Music all summer long

Summer music in Millennium Park

I mentioned the other day that I’ve been to a lot of concerts this summer. The first one was back in June, when I saw Iron & Wine in Millennium Park with some girls from work, as well as Liz, the one person I knew in Chicago before I moved here. The park was packed and it turned out we really couldn’t hear the band all that well, but it was still fun to sit and have a picnic on a blanket, and it felt like a nice kick-off to summer.

The second show I saw was Bon Iver in July, which I hadn’t planned on, but I’m so glad it worked out. It was a sold-out show, but the Friday before, someone at work wanted to get rid of a couple extra tickets. Kevin is obsessed with Bon Iver, and I’d been listening to both albums on a pretty steady stream the entire month prior. I snagged the tickets and gave them to Kevin for his birthday, which was way better than the impersonal, we’ve-only-been-dating-for-like-six-weeks-so-here’s-the-BBC-Office-on-DVD gem of a birthday gift I’d had planned. Even better, the concert was at the Chicago theatre, which I’ve walked by every day since starting my job and had tried to imagine the inside of ever since. It’s amazing; kind of like the inside of Radio City in NYC, but smaller. Just as beautiful, though.

Outside the Chicago Theatre

The third show I saw was the day after Bon Iver, when Ted Leo and the Pharmacists played a free show at Millennium Park. I didn’t know any of the music, but it was fun and easy to get into. They ended up playing a single album straight through and it happened to be Kevin’s favorite. We went with a couple other people from work and got to sit a lot closer to the stage than we did for Iron & Wine.

The fourth show I saw was the most surprising. I went with Liz to the Double Door to see her friend’s band one Thursday night. A guy at the door took my $5 and stamped my hand with the words “Paygoism Saves” and I stepped into the dark bar. I didn’t have very high expectations, but the second his band started I realized they were going to be way better than I thought. I got really into them, and Liz and I ended up sneaking back stage after their set to talk to the band. We got kicked out, but it took a while for anyone to notice. We hung out for a while, and when the next band started, I thought I might leave since I had to work in the morning. But then, the craziest thing happened.

At the Double Door, pre-power outage

Even though it looked like it was only threatening to storm outside, much like it had been doing all week, the power in the Double Door went out. The band’s amps shut off, but they finished their song anyway. After that, the drummer for the band decided to keep playing, and he did, for like 25 minutes. People in the crowd were going nuts, more so than they had during the set before it was interrupted. Liz and I danced to the sound of a single drummer in the longest drum solo I’d ever heard, and everyone clapped along in a single rhythm. We cheered the drummer on together, dancing in the darkness. After that, the rest of the band came back on and played an acoustic set, illuminated by cell phone screens and the light of the moon. It was the kind of story you knew people would be telling for years to come.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I found out a little piece of Caldwell was making its way to Chicago, in the form of Saintseneca, the coolest thing to come out of southeastern Ohio. The band was originally made up of four people, three of whom went to my high school. When I found out they were playing at a place three blocks from my house here, I couldn’t believe my luck. It’s a small world, sometimes. Kevin went with me to see them and the guys were so surprised to see me. They played in a basement in a house in my neighborhood, alternating among an array of stringed instruments I’d never seen before much less heard, stomping in unison on a wooden platform and singing in harmony. They were even better than I remembered from last summer, and I’m so glad I got to see them again.

One other crazy thing about the Saintseneca tour is that days later, they played a show at a house in Olympia, Washington — and the house they played is where my oldest cousin lives. Mind blown.

I missed Death Cab and the Decemberists when they were in town, and I’ll probably have to skip Guster next weekend, but it’s been a great summer for music all the while. Besides, I’ve already seen all those guys. This summer is about trying new things, I think.

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