights all lead to accidents, but only one is the biggest cause for all accidents and the book clearly tells you which one that is.

Before the exam, I spent an hour reading through the book so I could adequately refresh myself with all the answers. I took the practice test and missed three questions I had glossed over, so I went back and read again in those sections. Feeling adequately prepared, I asked the Boy for a ride and we were on our way.

Mind you, because it is the BMV it is not located in any way near logical public transit, so you must get a ride to get there. Perhaps this contributes to its hell-like attributes. I walked in and looked for a number. They were obviously calling out numbers but I could not find one. A nice girl sitting and waiting pointed to the wall behind me and explained that the number was there. She mentioned she’d spent a good five minutes searching herself before finally asking. I thanked her and got my number and waited. Wishing I’d remembered to bring a book.

As it was I found myself sitting and mulling over answers until I was finally called. The empty BMV was oppressive. Besides myself, four other people took the test: the nice woman who’d pointed out the number waited, and a Spanish mother was applying for her license. I was finally called and seated myself before a bubbly personality and started pulling out documents explaining that I needed a learner’s permit.

“Haven’t you ever driven before?”

“Yes, but it was ten years ago. I’d like to practice.”

“But if you had a license you just need to take the test and a road test. We can schedule it today.”

“Well, I’d like to practice before I take the road test.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to have a learner's permit.”

Technically she was wrong. According to all the research I had done, if your license has been expired for more than five years you had to take the written exam and a road test, but only after applying for a learner's permit first.

She asked me again if I wanted a license and I explained again that I just wanted to be able to legally practice between the test today and a road test in the future.

“Well, I just don’t know. I’ll go ask.”

And so she did. Leaving me to worry. When she returned she said they’d give me the permit, after I took and passed a test. I was handed a pencil and the bubble sheet, and the several pages of test question and off I went to go and prove that I had read the book.

Sadly, it was hard for me to turn my assessment brain off and I could not help but notice the obvious flaws in the exam. In a case where any answer provided was of great length then all other answers that answer was correct. In cases where an adverb of frequency is used the answer “all of the above” is not correct. In a case where all answers are of equally long length and “all of the above” is a choice, all of the above is correct. I was very glad I had refreshed myself on road signs, because the 20 questions about signs was more about what the shape meant than any information on the sign. What information is on a rectangular sign? What will you find on a square sign? Better know the answer to that before you go to take a test at the BMV.

After scoring I had missed only one answer. I really wanted to know what I had messed up, but sadly the test was auto graded and no one there could tell me where my knowledge was flawed. This really seemed impractical, as surely a new driver should be corrected on any misinformation, but that was not to be.

I had a different bubbly clerk ask for documents and express equal disbelief when I said I was applying for a learner’s permit.

“They called downstate and got permission for her.” I swear, I believe I was supposed to feel shame for wanting to practice driving. Sadly, I don’t shame that easily, so I just smiled and kept feeding them documents until I was given a crisp white sheet of paper that would be my identification until the permit arrived in the mail.

As I was preparing to walk out a man ran into the department shouting that someone needs to go outside and take away the license of the woman behind the big red truck.

“She just hit me with her truck. Someone needs to revoke her license.” As he yelled we all looked out the window and watched her drive away. While she sped out of the lot I wondered why in the world I was going through this process again, until I got back into the car with my ride and realized that it was just that. This country is too big not to drive, and so, I will learn to do it again and see what freedoms the road will afford me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tables of Content

This is as much to remind me as to inform you.

I had a lovely, epic weekend. It consisted of Zola Jesus on Friday night. I followed this up by booking not one, but three events for my Saturday evening. It is going to take a bit of time to write it all down and write it all up. I still need to talk about Over the Rhine as well, which was a fabulously lovely time.

There was the storm that wasn’t.

There is the spring that isn’t.

There is Chicago and I am starting to feel lovely and somewhat settled here.

Work is work-like.

Love and life and laughter come and go and continue to be as such.

I have a thousand pictures that need to be edited and uploaded as well. So I supposed that will be my morning blogging for the next few days. I am trying to think if I have forgotten anything.

Yes, yes, the BMV.

So, if you are out there and reading, well, I’ll be writing about these things for a few days until I get all caught up again.

In the meantime I shall leave you with this for today, because I found it to be amazing.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Good for what?

Two months. I’ve been in America for almost two months and it feels like a lifetime, a year, an age. I miss everything about being elsewhere. Does this mean I'm not meant for a safe and quiet American life? Should I work on taking off at every opportunity; should I just let it all go and go and be the thing out there that drives me?

It’s the one thing I’m good at doing and doing it seems to mean giving up ever having something simple like a home. I know I don’t do settling down well, so there is that as a problem/conundrum/whatever. I love what I do, and sometimes it makes me frantic. I hate questioning or second guessing myself, but it seems like I have spent half my time in this last two months doing just that.

Do I have to give it all up to be who I am?

I want it all. I want to have what I have and not let anything go, but I don’t know how to do what I do without giving up everything that I want to have.

It’s a screaming match inside my brain. The migraine headache that has been working on me for days surely doesn't help. The ache in my whole temple, and the pulsing behind my eye, let me know that this will go on for close to a month before it stops. They say stress less, but my jaw is so tense it feels like it is on a constant wire. I move from depression to excitement and frivolity and then back, crashing back, down into depression and a feeling of unutterable doom. I cannot find a happy place to relax in, and this constant worrying about the future (and who I am, and who I can be) is certainly not helping.

Maybe I need a vacation.

Maybe I just need to give in to all my random flights of fancy and try something else. It is hard to say, and completely impossible to judge for sure.

There is a sleeping dog in my lap and I envy his quiet, happy introspection. He is a craver of his humans and a warm lap. He does mind idle chatter, and is not concerned by all the worries that plague me. He snores happily and says to join him. Just let it all go and sleep curled up on someone you love. I should give him more credit. Perhaps he has all the answers in his curly little sleep time.

I could take his lead. This is the one thing he is good at doing and he doesn’t let anyone, including an unwilling lap, keep him from fulfilling his goal. There is an answer, even if it is not the one I'm looking for.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Discovery, A Disappointment

One of the shows I was looking most forward to seeing was the Rural Alberta Advantage. I had been listening to the RAA since roughly 2008, very shortly after they came out with Hometowns. I can say with all honesty that the song "Frank A.B." seriously defined that particular period of my life. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the RAA, I recommend their music extremely. A small Canadian group, only three members, they create music that is driving, powerful, and filled with a pointed realism for what life can mean, and what it means instead.

This was my first show back at the Lincoln Hall since I went there last year to see Tapes and Tapes. As an aside, Tapes and Tapes is one of the single best live acts I have ever seen. Anyway, I went to see the RAA and I was excited. I got there a bit early and was sitting at the bar by myself. I had forgotten my book, and wasn't sure what to do with myself in the hour wait to the show. It was also a sold-out show, so the only people in the bar were there for the music. I sat at the edge and a well-trained bartender engaged me in enough conversation that I was soon engaged in conversation with two other gentlemen at the bar. One was an older music lover, who refused to stop rocking. He talked about one of the greatest moments of his life: being able to go to shows with his son. The other was an obvious “I’ve seen more obscure acts than you” guy. I love music, it’s not about seeing the people you have never heard of, or out showing anyone. I go because I truly love to see an artist perform. I had little in common with Mr. No-Name Band, and the conversation died off quickly after the older music lover's friends showed up.

Lincoln Hall likes to play music previews of upcoming shows on the sound system and I found myself looking up every few minutes to see who was playing that I wanted to see. As a song caught my ear I looked up at the screen and realized that it was not playing in the bar, it was playing on stage. The show had started and I was about to miss it.

When I walked into the hall, I had a moment. On stage was a small, bearded, re-haired man, carrying a guitar. He stood alone and played guitar and sang. His voice filled the room, overtaking the room. I had never heard of him before, but I was in love with him. His name is James Vincent McMorrow. As he finished his first song, he invited a small support band onstage with him. While they got set up I moved to the front of the stage because I wanted to be closer to this. I wanted to be right there for the music. I couldn't help it; I needed to see him perform. This is what I love about going to shows; to see the musician interact with their instruments, with the audience, with me. Whatever it is that compels a musician to put everything else aside for a life on stage also compels me. I understand it, and sometimes I wonder if I don’t go to see what it is that I gave up, or maybe it was just something I could never commit to, so I envy those people who have completely committed to music.

I had never heard a word of his music before, but suddenly I felt like I was going to be entirely in tears. It was perfect.

“Burn slow, burning up the back wall
long roads, where the city meets the sky
most days, most days stay the sole same
please stay, for this fear it will not die”

The perfection of Mr. McMorrow may have created the problem.

As he left the stage I waited in anticipation for the RAA. I watched them set the stage, watched the essential instruments come together. A drum kit. A tom-tom. A keyboard. The guitar board. The guitar. It’s a simple band. And when they, Niles, Amy and Paul, finally entered the stage and started playing I was ecstatic. I enjoyed listening. I was happy to listen.

But I was never enchanted.

I hate to admit it but there was never a moment where I felt that they as musicians were really going beyond in any way. There was excitement to be sure, and the music was played with perfection to sound as it did on the album, but somehow, it was lacking. It didn’t connect with me the way I wanted it to connect, and that was a real disappointment. At the end of the show they jumped off the stage to sing "Goodbye," which, as they say, they didn't do very often. And there is a part of me that wanted to believe it, but somehow it just all seemed too…rehearsed.

My reaction to the show bothers me on some level. I’m not sure why I didn’t connect to this band, who I adore, and still adore, as viscerally as I have connected to others on stage. Somehow there was a distance there and I wasn't able to break through it to get to something more, to the art, to the passion that drives the music. As unsettling as that is, I would probably go to see them again to see if I could find what it is that was lost.

You should still enjoy the band, as the music is transcendent. Perhaps it was just seeing someone who was so in love with his music first, maybe they just weren’t feeling it that night. It is hard to say.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Holding on to Dreams

Last night I dreamt in parables.

I woke up but the body wanted to keep sleeping. I had that numb shaky feeling that movement wasn't ready, so I let myself slip back into sleep and from there I was forced into dreams. Dreams were happening too me, but I felt as if I had not properly agreed to them.

I am in a house talking to a girl. She is beautiful and slender with blonde hair in a bun. I am attracted to her. I find myself staring at her, and how her nipples stand upright and poke through the thin fabric of her tank top. She touches my face, I respond. We walk on a sidewalk outdoors. She is dressed in grey, the color of the sky. We walk and I realize the world is full and full and full of water, or the potential for water.

We are indoors and I notice the debris floating by. I ask her

“Were you always a rain goddess?”

She smiles and we float away. She points to the debris in the water, how as the water rises people move in further to catch what little they can hold on to, and in the end everything is washed away.

“Were you always a rain goddess?”

She smiles and tells me to let go.

“Hold on to nothing.”

She wants to tell me a story, but as she tells it, the story becomes a dream and I watch as it is constructed. She tells me:

“There is a man, see him. He had a child; look at the child.”

The child is red and rosy and lies on his belly in a bed as the man watches him full of sadness.

“He has been instructed by his gods. Listen.”

And the God says to the man “Do not touch the child. Do not hold the child. Do no caress the child. And above all things do not name the child.”

The man nods his head to the God. He looks at the child, but sadness fills him. He is with the child a long time. He moves close to the child on the bed. Lays next to the child. Breathes the child in, is warmed by the child’s warmth. He is thinking. I can hear him thinking.

This is not rational. A God who tells me this is not rational. Here is the child. The child is a rational thing. It is the beginning of rational. The child is true. The God is not true. It is my child. It is a rational creature. I am a rational creature.

He reaches out his hand and he touches the child. The touch fills him with clarity. He understands love in that moment. He names the child. In the moment of naming he is filled with horror. It is clear in his eyes, his mouth and eyes are wide with it. He touches the child.

“You see the man,” she says to me. “He could not let go.”

The man sits on the floor next to the bed. He has a quill and paper. He dips the quill in his own blood and writes: I am J.S. He weeps. He writes. It is not his story. These are not his words. He is nothing, anymore, but a scribe, and he will write the child, and the child’s life and he will suffer for it.

“Hold on to nothing.” She says to me…and I wake up with the after image of the man leaning on the bed, and the words in blood on paper.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Closing on Roommate

Roommate finished with a song I recognized and then sadly left the stage. I enjoyed them far too much to want to watch them leave, but at that point figured it was time to get my drink on and enjoy myself at the Bottle before the Algernon show that was coming up next. In the meantime I had been texting with the Force and waiting for her to arrive on the scene. The Empty Bottle has all the subtly of a neighborhood bar, while taking at that sort of graffiti-tattooed dive bar look that makes it a fun place to take a picture or seven.

The phone tells me that while I wouldn't get the Force, Breezy is planning on heading over to meet me. I'd missed the Chicago set since they left Korea, so it amuses me to be able to actually spend time with them in Chicago. I tell her I’m still at the Bottle and warn her that the last band is really not as fantastic as Roommate. Nothing I did, however, seemed to convince any of my friends that Roommate really was the band to see while the chance was had. Some days it is just a bit easier to give up.

I enjoyed some wine and waited for Breezy while just generally wandering around the bar. She walked in sporting nice boys with her and we hugged and laughed and ordered drinks at each other. As we were talking someone explained to us that we had just missed the tamale guy. I was confused about the tamale guy.

“The tamale guy; five tamales for five dollars. It’s fantastic,” she tells me.

“What kind of tamales?”

“Chicken, pork, and cheese.”

“I actually could eat a little. Mmmm, tamales.” But tamale guy had come and gone. We spent some time catching up when I realized that sitting behind me was Kent from Roommate. I admit to some things as a music lover. One I suck with being able to name everyone in a band the way others can. Two, I love music but what I love about music is not often defined in the clipped music magazine reporter's tone. Three, I am not willing to beg a singer to take a picture with me, because I think it is silly. Four, I am automatically in love with lead singers, and would do many things to hear them talk at all.

The fact that a lead singer was sitting behind me and talking was not lost on me. I was standing to talk to Breezy when he caught my eye and asked if I had gotten my card for the free CD.

“I did, thank you.”

He asked me what I thought of the show. My desire to run screaming from the conversation was on high. How can I talk about something so magic and wonderful without sounding like a disgusting fan girl?

I lost the battle and went fan girl. I explained that I loved the music and I tried to get friends to come. He asked if I had been to the website.

And then we discussed the website. I’m a consultant. I can’t help it I consult. So I offered some advice from my own experience with web marketing for ways to streamline the site to make it easier to find music. I’d suggested Roommate to several people, but at least two had told me that had trouble finding the music on the site. Kent agreed he wanted to improve and would work on making it easier to get the music off of Bandcamp. I offered him my card, we talked for a few more minutes, and finally, I turned off my fan girl and let him go.

I felt horribly embarrassed about it, but I figure since he asked I might as well tell him what I really thought of the website.

Later, tamale guy returned and I did succumb and buy a set of cheese tamales, before finally deciding that the Force was not going to be with me and heading back to the Bard's couch in the park.

Roommate, sweet dear gods Roommate.

If you have yet, go listen, it is worth it, every single note.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Lost with Roommate

It would be awkward to continue the Chicago music tour and not mention Roommate. Roommate has such a wonderful sense of lyrical lush ideals. Words that drift over air with musical and ethereal sounds; my kind of band.

I had not heard of Roommate before prowling around the web looking for shows to go to. I found that the group was listed for the Empty Bottle, so I thought I would give them a listen and see if it was my kind of sound. Was it ever! Before I had listened to two songs I had bought a ticket to go see them with Dozens and Algernon. Because of Roommate I also gave Dozens and Algernon a listen. I realized that I also loved the sound and lyrics of Dozens, a well put-together little band, but Algernon held no real amusement for me. Too noisy and cluttered, like listening to someone trying too hard to murder an ax in a David Lynch movie; sound that is overbearing and felt incomplete. However, knowing that I would see Roommate and Dozens made it worthwhile.

When the night arrived I hopped on the various trains and buses to get to the Bottle. I’m more comfortable on the train now, more sure of myself. I was more over the events that had lead me to avoid the train for more than a decade; nowadays the train brings me places I want to go to, and I am too sure of myself to let it bring me anything else.

The Bottle was only lightly busy, I grabbed a space at the end of the bar to read my book until someone came along and asked for a ticket. I was sure I was on the will call list, and so when directed I walked back to the door to have my name picked out and get my stamp. After a few minutes of searching it was apparent my name was not on the list. I pulled out the magic box of knowledge and began to search through my email but could not find a ticket. I finally parted with the ticket money again, but did not lament it. I either forgot or I was putting money in the hands of those that needed it. Later I found myself at the merch tent talking to a very nice girl who was selling T-shirts. She hooked me up with a shirt, but then the lead singer came over and asked me to wait.

“The record label is supposed to show up with free CD’s. The new album is out and you get it for free.”


One, I was taken a back by Kent, the singer. He was smaller than I had expected, with shaggy hair and a shaggy beard, but so much authority. His speaking voice was so different from his voice on stage, and yet there was still something magical about it. I promised to wait for the card with the free CD; the girl promised to hold my shirt that I wanted until the label showed up with the cards, and then I promptly went back into the Bottle to wait for the show.

Dozens was on first and they were everything I wanted. They started off with rocky riffs, keyboards and a solid drumbeat. That sort of just-off high-pitched tenor of a voice that spins off the lyrics, and then halfway through a song you get a catchy little riff that throws the sound back to a catchy, almost seventies, fondness.


Their presence on stage was energetic and I found my head bobbing along as I listened to them sing about the doves that do not cry. But they are not all catchy riffs, they in fact do just as much with sound building and lyrical construction as Roommate. A band not to be missed.

Free Music Alert: You can download the entire album for free by naming a 0.00 for a price. However I did drop a fiver on them because, hey, everyone should get something for making great music.

"Cobwebs" shows more of the depth of this band, while "Arrest Yourself" has more of the catchy indie sound going on.

As Dozens broke down I was worried Algernon would be next, but fortunately that was not to be, and I watched with delight as Roommate set up. I had a perfect little spot on the stairs overlooking the stage and I was very happy to stay there where I could enjoy listening and watching the happiness take place. Keyboards, guitars, drums, mellow aesthetic. Words. My gods the words that Kent can weave into a song, with a voice that calls to mind dark enchanters, the kind of Pied Piper voice that would have you blindly following along and dancing, and dreaming, and losing yourself. That voice. Kent has such an easy presence though; even when he jumped off the stage for new batteries he was soft and friendly, but when he sings, you just want to close your eyes and lose yourself in the beauty he spins.

He sings and weaves a song around us, a song composed of words that is neither happy nor sad, but wants to be experienced, to be heard. We fall under his words and we all stand, and listen and clap appropriately in awe, and I feel my eyes stinging, as I am captured by his moments and still. I had been listening to nothing but Roommate for days before this show, so enchanted by the voice and words. As I listened I had this moment of alarm when I realized I recognized none of the songs. This was certainly the band, but the songs were not the ones I had down by heart. Later, in a conversation with Kent I realized that I was getting a live show of the new album. And it was worth it.

When he started with the first lyrics, imploring “Jesus to save the Jesus freaks”…he had me right then. I was happy to follow him from that moment.

There is another story to follow from the Bottle and the dear Roommate; however, you should all go listen to them. Guilty Rainbow just came out. All of their music is on EMUSIC (WIN FOR ME!) and you can listen free online.  "Snow Globe" is a wonderfully well-constructed track that demonstrates the attention to lyrics and instrumentation that I have come to love about Roommate.

"If you are somebody nobody wants to be around, where do you go at night? / When you don't want to be alone anymore, when you don't want to be alone anymore?"

Let's say it speaks to me. "Snow Globe" in particular reminds me of those days in Korea where everything seems like a horrible paradox filled with 45 million Koreans.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Suns

I had been standing on the hard concrete floor for three hours waiting for the band. I had enjoyed the three previous acts, but there was no doubt in my mind why I was attending the show tonight. I wanted to see The Suns.

Earlier I was standing around the merchandise table and talked with the drummer about the band. “I’ve introduced you to a small group of people, mostly in South Korea. I really appreciate you having all your music online for free.”

“Only way to do it. I’m just like 'give it away, people will listen.'”

“My bartender in Korea loves you guys.”

We smile. I buy a T-shirt, let him go, and go back to my pacing and waiting for the band. During the Bailiff set I pushed to the front so I could be near the stage. When the set ended the stage was cleared. The bar was thinning, I began to realize that most of the crowd was there for Bailiff, but the main act for me was coming up. Two drums, three guitarists, magical. The tall red-haired guitarist sets up the boards, wires dangling over the stage, kicking over spent bottles of water while he works. I wait, feeling that tense anticipation of finally, finally, getting to see a band I had been listening to for three months live. I was in love with the music.

I recognize the drummer as he gets on stage, I smile as the rest of band takes the stage, the red-haired guitarist standing over me. The lead singer comes on stage. He is not what I expected; he looks small and stocky surrounded by his five-piece band.

“I’m really, I’m really going to piss off some photographers here, but can you turn the house lights down?”

The venue complies.

“No, like all the way down.” A moment later we are in total darkness. He has them bring the lights up a touch, but there is no illumination in the room. We are in darkness. We are a throng. We push closer to the stage, trying to get closer to see in the dim lights of peripherals flashing on the board, the flash of ambient light on the guitar. It is total darkness.

And he begins to play. The guitars build on each other; the drums build on each other. Walls are constructed. These beautiful walls of sound, they enclose us in the darkness. Here we are surrounded by the music and we become the strangers that clap our hands. I watch pouring out my adulation on the stage. My mind and body are lost in such powerfully built moments of sound.

“Don’t know what you’ve done, you brought this upon yourself. You don’t know what you’ve done or who I am….”

We sway as we listen. The couple next to me agrees during a pause that we can only taste the vocals and we call up to our touring god of voice and ask him for more. He laughs and chides the back for more vocals, telling us if we really want to hear to move back. But we can’t. We are moths drawn to his words and voice and presence and we want to be right there as he sings, as his band members join him in harmonies and chorus.

It was passing and lovely and all to short. The last set of the night, and barely six touring majestic beautiful pieces.

And at the end I was left desperately wanting to see them again, with the hope of knowing they have a new album coming out soon.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Free Music and the Chicago Music Festival I made for me

I’ve been doing my own music festival in Chicago since I got back. Gods how I do love live music. There is nothing about live music that I do not love. I really enjoy going to large concert festivals, Coachella last year was over the moon amazing, but I also enjoy being able to go into a show and enjoy a band that I know I desperately want to see.

So far I have been able to see some very amazing smaller Chicago bands that everyone should know about. Let me take a moment to promote them.

First up, one I could barely contain myself with joy about seeing is The Suns. Great small-town Chicago band. I was very pumped about the show. Sadly did not get the greatest pictures, which is another story. However they were on with a big group of other shows that I got to see.

The Field Auxiliary played first that night. Lovely mellow sound all around, well-organized music. It was easy to let yourself go while listening, which I always enjoy. People should really check them out. One free from the Field, and definitely worth it! 1 free track!

After Field was the Mutts. I wasn’t sure if I was terribly into the Mutts. Their free album (yes, free, go get it) was not my taste. More rock and bluse-y then I tend to enjoy. However, their live show is fucking fantastic (really the only words to describe it). Free music, people. Free, favorite price. Go check them out.
Free Free Mutts!

The Mutts
The Mutts were followed by Bailiff. I had only listened to one of their songs and wasn’t sure what to expect. What I did not expect was the smoothest voice this side of the Mississippi. Every single song was beautiful, slow, and wonderfully constructed. I was blown away with how good the lead singer was, and the band worked together genius to make great music. They sadly do not have free music but you can listen to them for free online. I really wish they had free music.

Finally, the Suns. Oh the Suns. I was so happy I got to see them. I chatted up one of the two drummers at the merch table for a while and thanked him for having not one, but both albums available for free! (Did we say free music? Go get them!) They have a new album coming out this fall and I already can’t wait. The live show was amazingly beyond what I expected and at the same time fell a little short of the genius on the albums. I believe this is mostly because of the venue, which was small and did not allow for the sound to travel. The band builds these walls of sound that are reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins, but the music is in no way like the Pumpkins. They are truly their own people. I wish I had better pictures of the band, but I can refer you to their two free albums!

Go get!
2 free albums!
The Suns

This is round one of my music tour. I have also seen and will discuss in next blog my experience with Roommate, The RAA, and the sudden and unexpected musical discovery.