Midnight Oil — one of my favorite bands of all time — made their way to Chicago as part of their farewell tour. I missed them when they visited a couple of years ago. There was no way I was missing them this time, particularly because this is their farewell tour.
I had the time, a ticket, and the means to get to The Riviera, where the show was being held. Everything was going my way, right up until I reached the venue’s doors.
And I wasn’t allowed to come in.
I decided I was going “full CTA” to make this gig. No Uber rides allowed. The show was 12 miles from home, but it was relatively easy to get to. Still, mass transit in Chicago can be a “hit or miss” proposition, particularly when I have to be somewhere at a specific time. Such has been my experience with mass transit. My King Crimson adventure serves as a case in point.
Doors for the show would open at 6:30. I wanted to be there an hour before then at the latest. I had a “General Admission” ticket, so I I wanted to claim a good spot at floor level. I also wanted to find somewhere with something to lean on, because my back is still in poor shape.
The directions on my phone said it was a one-hour trip via bus and train. This meant I needed to leave at 4:30, latest. But I was well aware of my previous adventures involving getting to gigs via the CTA. So I left my home just before 4 with the understanding that everything would run late.
Imagine my surprise when my bus showed up seven minutes early! This was a great start! I got off the bus at Jackson Avenue downtown and made my way to the Red Line subway station a couple of blocks away. A healthy me breezes there in no time. But a bad back and equally bad limp slows things down. Still, I made my way there in decent time.
Once there, I waited less than five minutes for the Red Line train to arrive and whisk me away. This was almost too easy. The train dropped me right next to the elevator I needed to get me down to street level. The elevator opened up right next to the exit I needed to start toward The Riviera. Again, too easy.
The one-third of a mile walk was painful, but tolerable. But I got there. And it was easy to find.
I was a little surprised to see a ton of other early birds already in place. The line went around the corner, with me positioned right at said corner. my aching back forced me to sit and wait while others stood and chatted. The people around me were nice enough, but they had their own friends to talk to. No problem. I put on my headphones and listened to Prince.
To their credit, the Riviera’s doors opened promptly at 6:30. We made our way to the doors. Once again, I couldn’t help but think about how easy this had been. Everything was going perfectly!
Then I was denied entry.
Here’s the thing: I wear my backpack wherever I go these days. I have two wallets: one with the standard stuff (ID, bank cards, etc.) and the other with my “Retired” police badge and related ID. Putting them in my back pockets is bad for my spine, where I have enough issues as it is.
The backpack also contained a book, my iPad, an umbrella, my headphones (which were now around my neck), assorted pens and a highlighter, extra masks, and my earplugs. Nothing dangerous there.
I had my ticket and was all set to go in. The young man at the door asked to inspect my bag. No problem! I took it off and started to hand it to him. That’s when I heard a voice from behind me. “You can’t take that in there!”
I turned toward the voice. “What’s that?”
“You can’t take the backpack in. It’s too big. It told you so on the ticket.”
Stupid me. I forgot to read the rules. My pack hadn’t been a problem at the other gigs I attended, so I didn’t even think about it.
Still, I was happy to comply. “No problem,” I said. “I don’t need it for the show. How about I just check it and I can come back for it after?”
“We don’t anywhere to put it,” the security guy said.
“There’s no coat check?”
I was flabbergasted, but I kept it together. “Look, I took the train here,” I said. “It’s 12 miles home. That’s an hour trip on the CTA. There’s no way I can get there and back in time for the show.”
The man was sympathetic, but firm. “Sorry, sir. There’s nothing we can do.”
I was flummoxed. I don’t know the area, so there was no one around to help me. But I didn’t lose my temper. I didn’t start yelling. I just stood there, racking my brain. Every problem has a solution, they say. I was desperate to find mine.
Finally, I took a flyer. “Is there anywhere nearby I can store it?” I asked.
To his credit, Security Guy actually took a minute to think on it. Then it hit him. “There’s a mountain climbing gym about two blocks down the street,” he said, pointing back from whence I came. “They’re bound to have lockers, and they’re open until midnight. Maybe they’ll let you store it there.”
What the hell! It was worth a shot. I figured my chance for a good leaning spot was gone anyway. But that was the next problem. I still needed to work on this one.
I made my way back down the street and there it was: the gym I hadn’t even noticed when I passed it the first time. I went in and told the desk clerk my predicament. I braced myself for rejection when he said, “Well … I think if you register for the day like you’re gonna use our gear, then you can use of our lockers. We’ll just have to charge you a small rental fee.”
So, I spent the next 10 minutes filling out registration information on their computer, which was accepted without issue. I came back to the desk. “Okay, you’re all set,” the desk guy said. “I just need nine dollars for the locker.”
It was the best nine bucks I ever spent.
I hurriedly stored the backpack, grabbing my earplugs but forgetting to put away my headphones. I was almost back in the Riviera (after a painful walk) before I realized it. Screw it! I’m not going back again!
This time the guys let me in, no problem. As I made my way to the club’s stage area, Security Guy was coming in the other direction. “Hey! Looks like you found a place,” he said. I told him I took his advice and lucked out. He smiled, genuinely relieved. “Man, I’m so glad it worked out,” he said, patting my arm. “I’m really sorry, but they’re really strict about that rule. I’m really glad those guys helped you out!” I thanked him for the tip and promised him that I’d read the rules next time. He laughed and we went our separate ways.
Now to solve the next problem: where could I lean on something? Standing in the crowd with everyone else would kill me!
When I go to gigs at The Pageant in St. Louis, I rarely go to the floor toward the stage. There’s some nice chairs situated behind the soundboard toward the back of the room, which still isn’t that far from the stage. The floor is sunk in, enabling you to look right over the top of the soundman’s head. You’re also right in the middle of the room, which puts the PA speakers on either side. It’s a great place to watch a show!
I decided to try the same thing at The Riviera. I walked in and found the board to my left. To my amazement, there was a spot to the board’s right! The floor was slightly above the two sections in front of me AND there was a rail to lean on! I could see and rest!
It felt like destiny. The concert gods were looking out for me! I planted myself there and clung to that spot for dear life. Not that I needed to. Everyone around me was very polite.
I went to the concert by myself. But you’re never really alone when you’re surrounded by fellow fans.
I turned to see the people behind me, which is a habit. As it happened, I made eye contact with the man standing behind me. I said hello and we exchanged greetings. That’s when I realized he had an accent. His name was Adam Lester. I asked where he was from. He said he was from Australia, but now he lives in Nashville.
Oh, cool! What do you there? In the most casual manner possible he said, “Oh, I play rhythm guitar in a band for a guy named Peter Frampton.”
Wait, WHAT now?
I was so impressed. Not starstruck. Just really impressed! You must be a badass if Peter Frampton — one of THE rock guitarists — let’s you play guitar for him. Adam has been on the last few of Peter’s records (which I confirmed with band pics from my CDs). I complimented him on his chops, told him about my writings, then we turned our chat to rugby. He was thrilled to learn I was a fan.
I asked him for a picture, which I thought he’d find odd. To the contrary, he couldn’t have been more enthusiastic.
What an evening this was turning out to be!
Oh, yeah! The concert! I almost forgot. (I’m kidding.) Midnight Oil was awesome! Peter Garrett was his usual fired-up self, and the rest of the band followed suit. They played some of my favorites, like “Truganini,” “Redneck Wonderland,” and “The Dead Heart.” And of course they played “Beds Are Burning.” The only song they didn’t play for me (and it hurt a bit) was “Read About It.” But that’s the way it goes. The rest of the show more than made up for it.
The only real downside was that I had to leave early, as the band made its way out for a second encore. Turns out the gym closed at 11, not midnight. I didn’t know how long it would take to walk back, so I left at around 10:35. The band was still thundering away behind me. Damn. This was one helluva farewell concert.
Still, I got to see the show after coming the width of a hair from missing it. And I got to meet some great people! That buoyed me enough to appreciate the evening as I went back for my backpack. Plus, I actually knew where I was going. Getting home via the CTA was a breeze. My stride even normalized toward the end of my last walk! That hasn’t happened in ages! A nice finish to an adventurous evening. I guess it was worth it in the end.
One thing is certain: I’ll be reading ticket rules VERY carefully from now on!
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