Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Consider Me Entertained


Saturday night, the fiancee and I went out to the Rosemont Theatre to see Lewis Black. I'm not good with comedic timing, and apparently, I'm not too good at remembering comedic performances. I laughed quite a bit and had a pretty good time.

There was one bit about when you go to Las Vegas, don't bother gambling. Just change in about $100 of quarters and flush them down the toilet one by one. It's like gambling except that every once in awhile, the quarters will clog the toilet, back it up then come spitting back out.

Reminds me of a slot machine.

He started the set off talking about anticipation and how the moment before something starts and consummates, that's the best part about it. The real thing just can't match what our imaginations make the actual thing to be. Black always has great bits to start off things, this being one of them (even though it sounds somewhat more philosophical as I talk about it compared to when he talked about it).

The rest of the show turned out better than my own anticipation, but I can't remember it. I count myself lucky that way, when it comes to comedy. Give it enough time, and I can forget the jokes. Unfortunately, somewhat, I've seen enough Lewis Black material lately that I knew about 5% or 10% of his act that night. Either which way, I very much enjoyed the act.

Before going home that night, we stopped by Leona's, a great unpretentious place that has a couple places in Chicago that has a fair selection of vegan fare. One of the owners, apparently, had gone to see Lewis Black that night, also.

He said that after having seen Black 10 years ago, he felt that Black's career has started to face a downturn. The guy still enjoyed the show, but it supposedly didn't compare to some earlier shows in Black's career.

We also realized that Black has had a pretty busy year, showing up in three movies, heading a bunch of comedy festivals and tours, showing up on The Daily Show and doing a few of his own tours. I don't know about the guy's overall career, but I can understand how he might feel burnt out and tired nowadays.

His busy year kind of reminds me of Jude Law's career last year. Piece of advice, Lewis Black, don't sleep with the nanny.


Beginning of this week or a couple weeks ago, Dawn e-mails me about her gig at The Heartland Cafe. I figure I should take the opportunity to go, especially since I didn't have to work today. So, the fiancee and I gather ourselves together, get on the El and head way up to the northern border of the city, second to the last stop on the Red Line. The Heartland Cafe is pretty much just around the corner from the Morse stop.

First off, I really dig The Heartland Cafe. It reminds me of a more versatile and less stuffy and less hippie version of Club Passim in Cambridge, MA (Dawn, if you're reading this and you ever try to get a gig in the Boston area, you should look into Club Passim, among plenty of other places).

Like many "equivalent" places in Chicago, the flavor feels different than in Boston. How do I describe it? In Boston, there's something more pretentious and Phishy/Grateful Deady about the culture of the hippiness. I get the sense of more of a stoner, lackadasaical feeling in Boston. Maybe it has something to do with the closeness to Vermont and Maine.

I guess I can't really say that The Heartland Cafe didn't necessarily feel hippie-like. It felt laid back, but it didn't necessarily feel lackadasaical. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it did. Maybe my technicolored bleeding lenses of memory taint my comparison.

Maybe The Heartland Cafe simply had a more modern and clean feel to it, and it settled itself in a grittier setting than Harvard Square. I didn't get the sense of stuffy pretentiousness, though, while at the same time not getting the feeling of run down or "back to nature" to it, and I like it that way. It felt like a more progressive than regressive.

And even moreso than Leona's, The Heartland Cafe had some good vegan options. The Chicago Diner and this Buddhist non-profit place pushes the vegan fare to the next level, but The Heartland Cafe had tons of great options for vegan fare. I had a soba noodle dish with tofu and veggies. That thing went into my mouth like I hadn't eaten all day, and I still couldn't finish it.

But I've digressed enough. Someone else played before Dawn, but sadly, I can't remember his name. He played pretty well. Unfortunately, I focused so much on browsing the menu and getting food into my mouth that I didn't have the attention to focus on him. He started doing the beginning of some Paula Abdul toon. I also enjoyed a depressing song that he played, but I didn't really pick up much on his music. That's the misfortune of not having any familiarity with a musician when you see them.

Then Dawn came onto stage. I always feel weird when I see the spotlight on a friend and they perform. Can't really pinpoint the actual feeling except for a strange awkwardness. I've known this girl from fun, silly and sometimes philosophical conversations at work and hanging out for dinner or having a snack somewhere. When you see someone on stage, I just feel this dissonance of everyday friend with something special performer.

She made a silly quip during one of her songs about the old company where we worked, and she also had a couple moments of audience participation, which helped to break down that barrier a little. Nonetheless, the dissonant barrier still remained. I haven't really seen any good friends perform live in awhile, though. . .even though, come to think of it, I always especially had that awkward dissonance whenever the fiancee got up on stage for karaoke. She puts on quite a performance and everyone at The Milky Way loved her, so yeah. . ..

But back to Dawn. Boy, that chick can belt out the tunes. She has a great voice, which earns her that healthy dissonance of performance respect. On one song she played on the piano, she even hit this great sultry range that reminded me of this Quebecois jazz singer I saw up in Quebec City. Then, through the rest of the set, I felt her voice putting many recorded female vocalists I've heard to shame.

Not really versed in music, especially not in solo singer-songwriter type stuff, I really can't say much about the tunes themselves. Dawn's got a great natural confident onstage presence. Then again, she has it offstage, too.

A couple songs stick out, though. I don't think she announced the name to it, but I "Strong" did really well. It had a great story to it, and she did a great job expressing her passion during the chorus.

How could anyone forget the audience participation song about Erin, a used car salesman, elves and The Birds of Paradise. I can't remember too many details about the story, but I know that Erin really didn't have much interest in the salesman but like elves a lot.

Dawn played a Christmas song on her piano. I think it was called Noel, but it's not the Noel we all know. For some reason, I think it made me feel sad.

She also played one sad song that had a name that I feel like I should remember followed by a happier one. I liked them both.

Overall, Dawn really impressed me with her performance. People always have new ways to impress me, especially if they're performers or have some kind of artistic expression. If they get into their work, which Dawn did, they can really reveal something overwhelming and exciting about themselves that words can't describe and everyday interaction just can't touch.

I really look forward to expressing myself that way again, whether through showing people my novel or other stories. . .or, I don't know, performing at open mics or something. Back at Marlboro my last semester, I remember when they had an open mic every week. It inspired me to write all types of poems and read them up in front of the crowd, and they loved it. It gave me a lot of fun.

And at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, they have a great open mic on Sunday nights. Seriously, it exposed me directly to black culture in a great way. Nowhere else in the Boston area did I have such exposure to so many black people at one time and most of them baring their souls through poetry. Really inspiring. I read one poem there, but after that, I just didn't feel like I could match these peoples' souls.


Crap! It's late. I've got to get up at something of a good time tomorrow to work on the job search. Maybe I'll write about how tonight entertained me, especially since I'll see another episode of The Lost Room tomorrow night.

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