it's been a hard clay's night

14 June 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

Old 97's - Castle Theater - Bloomington, IL - 7 June 2013 ~ Marie & Annie's Excellent Adventure


I had missed a golden opportunity to see them in May in St. Louis with a gaggle of groovy gals and I was hoping desperately this new chance would fall together easily.
K-star, my usual partner in crime, was unable to accompany me. A unique plan would have to be formulated. All things were different this time. Bloomington is far enough away that an overnight stay after the concert would be the logical thing to do. I couldn't find decent accommodations for just overnight, so alternate lodging was the next hurdle. Now as luck or karma would have it, I have a fair amount of cousins in Champaign IL, which is roughly an hour away from Bloomington. I asked my cousin Marie if she was free to attend this and allow for my short visit. Score on both. We were overdue for a good bonding experience as adults, and as she is a diligent grad student, I figured it was always nice to enjoy a break and perhaps something new? Especially great music by handsome rock boys? Oh yes, indeed. It was a done deal.
While I was on a roll, I figured to kill 2 birds with one stone and visit a college friend that works for the University and lives near campus. She was also available for a visit and it made me feel like I was driving somewhere and all the lights turned green as I drove through them. I love it when a quick-draw plan comes together. I gassed up the night before, and kissed my boys adios in the morning. I wanted all the lead time I could get. Singing karaoke to no one as the ipod played backup, I hit town by 1230 and had a few hours' time with my girlfriend. We hadn't seen each other in over 10 years but the social networking since had virtually reunited us some years ago. It was awesome, it's been 21 years since high school thus 20 years from our college freshman year and the following summer. We talked a bit about then, and some about now, mostly regarding Game of Thrones! hahaha
I took my leave and traveled to Marie's. Her and her fiance's place was as sweet and cute as they are. We got prepped, took care of errands and hit the road. It was a quick hour's ride punctuated with our anecdotes and navigation. The venue was easy to find and once there we got sweet, free parking right out front. That's always a good sign. We just stayed in the car chatting til it got closer to doors time. And when we did get in line, we found ourselves at the end of it, already about 50 folks deep. And I've got no room to talk, but the crowd was a tad older than I was used to. Or maybe they just looked older, it seemed like a pretty salty sea of salt and pepper. I'm not sure where we were in proximity to Illinois State U. but I guess I just thought it would be a more college-y crowd.
The doors opened and we secured our clearance. The theatre was a nice enough venue, easy to navigate, clean bathrooms. We made our way to the Kenside of the front and there was plenty of room at the relatively low stage. We chatted with some of the nearby folks, and discovered I knew some of them and that we had mutual friend/musicians. In no time at all, it was time for Robbie Fulks. Ken had been in contact beforehand and had actually come down to watch Robbie's set with us. Pretty awesome, right? He disappeared somewhere just before the last song Robbie and the other Robbie finished up. They were solid as hell and funny to boot. But I didn't drive to Bloomington to see him.
After Robbie Fulks left the stage, the techs scrambled to set up the stage accordingly and then Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" started up and we laughed. And then my boys came out with big smiles and the room just lit up with hoots and hollers. The drum kit and amps appeared to be rentals, which made sense, they were only out on a 2 day jaunt before going on break til the end of the month. I was so excited for my little first timer. Not that it made a difference to her, but the setlist ended up being so choice. Rhett really has his knack for a varied mix from the albums with good flow, down pat. This is a testament to the calibre of their music, you can mix from any of the albums and it still tastes good. It was tasty enough that I've already crafted it as a playlist in the ipod. I think there was a little bit more freedom since these tour dates weren't in support of a new album specifically.
They started out with Barrier Reef, Won't Be Home No More and then Dance with Me. Lotta power real fast!
At one point I raised my arm to show my newbie the goosebumps all over my skin. It just gets in me. I can't explain it and I'm OK with that.
Right off the bat, Ken was everywhere and teetering like a tightrope walker, edging between monitors. He's been known to kick your purse or personal crap off of the edge of the stage, even if it's not really in his way. Just because you're sullying his workspace. He did manage to punt a few stacked up empty beer cups and that got me giggling. No other purses or personal belongings seemed to have been harmed. It was funny, the stage was pretty low. Not low enough to be considered a riser, but low enough that someone of my height could easily just turn around and sit on it without hopping up. So when Ken or even Rhett got close, woo mama, they were right there. Like I could have fiddled with knobs on the guitar-close. Every so often I would turn and make sure Marie was enjoying herself and indeed she and most everyone else were. These boys were on fire, but this is the norm. Rhett sounded fine, even if the vocals were a bit difficult to hear. He seemed fully recovered from his vocal cord issues earlier this year. All was just as it should be.
I guess it'd been 8 months since the last shows for me and boy, that might just be too long in between. I was so stoked to bring my cousin, and the excitement of the drive and visiting my friend kept me a little too jacked up on adrenaline to feel hungry. I didn't eat enough before the show and then had only a coffee, so I sort of crashed near the middle of the show. It didn't help that a fair amount of the stage lights actually shone on us in the front and you really could feel the heat coming off. I happen to sweat like Rhett Miller under the best of conditions, so just before they brought Robbie out to sing I'd be Lonesome, I had to ditch out to refill my water and cool off. My first time EVER leaving the front row. It was a shame to miss one of my favorite songs, but it was unavoidable, I needed fresh air. I don't ever drink alcohol at shows just so I won't have to leave during. But the last thing I wanted was to keel over, I knew I was over-hungry and while I was pounding water, I was just as quickly sweating it out as I danced. It was a rookie mistake. I believe the lesson has been learned.
So I cooled off enough from the lobby to return to the front and just eased off on the dancing. I knew I could make it til the end of the show where I could slam some of the car munchies Marie brought. And we made it through just fine, they rocked our collective asses off. They just fed off of the love and the cycle completed itself.

Ken broke a string, I can't remember when, but it may have shown up in one of the pictures. The drum kit was not really set high enough off to make an impressive jump during the final song, but Rhett did it anyway. When all was sang and done, the techs came out to make quick work of the equipment and then I wasted no time grabbing the setlist. These are moments one mustn't hesitate during. *yoink*
We were properly exhilarated and had a snackfest directly afterwards. This helped matters immensely and I was restored within minutes. We waited a good while for Ken and eventually the other guys to come out. Ken was his normal, chatty, slightly off-color, self. Murry, quiet, seeming sleepy, but down for a few minutes in the social circle before returning to the van. Philip, who I had really wanted to congratulate for a terribly cool iphone photo of Saturn through the telescope. A tiny but majestic image posted on facebook awhile back. And darling Rhett, ever charming, always friendly and game for some fashion chat. The boy loves his Varvatos. Jacket and jeans, I totally called it. But he also loves, ahem, Calvin Klein, and that's all I will say about that.
I would have liked to have taken some pics afterwards but it didn't feel organic, considering how much chat time we were getting.
They all gave Marie her props after I let them know it was her first show, we had some good chats and laughs and then boom, time to haul.
We took off for Champaign and upon arrival, lovely Mike had chicken and pasta from dinner for us. I'm so glad that my cousin had a good time, I did too! I knew it was a no brainer, but it is so nice to have the experience land where you would like it to for someone else.
Bonding experience success!

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