Halloween Hijinks

I hope you all had a fun Halloween. We started celebrating the scary holiday by attending Halloweensteen, a Bruce Springsteen tribute concert performed annually by Chicago native singer/songwriter Michael McDermott. It appears to be a beloved Chicago tradition that I had never heard of before with many repeat attendees. Now I know why. The show exceeded our expectations. There’s a big difference between a bunch of local musicians forming a tribute band to mimic an artist’s music and a professional musician like McDermott assembling other professional musicians to interpret and perform another professional’s songs.

Our seats were outstanding. The last time my wife and I were at the excellent and classy Park West concert hall, we stood and swayed through a show by Brit pop-rocker Dave Edmunds. However, my wife has knee issues worse than me, so I called ahead to check and see if we could be guaranteed seats. Well, not only were we provided seats, but they were just off to the side of the stage on a padded bench in a handicappped section. We had a great view.

There was a bit of a problem as drinking progressed at the 2+ hour show. I’ll explain.

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A Concert Edition of a Forgotten One-Hit Wonder

Back in the early 1990s, Chicago native Michael McDermott was being hailed as the next Dylan or Springsteen or mutant hybrid Dylsteen with a harmonica for a mouth. Even author Stephen King was quoting McDermott lyrics in his books while calling him “possibly the greatest undiscovered rock and roll talent of the last 20 years.” Was he? Take a listen to this rocker from 1993’s Gethsemane album.

Pretty strong tune that one can still hear from time-to-time on WXRT in Chicago. I’ll fight anyone who disagrees with my assessment. Alas, initial fame was not kind to him, and he ended up having to rebuild a broken life and career. He now lives in the Chicago suburbs with his family while making new music in his home studio. And he still plays live shows, one of which I will be seeing tonight! But I’m not sure he will perform “West of Eden.” Here’s why.

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For One Night, I Was Young Again

There was a time when I thought nothing of going out at 10PM to start my night out. These days, if it is dark out, regardless of the actual time, even during a solar eclipse in the middle of the day, I want to go to bed. Last week, I was experiencing some anxiety about heading into Chicago on a work night to go see a punk rock concert with my son. It seemed so wrong on so many levels for someone my age.

But I sucked it up and drove to Chicago during rush hour. To my surprise and relief, I made it on time! My son advised me we were going to take a bus. I had never ridden a Chicago Transit Authority bus. In fact, we were supposed to take the very bus that was half a block away and about to leave. We ran, and I felt young and fast once again as we caught the bus. My balky left knee not only held up, but it felt better than ever after the short sprint. As we entered the bus, I wondered how many altercations I would be in as we rode. I had prepared for the evening by not shaving for a few days in a futile effort to look tougher. As it turned out, we didn’t get in even one scrape, although I swear a matronly grandmother gave me the stinkeye as I snagged the last open seat before she did.

We had a casual, relaxing meal before the concert, but my anxiety rose again as we walked to the concert hall. This would be a concert by the Australian punk trio The Chats. If that name sounds familiar, you may have been one of a couple people who read my post about their latest release. I figured I would be the oldest in the concert, but it turned out there were plenty of olds at the show. Being a senior with hearing loss was probably good. The Chats were loud. Take a listen.

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Space > Pie > Bus > Eagle

Well, that’s certainly a confusing title. Let’s start with eagle and work right to left. No, I didn’t see a bus hit an eagle, but I was planning on seeing an Eagle. Specifically, Don Felder, who was thrown out of the Eagles, was set to play a free concert promising lots of Eagles music about a half hour away. I kinda, sorta planned to go in a very noncommittal type of way. That was, until I heard about the bus. There would be no parking at the venue. We would park off-site and take shuttle busses to and from the concert area. Ugh! The thought of cramming into a shuttle bus with potential Coviddy people was abhorent to me. So, I applied some critical thinking to the situation to understand if I really wanted to go to the concert. The critical part was easy. The thinking part? Not so much.

I started with an analysis of the Eagles. The headliners were always Glenn Frey and Don Henley. I’d go see them perform solo. Well, maybe not Glenn Frey these days. RIP. Next up is Joe Walsh, perhaps known more for his solo work and his time with the James Gang. Wait, what? Are you telling me you are unfamiliar with the James Gang? In that case, my advice is to “Walk Away.” If you click that link, you get the original album version of the song. Here’s a cool, stripped-down, liveish version where Walsh and his cohorts define power trio with their performance.

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A Hot Concert

We attended a concert last night that was really hot – literally. It was quite a warm night in Chicago as my 14 year old daughter and her friend accompanied me to see Jeff Tweedy of Wilco in a free concert yesterday. We took the train, and I occupied myself on the ride looking for places alongside the tracks where I could live/survive if I was homeless. I can’t explain why I do that, but it’s just kind of my thing.

Anyway, on a more positive note, the concert was quite pleasant. And did I mention free? I figured it could go one of two ways. I thought Tweedy could just play lots of favorite Wilco songs, or he could play none. He chose the latter with the exception of “California Stars.” If you read down in the comments under that YouTube video, you will learn that the lyrics were unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. A nice homage to Guthrie!

Here’s his full setlist from the show if interested. To get the full flavor of the concert, take a listen to “Evergreen,” the first song from the show. That’s the vibe I got from the show – a pleasant blend of folk, country, and rock. Here’s how another song looked and sounded in person.



Maybe one reason he didn’t roll out Wilco “hits” is because he doesn’t think they exist. He told a great story about that which I will try and recreate.

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Where am I Concerting Next?

Not consorting, which sounds more fun, but concerting, which I define as the act of going to a concert. Merriam Webster may disagree, but what the hell does he know? He still owes me for drinks that one night as we argued the merits of gerunds until the wee hours of the morning.

Anyway, I enjoyed hitting the road with my youngest daughter a few weeks back to catch a Lumineers/Caamp concert followed by a Lord Huron show. The 4th of July weekend is typically a good time to see a free concert in the greater Chicagoland area. I had hopes for a show at Frontier Days in suburban Arlington Heights. Tonight they feature Ace Frehley of Kiss. Could be fun, but I am attending a “dance concert” in Chicago that my middle daughter is in as part of Noumenon Dance Ensemble. So, I can “kiss” seeing Ace Frehley goodbye.

On Saturday night, Jason Scheff, who had a cup of coffee with the band Chicago, is performing at Frontier Days. We have a neighborhood party starting in the late afternoon that should extend well past the point of when Jason Scheff takes the stage in Arlington Heights to a chorus of “Who?”

Finally, 4th of July Eve brings that vocalist Steve guy from Journey to the Frontier Days stage. No, not Steve Perry with the great voice and all the hits. This will be Steve Augeri who took over vocals for Journey and accrued no hits after Steve Perry left. Steve #2 singing the hits made famous by Steve #1 will keep me from making the journey to Arlington Heights on Sunday night.

But I do have an upcoming free concert on my calendar.

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Concert Tour Update #3

My daughter and I finished off our St. Louis concert tour with a show by Lord Huron. I had purchased tickets for both concerts with Covid in mind. So, our seats were on the side with minimal people near us. I felt this was a necessary precaution, because we were concerting in Missouri where people think Covid has been completely eradicated or never existed in the first place. Our seats for the Lord Huron show were top row, on the end.

Those seats may sound terrible with a view like this.

It could be a whole lot worse, like this seat.

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Concert Tour Update #2

My daughter and I took a break from concerting last night, and we saw St. Louis from a riverboat on the waters of the mighty Mississippi River. And boy, oh boy, what an ugly view … except when we were passing The Arch.

I don’t want to make any “arch” enemies of readers in St. Louis, so I will note that St. Louis offers a beautiful riverfront park by The Arch. But the rest of the riverfront is very industrial and agricultural. The view of and smell from the asphalt manufacturing plant was … memorable. And if you like to listen to a running commentary from the ship’s captain about bridges, tugboats, and barges (who wouldn’t?), then this is the riverboat tour for you.

However, I was very concerned about this sign I saw on the boat.

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Concert Tour Update #1

The first stop on our summer concert tour was to see Caamp and The Lumineers. Most important for me is always legroom. I chose seats that did not disappoint.

Yes, those are my delicate little feet at the bottom of the pic with lots more room to stretch out. And a clear view of the stage … at least for Caamp while everyone was seated. There was plenty of standing and dancing for The Lumineers.

Speaking of Caamp, they underwhelmed me. Their sound reminded me a bit too much of Mumford and Sons, and I can only take so much banjo at one time … unless it’s Steve Martin wielding one.

As for The Lumineers, they did not disappoint. Here’s a link to their setlist, and a clip from their set.

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My Summer Concert Tour

Thankfully, I will not be touring to perform but to partake. I hit the road Wednesday with my 13 year old daughter to head to St Louis to see two concerts, squeeze in one day of work, do some sightseeing, and get my daughter over to see her cousin from Arizona who is staying with a relative in Central Illinois. I know you’re thinking, “Jim, please tell us more about that fascinating day of work you have planned with your daughter.” Well, work plans are still in flux, so instead I will tell you about the concerts.

Wednesday we drive straight from home to our hotel, check-in to the luxuriously-appointed Holiday Inn Express, and walk across a couple parking lots to the concert venue to see …

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Walking in Chicago

If you listen to Fox News or Trump, you would think that walking in Chicago is impossible without being shot, but it is actually a lovely city to walk. According to CBS News, as of February this year, Chicago was only 28th on the list for most murders per capita among cities in the US, virtually tied with Birmingham in Republican Alabama. Of the 27 cities with higher per capita murder rates, 14 are located in Republican-dominated states like Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Missouri. So, if you ever get to Chicago, take a walk and see the city.

Friends of mine did just that the other night. I have no idea how far they walked from their parked car to City Winery, but they ended up at a Marc Cohn concert. You probably remember Cohn from his memorable hit song, “Walking in Memphis.” Such a beautiful song.

Now if that was my signature song (I wish!), at some point in the song I would sing, “Walking in (insert city name I’m performing in).” Audiences eat that up. I was surprised to hear he didn’t sing a random “Walking in Chicago” at least once. Maybe that’s why Cohn played to hundreds at City Winery rather than 60,000+ at Soldier Field on the lakefront with a laser light show and smoke machines.

As I reflected on my friend’s concert experience, it amazed me to realize that if not for a lack of musical ability, an abrasive singing voice, and a low aptitude for songwriting, my friends may have been listening to me in concert at City Winery rather than Marc Cohn. So close.

Band on the Run?

I know the world is sick of Covid, and everything is opening back up, despite breakthrough cases of Covid continuing to take the lives of double-vaccinated people who thought they were safe. I’m slowly trying to safely head back out into this weird, new, masked Covidy world. I recently went to an outdoor football game, and I went to a basketball game in a big indoor arena. I felt safer outdoors at the football game, but the seats at the basketball game were positioned in such a way that I felt okay about being there. But indoor restaurants? No, thank you. I’ll take the food to go.

I enjoyed safely meeting with friends over the summer at restaurants with outdoor patios. But last night, it was below freezing out, and I was scheduled to have dinner with friends. What do we do? We decided to head to a place with an outdoor patio that they wrap in plastic and keep cozy with overhead and tableside heaters. Even better, live music was scheduled for last night.

They looked fun and upbeat with an indie-artist vibe to them, sort of a cleaner-cut version of the Strumbellas from Canada. Take a look and you decide.

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A Disconcerting Effort to Start the Year

2019 was a great concert year for me. I went to 11 concerts, maybe more but my memory fails me on additional ones. Here they are ranked from worst to first.

11) Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple – Imagine playing only Deep Purple songs from the time when you were in the band and the group was no longer making memorable music. I walked out.

10) Black Keys/Modest Mouse – Disappointing.

9) Mt. Joy – Fun.

8) War – Free concert in the park performed with enthusiastic joy.

7) Car Seat Headrest – An pleasant evening with my oldest son listening to music by a band I was unfamiliar with on Chicago’s beautiful lakefront.

6) Smithereens with Marshall Crenshaw on lead vocals – Surprisingly good blending of talents.

5) Beatles White Album Tribute – Todd Rundgren, Mickey Dolenz, Christopher Cross, Joey Molland of Badfinger, and some guy formerly with the group Chicago performing all songs from the Beatles White Album with fun and style.

4) Heart/Sheryl Crow – Crow > Heart.

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New Music for Old Rockers – Special Old Music Edition

So this show came to town last night …

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Again. It was here a couple months ago and sold out. Last night it sold out thanks to me and a couple friends being in the crowd. We were intrigued by the concept, but were glad our seats were by the emergency exit, just in case the show was a train wreck, and we did think that was a distinct possibility. I was especially skeptical of the inclusion of Jason Scheff who provided bass and vocals for Chicago in the 1980s when Chicago was cranking out sappy love songs.

Boy, was I wrong.

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New Music for Old Rockers – Summer Bummer Concert Edition

I’ve enjoyed a most excellent concert year and spent most of my summer doing this …

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Which I have to admit was sort of weird when I went to the symphony.

I tempted fate and tried to sneak in one more concert last week before summer ended. It was a deal I couldn’t refuse. I was in St. Louis “on business” again. My evening was my own. Once again, a major music act was not selling concert tickets for their stop in St. Louis. That is not unusual. I received an email with good seats being offered at much lower prices than the cheap, nosebleed seats I had been eyeing. I also had a couple Ticketmaster vouchers worth a few bucks. In the end, I think this is the only time I have ever seen this on my ticket receipt …

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A Concerted Sales Effort

I saw an online notice of tickets still available for sale at our local concert venue. I was very surprised seeing this one. I would have lost a “Dead or Alive?” bet on Paul Anka.

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That’s a lot of cash for a ticket to see an old guy I thought may be deceased. Of course, he may think the same about me. I have doubts some days myself.

I know these guys aren’t dead. I saw them give an excellent free outdoor show a few years back. But now they are just about selling out (just 2 seats left) with tickets for $180 each? What?

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New Music for Old Rockers – Rage Against Age Concert Edition

I’m old. However, somehow I have put together my best concert year ever in 2019, although with some concessions to age. I missed driving 3+ hours to see the Smithereens perform recently at Abe Fest …

Smithereens Springfield

Thank God. Although I love those 80’s/90’s rockers and have wanted to see them for years now, I didn’t want to see them enough to drive to Springfield to freakin’ Abe Fest. Regardless, I waited a bit too long, and their lead vocalist passed away a couple years ago. Enter 80’s power popper Marshall Crenshaw to take over vocal duties. I thought it was an odd combination of upbeat vocals from Crenshaw for brooding Smithereen songs like “Blood and Roses.” I had to find out for myself.

I saw that the Smithereens were playing an outdoor festival gig just outside Chicago last Friday. Would the wife approve of my going? Yes! But under one condition. She didn’t want me to drag her to Skokie to see them. It’s a deal! I was flying solo.

The Smithereens/Crenshaw amalgam looked and sounded great in suburban Chicago …

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New Music for Old Rockers – Special Edition of Best Concert Ever?

The opportunity while on a business trip to see Spoon, Cage the Elephant, and Beck in one concert on their Night Running Tour was too tempting for me to resist. This is arguably the best concert tour of the summer. I paid more than I like to usually pay for my concerts, which is zero. But the opportunity to see 4 excellent acts in one concert was like going to a mini-music festival. That’s right, 4 acts. Wild Belle opened the show. I passed on Wild Belle and took a nap and swim at my La Quinta hotel within walking distance of the concert venue. By the way, La Quinta is Spanish for The Quinta. You’re welcome for the translation.

As I walked to the outdoor venue, I could hear Spoon starting their set. I could have pulled up a chair outside and heard the show for free. This blog feature is about new music, and Spoon was playing their new single “No Bullets Spent” from their Greatest Hits album just released. Ugh. Why do bands insist on adding bad songs to their greatest hit compilations? I refuse to include a link to this sub-standard new Spoon song. Instead, if you are unfamiliar with Spoon, enjoy “The Underdog” which got me hooked on Spooning.

Spoon’s stage was spartan and looked like it was missing a knife and fork.

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I did feel like a bad guy when seeing this made me happy. Continue reading “New Music for Old Rockers – Special Edition of Best Concert Ever?”