Monday, September 17, 2012

Fools and Friends In The (not so) Windy City

There are times when it just feels good to get back to what you know.

After spending the last five months in California*, I decided to get away this past weekend and travel to Chicago for a few days. The purpose was multi-fold ... to see Southside Johnny and the Poor Fools at City Winery, to catch up with some friends, and to simply visit the fabulous city of my childhood. The result was the realization that I'm not quite ready to leave the places I consider "home", including New York City.

I have written before about my never-ending love for Chicago. It's always an emotional rollercoaster when I return, which is basically whenever my favorite bands are performing there and I have the ability to travel. Gratefully, it was an extraordinarily mild few days in terms of weather -- rather than the the stifling heat and humidity of the summer or the cold blasting winds of winter for which the city is known.

So, first up ... the show.

Southside Johnny and the Poor Fools is an acoustic-ish ensemble made up of members of the Asbury Jukes that play a wonderfully eclectic song list ranging from Bob Dylan to NRBQ to whatever song they may have heard on the radio. Not kidding. The shows are generally pretty loose and sometimes slightly chaotic with musicians constantly changing instruments. (They don't have a regular drummer, so everyone takes a turn playing .. at times, with overwhelming enthusiasm. LOL )

Unfortunately (for me, at least), bass player John Conte is still touring Germany and was unavailable for this gig. I missed his presence, as that meant they were down one player and Neal Pawley had to cover the bass parts most of the night, rather than adding his usual brand of aural texture. Neal, however, is a pretty darn good bassist, actually better than many I've heard who call that their primary instrument! In fact, that is one of the things about the band I enjoy the most, the multi-instrumental ability of the players -- i.e. guitarist Tommy Byrnes is quite the capable piano player, piano player Jeff Kazee is a completely respectable drummer, etc.

As usual, the band did a nice meet-and-greet following the performance ... including signing special commemorative wine bottles available that evening. Surprisingly, I (a self-proclaimed wino ... err, I mean ... wine aficionado) didn't buy any as I'd have to then check my luggage on the way home. Oyy, the pains of modern-day airline travel.

Here are just a few pictures of from the evening ... (don't forget you can click on pics to make them larger)

Yes, that is a purple plastic trombone. You can actually buy one of your own on Ebay!
Let's hear it for teamwork! Haha.
Southside trying some of Tasha's wine ... we chose a bottle from the "adventurous varietals" section of the wine list ... seemed the most appropriate thing to do given the personality of this band!

Next up ... one of my absolute favorite places of my youth.

The Art Institute of Chicago is smaller than the major museums in New York, London and Paris, but not lacking in terms of variety. I rarely stay longer than a few hours when I visit a museum -- I truly believe the law of diminishing returns kicks in about hour 2.5 and one's mind goes into sensory overload. Given my recent return to painting, I was most interested in the impressionist and contemporary collections, but for a museum that I know inside and out like this one, there are a few works that I simply must see no matter what... absolute favorite Pollock *sigh*

...the Buddha at the entrance that I used to call Esmeralda when I was a child  
(don't ask...I don't know why, either. LOL)

...anything and everything by de Kooning

...the miniature versions of the iconic public art pieces of Chicago by Picasso and Alexander Calder 

sidenote: I love Mayor Richard Daley's comment about these pieces when they were installed ... "what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow." How very true.

...and the always-magnificent, timeless Georges Seurat

I could sit in front of this one for hours. I mean, just look at the layers and layers of paint used to create one small part of the scarf. (definitely click on this one ... insane!)  

It seemed around every corner was a flashback to visits there with my grandmother (who loved this Renoir) and my parents. If you're ever in Chicago, definitely take a trip to the Art Institute - you can see most of the highlights pretty quickly and they have a kick-butt gift shop (go straight to the back to the sale section. *wink*)  

Oh and upon leaving, be sure to look across the street at the Sears Tower (nobody, and I mean nobody, calls it the Willis Tower), the tallest building in the United States.  

Afterwards, my friend and I took a nice stroll back to the hotel from the museum, giving me an opportunity to walk down memory lane -- landmarks like the Wrigley Building, the Chicago Tribune Building, the Marina Towers (which some affectionately refer to as the Wilco Towers because of their famous album cover) and Paul Harvey Drive (named after the legendary radio man whose The Rest of the Story tales my dad could basically recite verbatim, much to my mother's chagrin. haha.)  

I will never tire of seeing these sights time and time again. It's just a few of those places that give me comfort and my sense of belonging somewhere ... something I desperately needed during this weird limbo in which I'm currently living (cue The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go")  

Well, that's all for now. Looking forward to hearing Richie Sambora's new album tomorrow. Later this week, the ticket stress of Springsteen for the Oakland show. Man, I've missed ticket stress. LOL

* for those who follow me on Twitter, you've already heard a bit about my crazy California adventure ... more on that in the next blog post, "Stranger in a Strange Land"