Ranking Cheese Doodle: Grippos Cheese Nibs – I’ve been saving these until the end of the tour because they’re my favorite and I wanted to experience the depth and breadth of what this country has to offer before I threw them in the mix. Grippos is a regional Cincinnati company most famous for their Barbeque Potato Chips (crisps) which are arguably the best as well. You’ll be undoubtedly disinterested to know that they are easily the best!
Texture: Not rough, but not as dense as a Cheeto. They actually have some give when you bite into them.
Flavor: Plenty of orange cheese powder that tastes like what you get on cheese popcorn. Not overly cheddar-y but not tasting of fakeness either.
Idiocy from the Van: “Summer Sausage signed my yearbook!”
We had to get some sleep. The recent drives had been all day affairs with shows at the end of most of them, and we were exhausted. Not leaving KC until noon meant probably not getting a soundcheck in Chicago, but you have to weigh the cost benefits. Thus, somewhat grimly, we got on our way. The drive looked increasingly like home; bigger trees, fields of corn, enormous white windmills, etc. The only notable thing was we were approaching Chicago in a way we hadn’t before and traffic wasn’t too bad. I personally became almost suicidally bored writing that sentence so I apologize for any of you having to read it. This picture was the highlight of the drive. I spotted it near the dumpsters at a Starbucks. I’ve entitled it, “Ernest Hemmingway’s Baby Shoes – Fuck You.”
It’s taken a long time to get anywhere in Chicago for us. We’ve been told Chicago is a town you have to earn, and whether that’s really true for all, it certainly has been for us. We started to notice things were changing when we sold out the Red Line Tap, a small room in the very northernmost part of the city. They were lovely to us up there but it felt like it was time to try a bigger venue. The Empty Bottle is a legendary club* and we were excited to play there but of course anxious as to whether enough people would show up. From the moment we arrived you could tell these were people who knew how to do their job. Everything was anticipated, pertinent information given before we asked, everyone just on it and super professional. The first band were called Calliope and nailed the Black Angels vibe. It’s not Chuck’s thing but you have to respect a lead singer willing to rock the denim shirt unbuttoned to his navel. The second band were North By North and they were really good too. The bands we’ve played with this tour have been consistently top notch, which asshole I may be, is umm… great.
Instead of a pre-show tipple most, no actually all of us, went next door to get coffee. I was mentally feeling fine and dandy like sour candy, but physically felt filled with lead. By the time the second band finished though, the club was packed. It was such a relief. The joy, energy, and enthusiasm the crowd gave to us was like a wave, and the whole show felt triumphant. It’s a funny thing when the feedback loop between the crowd and the band grows with each song. It can’t be forced but it’s magic when it happens.
We played a three song encore (I think) and the audience kept clapping for more. It was surreal. I’m not sure we’ve ever had a reaction like that. We were completely spent though and just sat in the green room feeling like assholes. After leaving the stage with “Ceremony” still ringing, it was like what could we possibly do that wouldn’t be a let down? So we sat in our little room quietly begging the sound guy to turn on the house music so we could go from feeling guilty to processing this amazing experience.
We got to our hotel at about 3:00 am and were greeted by this devil doll.
The rooms were super cool and we had a view of the Sears Tower, which would’ve been amazing if I had been awake for more than 30 minutes of our stay there.
Tomorrow is Louisville – the last show of this leg of the tour.
*Go to the chicagoreader.com and search for An Oral History of the Empty Bottle. It’ll give you some idea.