Life From the Bottom – Day 6/7

I’ve got a double feature for today! Not sure if it was the lake water, or a city of 8 million, but I seem to have picked up some kind of crud. Rock n Roll doesn’t rest and neither will we!

With the van pointed south for Chicago we crashed out somewhere outside of Milwaukee for the night. This van sleeping thing is pretty alright! We found a Walmart parking lot to sleep in, as we needed to restock on supplies and pick up a few things (namely a high gauge extension cable after the shenanigans in Sheboygan). Its not often I’m the first one up, but somehow I managed to get up before everyone else, and was even able to sneak out the van without waking anyone — call it a small victory. I really wouldn’t recommend waking up in a Walmart, though. I always feel a little dirty shopping there, but bringing yourself into the waking life among the waking dead is pretty surreal. Regardless, it was what we had available. I picked up a big case of water, and a pack of blueberry muffins for breakfast. I’m also about 90% sure I also picked up the black death from Walmart. Its an easy target, so why not!

We had a full day planned for Chicago. Most of those plans involved eating to some degree — when in rome! The first order of business was to hit a guitar repair shop so Tyler could get a fuse for his Marshall. We found a place called 3rd Coast Guitar Repair. Their retail space is tiny, but apparently they have over 5000 sq. feet of repair space where they both build and repair guitars and amps. The guy working there was super helpful, and got Tyler just what he needed. We hung out talking shop and playing on a few of the used and custom pieces they had in the shop. While its not the Chicago Music Exchange (more on that in a minute) it was a rad store run by some cool dudes. We got the low down on The Liars Club, one of of Chicagos top dive bars according to Thrillist. The guy working at 3rd cost suggested we check out the Chicago Music Exchange.

With the amp problem solved, it was time to engorge ourselves on some Chicago-style pizza, or as Tyler calls it, “pizza casserole.” I’ve always been a fan of Giordano’s Pizza personally, as opposed to Uno Pizza (or duo) and Karl backed me up, so that’s where we went. I didn’t realize they had recently(ish) went through a bankruptcy, and coming out they decided to franchise and spread their seed all over the country. Good on them, I guess. Part of the charm was that it was a Chicago original, and to a certain degree, I guess it still is, but something about it being a chain now kind of killed the buzz for me. Call me an elitist, I suppose. The pizza was great, as always, and the recipe doesn’t seem to have changed, so ultimately I was still happy. Tyler even ate a salad! The fellas wanted to get the Meat and More Meat pizza, which isn’t something I would personally have ordered, but again, when in rome! I definitely wouldn’t recommend a veggie Chicago-style pizza.

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With about 5 more hours to kill we decided to head over to The Chicago Music Exchange at the recommendation of the dude at 3rd Coast. CME is a massive shop, and they own and run which is the bane of my, and probably every other musician’s existence, or rather, wallet. One could easily spend several hours in that shop, simply due to the shear volume of gear they keep in stock. I might have also dozed off on one of the big comfy couches they had in there. I quickly calculated how much money I would spend the longer I hung around. CME must really love their stuff because everything is entirely overpriced. Everything is a full order of magnitude higher than fair market rates. Still cool to see and play so much rad gear in one place.

We laid low in the van for the remaining time, catching up on work, and sleep. Surprisingly wifi is somewhat difficult to find in the big city. The Liars Club is a small, punk rock venue/dive bar. As all good punk venues are, it’s small, dark and a little dingy (though not dirty, by any means). Our sound guy that night was a stand up dude who seemed to generally care about how the bands sounded, and took pains to talk to us about our stage plot and preferences in the monitor mixes.

PRO TIP: Be nice to your sound guy. They hold the keys to a successful show! We always make it a point to lend a hand when we can, and to ask our sound person if there’s anything they need from us to help their night go better. Shows are a team sport, and we don’t want to be those guys.

The first band that played was LC50 from Chicago. They had asked to use my drum kit, due to their drummer being pregnant. One of their members was even from Kansas City! We were the second band out of four, and we blasted through our set relatively fast, it seemed. So far on this tour, my arms have felt really good. I’ve had issues of fatigue in the past, but thus far I’ve kept up. I have also made it a point to drink as much water as humanly possible, which is probably the biggest reason. The next band was called The October Bird of Death also from Chicago. Those guys are badass! I really liked their set, and watched the whole thing. They border more on the hardcore side, but have lots of melodic elements, all played with heavy guitars, scream/shout vocals. They also have some really nice looking merch. Turns out a couple of their members run a screen printing shop too! After their set we bonded over screen printing, exchanged niceties, and waited for the last band to play. The final band of the night was called Aggro Control. I’m not sure what to say about them. They are a two-pc doing the sort of one-man-band thing where they play guitar and sing, but have foot drums they use to keep the beat. I was interested to see how this was going to work. Ultimately, I felt they needed to button it down a little more.

After the show we headed over to Wiener’s Circle which was just down the road. Its a pretty well known Chicago dog place, and they’re open late-night so what’s not to love? When we got there, there were a number of drunk college kids hanging out front, doing what drunk college kids do. We went in and ordered our meals, but by this point I was starting to feel truly awful. Shortly after ordering, a clearly intoxicated guy walked in. I assume he knew the people working there, as he knew their names, but he was clearly hassling the workers. When they called my name, I walked up next to this guy as he reaches over to pick a piece of food off my fucking plate! Where I come from that’s how you get punched in the mouth. I slid the plate out of reach and told the dude he needed to fuck off without having to punch anyone, thankfully.

By the time we were headed to Bloomington for Mid-West Punk Fest I was pretty dead to the world. We drove through Illinois, apparently, which is a total blur — I was hopped up on cold medicine, and Ibprofen. I won’t spend too much time talking about the show as I don’t remember much of it. Jerm at Meltdown Creative Works puts the whole thing on himself, and he does a KILLER job every single year. Its a great festival, and the bill is always stacked full of our friends’ bands. Our time slot got moved two hours earlier, which was a bit annoying, especially considering it was to accommodate a band that had already agreed to their designated time slot, but decided to throw a wrench in the gears last minute.

With the first full week in the bag, the black death spreading through the van, I’m feeling good about our turn eastward to Cincinnati. We’re playing with some great friends of our’s in the Z.G.s at the Northside Yacht Club. Stay tuned!