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Roomsound, Califone

Perishable, April 8, 2001

Track Listing: 1. Trout Silk, 2. Bottles and Bones (Shade & Sympathy), 3. Fisherman’s Wife, 4. Porno Starlet vs. Rodeo Clown, 5. Tayzee Nub, 6. Slow Rt. Hand, 7. St. Augustine (A Belly Full of Swans), 8. Wade in the Water, 9. Rattlesnakes Smell like Split Cucumbers, 10. New Black Tooth

Why can’t they all be just like this?

It seemed like the start of a typical Monday (never too exciting a prospect). The original plan for the previous night had been to attend WestFest in Ukrainian Village to catch the Meat Puppets. But there was no way to be back in bed at a reasonable hour to be rested enough to face the Monday morning alarm.

A change of plans was hardly unpredictable.

I skipped the Meat Puppets show in favor of reprising my wildly successful role of Couch Potato. And although watching the Cubs beat the Cardinals in the rubber game of an important series was not a bad consolation prize, I couldn’t help but feel I’d made the wrong decision, missing the return of Cris Kirkwood to the Puppets lineup. Then I get word from an eyewitness report that they played 5 songs from Meat Puppets II.

Snooze, you lose.

Breaking news. You are in the cube, ho hum, navigating the beginning of a fairly uneventful day, trying to figure out how another summer managed to sneak on by. But then … Breaking News arrives via email, Electronic Pony Express. Hey, did you know Califone is playing a free show at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion today at lunch?

Califone at Millennium Park? Free? I didn’t have to think twice. There would be no hesitation or no second guessing this time.

Ever since the Frank Gehry structure was completed in 2004 (four years prior for those keeping score), I promised myself that I would take in a show at the Pritzker to experience the venue. The place had such great views of the city, it was outside so you could enjoy the summer air and the smell of the lake while simultaneously taking in that stunning segment of skyline. You could look up and see up to the sky. It was on my to-do list. One of these days, one of these days.

Of course, if you’re not careful, the mirage of opportunity has a way of evaporating faster than summer itself. Best laid plans. Not surprisingly, I just never quite managed to check off a Millennium Park concert. Inertia or laziness or just plain life itself had me in its grip.

Not now. Not today. No way.

I go with a coworker. The weather is crazy-perfect, 74-not-a-cloud-in-the-sky degrees. The universe is in alignment, precise as an eclipse. I am about to enjoy an unexpected date with Tim Rutili and band.

We’re sitting at the center of the pavilion, about 20 rows back. The sound swarms as the sensory massage begins. It was not quick like a fix but something more patient, taking its time and playing by its own rules. You lay down on the table in the parlor as the magic band plays, building slow and steady before it goes for the kill. It penetrates deeper tissue. There is a freight train coming ’round the bend. It is a progression as Califone sound waves are smashing off the Gehry structure in a carefully orchestrated sonic attack. Your brain tries to soak it all in, tries to catch each of the invisible darts. The distributed sound reinforcement system is obviously a success. This is the perfect roomsound. And it is, I repeat, outside.

It occurs on a Monday afternoon at lunch. My first concert at Pritzker Pavilion, under the shine of an August high noon sun. I get to see a favorite local band for free. It is such an unexpected start to the week. I will remember it all. The banjo, guitars, keyboards, the Beefhearty-beats, the trumpet and trombone, and the vocals too, all of it decanted into a smooth blend of blends.

We walk back to our desks, far more fulfilled than had we ventured into a typical lunchtime destination and stuffed ourselves with a personal pan from Giordano’s or a quickie from Jimmy Johns.

Settling in for the remains of the day, the obvious question lingers: Why can’t they all be just like this?