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Monday, September 22, 2014

In Which We Experience Chicago In The Warmer Climes Thanks To A Rhett Winery Show

Okay, so there were a number of other events that occurred between The Stone Pony and now, but Cindy and I just got back from an overnighter in Chicago to see Rhett Miller's solo show at the Chicago City Winery---I mean, c'mon! You know me. Who else would it be, right?---and I figured, what the heck, it's kind of a theme. Might as well write about it while it's somewhat fresh in my deteriorating memory banks.


I've been wanting to see Mr. Miller play in Chicago ever since the Winery opened several years ago. The original New York venue is one of my all-time favorite places to see His Magnificence perform, so I've been curious how the Chicago house would stack up.

In the heart of a reclaimed industrial area, this space is downright cavernous compared to New York. It encompasses the equivalent of three large storefronts. The first is a dining/bar area populated with enormous metal vats filled with house-blended wines. The second is the wide open lobby with oversized individual yellow-frosted wine bottle light fixtures hanging from 20ft+ ceilings. The entrance to the concert venue is just beyond the lobby. The third space is a roomy, gated outdoor patio where guests can dine, drink or just hang out.

the beautifully appointed patio space

The venue is laid out similarly to the SoHo space, but with a lot more breathing room between table rows. There isn't as intimate a feel to this room, but the extra leg room is welcomed. And honestly, no matter the size of the room, Rhett fills it with his commanding stage presence. He's just one man with a guitar, but his unbridled energy draws everyone in like a moth to a flame.

He seemed as at ease on this stage as the one in New York. The energy in the room isn't quite as electric as the Big Apple, but has a more calm, polite, Midwest vibe. Like every city, their were the "regulars" in front and scattered throughout, feeding back the love. It was a great crowd who sang along and cheered especially loudly for his Chicago-centric songs. He played a nice combination of solo and 97's songs, newest and more obscure, and a couple of unexpected covers. One fan who drove five hours to get to the Winery, posted a list of requests on Rhett's Facebook page. He was kind enough to play them all, with the disclaimer if he messed up the lyrics, she had to help him, particularly on Sleepwalking. He did, and she did, willingly.

(the blue-eyed lovely, bathed in violet light, singing one of my favorites from MMU)

Two of the many things I love about his solo shows are a) the way he changes up his interpretations of his songs and b) his playful banter with the audience.

Each song sounded so fresh. The slight changes in emphasis providing a different meaning, a new feel... an extra naughtiness. Perfect example is 4-Eyed Girl. The chorus is "La La La I'm in love with a 4-eyed girl. She knows how to move me now. She knows how. BaBaBaBaaaaaa..." On Thursday night, when he got to the "She knows how", he stopped strumming and spoke the phrase slowly, with a verbal wink, "SHE knows how..." before playing on. A double, double entendre.


Cigarette, please!

Besides talking with the crowd, he told a number of amusing stories, including this one about cursing on stage in Nashville the night before.

One particularly funny yarn came about because his stage tuner quote, "shit the bed" the night before in Nashville. He searched to procure a new one that afternoon from a mensch of a man in one of those sketchy, locked storefronts where you must be buzzed in. Never a good sign, right? According to Rhett, despite owning a music store, this old dude had no knowledge of music. Struggling to explain what a guitar tuner was, for what seemed an eternity, the old geezer finally pulled out a dust-caked box containing a tuner from the 70s. He insisted it was the best because it was "chromatic."  Rhett bought it and, of course, it sucked. He couldn't get it to tune his middle strings after the second song. I believe "Fuck a DUCK!!" was the phrase used. Ha Ha! Fortunately, the opener, Dylan Pratt, came to the rescue, lending his turner. The crops were saved.

Okay, maybe you had to be there, but to hear Rhett go on and on in a crusty, old guy voice was pretty damn funny.

There was so much extra goodness going on between his entrance with whiskey glass held high and the last thrust of his sweat-soaked, extra long, luscious locks. Ridiculously entertaining. His showmanship is without peer. He is ALWAYS worth the journey.

And as if giving his all on stage for 90+ minutes wasn't enough, he came out afterwards to kibitz with fans. He graciously signed merch, posed for selfies and took the time to speak with every person in line. Turning each one (male and female) into super fans in a matter of minutes. Welcome to the fold! Here, have some Kool Aid. Ha Ha!

I know I sound like a broken record, but I just cannot express enough how much I love this man and his music and his big ole beautiful brain.

Extra bonus: I finally got to meet a long-time Twitter friend in the flesh. Yasmin, is a lovely young mother about to hatch another lovely being. There's a saying, great bands have great fans. Time and again, with each new person I meet, I find this to be true.

The City Winery Chicago is a place I can see visiting again. And because I am a total geek, here's the setlist from this most excellent evening.

Chicago Winery Setlist 9/18/14
Drowning in the Days
The El
Longer Than You've Been Alive
Buick City Complex (a rare treat!)
I'm a Train Wreck (another rarity)
Need To Know Where I Stand (by request)
Curtain Call (another fave oldie)
Disconnect (this one makes me want to hug him)
Champagne, IL (crowd favorite)
Murder or Heart Attack
Melt Show
4 Eyed Girl
Sometimes (by request, so sweet!)
Busted Afternoon
No Baby I (by request)
Bird in a Cage (chosen by a girl in audience)
Roller Skate Skinny
Wheels Off
Sleepwalking (by request)
Singular Girl (w/Hydra verse!)
This Will Be Our Year (Zombies cover)
(*2014 really DOES seem like his year)
Let's Get Drunk
Our Love
4 Leaf Clover
Hank Williams Cover
Most Messed Up
Time Bomb
Cindy and I could NOT have ordered better weather to explore the Windy City! Sunny and temperate, with neither exhausting humidity nor bitter winds, the Metropolis shined. Jebus, this town is amazingly clean and free of Big-City stench.
a calder in the mist
We stayed in the city Loop which made it perfect to walk to Millennium Park, Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue. The park was super fun. There was a new sculpture exhibit, Women of Chicago featuring ginormous heads of local women.
The glass block obelisks bore faces of men and women smiling right before they would purse their lips for a stream of water to spew forth onto the children playing beneath.
urban water park
And then, of course, there was the bean...

If you aren't charmed by this whimsical structure, we can't be friends.

cindy communing with the bean

every angle is an irresistible treat

amish album cover


last one

After indulging our inner child at the park, we headed uptown to Intimacy to get my ta-tas properly fitted. It wasn't as weird as I anticipated. There was no wrangling of the girls. Instead there was a skilled assessment of my current undergarment. It failed, miserably. Now I gots me a stand-up foundation garment that holds 'em high, boy howdy! There's even some long-absent cleavage involved.

Watch the eff out, y'all! My tats ROCK, BABY!!!

My only complaint about this wonderful urban setting was the bathroom in the kickass diner near our hotel. That stall was SMALL! And by small, I mean miniscule. So much so that my knees rested AGAINST the door as I perched precariously.

(tmi moment of the day)

Seriously. Thank baby Jesus I didn't have a dress on, because that bad boy would have ended up in the turlet for sure. Can you say, super awkward? Then, I had the grand pleasure of plunging the bowl to get the GD thing to flush. Let's just say I was thankful there were no kids dropped off at the lake.


Please enjoy more photos from this wonderful city.

Chicago river

"rump" tower
well, he is an ass

this busker was playing Guster
he earned a tip

bridge abutment on Michigan Ave

sooooo bummed we were a week too early for this

these four buildings look like they are all connected
perspective is a wild thing

Navy Pier
what a difference ten months makes
last November there was no one here

lunch al fresco

ACTUAL sailors at Navy Pier
go figure

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