the chicago theatre is one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen, much less played. it feels like a real honor to be there. I wandered around inspecting frescos and chandeliers and private balcony boxes while neko soundchecked. I adore chicago, and wistfully walked around downtown, snacking on a polish sausage and wishing I could figure out how to live there half the year. the union guys working at the venue make everything a little more complex than it needs to be (I mean, seriously. I am capable of lifting a guitar and moving a monitor, but I’m not allowed because they have seven dudes onstage who need to do something to justify their $40/hr wages), but the shows runs smoothly and sounds great. we got tim up to play piano on ‘this tornado loves you’, so we finally have the whole band for the song (plus a special appearance by the lovely and talented nora o’connor). I went for a nightcap at the hideout with some old friends and tried not to wake the rest of the band when I snuck back into the hotel at 3 am.
despite the fact that smoking is not allowed in the venue, it apparently still reeks so bad of something that there is incense burning when we get there. the couch in our green room looks like it might make me preganant if I sit on it, and nothing from our rider is there (neko’s room is fully stocked, so I know it’s not that they haven’t gotten to it yet). just the same, it is good to be back in a rock club. theatres are beautiful and comfortable, but it’s hard to feed off the energy of a room where everyone is seated with their hands folded in their lap. the crowd was really kickass, with some very sweet but already annihiliated girls right up front, being kinda loud and wanting to shake our hands after the set. we had a long-ish drive to chicago, and since we had to be there early the next day, we decided to skip out on neko’s set and get ourselves to indianapolis.
the mountain stage people are beyond nice. I thought it was just a radio show for npr, but it turns out that they’ve begun filming it as well, and will be pitching the show to hbo or bravo or something. I think we’re the first ones to be filmed. also invited to the taping are a young acappella group from l.a. called sonos and the incomparable vic chesnutt. I foolishly didn’t set any parameters with the make-up lady, and spent the fifteen minutes before we went onstage trying to reverse some of the cosmetic damage she had inflicted upon me. neko, eric, tim, kelly and I got take out steaks with sweet potato risotto and haricots verts and ate them with plastic forks and knives on the floor of neko’s hotel room. everyone from the taping had gone to a mexican restaurant for the host larry groce’s birthday, so we met up with them for the worst margaritas I’ve ever had in my life. larry gave me a sip of moonshine from a mason jar. it was surprisingly smooth.
some friends and family of the band flew out to ithaca from denver to visit, and we all had dinner at the famed moosewood restaurant the night before the show. duh-licious. (forgot to take pictures of my sicilian stew, sorry.) the day of the show was cold and rainy, so I went to a korean restaurant for lunch and lounged around the hotel room all day, watching stupid lawyer shows. it’s too bad the weather wasn’t cooperative, because it seems like a beautiful city to walk around. the theatre, as most of them have been, is beautiful and opulent.
jon, tom, kelley a. and I went to the blue jays-a’s game during the day. it’s an indoor park, and it’s much like going to a game in a mall. a very canadian mall. as a red sox fan used to the drunken, foul-mouthed heckling at fenway, I’ve never experienced such a quiet, polite crowd. I felt like I had to keep my voice down. I didn’t have much invested in either team, but since toronto was killing the red sox in the al east and orlando cabrera, a favorite player of mine from the 2004 world champion red sox, was playing shortshop for the a’s, I quietly cheered against the hometown team and sipped a $10 budweiser. after a 12-inning two-run walk-off homer by lyle overbay, we returned to the church just in time for jon to soundcheck with garth hudson, who would be joining neko’s band on accordian for a couple of songs that night. a true living legend, I couldn’t help but dumbly stare at him anytime he was around. after a sublime set, I worked up the nerve to get my picture taken with him. I felt like a nerd, but screw it. he’s awesome.
I was shocked by how small the trinity church is, although I guess I shouldn’t have been. I mean, it is a church. not being a cowboy junkies fan, I was also unaware of it’s history as a music venue. but it is a fantastic-sounding space, as a lot of churches tend to be, with the acoustics creating warm natural reverb. I finally get it together to soundcheck ‘this tornado loves you’ with neko and her band, and will now be singing back-up with kelly on this song. we were warned that consuming any alcohol in the church will ruin all music there forever and ever amen, so I bide my time soberly stuffing my face full of hummus and ginger ale.
a relatively painless border-crossing, and into canada. le national is beautiful (as is the front of house guy, sigh), and located in a fun part of montreal, lots of restaurants and shops nearby. we had an hour or so after soundcheck to kill, so we all scattered and wandered around by ourselves. I got some vietnamese food and stretched my legs on st. catherine st. after our set I mostly skulked around the merch booth, chatting with kelley and audrey until they got busy and then watched the rest of neko’s set sidestage.