Beck Hansen

       We woke up in Chicago after a long overnight from Minneapolis. I climbed out of my bunk on our tour bus and got my bag and stepped out into the icy morning. Foul weather has followed us for six months now. Where it’s supposed to be spring, it suddenly turns to rain and cold when we arrive. We are hungry for any sign of sun or warmth.
       I got into the hotel as quick as possible. The lobby was full of commotion. The holiday weekend was in evidence. Families were crammed into elevators. Out-of-towners were gathered for farm conventions.
       I was trying to adjust to the hustle and activity all around. We were all groggy and slow, collecting ourselves in the lobby. Though we’d slept all night, it wasn’t restful. Sleep on a bus is never restful. The continual jostling of the road and hum of the engine keeps one in a state of half-sleep and weary semiconsciousness. It’s a very specific kind of sleep. If you look into the eyes of a touring musician, you can see that look, which only comes from having slept on buses for months on end. There is a tacit sympathy between those who recognize that look in each other’s eyes. It is a look of imminent maniacal laughter and abject resignation.
       Actually, it isn’t as bad as all that, but for the 20 minutes or so after one wakes up on a bus and stumbles into a new town, it feels MUCH WORSE. But we have developed rituals to soothe ourselves while out on the road. In Chicago, we repair to a certain diner on Halsted and order ourselves an apple pancake of epic proportions, which we feast mightily upon and afterward feel satisfied that it was a job well done.
       In the afternoon we rode out to the New World Music Amphitheater to play at a festival put on by a local radio station, Q101. We are currently on a tour of “radio shows.” Several times a year modern rock stations all across the country put on such festivals, where bands who fall under the format of their playlists (and have a current song) are brought together for all-day extravaganzas. The audience that attends usually comes to hear their favorite song and experience the sounds of bands they might not get a chance to see otherwise. Today’s bill featured bands ranging from Veruca Salt to Bush.
       We pulled into the massive backstage complex of buses and semis. It was the same venue we played during the Lollapalooza tour, summer ‘95. That was during the week of the big heat wave. Temperatures were 115 degrees. The death toll was around 300. The humidity was unbearable. We moved slowly, our souls nearly cooked. Our show was a test of endurance. Staying conscious was the objective. The audience was a distant gaseous cloud. The great structure of the amphitheater seemed oppressive. Today, two years hence, it is bitterly cold and overcast. Everyone is bundled and shivering.
       We headed backstage and waited to play. Jamiroquai was across the hall. They circled round with smoke and whiskey, engulfing anyone in their repartee. We went on at 7 p.m. The audience was ready to go. We got them moving, if only to keep them from freezing to their seats. We walked to the car while thousands sang along with the singer of Bush, who was playing electrified sans band.
       We drove back to town and headed over to the Soul Kitchen as recommended by our in-town companion Chris Holmes. Cibo Matto had said it was the best food in North America. A tide of large plates with nuggets of delicious food came and affirmed Cibo’s proclamations.