Lollapalooza Pre-Day One: Chicago, The City That Doesn’t Give Receipts…and kills its favorite sons

I lived here for ten years, so it should not surprise me in the slightest that things will not go according to plan when I pop into Midway. Even a transaction as simple as a receipt for some Combos would be easy…right? Wrong. The credit card-paying woman in front of me got a receipt with no trouble, while I watched the same woman that helped her hit an infinite series of buttons over and over, only to get the “beep beep” sound again and again…and again. I eventually let it go, thinking it was just a buck and change. I collected my suitcase from baggage claim and headed for the Orange Line.

There are multiple options for riders when you are looking for train passes at the CTA. I was looking for a five-day pass, but all I saw were three-day passes, seven-day passes, and the ‘give us all your money and it will never be enough’ passes. I reluctantly bought a seven-day pass, since I knew I had a hell of a lot of train traffic in my future, and to my benefit, I at least got a pass, which the person in front of me did not, because his transaction “timed out.” I asked the machine to print a receipt, and it said ‘Okay’…then did nothing. Damn, man. I paid for two extra days of travel, and you can’t print me a receipt?

Welcome to Chicago, kids. “The city that works.” So I took my seven-day pass and went to get on the Midway stop on the Orange line. Out of curiosity, I asked the woman at the handicapped entrance, “Did they get rid of the five-day pass?” “They sell those at currency exchanges and Jewel/Osco’s,” she told me, about 30 seconds too late. How convenient, I think. That would have required me to buy a pass to get on the train, get off the train, find a currency exchange or Jewel/Osco, buy a five-day pass, then reboard. Again, welcome to Chicago, the city that works…but doesn’t print receipts.

So I jump on the Orange Line train for my hotel, and the second the doors close and the train heads on its way towards downtown…there is an inescapable whistling sound on the train. It has nothing to do with the train’s velocity – it’s just…there. So even as I try to forget everything that has happened up to this point, the damn subway train is taunting me. “You didn’t get a receipt, sucker! Ha ha hahahahahahahaha!” To make matters worse, my wife texts me later in the day and says, “Sit down,” then tells me that John Hughes is dead. This, after I saw some guy tear around the Sears Tower (technically the Willis Tower, but sorry, it’s way too soon for that) in a convertible, which instantly made me think of the garage attendants from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” taking a joy ride with a similar car. Creepy.

Friday’s forecast: Chance of thunderstorms, high ’80s. Sorry, but the day after John Hughes dies, it should rain in Chicago. The entire world lost a brother, a son, a father, an uncle, and their best friend. I know that I’m supposed to be excited about covering a music fesitval, and I am…but damn, man, I just lost John Hughes. In fact, I just talked with English Beat singer Dave Wakeling, and happened to ask him about John Hughes, Man, this makes me sad.

BE: When John Hughes contacted you in 1987 and asked you to write the title track for his latest movie, did you think that you had just been touched by the hand of God?

DW: Well, that god had touched my hand a few months before. He came backstage in Anaheim after we played a concert. And as he shook my hand, he said, “Anybody who’s got the balls to put a bassoon in a pop record, and get it in the charts, is my man.” He was referring to the bassoon part in “Tenderness” [mimics bassoon line]. We became good friends and I went to his house a few times, and he’s got a wall of records, 50 feet long, 12 feet high. You could point to anywhere on it, and he knew exactly which record it was. Far more serious about music than I ever was, that’s for sure. It was before I had become computerized – and probably before a lot of people had – so we’d talk about this idea of “She’s Having a Baby.” We both had young children and we discussed the ways it makes things better and some ways it makes things worse, and the changes it brings to couples once they start having kids. And then we started writing each other, so I wrote the first draft of “She’s Having a Baby,” and I would send it to him, and he wrote back with suggestions, or angles, where he thought the movie was going. We wrote back and forth three or four times, which I thought was one of the most exciting co-writes I’ve ever done, really. Brilliant man. I don’t even know what he does now. Did he just retire, or what?

BE: He pops out a script about once every seven years. It’s weird. He pulled a Terrence Malick; he just disappeared.

DW: I wonder what he does. I’d like to see him. Is he a happy chap, or is he a reclusive type?

BE: I honestly have no idea. I know that I miss him.

Damn. If I only knew.

  

Big D & the Kids Table: Fluent in Stroll

Boston-based Big D & the Kids Table are still chugging along, with a tenth album in 12 years. Unfortunately that is all they seem to be doing, playing the same, tepid ska-punk that rolled out with the Third Wave in the mid-’90s, and hasn’t changed much at all in the intervening time. Third Wave Ska was much less political and much more pop, thriving on a dynamic hard rock attitude that made big names like the Mighty Might Bosstones and No Doubt thrive, and that dynamism is completely missing on Fluent in Stroll..  The call and response between lead singer David McWayne and the gaggle of rudegirls is entertaining at times, but McWayne’s vocals are bland as white bread and their reputable live energy is too diluted in the studio to capture much attention. Lyrically there is nothing more challenging than fare for teens and drunk college students at a summer fair. Perhaps that is the appeal of Big D; they are predictable but comfortable, undemanding but fun like sipping a watery American beer at your favorite local pub. Perhaps they are too similar to their contemporaries from the left coast, Reel Big Fish, who also continue to churn out the same old ska punk… both had well received albums in 2007 that tried to put a lie to “ska is dead,” but both 2009 follow-ups fall flat. Side One Dummy

Big D MySpace page

  

Reel Big Fish: Fame, Fortune and Fornication

Covers are nothing new to Reel Big Fish. They gave A-ha’s “Take on Me” the full blown ska treatment, offered a doo wop version of “New York, New York” and reggaed Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution” on past releases. In 2007, they joined with Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer in splitting an EP of covers and offering co-lead vocals on each other’s tracks on the tremendous Duet All Night Long. Fame does make you smile because Aaron Barrett and his merry band of nuts are as funny as they are talented, but if falls short of Duet because too much of it is simply ska versions of very familiar material. They do sound like they are having fun (as they always do), but these versions lack the fire and enthusiasm that the Duet record captures. Highlights of this quick-hitting 30-minute record, which features covers of Poison (two, actually), Van Morrison, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty, include a reggae-soaked take on the Eagles’ “The Long Run” and the minimalist duet between Barrett and Tatiana DeMaria (from the Rock/Punk outfit Tat) on Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” which is comprised of a rhythm guitar track, handclaps and an excellent and understated vocal performance. Fame has its moments and is more like an after dinner mint then a meal. (Rock Ridge Music)

Reel Big Fish MySpace page

  

Related Posts