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September 30 06

The Old Town School of Folk Music is housed in a converted public library next to a beautiful park in a quaint and long established Chicago neighborhood of tree-lined streets and corner pubs. The auditorium is in the shape of a half circle. Above the stage is an original WPA mural representing Man, Industry, Agriculture and Learning. It’s a gorgeous room with high ceilings and tall balcony. It’s reminiscent of a Frank Lloyd Wright Unitarian Church. We unload and breeze through a near perfect sound check. This is a rare pleasure we all savor: a knowledgeable and tasteful sound man, high quality mics, a great sounding room. Tonight will be fun. We slip away to a nearby Mexican restaurant recommended by the sound man. It’s homey and quick and delicious. It’s no Red Iguana Café but it’s quite good, especially for those who skipped breakfast and haven’t eaten all day. We wolf our food and get back to the gig with about 15 minutes to spare.

The first set starts promptly at 7:05 just as they printed on the schedule. This is place is super organized. There’s even a big clock on the floor by the monitors to keep the band honest. The show is great. We’re all acoustic with Shawn playing his trademark ultra sensitive backup, wisk brooms on snare drum. It’s wonderful to hear the vocals so clearly and the audience is super appreciative. It’s a full house of 400 souls and they seem to like these new sounds out of California. Chris Hillman and ace guitarist Larry Park run through a dazzling series of tunes from Chris’s epochs: Byrds, Burrito Brothers, the under-heralded Manassas, Desert Rose, and solo. This guy wrote or co-wrote “Sin City,” “Wheels,” “It Doesn’t Matter,” and hearing these songs from the Country Rock Canon straight from the horse’s mouth is more than a little thrilling.

Did we mention that we’re having fun? The Hawks close out the night, and the late night crowd is smaller, and somehow mysterious peppered with Coles regulars, our good old (young) friends whooping and hollering: “Yeah, Paul Marshall!” ritual cry is raised, to our hometown amusement. We say farewell to Chris and Larry, to our Coles friends, and we hit the road, late night laborious drive down one lane of under construction highway to Madison, Wisconsin. We arrive bleary eyed at the outer Madison home of Rob’s in-laws, the Williamses, music and art aficionados with comfy beds. Good sleep, good breakfast and conversation with Jane and Elliot, and we’re off for Minneapolis.