Saturday, 30 December 2006

Somewhat inspired by Jason Kottke I figured I’d run down a list of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen this year. Really the places list was directly inspired by Kottke, while the concert list came about after someone asked me over Xmas dinner how many shows I’ve seen this year.

Places I’ve Been

The rules are that I actually slept in the city for a minimum of one night and that it must be outside the Twin Cities area (no crashing at a friend’s house and counting it).

  • Denver, CO
  • Chicago, IL
  • Madison, WI
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Detroit, MI
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Stillwater, OK

Things I’ve Seen

No stipulations here, just a list of all the shows and concerts I’ve seen this year.

  • Physics Circus
  • Robert Randolph
  • California Guitar Trio
  • WGH Train Show
  • Spinout Records Package Show (Hi-Risers, Eddie Angel, and Kaiser George)
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (w/ Taylor Hollingsworth)
  • Ray Davies
  • Massive Attack
  • May Day Festival
  • Sigur Ros (w/ Animina)
  • Aimee Mann (w/ Adam Levy)
  • John Hiatt (w/ North Mississippi All-Stars)
  • Mike Doughty (Basilica Block Party)
  • Hookers and Blow (several times)
  • Fiona Apple (w/ Damien Rice)
  • Beth Orton (w/ Peeping Toms — Mike Patton from Faith No More)
  • Gnarls Barkley
  • A Silver Mt. Zion
  • Gary Numan
  • Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (w/ Stockcar Named Desire)
  • Bruce Cockburn
  • Buckwheat Zydeco
  • Buckwheat Zydeco (Yes, twice in a row)
  • Flaming Lips (w/ Sonic Youth and The Magic Numbers)
  • Zero 7
  • The Zombies (w/ Chooglin’, Gore Gore Girls, Mooney Suzuki, and The Woggles)
  • Cibelle
  • Hookers and Blow
  • Gjallarhorn (w/ Vajas)†
  • Hoven Droven (w/ Swap)†
  • Carbon Leaf
  • Yo La Tengo (which I left early)
  • Taylor Hollingsworth (on the guest list!)
  • Kaki King
  • Miho Hatori
  • Edie Brickell and New Bohemians
  • Los Straitjackets (w/ Patrick Sweeny Band)‡
  • Blue Man Group (Front. Row. Ticket.) ‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Cleveland, OH w/ As Fast As)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Detroit, MI w/ As Fast As)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Chicago, IL w/ As Fast As)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Minneapolis, MN w/ As Fast As)‡
  • Robert Randolph
  • As Fast As (opening for Under the Influence of Giants, but I was really there to see Spencer and the boys)
  • Sia
  • The Honeydogs (w/ Andra Suchi)
  • Dr. John
  • Kansas City Symphony
  • 2006 CP Rail Holiday Train
  • Imogen Heap
  • Stuart Davis

That’s over 50 events (I can’t remember how many times I actually saw Hookers and Blow), only 4 of which were not actual concerts. Among those 46 known shows, there are, at least, 90 separate bands. I wish I could remember all of the opening acts for each show, because it might be a fun list to put together.

† Nordic Roots Festival ‡ Part of my 2006 Heartland Tour

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

My second submission for JPG Magazine. The shot came by pure luck. I saw this guy playing his bass clarinet when Jules and I walked up one side of the main drag in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I saw him coming up the hill toward us as we walked down the other side and, even though the camera was on, there wasn’t time to properly frame the shot or anything. I just hit the trigger blind and hoped it came out. It ended up being one of my favorite pictures from the entire. Please go vote and maybe I’ll make the magazine.

Wednesday, 06 December 2006

After months of waiting, putting it off, and trying to decide on the right photo to upload, I’ve finally done it. It’s my first submission to JPG Magazine run by the excellent Derek Powazek and Heather Powazek-Champ. I intentionally didn’t publicize this one because I wanted to run an experiment. In spite of the late submission date and not telling anyone it got 10 votes!

I have no idea whether this means I’ll make the magazine or not, but it does tell me that it’s worth submitting more.

Sunday, 05 November 2006

Todd and I got ourselves ready to go, dropped off the car and got to the gate at the airport without incident. It really went quite smoothly, although I always seem to get nervous going through the security checkpoints. I never run into any actual problems, but they have ultimate authority to really ruin your day and you have no recourse.

Other than that, what is there to say about a 90 minute airplane ride.

Back in the Twin Cities, Hjalmer and Sommer were kind enough to give me a ride home. It was really a blessing, because public transportation would have taken a couple hours instead of the 30 minutes it actually did. When you consider that Hjalmer lives Southeast of Minneapolis and I live Northwest, he went out of his way to make it happen.

Back at the house I didn’t even unpack. I just set my alarm and decided to take a nap. Then it was a quick shower and down to Harvey’s to meet up with people before the show. Tippy and Diane were there with a bunch of people from the board, but damned if I can remember any of their names.

I’ve talked about the Fine Line before, so we’ll dispense with the details about it.

Tippy, Diane and I took our places up front, while Todd got a table had hung out with his family. He had quite the entourage, really. His girlfriend, both daughters, their significant others, and his son Ted. His brother was supposed to be there too, but at the last minute he couldn’t make it.

I ran into Jeff, but didn’t recognize him at first. When I originally met him, he was wearing a hat so I never really got a good look at his face. Also, Destiny, his wife, was there the first time but was going to be late tonight. Something about a Godsmack show and being the “Cool Aunt.”

Todd had convinced Per to come to the show, and I think he sat at the table with Todd and family. I figured I’d catch him after the show. Hjalmer was there too, but Sommer wasn’t feeling well so she stayed home.

As Fast As tore it up again, with me singing along the whole time. Then it was Roger Time.

In spite of the crowd, Ted came up and hung out for a while. I think he’s the one that turned Todd onto Roger in the first place. From what I could tell, the Fine Line was even more packed than Joe’s in Chicago. No problem for me. I’m glad to deal with it because, and there’s no use denying it, I’m a Roger groupie.

Tippy got the setlist this time, but I got a picture. Going from what I found on the message board, including the couple add-ins it was:

Bury My Heart at the Trailer Park; Broken Record; Banditos; I Don’t Need Another Thrill; Mexico; Little Hungover You; Mexican Moonshine; Interstate; Wanted; Americano; Feeling; European Swallow; Honky Tonk Union; Nada; Leaky Little Boat; Love, Come Lighten My Load; Girly; Yahoos and Triangles; Loco To Stay Sane; Better Beautiful Than Perfect (by request for Jeff and Destiny’s anniversary); Tell Yer Mama; Mekong; Down Together ; with Green & Dumb; Jack vs. Jose; Counterclockwise; and Blue Collar Suicide for the encore.

After the show, we hung around for a while. Both Per and Hjalmer have drunk the Kool-Aid and are now Roger Clyne fans – Per especially. When things finally started breaking up, I walked with Todd and Lori back to their car so I could grab the my posters from the previous shows. Todd had transported them back as his second carry-on so they would make it safely.

On my way back to the car, I happened across Roger leaving the club and heading for the tour-bus. Nobody else was around, so I got a private couple minutes to chat and thank him for the great series of shows. He actually remembered my name from the previous night, which was really a shot in the arm.

I could seriously see doing another road trip to see a bunch of Roger Clyne shows. I don’t know that I’d do them spread as far apart as these four were. Luckily he’s known to do Lincoln, NE; Des Moines, IA; Cedar Falls, IA; Brookings, SD; then the Twin Cities. Each of those is only a couple hundred miles apart, at most, so a driving tour would be completely doable.

We’ll have to see what comes up when he tours the new album that’s supposed to come out next spring.

  • Originally recorded as a Refreshments track. † First time I’ve heard this one live.

Note: I started this post the day after I got back from my trip, but it took a while longer to get stuff together and get it posted.

Saturday, 04 November 2006

We didn’t actually get out of the hotel room until almost 10am, so Todd and I decided to just skip breakfast and pick up portable food at the gas station when we filled up the car. Detroit to Chicago is 300 some-odd miles, which meant it was going to be a long day.

Before we left, we booked a hotel for Chicago via Orbitz. The place that had originally been suggested was either full or $169 per night depending upon which travel site you checked. Instead we ended up with $89 per room for the night at the Holiday Inn Select near O’Hare airport, but about 14 miles from the venue for the show. I figured it would work better because when it came time to head for the airport, we wouldn’t have to drive through town to get there. I’d rather make that drive after the show at 2am instead of during the day, even on a Saturday.

The drive into Chicago was uneventful, although we did see some snow along the way.

Actually, I shouldn’t say it was completely uneventful: Along I-80, cars get a faster speed limit than larger vehicles, so we were cruising along pretty good. After a quick rest stop we were back on the road and I could see a coach bus in the distance.

I thought to myself “Wouldn’t that be funny if it were Roger’s bus?” but kept it to myself. We were still at least ¼ mile back and, really, what are the odds?

As it turns out, we saw the horses on the side as we got close. Just as I was about to say “I don’t suppose that’s Roger’s bus, is it?” Todd started digging around in his CDs. He opened the window, got a death grip on his copy of Americano and held it out the window as we pulled in front. In the rear-view mirror I could see the driver pointing to us, apparently talking to someone else on the bus.

We hit traffic on our way in, but it wasn’t horrible. About like rush-hour through Downtown Minneapolis, except this was 3 in the afternoon near Southwest Chicago. It was mostly due to construction along I-90.

Once we got checked in and settled at the hotel, we headed over to the club. Todd and I figured that it would be good to locate the venue and find some dinner in the area before the show so we aren’t rushed. As it turns out, Joe’s Bar isn’t really around anything, food-wise, so we ended up eating at the club.

Inside, the club looks to be about the size of First Avenue, between 750 and 800 person capacity. We found Tippy and Diane again, right up front, and joined them. The first opener was already on, an acoustic guitar duo whose name I can’t remember. They were OK, but not really worth remembering or buying their CD.

By the time As Fast As took the stage, the place was packed. Everyone was pressed up against each other and good luck getting back to your spot if you wanted to hit the bar. The more crowded the show, the more fun it tends to be, and this was no exception. And now I’m sure that Spencer and the boys are doing the same set each night. That’s OK though, since that makes it easier to sing along; and I didn’t care who heard me. They kicked ass.

Roger’s show was great too. I’m loving every minute, and getting recognized – even when it’s just a nod – is really pretty cool.

I didn’t manage to get a set list this time, but the woman who did was nice enough to let me snap a picture of it: Americano; Wanted; Blue Collar Suicide; Honky Tonk Union; Banditos; Little Hung Over You; City Girls; Mexico; Broken Record; Down; Tell Yer Momma; Love, Come Lighten My Load; Switchblade; Girly; Yahoos and Triangles; European Swallow †; Jack vs. Jose; I Don’t Need Another Trill; Green and Dumb; Beautiful Disaster; Bury My Heart at the Trailer Park; Counterclockwise; with the encore being Leaky Little Boat; Mekong; and Nada. That’s according to the written list, so there might be a couple things out of order or an addition.

We didn’t hang around very long after the show, which may have been by design on the club’s part. They started playing techno/house music right after Roger was done and it cleared the place out pretty fast. Todd and I wandered around behind the venue and saw that the crew was loading the bus with such purpose, it was unlikely that Roger was going to come out. With the lack of other bars or restaurants around Joe’s, we took it as a sign to go back to the hotel and get some sleep.

(* These were originally recorded as Refreshments tracks.)

Note: I started this post Saturday when I was back home. It took me a while to get it finished and on-line after that.

Friday, 03 November 2006

We got out of Cleveland late, and met with a couple road delays on the way to Detroit, so we didn’t get into town until about 4:30 this afternoon. Since we still had to find a hotel at that point, we had to abandon our stop at the Mowtown Museum. Pretty disappointing, but it was an add-on “if we had time,” so it’s not like we’re really missing anything we had planned for the trip.

We found the venue, The Magic Bag, just fine and stopped in the parking lot for a bit while we did some research on hotels. We ended up at the Red Roof Inn roughly 4 miles away. Not a bad place, especially for $50 per night. No amenities and outside access to the room (like most motels), but the rooms were clean and the place didn’t strike either of us as a bad place to be.

We grabbed a quick dinner at a Mexican place next door to the hotel. It was called Grand Azteca, which I swear must be related to the El Loro/El Azteca chain in the Twin Cities. The menus looked identical, as did the food stylings, right down to the white salsa that I love so much. From there, it was a quick jaunt over to the club and on with the show.

The Magic Bag looks to have been converted from an old movie theater. The stage is about 4 feet high and the main floor is broken into several levels, which of which is a foot or so higher than the one in front of it. The layout makes for good sightlines pretty much anywhere you are in the club.

As Fast As put on another great set. I didn’t pay 100% attention, but I think it was the same songs as the first night, including their cover of Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes,” which was pretty fun to see.

Once Roger came out, things really heated up. He and the boys did a great show where they did (I managed to snag a setlist from the stage, so this one is as right as I can make it): Blue Collar Suicide; I Don’t Need Another Thrill; Banditos; Honky Tonk Union; Broken Record; Mexico; Love, Come Lighten My Load; Switchblade; Leaky Little Boat; Bury My Heart at the Trailer Park; Girly; Yahoos and Triangles; Jack vs. Jose; Preacher’s Daughter (request); Americano; Mekong; Green and Dumb; Tell Yer Momma; Andale (new song!); Wanted; with Mexican Moonshine; Counterclockwise; and Nada for the encore.

After the show, I talked to the guys in As Fast As for a few minutes and got most of them to autograph their CD. When I tried to catch up with Todd, the bouncers wouldn’t let me get to where he was because they were trying to get people out of the club. Never seen bouncers be quite so aggressive about clearing out the place after a show, especially when bars don’t close for another couple hours.

I told Todd I’d wait outside while he tried to stick in there to talk with Steve for a few minutes. When he came out, he said that Steve told him to come to a place called the Shuffleboard “next door” and we’ll hang out for a while. Todd went to the bus to see if he could catch Roger while I stood watch at the corner.

Finally Nick and Steve happened by and said to come along so I said I’d catch up in a minute and went to fetch Todd. Good timing on my part too. I got to talk with Roger for a couple minutes and filled in a couple autographs. Then Todd and I headed over to a different local place with Steve and hung out for a while again. Turns out Nick was there too and we had a great time, although it made for another pretty late night.

9am is going to come very early, I think, but we have a 6 hour drive back into Chicago and still have to finalize hotel arrangements before the show.

(* These were originally recorded as Refreshments tracks.)

It turns out the Days Inn was more of a shit-hole than expected, but at midnight we weren’t going to quibble. My room turned out better than Todd’s did. His had 40+ cigarette burns on the bathroom counter, another 40+ on the nightstand, at least one on the toilet seat, and one on the lampshade. The Continental Breakfast was a couple sad bagels, bad coffee and nothing else. If you ever have the opportunity to stay at the Days Inn in Downtown Cleveland…don’t.

Obviously we decided against a second night there and went looking for food and a different place to stay. We ended up at The Erie Lodge which, although less than what I want in a hotel room, it was only $46 including taxes. For that price you get a bed, a bathroom, and a door that locks. No amenities, just a cheap room. Perfect for a one-night stay where you won’t spend much time in the room.

Once we settled on the new hotel, we headed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are six floors, the first two are set up like museum exhibit space with multiple galleries set out in different themes.

The first two floors had tons of cool stuff. Tons of costumes, guitars, studio equipment, and other memorabilia. Throughout there were tons of notebooks that the various artists had used to write out lyrics. Todd and I both noticed that throughout them most were written in ink and there were very few cross-outs. Kind of like any other creative endeavor, songwriters would get into the zone and just write. They didn’t go back and correct anything, they just wrote to get the words down.

In my mind there were too many costumes focusing on current musicians and could have been more from a wider range of artists. I guess it’s part of curating a museum, you have to try to appeal to a broad range of people and kids will be drawn in by a grouping of several Britney Spears (2), Christina Aguilera (2), Backstreet Boys (3), N’Sync (5), and J-Lo (1) costumes. Although they did have one spot with 5 David Bowie costumes from over the years.

Third floor is the cafe and the entrance to a three-screen multimedia display that touches on all of the inductees over the years. It’s about 20 minutes long and worth sitting through. It’s packed up with some great songs, many short interview segments with the honorees, and video footage of them performing throughout their careers.

The theater are empties onto a ramp that takes you to the fourth floor gallery space. Up there was a very cool Les Paul exhibit that covers his lifetime so far (the guy is 91 and still plays!) and has several of his early guitars and design experiments.

The sixth floor special gallery was closed to install a new exhibit, but fifth was open and had a thing about The Clash covering their entire career. One thing I noticed was that most of the items on display were Mick Joneses. Maybe a dozen stage outfits, several guitars, notebooks used for developing lyrics, and a video running an interview with the band.

There were several points where the whole thing was almost overwhelming. The two lower galleries are just packed with stuff. Huge cases with 50-60 items each all numbered with short descriptions below. It only takes a few hours to go through everything, but it would almost be better to split your visit across a couple days and only do half each day, taking a break mid-way through each time.

From there we went pretty much directly to the venue for the Roger Clyne show. This one was at the Beachland Ballroom and there was pretty much nothing around it. Fortunately there was a Chinese place called Jackie Chen’s, so we could grab some dinner and kill some time before the doors opened.

I’m still working on a show review, and will probably just do one for the 4 shows to contrast and compare. The short version for right now is that it was great. We stood up front, the band recognized Todd during the show and when I talked to Nick afterward he recognized me right off. We weren’t the only familiar faces to them. There are a couple dozen people that regularly travel to his shows and see them several nights in a row.

The opening act was called As Fast As and they were pretty cool. Rock with a 70’s vibe to it. Very good stuff. They’ll be opening the next few nights, so more on them later.

The Beachland is a decent concert venue. Looks like it could hold between 500 and 700 people. The stage was up so the people in the back could see and had plenty of space for the guys to move around.

The set list for the night was: Nada, Wanted, Blue Collar Suicide, I Don’t Need Another Thrill, Bury My Heart at the Trailer Park, Mexico, Beautiful Disaster, Little Hung Over You, Sonoran Hope and Madness, Love Come Lighten My Load, Switchblade, Leaky Little Boat Boat, Banditos, Feeling, Americano, Tell Yer Momma, Green and Dumb, Andale (a new song!), and Girly flowing into Yahoos and Triangles (the King of the Hill Theme); with Counterclockwise and Mekong* for the encore.

After the show, we hung around for a while and talked to P.H. and Nick for a bit. Then we found Steve in the bar and he invited several of us to join him at the tavern next door where they were allowing free crossover from the ballroom. Todd and I were there, several other Roger fans, and I think the entire opening act. A rockabilly group called The Luster Kings was playing and Steve got up and did Folsom Prison Blues with them.

The Luster Kings were great too. A perfect cap to the evening. I picked up a couple of their CDs and talked with the guys in the band for a few minutes. Very cool stuff indeed. Three bands in one night isn’t too shabby.

Tomorrow we make our way to Detroit.

(* These were originally recorded as Refreshments tracks.)

Wednesday, 01 November 2006

It was kind of last minute because of Todd’s flight schedule, but Monday and Tuesday turned into travel days while I jaunted up to Madison to visit my good friend Michelle.

This was one advantage of my having stayed in Northbrook rather than a hotel closer to downtown. I didn’t have to deal with rush-hour traffic to get on the road. Then again, I checked out of the hotel just before 11, grabbed a leisurely lunch, and headed up the highway.

And don’t even get me started on toll roads. I’ve had enough of toll roads. It felt like every 20 miles I had to stop and pay just to be out on the road. And Illinois gets you leaving the state too. There’s one last toll booth a mile or two before the state line.

I got to her place around 3pm and we started getting caught up on everything, joking around just like old times. Steve came home a while later, just long enough to throw some stuff together so he could fly out east for a meeting. I wish he could have stayed, but it was good to at least say hello.

Michelle and I went over to Bluephies for dinner and it was great. The place has a funky sort of atmosphere and a menu to match. She went with the and I had the Peppercorn Crusted Tuna. It was done perfectly and the honey wasabi sauce was terrific. It came with chili infused sweet potatoes which were delicious, although mashed. For dessert we both had the Duo of Crème Brulee. A brown-sugar vanilla in one cup and chocolate chambord in another; it was positively divine, if a little small, but they say good things come in small packages.

We stayed up late talking and I realized that even though she and Steve left the Twin Cities 4 or 5 years ago, I still miss them being there. At least Madison isn’t the opposite end of the earth.

For breakfast we kept it simple and hit The Original Pancake House. The food and the service were good, just as you’d expect for a small, local place. Then back to Michelle’s house where I got to see what was left of the garden (it is fall, after all) and hear some of the plans she has for next year.

Eventually, we had to say our goodbyes. It was wonderful to see Michelle again. The two years or so since I’ve been there was far too long. I almost didn’t want to go, but I had to be back at the airport by 3:45pm to pick up Todd.

I got lucky and only had to circle the airport once to catch the right turn for hourly parking, but it paid off. I managed to find a space about as close to the terminal as you can get and ended up very close to where Todd and I had agreed to meet.

Back in the car, we hit the road and headed for Cleveland. Of course it was rush-hour in Chicago and we missed several chances to get on the express-way, although it wouldn’t have done us any good if we had. Once we finally made our way around the city, it was smooth sailing. Although we had to pay to leave Illinois again – damn tollways. Not that Indiana and Ohio don’t have toll roads either. They just do it differently. You get a ticket upon entering (in our case coming into the state) and each exit has a toll station where you pay based on the distance from where you started.

We made good time to Cleveland with only a couple rest stops along the way, one for fast-food dinner and another just to stretch our legs and top off the gas tank. Leaving the airport at about 4:30pm, we were at the hotel by 11pm (midnight local time). Not too shabby for 360-something miles.

The first hotel we looked into, I had found on-line. The Northpoint Inn is only about 9 miles from the bar for the Cleveland show and the rates looked good. When we got there and saw a strip club in the building with the hotel entrance on the other end and the rooms above, Todd and I both decided that it was worth an extra 10 or 20 bucks for something (anything) better.

About a mile away was a Days Inn and we put in there for the night. For $70 they have free Wi-Fi Internet access, free Continental breakfast in the morning, and decent enough rooms in a fairly easy location. The room isn’t anything fancy: bed, bathroom, desk, TV. It’s downtown, it’s vaguely inexpensive, it’ll work.

Monday, 30 October 2006

In the early planning for my 2006 Heartland Tour there were some logistical difficulties. The first Roger Clyne show was in Cleveland, then Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. As a series of one way tickets, or a multi-city trip were prohibitively expensive. I don’t know that the truck would survive a 1000-mile road-trip, so I ruled out that option as well.

Then I discovered that Los Straitjackets were still touring Twist Party and would be in Chicago a few days before the first Roger show. It was a eureka moment. They didn’t have any Twin Cities dates on the schedule, so I quickly changed my plans to a round trip to Chicago, car rental from there to hit Cleveland and Detroit, back in the Windy City for another Roger show, then home for the final show. I’d find things to do with the spare days in between.

Los Straitjackets where playing the Abbey Pub in Chicago. Once I found the place, I learned just how tough Chicago can be. Finding a place to park anywhere in the city is harder than finding something on the U of M campus. It’s all on-street and everything is restricted to permit zones. I got lucky and found something a couple blocks from the club.

Inside, the Abbey is a tiny little place with one bar, an upper level all under barrel-vaulted ceilings. The walls are painted to look (somewhat) like stones from a castle or old church. I was also surprised to learn that Chicago has not yet banned smoking in bars and restaurants. Not that it matters to me since I don’t smoke, but New York has gone that way, I was sure Chicago had too.

The opener was a group called the Patrick Sweeny Band. A three-piece rock-n-roll group that were kicked ass. It was so good that I picked up all both of their CDs plus Sweeny’s solo acoustic CD that he released before forming the band.

After Sweeny and company’s 60 minute set, there was a Halloween costume contest where a guy in a Mexican wrestling mask took first prize. I think it was more for his schitck, rather than the costume. The MC asked each contestant their name and he had this 20 word stream of Spanish that he blurted out. Second was some guy dressed as a “North Korean rocket scientist” and third was this pair of girls dressed in very lame Martian outfits. I thought the 70’s styled “Pimp Daddy” should have taken second with the Korean in third.

Finally Los Straitjackets took the stage and tore it up. They had the World Famous Pontani Sisters and Kaiser George with them, as usual, and the show was just great. I’m so glad I went.

During the show I realized that the Straitjackets work without a set list. Daddy-O announces them in his rapid-fire Spanish and they just lay into each song. I had never actually noticed that before.

The girls were beautiful as always, with their Go-Go/Twist routines and a few new costumes. Kaiser George sang for a few of the songs and play saxophone here and there.

I also noticed that the Straitjackets have a new CD/DVD combo available. It’s called Twist Party and has several of the twist type songs on it like “Peppermint Twist,” “The Twist,” and “Twistin’ Gorilla.” I’ll have to check, but there are a few songs that appear on some of their other albums and quite a few new ones.

I will actually be able to put together a set-list for the night, but it will take some time. I used the video function on my camera to shoot clips during each song. I just have to listen to each one and match it up with the CDs.

Overall it was a great night and Los Straitjackets are still the premier instrumental rock-n-roll band around.

I didn’t stick around for autographs and pictures after the show, but still managed to snap 227 pictures and 38 chunks of video.

As far as I can tell, the Russians (Maybe Czech? Still not 100% sure though.) and the Chinese are all gone. As I went to breakfast I saw the army of women in the hallways, the restaurant, the lobby, and the parking lot, all getting ready to go.

Since I had most of the day to kill before the show, I decided to play tourist for a while and do some sightseeing. My original plan was to see the Art Institute, Sears Tower, Millennium Park, and maybe Union Station.

But first, breakfast and some writing. It was 8:30 before I actually got my ass out of bed and showered. Then a quick breakfast and I sat down to do some writing. It was almost noon before I looked up.

Like most downtown areas, Chicago is tall. You get into the city and the buildings loom over you. What I didn’t expect was how dark it was. Outside the city it was a bright, sunny day. All the skyscrapers cast such a shadow that you would think it was dusk. Everything took on that black and white cast you see when the light starts to fade in the evening.

Parking in downtown is expensive. The day rate for a Sunday afternoon was $12 pretty much everywhere I looked. In the Twin Cities it tends to be around $5 for evenings and all day weekends. Chicago it’s twice that.

I decided on Sears Tower first and boy was I impressed. They have the business of moving tourists through there down to a science. A special entrance away from the office part of the building, express elevators that go straight to the observation deck, or the SkyDeck as it’s called, a small movie theater where they run a short film before you go up, plus ushers, turnstiles, and rope-lines to keep everyone moving in the right direction.

Two things amused me about it: First, before you even get to the ticket counter, everybody goes through a miniature photo studio and gets their picture taken against a green-screen. On the way out they offer a picture of yourself with the skyline pasted into the background. Second, the quick movie was done by the History Channel and was basically a stunted version of their Modern Marvels series.

The elevator ride up is amazingly fast considering that it takes you over 1400 feet above ground. That thing ran the 103 floors in 60 seconds or so and my ears popped at least twice on the way up.

Once at the top, the view was astounding. There aren’t words to describe it. They say that on a clear day you can see for 50-60 miles. Today it was a bit hazy, so you only got 30 miles out of it. Even at that height, you can still pick out individual cars, and even people if you look carefully.

I didn’t get the sense of vertigo I normally do from being up high, mostly because the tower is surrounded by several other tall buildings, so it has the visual effect of bringing the ground up higher and it doesn’t seem as far down. Still, out of the nearly 250 pictures I took from and of the tower, I did get a few just for my mom.

After my time in the sky, I wandered the couple blocks over to Union Station. This one wasn’t nearly as cool as Union Depot in Denver. From the outside, being surrounded by taller structures made for difficult picture angles. I don’t know that I got any truly good shots.

It didn’t look much like a train station at all from the inside. It had been modernized quite a bit and didn’t have a single remnant of the glory days of railroads. I wasn’t allowed out onto the train platform at all, and the guard made me put my camera away when I tried to snap a picture through the window. For a train buff like me, that was quite a bit of a let-down since the view was pretty cool with several trains parked.

After Union Station, I hopped a cab over to Millennium Park. It was only a mile away, but not knowing the area it was hard to tell which way. Even though the GPS would have gotten me there, driving it myself was out of the question as I didn’t want to deal with the parking challenges.

There are several cool things to see at Millennium Park. One is the pavillion. They have several hundred seats up front, plus a huge green space behind them. The whole area has a grid-work of sweeping beams with a network of speakers hanging from them. There is a tall, retractable glass “curtain” to protect the stage while it’s not in use. Actually, I’m sure it can’t be glass. That would be far too heavy and fragile for the way it’s installed. I’ll go with Lexan or with some other modern plastic.

The interesting stage architecture didn’t stop there. If you look at the amphitheater itself, you’d see a lot of similarities between it and the Weisman Art Museum on the U of M campus. Stainless steel panels, lots of curves and funny angles. It’s one of those things that people either absolutely love or absolutely hate.

The thing I was really there to see was the “Cloud Gate” sculpture on the plaza. It’s a 66 foot by 42 foot blob that stands 33 feet tall. It’s totally smooth, polished steel that resembles liquid mercury. Everywhere you stand around it, or under it’s 10-12 foot arch, you see the skyline, sky, and other park-goers reflected back at you. If you look carefully, you can find yourself in there, sometimes in multiples.

There was a guy doing a painting of the sculpture and I talked with him for several minutes. He gave me some information about the sculpture and even said that if you stand dead center underneath you might be able to see a seam where there’s a trap-door into the sculpture’s innards.

Apparently the thing is hollow inside and has an internal system of wires and weights that are computer controlled. They’re used to balance against wind and temperature changes for the structure so it doesn’t deform or collapse through the seasons.

Not realizing it was there, I missed the interactive Crown Fountain, but that’s OK. The water was shut off for the winter and it gives me a reason to come back.

I spent so long just sitting in the park I didn’t make it to the Art Institute. I wanted to offload my pictures from the camera, find the theater for tonight’s show (review coming soon) and get something to eat before it started.