Saturday, April 18, 2009
Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL, US

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clatter Posted: 20-04-09 6:25
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(Sorry to be so long-winded…)

It was awful. The part where the show ended, I mean. It seemed like it was over almost as soon as it started! We'd been looking forward to this show since we bought our tickets in early February. We made a fun trip of it, traveling the eight hours from Missouri by train. After we got to the hotel Friday night, sitting in bed and still feeling like we were moving, Joe said, "Do you have the tickets?" I thought he was talking about train tickets and looked at him like he was completely mad. "What are you talking about?" says I, maybe even a bit testily, thinking it was odd and inappropriate that he should be worrying about train tickets after we'd only just arrived. "The tickets to the show…did you bring them?" Chances are I might have muttered a few expletives at this point, in addition to admitting that, no, I did not remember to pluck the concert tickets from the wall where they'd been pinned for 10-odd weeks. I remembered to print train schedules and hotel confirmations and get directions and so on, but the show tickets were still safely stowed eight hours away above my desk.

So I began the arduous task of researching the Ticketmaster policy on Tickets Left At Home By The Dumbass Concertgoer on their web site. Through my phone. With tiny print and dial-up speeds. After an eight-hour train ride. Finally I got to the part where it said they MAY issue new tickets if they felt like it, but for General Admission shows it was highly doubtful. I finally found the number to call and dialed, holding my breath and mulling over my options. Lie and say the tickets were stolen? Fell out of my suitcase? Never arrived in the mail?? I settled on the truth and steeled myself for the response, which came in the form of an automated voice saying they were closed and wouldn't be around to help until 9 the next morning. Clearly the "convenience charge" tacked on to the ticket price isn't referring to the convenience of the customer. I resigned myself to going to sleep.

I woke up the next morning in a bilious mood. It was hours before the Ticketmaster folk would be manning the phones and I couldn't stand the suspense. Would they reissue the tickets? Would we have to pay full price for new tickets? Would the show be - gasp - sold out?! Finally, moments after 9, I called and spoke to the most pleasant customer service person imaginable. I told him the (true) situation and he acted like it was the most normal thing in the world and assured me there would be a couple new tickets waiting for us at the will call window. I couldn't believe it! All those convenience charges seemed a pittance for the flood of relief his calm words afforded. I pushed my way through the crowd waiting to get in The Original Pancake House and told Joe the good news. We stuffed ourselves on pancakes to celebrate and had a lovely day walking around Chicago, strolling along the lake, and laughing at how many city blocks of highrises would fit on our farm.

After an easy L ride and a fabulous pizza dinner, we joined the queue outside the Vic and filed into the theatre minutes later. In an uncharacteristic move, I decided I didn't want to stand on the floor up front because, as a wee lass, I always manage to stand behind people who are five feet taller than me with shoulders the width of a chifforobe. The luck that had stuck with us throughout the trip struck again and we managed to snag a spot against the railing, two levels up and dead center. That put us about eye level with the band and plenty high to clear the heads below, so it was the perfect vantage point. Plus, we had something to lean on, which made standing for three hours a bit more comfortable. Then, the wait.

Finally the opening band took the stage. Joe had observed that the van/trailer combo out front, typical get-up for an opening band, had Missouri tags, but we thought that was just coincidence. When the band announced they were from Kansas City, we were aghast -- how had we never heard of them? And more importantly, if a band from Missouri got to open for Travis, why couldn't it be US?!?! Joe reminded me we might not be the best choice for an opener and I reluctantly agreed. We enjoyed the music of the Republic Tigers -- interesting chord progressions, almost Bowie-esque vocals over solid grooves, a killer bass tone and some cool high-hat / ride cymbal work. Unfortunately, the crowd didn't seem so responsive and I felt sorry for the band; opening bands have the unenviable task of warming the audience up for the Big Act, but more often than not come out with the demeanor of a band defeated before they even begin. I've been there and it's not always a fun position to be in. Hopefully they garnered a few new fans and are having a lot of fun along the way.

After what seemed like an eternity of guitar tuning and mic checks, Travis finally took the stage. Right off the bat the lighting was spectacular, even in its simplicity, with a changing solid-color backdrop that made silhouettes of the band. This was to remain a theme throughout the night, with the usual crowd lighting mixed in here and there. Most hilarious of all, though, was that Joe and I were convinced there was a stand-in drummer for the first couple of songs. We were appalled at the thought something had happened to Neil! Finally, between songs, he pushed his hair back and Joe exclaimed, "It IS Neil!" Haha -- when did his hair get so long?? We had a good laugh and were oh-so-relieved.

In spite of the band's usual superhuman energy right from the get-go, it seemed to take the crowd a few songs to lighten up. Maybe this is how it always is and I've always just missed it by being up front, but it was pretty disconcerting to stand amongst wooden figures who looked as if they'd stumbled into the wrong venue, especially with such an electrifying performance in front of them. Soon, though, the vigor and vibrancy of the band infected the crowd and everyone began to look as if they were having a great time.

Not too far into the set, Fran pulled up mid-song and apologized for the abrupt break in the action but explained he was being shocked by the microphone and needed to have someone fix it. Hilarity ensued when no one seemed to respond to his request and he just stood there, waiting for some assistance and cracking jokes at their expense. Joe and I exchanged knowing looks; I chronically get shocked by microphones and have no end of complaining to do about it. It's not just that it's impressively painful; for me, it makes me feel like a pathetic lab rat who can't seem to learn to keep my mouth off the microphone. It harkens back to the days of piano lessons when teachers would rap the knuckles of students whose fingers weren't curved properly. So I was definitely feeling Fran's pain and hope he wasn't suffering throughout the night.

Another wacky highlight of the show was the marriage proposal that took place onstage. The groom-to-be did an admirable job of maintaining his composure and, even in spite of the few hecklers, waxed poetic about his love for his lady then brought forth a proposal on bended knee. Presumably the answer was "yes" and the happy twosome got to enjoy a song while sitting on the drum riser.

Beyond that, what more can I say? Rather than copy and paste the thesaurus entries for "amazing," rather than smearing this paragraph with superlatives that just somehow never quite capture the true brilliance of the show, let me just say that, well, the show was amazing. The music was amazing. The performance was amazing. See, now I'm gushing without really being descriptive. All I can say is, don't pass up an opportunity to see these guys live. Really, it's hard to put into words the vibe you feel at a Travis show. There's so much crazy fun energy that it's like a drug and you don't want it to end. And that's why it was awful. Because it did end, eventually. And now we have to wait for next time.
wee Posted: 20-04-09 7:16
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Travis is my favorite band and I've seen them at least 15 times over the last 10 years. I saw them the evening before, as well at the Fine Line in Minneapolis and it was an awesome show! This show in Chicago, however was completely opposite of the Mpls show. It wasn't bad - it was just different. I've never seen a show of Travis' that didn't have that warm, personable Fran leading the way and setting the overall tone. This was definitely an angry (or frustrated!) Fran show. And angry and Travis makes for a strange and unexpected show vibe.

It started a few songs into the set when Fran stopped the song and apologized while saying he couldn't continue because he kept getting shocks on his mouth through his mic and that his mouth was totally sore. He said it had been happening since sound check and pleaded with someone to fix the problem. However, no one seemed to be doing anything that we could see to help and finally Andy gave Fran his foam mic cover thing. But I don't think it really fixed the problem and you could just tell that Fran was frustrated throughout the entirety of the gig. At every hand off to his guitar tech between songs there seemed to be an angry exchange. I felt bad for Fran because he was clearly not enjoying himself and it made me nervous watching! So, because of this mood Fran didn't do any of his normal interactions with the crowd. There were no intimate stories between songs, no walking out into the audience on Falling Down, no sing along or pogoing to WDIAROM, no interactions between Fran and the rest of the band. But there was a new element of Fran's frustration definitely being expressed in all the great screams and yells during his vocals. You could feel his emotions coming out through his performance.

It was a strange vibe and it seemed like they were having a lot of technical issues throughout as the crew were on stage as much as the band! And then there was the juxtaposition of the marriage proposal in the middle of this tense performance. It just felt like it definitely wasn't the positive, happy, normal Travis feeling that a marriage proposal would typically fit right into - nope, not that night.

So, like I said it wasn't a bad show - just a totally different side of a Travis performance that I've personally never experienced at one of their gigs. If I had never seen Travis live before I probably wouldn't have thought anything was wrong or maybe I'm reading too much into it all but it definitely felt off to me. And I'm even more grateful that I got to experience the amazing show the night before in Minneapolis so I could still get my "normal" live Travis fix!!!

Fran - sorry, everything seemed to be going wrong for you that night and I hope your next show makes you happy! And thanks for the photo the evening before as you listened to my friend and me freaking out about our car being towed during the show. Can't wait to see you again! You're the best.

Turtleneck Posted: 24-04-09 3:16
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As most of you know, Chicago was the American Boardie Convention as well as the first concert I've attended since 1992. I was so excited when I woke up that morning just knowing something we Boardies had been planning for so long was finally going to happen.

We had an unexpected Fran encounter during the afternoon, yay! A daytime picture is always nice.

People started to line up early, so we took our places on the sidewalk and there we sat for hours and hours. But time passed quickly because we were joined by new Boardies who added new conversation and had a few Travis sightings across the street.

We all had front row from Fran to Andy. What a completely wonderful experience to see my favorite band surrounded by "old friends who just met" (to quote Gonzo in The Muppet Movie). And now I understand what everyone means about seeing them live. The best way I can describe it, is that the music has more weight to it. The loud bass turns your whole body into a tympani drum and even the weight of the guys' feet banging on the floor as they jump around...everything is heavier and just more real, I guess.

In our matching Boardie T-shirts, we played kazoos during Closer which was a big FAIL, but we blew bubbles during Sing and it was pretty cool.

The marriage proposal to Sandy touched us all. She was treated like a celebrity all evening receiving congrats from friends and strangers alike.

Despite the trouble with the microphone shocking poor Fran, Travis rocked with all their might. We got pictures with the band (and a group shot with the famous gong!) after the show and I left on a complete Travis high, anxiously awaiting seeing them again in Cleveland.
Lizzie b Posted: 25-04-09 8:57
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3 Times And You Lose
Chinese Blues
Writing To Reach You
J. Smith
Selfish Jean
Something Anything
Long Way Down
Love Will Come Through
As You Are
Side/Eyes Wide Open/Side
Falling Down

Humpty Dumpty Love Song
My Eyes
All I Wanna Do Is Rock
Before You Were Young
More Than Us
Blue Flashing Light
Why Does It Always Rain On Me


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