Road Blog: Thursday June 17, 2021 - Round Lake Beach, IL
June 17, 2021
Round Lake Beach, IL
I haven’t been on the road since October 2019, and played just one show since March 2020. It felt very strange and very routine at the same time to be packing gear, working on setlists/song-lists, finding lodging, and everything else that comes with traveling and playing music. Things are NOT back to normal. There are more places not booking music yet than are, and significantly fewer doing bands. The Tucos have been practicing and writing, but we’re not quite ready to get back into it just yet, so I booked some solo-acoustic shows to get back out there, test the waters, and hopefully get a few copies of our new album Candy Coated Cannonball into some new hands. It feels great to be back at it, but given a choice, I’d rather be in the van with the boys than by myself any day.
I left home early, heading west towards Indiana, with my old companion Karen Jacobsen - The GPS Girl leading the way. I had some business in Chicago and I didn’t want to be rushed. There’s a velvet Elvis painted buckled in the back seat, keeping me company and making the trip to his new home in Chicago. I knew I had to account for city traffic, and I was just itching to hit the blacktop. I landed in downtown Chicago around 11am CST and parked in front of Binny's Beverage Depot, a supermarket sized alcohol store. I stocked up on some rye whiskey and beer that isn’t available in Michigan, got caught up on some texts, and headed north.
The Chicago Music Exchange is considered one of the best guitar shops in the country. It’s been on my list to visit for years and this was the day. I’d been perusing their website, researching a new acoustic guitar. If I’m gonna be out there playing by myself I certainly need a new acoustic, right? TrooperGirl22 isn’t so sure about that, but I was. I had some very specific things I wanted and didn’t want to see in mind, and Josh D. in the acoustic room was very accommodating. I strummed and picked on upwards of ten guitars before landing on a 2019 Martin 000-28. Plays like a dream, sounds big and ringy, and it was more or less within budget (TG22 not so sure about that either). While they were doing their out-the-door setup I checked out the giant wall of Les Pauls, the rooms of amps, and the respectable collection of Reverend Guitars, pondering if perhaps I should add to my electric armada too while I was there, but let’s be reasonable.
I left the CME and headed west in horrific traffic on I-290 to my AirBnB in a city called Bellwood. I was trepidatious – the place is dirt cheap with no reviews, but the host was communicative and friendly, and I could always bail and get a Hotwire room last minute if it’s that bad. Bellwood is a nice, working class neighborhood. Nellie met me at the door and she and Edward were eager and gracious hosts. The apartment is a 3-room basement in their house with old-school cedar paneling, vinyl fools, and just a couple, small block windows. It’s a bit depressing, with no TV and no natural light – no connection or exposure to the outside world. It’s no palace, but seems just clean and safe enough, and I’ll be away more than there, so I’m rolling with it as home for the next 38 hours.
I was a bit behind schedule, so I just had time to change and rinse my face before it was back on the 290, then an hour north in more brutal traffic. I had 20 months to plan for this trip and I still managed to forget toothpaste, so I picked up a tube of Crest at a Shell station and brushed my teeth by the vacuums next to the car wash. I pulled into the Black Lung Brewing Company around 5:30, met the bartender (Debbie maybe?) and loaded in. It’s a small tap-room at the end of a right-angle strip mall. Very cool brewery décor, and big brewing fermenters behind the “stage.” There is a take-out Italian joint next door that delivers to the brewery so I ordered a meatball sub and set up.
I strapped on the new Martin and started at 7pm to a thin crowd, but people filed in at a steady pace and by the time I was a few songs in the room was downright respectable. A couple dogs in the back were howling along when the tempo picked up, and some people were engaged too. Owner/brew-master Josh was leading the charge, supportively hooting and hollering, and posting live-snippets to his social media accounts. My pal Scott and his friend Danielle came up from Schaumburg for the show and we had a good chat. It was a new venue, kind of in the middle of rural, northeastern Illinois, and I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was a great opening for this run.
I got back to the dungeon around 11pm, poured a Sazerac Rye Whiskey nightcap, got caught up on some internet business, and crashed out hard. I was up early this morning, still on civilian time. Hoped to brew a pot of coffee but it was about to take more effort than it was worth so I settled for some Keurig pods. Some morning showers wrapped up (according to the weather app, I can’t really tell) and I headed out for a run along the Illinois Prairie Path and across the Addison creek. It’s sticky and humid but it felt great to get some exercise after sitting in traffic all day yesterday.
Thanks to Black Lung Brewing Company, Joshua, and everyone else who was a part of last night. It was a great re-entry for me and I couldn’t have asked for more. Tonight I’m in Chicago where I’ll deliver the velvet Elvis and play a set at the SaveMore Lounge & Liquors with Dan Whitaker Music and Handsome Man's Gentlemen's Club. Music at 9, I’m second. See ya tonight Chicago!