One of the primary reasons I give for moving from St. Louis to Chicago is the music scene. I would tell friends, “I can see two gigs over a week in St. Louis, or I can see three gigs on Wednesday in Chicago.” An exaggeration, perhaps. But not a very big one.
The thought of being able to catch anywhere from five to ten gigs a week was more exciting than I could possibly express. Unfortunately, COVID-19 didn’t get the memo.
I entered my new Chicago home in October of last year. The city was locked down with no signs of re-opening any time soon. The closest I came to a gig was watching concert DVDs and YouTube clips. Not exactly what I had in mind.
On July 2nd, my gig-free streak finally came to an end. After 18 months, I found myself seated in front of the stage at Reggie’s, home of the Progtoberfests that kindled my infatuation with this city. There are three separate stages within the venue. I was seated upstairs in the Comedy Club.
Before long, Marbin stood before me, tearing through a marvelous fusion-driven set from their expansive catalog. As I sat captivated by the music, I knew I had finally arrived. After nine months in town, I was right where I was supposed to be.
The fun continued the following evening at the Constellation, a venue I’d head about but never visited. After three bus rides and a couple of short walks, I finally arrived. I don’t think anyone could blame me for struggling to find it. It’s really easy to walk right past.
Here I was treated to the avant-jazz stylings of Jaimie “Breezy” Branch and her quartet. Once again, the feeling of being “home” washed over me. The new adventure has truly begun.
Assuming the Delta variant doesn’t knock us back to Square One, a partial summer of concerts has become a real possibility. I’m vaccinated and cautious, so I’m not overly worried about suffering the consequences of other’s lack of willingness to do what’s needed. The question became, just where was I going to see these shows?
In St. Louis, I had a steady rotation of seven or so venues that seemed to host the music I found most interesting. (Hockey arenas and stadiums don’t count. I have NO desire to see shows there.) Chicago has nearly 40 venues I would like to visit.
It would seem conceivable that there could literally be one gig a night for me to attend, minimum. It will be way to lose track of who is playing where. I have actually been forced to create my first serious spreadsheet to keep up with them all.
This doesn’t mean I’ll know every band I check out, and it doesn’t mean I’ll love the music every time. But the potential for discovery is off the charts! And there are probably a few venues out there I haven’t been made aware of yet.
There will be holes for a few more months, to be certain. Not everyone is prepared to re-open just yet. And more than a couple of venues are still hanging by a slender thread. I hope they can pull through. I’ll do all I can to support them.
The point is, concerts are finally coming back! A lot of musicians have been without their primary source of income for a LONG time. Let’s get out there and support them!
I’ll see you there.
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell
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