We hit the big shoulders of Chicago at dusk, and el trains, each emblazoned with an iPod ad, greet and escort us to within gawking distance of the skyline. Which we never get any closer to. Our bare bones EconoLodge is on Mannheim Boulevard in a hard times neighborhood to the west. Dump the stuff, head for Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn, also west of downtown.
Fitzgerald’s is housed in a big old house, and booker Andy greets us, and Bill Fitzgerald himself is there, a big time music supporter who puts on a great festival, in addition to booking the best in roots music at the club. Tony Gilkyson and Rob Douglas, fresh off an almost missed plane flight from L.A., greet us. Sound check, pizza, play music. Paddi and Jeff Thomas, who host a Mt. Washington house concert that we play, show up, some Coles fans, and the father of landscape architect Catherine, another Coles family member. Some hometown love far from home. The crowd is modest in size but very enthused, and we do an encore. Bill hangs to the end, a true music lover, and we’ve made a good connection in the heartland. We pack up, venture outside, and are greeted by a thrillingly hellish wallop of oven heat, tropical humidity, thunder and lightning, and 60 mile per hour winds that knock over outdoor tables and awnings. Then the rain dumps, hard, and we wait it out, hanging out with Bill Fitzgerald and his (very good) sound man. The rain slows, we pack, drive soaked streets back to the EconoLodge. The Yukon is damp, and so are we.