"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


The Orphanage

The clouds were giant white stacks, contrasted by the orangish haze of early sunset, moving like silent leviathans above us through the mugginess and humidity.

The sweat was already rolling down the small of my back and we'd only begun to move the first piece of equipment. The heavy stuff is always better first. The keyboard. The amplifier cabinets. Their corners are hard on the joints of your fingers. Your blood pools in the tips, behind your fingerprints as you try to keep your knuckles from scraping against the door jambs. The worst is going up or down the stairs. Backwards or forwards. The weight of the Fender Rhodes is either pushing you off your feet or seconds away from slipping out of your hands and crashing down on to the steps. Meanwhile, a single bead of sweat leaves your hairline, tickling it's way down your forehead, to be momentarily stopped by an eyebrow, yet inevitably run into your eye.

Once the big pieces have occupied their proclaimed space in the back of Rudy's Suburban, everything else knows it's exact place. It fills up like perfectly, like one of those 3-D jigsaw puzzles. The small places left over are the perfect size for the small things left waiting. Each piece goes just where it went the last time. Keeping that kind of order makes it easier to see what's missing. You always do an idiot check after loading, but if you don't have a system, you'll miss something if in a hurry.

The evening was probably the stickiest we'd had all summer. The heat wasn't so bad, but it was like walking through soup. Rudy's truck is about the biggest monstrosity on four wheels in the city, not something I'd want my bicycle-friends to see me riding in. But, with it's soft cloth seats and cool A/C, it was exactly where I wanted I to be, about as perfect a place for me at the nook the crate full of chords and tuning pedals was sitting in behind me. We were on our way to Bridgeport.

We got off the expressway at 18th street, and then turned left on Halsted by the Skylark. A few more blocks though the sleepy neighborhood and we were pulling up in front of the First Trinity Church Community Center. We all arrived at the same time, trying to figure out how to get into the place. I found the right door and was dismayed to find out we'd need to unload all the gear up 3 flights of stairs. Un-air-conditioned stairs. But, if you keep talking, and keep moving, and have little moments of laughter thrown in, it goes by pretty quickly.

Such as, once Charley and I got to the top of the stairs and the door that said, "Welcome to the Orphanage." Charley opened it, and immediately closed it after a quick, "Oops! Sorry."

"What was that?" I asked, laughing. "Was somebody naked in there?"

Then somebody behind the door told it we were OK and to come in. The door opened wide again, and I was walking though a kitchen, with two people at a giant steel counter preparing a meal. Veggies and bread were spread out and bowls of pasta were being filled. The color of the food was matched by the bigger room were walking into.

Decorative trees and rich red tapestries. Wall paintings, sculpture of all kinds, and Christmas lights. Tables and chairs. Sofas and loungers. And immaculately clean. And gorgeous, young woman whirling a hula hoop in the center of the room.

Borrowed from The Orphanage myspace.com page:

A large stage was at one of the of the room. This was the Orphanage. A performance space/art gallery/vegan kitchen in the heart of Bridgeport. And apparently, fairly undiscovered. The Orphanage only opens on Sunday nights, and tonights crowd was sparse, mostly made up of the performing musicians, or the volunteers working there. Yet, it was to be probably the most unique and fun gig I've done with The Midnight Shows ever. A classic night that could only come from within the underground scene, a pre-gentrification wave, of Chicago's Southside.

After we loaded in and had a drink of water, Charley, Tonya, Kelly and I headed up to the Skylark for a drink. I love that place. I've only been going there for the past 18 months or so. I always expect to run into people from my recent past in there, but never do. The vibe is chill, there's always a seat, and the food is great. Yet, we just wanted a drink to unwind and get a little louder music into our brains for a second. The space at The Orphanage was so radically different from what we were accustomed - quiet, smoke free, courteous staff - we needed to immerse ourselves is something a bit more familiar to ease the transition into the evening.

We headed back after an hour, and walked in on a pretty blond woman sitting solo at the piano playing a eclectic set. Rudy, Charita, Heather, and her boyfriend were sitting at the tables, along with the rest of the crowd enjoying the music and eating the vegan fare that came along with the requested $10 donation. She announced in between songs she mainly worked with a children's repertoire, and then went into several funny tracks from Super Mario Brother and the Legend of Zelda. She had a light, yet comforting voice, and even as she finished with a couple of darker tunes about misguided lust and love, we all tapped toes, bobbed heads, and rewarded her with vigorous applause.

It was then announced that Inkbat had apparently forgotten to show, so The Midnight Shows were next. It was simple set up. The room was box, as we say in the biz, which means "live" so no extra amplification was needed. We just plugged in, turned on, and away we went. Initially, most of the crowd (which was about 6 people) stood in front and danced, but halfway through, the lack of a bigger group to keep them there had them back in the seats, eating, lounging, and bobbing their heads. The applause got louder and louder, however, and they really seemed to enjoy the set.

It was roasting up there, as always. It didn't help that Charley needed the fan all to himself and that the nearest A/C unit needed to unplugged to accommodate the equipment. Any stage light, only one, will cause me to sweat profusely. Two songs in I was soaked. But dancing, smiling, and really taking in the sounds of us. A great mix, just like rehearsal. The best performance, musically, athletically, in any idiom, happens when you lose yourself in the moment. You just will it - huge thoughts, beautiful sounds - and your body takes over subconsciously and brings it all to fruition. When you stop thinking about your fingers, the frets, and just listen to everything but yourself, and that is when yourself is fully realized.

Heather played great behind her kit. Her first show, she made very few mistakes and took my cues very professionally for the most part, and brought all the style, bombast, and musicality that we loved so much to have her play with us in the first place.

We were cut off a bit early which was fine, for the school night. Grandpa Know was up next. Just a three piece, of two guitars and and drums (and looking for a bass player.) They gave us a mix of White Stripes and Pixies with a touch of very early uptempo Jesus and Mary Chain. Very treble-y, too loud to hear any of the vocals, it didn't matter. Performance-wise, it was hit or miss. Some songs were very together and others sounded as if they were being written right then and there. But it didn't matter. As the set came to a close it all came together and made complete sense and brought on raucous applause.

A few more people had stopped by for the evening, but the crowd remained very diverse and sparse. None of my northside friends, or southside for that matter had made it down. I would have loved for them to have experienced us in this environment - devoid of the usual falseness and pretension - i.e. meaningless shouting, bad-ass fronting, binge-drinking, (although in many situations this leads to some very genuine behavior!), and soul-sapping unoriginality - and filled with genuine expression and attention to detail and the essence of the presentation.

For this is what The Orphanage is. Originality and the true essence of presentation - qualities that only remain pure in small, handmade batches, and that do not last long once mass-produced.

Go there. Now. It won't be here forever.

No comments: