We arrived in Chicago (‘my kind of town’ as the song goes) and drove into the city centre where our hotel was situated, a short walk from the banks of Lake Michigan. By chance I got an amazing corner room on the ninth floor with fabulous views on two sides including of the lake and nearby Grant Park. Sometimes you just get lucky! As a British person it is strange to be in a big city and look out on a body of water so large it stretches all the way to the horizon. It is like being on the coast but it is not the coast. There is no such thing in Britain. The hotel is next to Grant Park which has a huge aquarium, a planetarium and lots of trees and grass next to the shore. A very nice area. It became internationally famous in 2008 when Barack Obama (who is from Chicago) gave his victory speech in front of 250,000 people here. As it was not late I went for a walk to see what I could see. Chicago is famous for its blues music, and I chanced upon the legendary blues club Buddy Guy’s ‘Legends’ which was only a couple of blocks from the hotel. I randomly took photos of some things I saw - 4 dogs in a pushchair, a no guns in the hotel sign and the great views of the city.
On the day of the gig we assembled about 3.30pm to go and set up and sound check. The venue is called Reggie’s and we played at a festival here in 2018. It is a cool place with a record store and about 4 different stages inside the venue. Plus a hip loft apartment where the owner used to live but now bands can stay there and it is a spacious backstage area. Unusually for this tour we had a support band on this gig- a band called Marbin who are from Chicago and we had met before on the’Cruise to the Edge’ prog cruise a few years ago. Nice guys and a slick band. They kindly let us borrow their drum kit and amplifiers for our gig too. The crowd was lovely and I met up with some fans who I had met last time we were here including some who had been real supporters of Soft Machine and also executive producers of my ‘Songs from the Apricot Tree’ duduk album. Plus also some people I knew from Facebook. Overall a great gig though the sound of another gig going on in the next room was a little off putting at times - especially in the quiet numbers.
Next day was a 5 hour drive to Cincinnati - a city which didn’t mean much to me. I was aware that Steven Spielberg and Bootsy Collins were from there, but that was about it! I have not played there or even been there before, so I did not know what to expect. We drove straight to the venue, Ludlow’s Garage, as we were short of time. The clocks changed an hour between Chicago and Cincinnati so we had lost that hour too. It was in a very attractive part of town with nice cafes, restaurants, interesting shops and lots of greenery. When we walked into the venue we were surprised at how big it was, how nicely laid out the stage and seating was, and the excellent hospitality in the dressing room. A very helpful sound man called Alan made the sound check straightforward and the band dinners were particularly good. You might be surprised at how important these things are as a musician doing a gig, especially after a long drive. It is the difference between being well nourished, fuelled and relaxed and able to give your best and not feeling so good, being uncomfortable and distracted. The gig itself was fantastic. Everything came together - the sound was clear, the audience was very responsive and appreciative and certain tunes like Gesolreut, Out-bloody-rageous and Other Doors I reckon we took to the next level. Leonardo, our excellent manager, facilitator, tour manager, merchandise salesman and the man who makes it all happen - said as much too. A great night for merchandise sales too, which is always helpful for tour finances!
Next stop - Indianapolis.