Wednesday, April 14, 2010
So here was Gotham City, deep dish central, Cubs and Sox, bucket drummers, and Lake Michigan. The wind was blowing, which was no big surprise since this place has been called the windy city for years. Lake Michigan keeps things blustering about with its ocean-like waves hitting up on the shores of Chi-town. Magnificent Mile, Millenium Park, Sears Tower, and Navy Pier were all the spots we’d been told to visit while seeing Chicago, as if these places themselves possessed the very spirit of this famous city. I was mildly interested in these tourist traps but they weren’t exactly at the top of my to-do list. My heart was set on finding a really good coffee shop, and deep-dish pizza that accurately represented the Chicago-style.
We parked the RV outside of town and jumped on the blue line metro at Cumberland and took it all the way into the downtown. I’d seen TV shows with the elevated trains zigzagging through skyscrapers and apartment complexes but now I was a part of this mechanical snake weaving in and out of the urban jungle. From my perspective inside the train it felt as if we were bumping loudly through thin air on some invisible track. All that I could see from my seat was building walls, windows, and the busy streets two to three stories below. Looking forward at the cars ahead didn’t comfort me in the least as it appeared that each turn would throw our leader off the track dragging its caboose down with it. I looked out the window and avoided thinking about derailing as much as I could. None of the other passengers seemed worried, so I took comfort in their apathy.
We spent our first day wandering around in awe of the towering buildings and busy streets. The big reflective bean was our token picture spot, and acts as this for every other tourist coming into Chicago, so we fit right in. What is this reflective bean? Well basically it is a gigantic mirror-like, coffee bean shaped art piece the size of a semi’s carrying container that people from all over the world come to gawk at for the purpose of seeing their own warped reflection in. Phew.
On day two we had a show booked at a bar/club/poo-hole called Silvie’s Lounge. We had hoped that this would be a lively club in the heart of Chicago’s nightlife, but upon our arrival at Silvie’s we were sorely disappointed. The bar was run by an eastern European man with the look of a mobster and warmth like an icicle. Much miscommunication had occurred before our arrival at the “venue” and this miscommunication didn’t help our first impression with the mobster. We (TMR) quickly realized that this venue would not be conducive to folk rock. Unless we could transform our sound into a pole-dancer’s soundtrack fast we would not go over well. Our problem was solved for us when the bar tender threw our bass player out for being under age. We were out of a show for the night, but downtown Chicago was still just a few metro stops down the line. We decided to make good of our time in the city while we had it and parted ways with Lyrycyst, and with our own small posse, headed into the city for a night of panhandling.
Our first performance was held in front of Walgreens on Michigan Ave across the street from Millenium Park. We strummed our guitars and smacked the cajon through the windy cold of Chicago night. Aimee’s voice battled the volumes of noise coming from passing cars, schizophrenic conversations and honking horns. Even so, people passing by took second looks, smiled, nodded and commended our efforts. We moved our musical brigade down a few blocks to the heart of the “Magnificent Mile”, famous for its expensive shops and, more importantly, its people traffic. We hoped to possibly make enough in tip money to cover the cost of a deep-dish pizza.
This time around we strategically positioned ourselves on a corner by the crosswalk where pedestrians would have to wait for the green light to let them walk. They would be forced to wait, so we’d provide the music while they did. We were gaining a lot more attention at this point and people were starting drop the dollar bills in our open guitar case. A few people stayed for multiple songs ignoring the green light that bid them cross. Nick wandered through the gathering crowd and passed out our postcard with information directing them to our website. He even managed to sell a couple of CD’s while doing so. After TMR played a short five-song set we handed the guitar over to our friend and fellow artist Adam Cappa. He immediately started strumming away on some of his original worship tunes, which rung out triumphantly through the shadowy streets. People kept on gathering in; some more out of curiosity from the small crowd than from the actual sound of the music. We were all joyful to have turned a disappointing night into a good one. We were seeing Chicago through the eyes of street performers and Silvie’s Lounge drifted far from our thought.
All was fine and good until a Chicago Police car pulled up to the curb next to our concrete stage. Adam continued playing his song mostly oblivious to what was going down until the officer stepped out of her car and asked for our permit. We quickly ended the song and looked stupidly at one another before looking back at her in time to hear her repeat, “permit”. We confessed that we hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. She then asked to see our driver’s licenses. At this point only Adam, Nick and I (Dane) were open to conviction of any crime. Aimee, Jesse, and our posse slipped away once the cops had arrived. A second officer had pulled up to help process the crimes we were committing. They took our licenses back to their cars and ran them through their computers. At which point I began to fear that past blemishes would pop up on their records. You see this was the third time that a law enforcement officer had asked for my license on this trip. It turns out that “sleep-trespassing” is a real nuisance to Wal Mart parking lots. Anyways we waited on the sidewalk to hear our fate. You could tell that officer number one wanted to see us put in the slammer, but officer number two was more amused by us. In fact he had listened to some of our songs when he patrolled past our concert earlier that night. We begged and pleaded with bad cop number one stating our ignorance of city ordinances and street codes. Being from California helped bolster our claims of ignorance. Adam, being from the great state of Indiana, was also able to play the dumb card since he was unfamiliar with the rules of the street. After a chilly waiting period we were let go, free of a fine, and with our earnings still in hand.
Our posse packed up and headed towards the nearest pizza place. After having gone two blocks we were stopped again by a patrol car. It was officer number two; good cop. We feared that he had re-thought his leniency and wanted to fine us after all. We were quite mistaken. He called Nick, Adam, and I back over to his car and asked for our licenses again. We made small talk about how stupid Californians are and how cold Chicago was, and blah blah blah. Eventually we handed him a CD from TMR and, with a sheepish smile, he accepted. We still don’t know why he asked for our licenses again, or why he circled around the block to catch up with us. We like to think that it was simply because he wanted to get his hands on some of our music. Permit or no permit our night of playing the streets was a success.
We took our earnings down to “Giordano’s” and ordered a couple pies to reward ourselves on a night well spent. The streets of Chicago took care of her children. We’ll probably never play Chicago’s streets again because we’ve definitely been reported in their computers. However, it’s good to know that even while breaking the law we can make a fan out of the law enforcement and wiggle our way out of a fine.