Frontalot Tour Diary Days 44-46: St Paul, Chicago & DeKalb

Official Vic-20 Merch“Why,” said the sallow-faced, yellow-eyed woman in my dream, her face a contorted maze of wrinkles and betrayal, “have you not written another entry in your tour diary?”  She clutched the small, sad doll in her hand ever tighter as a skyscraper in the distance fell to its knees and wailed in sympathy.  “Why, Vic-20?  Why?“  Such are the ontological spasms of my guilt-ridden, blog-neglecting mind.  Why, indeed!  Well, I’ll tell you: too much has been going on for me to take an hour and commit fingertip to keyboard.  Thankfully I have an excellent memory and will do that for you now, seated as I am at a bespoke kitchen table in Madison, WI with tea at the ready.

Those of you with elephantine memories don’t need me to tell you that the next stop on our tour was Station 4 in St Paul.  For Brandon and I, it was time for a family reunion.  Brandon and the rest of the band piled into his father’s lovely condo overlooking the Mississippi while I took a detour to have dinner with my aunt Debbie who lives in Minneapolis and my uncle Paul who actually flew in from Rochester, NY to see the show.  I think he may have outdone even the most hardcore of our nerd fans in terms of distance traveled to a single gig!  Flying to cons doesn’t count.  Sorry.  Thanks to my stellar restMe and the famaurant-name-analysis skills (and a bit of luck) we ended up at Luci Ancora, a lovely Italian restaurant near St. Catherine University which seemed custom-built to host families for meals during graduation and parent’s weekend.  Nevertheless, it was delicious.

After navigating around the truly astounding amount of roadwork in central St. Paul we arrived at Station 4 to set up and soundcheck.  The venue was large and cavernous, a la the 40-watt, but sans the cool green rooms.  They did, however, have Big Buck Hunter, which faithful readers will know is one of my favorite games, second only to Police Trainer.  On the bill that night were Brandon, Vilification Tennis and – you guessed it – us!  Brandon was great as usual, VT was hilariously vulgar, and we were in top form as we pranced nerdily around the huge stage.  We love you Minneapolis/St. Paul!  You made our night.  And thank you Aunt Debbie for both shooting some video and providing us with a generous care package – we are now actually in possession of the world’s puffiest corn puffs.  The land four our future roadside novelty site in Wyoming is already in escrow.

That night we stayed with Brandon’s dad, who made us an amazing breakfast spread the following morning as we woke up under-rested for what we thought was going to be an 8.5-hour drive to Chicago.  It turned out not to be so long, but it was noteworthy.  As we crawled through traffic on I-94 we Hey buddy!  Your epidermis is showing!noticed a car that was smoking profusely.  At first I thought: that’s a stupid place to burn rubber, buddy.  Then I noticed gasoline pooling beneath the undercarriage and catching flame.  Summoning my ninja reflexes, I lowered the passenger-side window and yelled to the man, who was staring at his smoking and flaming vehicle, the most helpful thing I could muster: “Hey buddy!  Your car is on fire!”  He appeared unmoved by my good samaritanism, so I snapped a photo as we drove off.  I did it discretely, though; he looked kind of thuggish.

When we arrived at Ronny’s, we all thought the same thing, which one hopes never to think when arriving at a venue for which you sacrificed precious sleep in order to make sound check: Really?  This place? The outside is, shall we say, unassuming.  The inside is, shall we say, odiferous.  I mean damn.  The place smells like the bladders of a thousand feral cats.  Why they don’t sell nose filters for $1 I’ll never understand.  Despite the smell, though, it was a fun place to play.  On the bill with us that night were Whoremoans, Brandon,  and Former Fat Boys.  In the audience was my sister Lisa, whom I hadn’t seen since she moved to Chicago last fall.  She’s a real-life goth girl.  Also there was my fellow ASCAP member Jeff Kelly, a fine drummer and talented songwriter.  After the show I broke with the band to hang out with my sister and her friend at her apartment, where we ate pizza and watched Pink Flamingos, two activities I will never attempt to combine again.

Lisa, look out!  ZOMBIES!The next morning we had breakfast at Lisa’s place of employment, the amazing Angel Food Bakery.  Afterwards she dropped me off at the Grand/Cicero stop on the MD-R Metra line, where I was to catch the next train to Addison in order to catch up with the band.  This is where things went downhill.  I could go on and on about how unhelpful the signage was at the station, or how unreasonable the train was for not stopping at the Grand/Cicero station on weekends, or perhaps how the Metra website should have indicated, when I clicked on the station, that it was not in service on that day.  But that would be whinging, and I am a man who takes responsibility for his actions.  I should have looked up the train schedule.  I did not.  As a result, I was stranded on pedestrian-unfriendly North Cicero for four hours as resident tour savior Jen Blakeslee drove from Addison, through post-Cubs-game traffic, to fetch both me and Sturgis – who was likewise stranded – from the belly of the beast.  Thankfully I had Lisa’s home-made Elvis brownies and my copy of Sudoku-a-Day to keep me busy during the interim.  I’m sick of Bejeweled, see.

One side-effect of being four hours late to a gig is that your soundcheck evaporates in a poof of too late, schmuck.  It was therefore with a sense of trepidation that I waited inside Otto’s in DeKalb while Whoremoans, Egon’s Unicat and Former Fat Boys put on stellar shows.  Whoremoans put on a great show, though due to healthy living he can no longer sing his song about man boobs.  EU was a very different act for a Frontalot show, what with their shredding electric guitar and lead singer who actually sang.  They were extremely Whence the man-teats?entertaining though, and the lead singer engaged in wily antics such as absconding with a concertgoer’s hat and jumping on the guitarist’s back during a solo.  He seemed very excited to be onstage.  Former Fat Boys’ frontman Ben Garbe, who hosted the band while Sturgis and I were cavorting about in Chicago, put on a great set despite being under the weather; he showed a couple of music videos to allow himself recuperation time.  They were sweet and had dinosaurs in them.

Then came our set.  Did I mention that we didn’t soundcheck?  Brandon’s mic caused wailing feedback for the first two songs, causing him to not sing during “Bizarro Genius Baby.”  There was a brief disagreement onstage between Brandon and Front vis-a-vis how to resolve the issue.  Brandon: Take me out of this monitor completely.  Front: It’s just a wet / dry issue.  Let’s fix it! Kung-fu antics ensued and Brandon emerged victorious.  So much for his post-tour bonus!  Things also got a little awkward during “Better at Rapping” when the audience refused to oblige during the chorus which baits the audience to “holler and cheer.”  After the song was over Brandon asked the audience if they could hear Front, since they, like, didn’t cheer.  Insert sound of chirping crickets here.

All in all, though, the crowd was fantastic as always and superstar soundman Nick Binary made the most of the situation.  People were singing along and dancing.  We even did an impromptu request last night due to Brandon’s deactivation of the vocalizer.  The choice?  Pr0n Song.  Considering we have never rehearsed it as a group, it went astoundingly well.  The audience seemed pleased.  Another highlight of the show was the use of some Edible Norris tunes as interstitial musiThis is what the man DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE.c.  I hadn’t heard them played on 24-inch woofers before.  Basstastic!  Thank you to everyone in DeKalb for coming out and making our Illinois leg worth the Rock Island shenanigans.  We hopped in the van and headed off to Madison, stopping on the way for some snacks a the Belvidere Oasis, a pretty fascinating mega-rest-stop that spans the highway with a glass-and-metal structure.  Two sad facts about this place: 1. You are not allowed to take pictures inside.  Not that it stopped me!  I’m a scofflaw.  2. The McDonald’s doesn’t have a dollar menu.  I needed no further reason to go elsewhere for my 2am snack, a chorizo hot dog from the gas station next door.

OK, I feel like I’m running out of interesting things to say, so I’ll let you go and get all prettied up for tonight’s show at the High Noon Saloon with Whoremoans and Brandon.  Show’s on at 8pm – be there!

6 Responses to “Frontalot Tour Diary Days 44-46: St Paul, Chicago & DeKalb”

  1. Eli

    I just want to apologize on behalf of Illinois. It doesn’t mean to offend, but it can be… awkward around new people it likes. You know how it is.

    Minor foibles and wall flowering instincts aside, me and my people in DeKalb found the show an absolute delight. Better than imagined. Indeed, a life-changing experience. You kick such fat beats live that I now have trouble listening to an album without thinking, “if I leave now, can I make it to Philly before them…?”

    We’re also willing to agree: No hard feelings about the sound check snafu, if you guys can forgive our little Not-Cheering-During-Better-At-Rapping thing. Besides, Otto’s always fucks up the sound at least once a show. Until I read of your Metra adventure I assumed that’s what had happened.

    I also want to point out that spring semester just ended here, and most of the college folk already fled town for the safety of their parent’s washing machines. So literally we went from a young-person-rich town of 45,000, to a rural farming town of 15,000 last week. Again, sorry on behalf of Illinois.

    Best of luck on the remainder of your tour, and come back soon. We’ll do better next time.

  2. Mykiezee

    Just wanted to say that the show on Saturday was awesome!
    Thought you might be amused to know that apparently Ronny’s has a Twitter account. (they can’t afford an air freshener, but someone there is all about the new media?) Whoever is in charge also has a… ‘creative’ way of retweeting.
    My twit:” Thoroughly enjoyed the  @mc_frontalot show! Thoroughly didn’t enjoy the ronny’s bar, but great for a small, up close, show!”
    Became: “RT @mykiezee: Thoroughly enjoyed the  @mc_frontalot show! at ronny’s bar, great for a small, up close, show!”
    Checking their feed, I came across:”RT @MeganHowdy: i love opening the door to Ronny’s and being knocked out by how awesome it is”
    A little digging turned up the original as:”i hate opening the door to Ronny’s and being knocked out by the stench of cat piss.”
    Oh well, it was sweet to see you guys in a tiny venue as opposed to the hugeness of PAX!  Have fun on the rest of the tour.

  3. Your Sister

    Hey. Your brownies were not made from THAT recipe. Don’t insult your pastry chef, new wave, rockabilly, non Goth sister. Lol.

  4. Your Sister

    How many times do I have to tell you I’m not and never was GOTH ya freak!! I feel terrible you were stuck in that area because it was terrible. I’m so sorry.

    I look possessed in that picture. Love u. Hope u liked the brownies.