Which way does the Horseshoe go again?
After a short breakfast with Austin, we sat down at The House Café to watch CMKT4 back up a very odd act. A man named Gary Mullis lives in DeKalb. He writes songs. Lots of them. He’s an older man, as tall as I am, with white hair, apparent energy, and a distant stare. When he greeted me that morning, he asked me if I was with the newspaper. He was wearing a loose fitting cowboy shirt, old jeans, and a leather fanny pack filled with scraps of paper on which were written the lyrics to his tunes.
He sang, sort of, while CMKT4 clung to his rhythms with authentic sounding country music. Gary likes country a lot. One of his tunes consisted of him telling the story of Hank Williams' life while Zach bent country lead lines, and Jeff and Austin held down a country shuffle. Gary doesn’t exactly sing, or exactly recite. He rolls through his tunes like a loose cannon on a tilting ship. Between songs he talked to the audience candidly about receiving awards for his songwriting, and invited any members of the press to come up and look at his awards. It was a crazy show.
Afterwards we departed, somewhat reluctantly for Chicago. Much to Neha’s chagrin, I’m sure, I don’t really like Chicago. At least I don’t like playing there very much… so far. Maybe we just haven’t found our spot. Well, we headed in anyway, knowing that this might be a strange night. We pulled up to the curb outside the venue about 2 hours early. We popped in to check out the place and say hi to whoever was running the night.
A woman was leaning on the wooden bar, checking her email. She looked surprised when we walked in. “You guys want food or something?”
“Um, no thank you,” Blythe said. “We’re actually playing here tonight. We wanted to check in and look around.”
“Ah” said the woman.
“Are you Eva?” I asked. We had discussed the details of the show on the ride in, and Blythe recalled that it was Eva who had booked the show with us.
“Yes” said Eva.
“Oh, then we’ve been talking to you on email.” Blythe said cheerfully.
Eva only nodded. We introduced ourselves, and ducked out of the dim bar room and onto the sunny street. With some time to kill, we thought we might walk the neighborhood and find a more comfortable place to hide out. Walking the streets, we found a diner with some cheap food. After some hefty chicken salad sandwiches and potato soup served by and ancient and slow Russian woman, we hoofed it back to the bar.
The sound guy, Chris, had arrived. We loaded in and told Chris how we wanted to do our sound. Pretty soon, Root Hog began showing up. I tried to greet some of them at the door, but they walked right past me without looking at me. After they had set up a little Blythe and I approached them together. Now that we had gotten their attention, we decided on set order and some set up details, and got to talking about the band. I had asked them on the bill because of some tracks I heard on the internet. Apparently the guy responsible for them had to leave the band.
They didn’t seem too interested in what we were doing, but were nice enough and set up quickly. Sound guy Chris did a quick and efficient sound check for us, and we were off. We played a very tight 45 minute set to a crowd of about 12 completely apathetic people. Most of Root Hog left during our set. We were treated to silence at the end of all of our tunes. Chris liked us alright. We loaded out as fast as we could, grabbed a beer and strapped in for Root Hog’s set.
Once we sat down, a number of people came up to us and said they enjoyed our set. Root Hog laid into some classic rock based, but jazzy jams. We stayed until our beer was done, but felt a little too bitter to hang out much longer. We said our goodbyes to Eva and Chris, and started the journey toward Milwaukee to find a campsite.
During the ride we talked over our future in the great city of Chicago. None of the places we had played so far were worth going back to for us. Austin, from CMKT4 had mentioned a few spots we might try. I think we’ll exhaust the list of spots we can play and then never go in to Chicago again. Its sort of like our experience with NYC.
The Long straight highway cooled our brains, and in a short 90 minutes, we were at our campsite. It was a quiet, family oriented county park, with watchful rangers. We passed out fast, ready to cleanse our palettes with a show in Milwaukee the next day.
Tomorrow… A draw in a far away town, a real live Gypsy, I think, and Milwaukee surprises us again.
Our new merch set up in the dark