Road Blog: Thursday September 21, 2023 - Bloomington, IL
We left at noon on Thursday and headed west down I-94 to the soundtrack of Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters. Gabriel was at the wheel, which is usually the case when we hit the worst traffic or the worst weather, and both were the case on Thursday. Michigan’s roads are near the worst in the country and our governor Gretchen Whitmer (aka Big Gretch to those in the know) was elected partially on the premise to fix them, repeatedly touting “Fix the damn roads” in her thick upper-midwestern accent. We sing her praises when we hit a smooth patch of fresh concrete, and we curse her name when we hit a terrible construction zone. The Black Crowes, Helmet, The Hangmen, and Lynyrd Skynyrd got us through Indiana and south Chicagoland before we hit I-55 towards Bloomington. Once we left Michigan and the roads got better, the weather got worse, and we plowed through some pretty serious thunderstorms, on and off, while the cornfields passed by.
The highlight of the trip was a bathroom stop somewhere south of Chicago when I heard Gabe cursing behind me. He’d discovered a small insect nest in the crook of the driver’s side door of the van, behind the rubber bumper, near the side mirror. It was hard to sat how they got there or how long they’d been there, but there were scores of the little bastards and some unhatched greasy eggs with more little bastards on the way. Gabe is pretty sure they were ants, I’m too blind to say for sure, but I was wondering if they weren’t fruit flies or gnats. Anyhow, he did his best to eradicate them with an old napkin, and we vowed to reassess the situation on Friday. Jacob, laser focused on an idle, hours-old, heat-lamp baked cheese Tornado roll-up ($2.69 each or 2 for $5) and Red Bull, was oblivious to the whole incident.
We pulled into Bloomington and headed over our pal Jeremy JD Mackinder’s house where he lives with his girlfriend Rosie, and were we would be staying. JD and I go back over 20 years now, since he played in South Normal and Whitey Morgan and I played in The OffRamps. He’s always been helpful and supportive of my musical endeavors – sharing contacts, booking us on festivals he hosts, and generally just helping to make the scene better, wherever he was currently at. I don’t see him much these days, but we do run into each other at random places around the country every couple years, when his band is playing and mine is too, at different venues usually.
The house is really great, perched on a hill over a big pond with a giant back deck and plenty of room. Rosie is a fantastic host, making sure we wanted for nothing, all the while clearly a bad-ass supporter or rock and roll and live music. We hung out for a bit and headed into the city for load-in.
nightshop is a medium-sized club that sits on Main Street in downtown Bloomington. There’s a corner stage, a bar opposite that, and pinball tables on the two adjacent walls. Our show was supposed to be on the outdoor patio, which has a great stage too, but the rain nixed that. We met Brandon the sound engineer, loaded in, got a couple pizzas and beers, and waited for the show to start. Our good friend Daryl from DeKalb drove down for the show and it was great to see him. We met him in Rockford last year and he’s been out several times around Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan since.
Dylan Karraker went on around 8pm. He’s a local singer/acoustic musician who played mostly covers and a few originals. He did Neil Young, the Stones, Green Day and more. He has a good voice and left it all up there. I never got to talk to him and thank him for playing – so thanks dude! Good job!
Up next were local band monarch. Three young dudes with big amps and something to prove. I’d probably describe them the way Brandon did – grunge – taking a page from Nirvana’s Bleach album. The singer flailed around with the beat, replacing his baseball cap immediately every time it fell off. Somewhere around mid-set his guitar started cutting out, and I said to myself….”bad cable,” after hearing that same sound countless times over the years. Well, next thing you know the guitar was airborne, landing a few feet in front of us, splintering into multiple pieces, and sliding to a dead stop. It was truly rock and roll gloriousness. I picked it up and handed it to him (between songs, he came over) and offered up a cable. “Fuck that guitar” he said, but yea, it wasn’t the guitar, and his backup was cutting out the same way. I loaned him a cable so they could finish their set, immediately asking myself what the hell I just did, and hoping the destruction was over (it was). They are a cool band full of spirit and they bring a great show. It’s great to see the younger generation killing it like this!
We played next as the room started to thin out. I was off my game, despite great sound, and botched the hell out of a couple songs. The boys carried me, as we do when someone’s having an off night, and we made it through. We played “Zipper Merge” for Rosie, who shares my enthusiasm for the social faux-pa that has been scientifically proven to be a more efficient, faster way to get through a lane closure, and we played “Tonight is Not the Night” for Daryl, who seems particularly fond of that song.
Afterwards we sold some merch, packed up, loaded out and headed back to Jeremy and Rosie’s place. I was a little pissed off because there’s a Taco John's on the way to their place and Gabe may or may not have intentionally avoided it out of his completely unfounded hatred for that chain. Ok, it’s not unfounded, but it’s a bit unwarranted. Ok, it’s warranted. Nevermind. Hoping it’s not the last time we are in proximity of a TJs on this run. Rosie had pizza rolls coming out of the oven, hooked us up with a giant spray pump bottle of uber-toxic insect killer for our ant infestation, we had a nightcap, and crashed out around 1AM cst.
All and all it was a decent show. The rain didn’t help us at all, but we loved the bar and the guitar demolition alone was worth it. There’s really good people in this city who treated us well and we’ll definitely come back.
This morning I was up and at `em early, around 7am, trying to blast out the blog and get a run in, when a crack of thunder and fresh downpour put an end to that idea. The house is quiet, people just beginning to stir. Today we’ll drive south to Marion to play one of our favorite joints – John Brown's on the Square. It’s all Tucos, 9-12. See ya there! Xx