Tour Manager’s Guide: Chicago

Chicago Tour Guide
Photos by @brianwillette and @sullyguitars

Hi. My name is Danny. I’ve been touring with bands for some time and want to tell you about some of the places we’ve been. I know, I’m missing some important things from these cities but this is just what I’ve had time to see. If you have suggestions regarding where to go in your beloved hometown the next time I’m hurtling through in a van filled with drunk people, please let me know.

I’ve had some great times in Chicago. My favorite non-fiction book is set in Chicago (Devil in The White City). The Blackhawks are my favorite NHL team. Deep-dish pizza is great. My girlfriend hails from the windy city. It birthed the careers of some of my favorite comedians. I suppose you could say I’m a Chicagophile. If any Europeans read this, in my opinion, New York is to Chicago as London is to Paris. In that, London is English but very international. Paris is a French city. New York is American but very International. Chicago is an American city. On tour it’s like an oasis. So much of the Midwest is in abject decay and coated with a thick layer of rust. Then, finally, your routing gets you to Chicago and all is right in the world.

There was a distinct moment I realized Chicago is the shit. My first time as an adult in Chicago was with Boy and Bear at Lollapalooza and I lost my laminate on the first day, I couldn’t re enter the festival without a new one. I figured I’d walk over the bridge to artist relations at Grant Park where the festival is held and explain the situation. But when I crossed Michigan avenue and reached the bridge I found that it was blocked by a group of teenagers / college kids psyching themselves up for battle. Okay…

They had formed a line that stopped at the edge of the city side of the bridge. Standing approximately 100 yards across from them at the other side of the bridge was a line of security that was not fucking around. And then I remembered; I’d heard about this. Lollapalooza (and I assume many other festivals) were experiencing these flash mobs of people trying to storm their way into the festival. I shit you not groups of like 50 kids would organize where to meet on Twitter and attempt to plough their way onto the grounds. Most got tackled but one or two would make it through.

But I actually needed to get in and assumed the Oakley wearing security guards would understand my plight and non-affiliation with the goons positioned across the bridge. So I pushed my way past the lost boys to the edge of their border. I put my hands up and started approaching security like a soldier on patrol re entering his base. I got about half way between both groups when security started demanding I turn around. All I could say was, “BUT I’M SUPPOSED TO BE IN THERE! I’M WORKING. I JUST LOST MY PASS!” Yeah right… You lost your pass, “call artist relations!”, they yelled at me. I held up my phone and started yelling that they wouldn’t answer. Out of frustration I put my hands behind my head and put my cell phone in my mouth (I agree it was a weird reaction). When I turned around to face the Twitter warriors dressed like extras in Braveheart at a Phish concert, they charged. I became so worked up that I bit through the screen on my blackberry (it was 2011) and ran to the side of the bridge as a pitched battle between these kids trying to go see Eminem and the Oakley guards entrusted with protecting Jack White’s backstage refreshments began. As I worked my way through the engagement I began to admire everyone’s gusto. These security guards were body-slamming people and it didn’t deter anyone. Eventually I made my way through unscathed and got a pass. Then I had deep dish. And the weather was nice. And our show went well. And everyone was nice. And at the end of the day I came to the conclusion that I love Chicago.

On tour Chicago has some of the charm of NYC but its superior urban planning makes it easier to navigate. Broad boulevards make driving easier, alleyways for trash reduce the amount of rodents in the street (The amount of trash and rodents on the streets of NYC is borderline medieval). Part of New York’s charm is the winding streets in places like the West Village. It gives one the sense that there are things to discover. It’s exciting, I get it. Less of that in Chicago but boy o boy does it make moving a tour bus around easier.

Compared to other cities its size, accommodation is cheap in the Windy City (Yes I know it references the politics). Our go to is the City Suites Hotel. It’s in an older building but the rooms are clean and some of them have three beds. If you are a mega tourist, staying on Michigan avenue (the main street that sits on Lake Michigan) can be charming. I find the cities more touristy areas far more bearable than NYC’s. I’d rather drive a rusty nail through my forehead than stay in times square but a hotel near the John Hancock building in Chicago is fine by me. One time we played the House of Blues Chicago and stayed at an expensive hotel next door called, Hotel Chicago Downtown. If ya have da monies that’s not a bad choice. If you want a potential glimpse of The Pied Piper of RnB, R. Kelly lives at Trump Tower nearby. I’ve heard the apartment features a mural of him slam-dunking over the other characters in Space Jam. Every morning I pray to god that rumor is true.

If I have a morning off I enjoy getting coffee and walking around Grant park. Eventually I make my way to Maggie Daley park (attached to Grant Park). It’s full of these epic, mildly dangerous slides. Don’t worry about being the creepy older dude, people of all ages climb up and down the slides. Call me a cornball but I think going to the top of the John Hancock building is worth it. I also think going to the Ghirardelli chocolate shop is worth it. SUE ME. In that area the Art Institute is nice to see, I enjoy the Architecture foundation (Chi invented the skyscraper), The Field museum is dope, and walking on Lake Michigan is always pleasant.

I know there are more hipstery things to do in Chicago but with limited time I enjoy the big things. If you want to see a concert the Metro is the go to. Lincoln Hall is my favorite medium sized venue in town and it’s also next to Malnati’s, my favorite spot for deep-dish pizza. I prefer NYC style pizza, I find it more consistent but when deep dish is done well it’s divine (Don’t get me started on that garbage served in St. Louis). Gino’s is classic and worth a visit. I’ve had the Italian sausage hot dog thing and I like it but I don’t know where to find the best ones. If you do, Twitter me, immediately.

Chicago house obviously had an enormous impact on electronic music and the spirit of all that is still alive. I’ve been dancing at Nightcore, Logan Square Disco, and gone boozing at the East Room. All were fun. I’m cognizant though that the world of club nights is amorphous and these may not even exist anymore. But you get my point good Dj’s in abundance. Dancing to be had.

I’ve had breakfast a couple times at Batter and Berries. Line was a bit long but it’s good. If you stay at City Suites hotel there are solid options in all directions for eggs and pancakes and all that good stuff.

Last piece of advice, unless you are going to see the winter classic, don’t go in Winter. Just don’t.

That’s all we ever have time for. Get your Ferris Bueller on. Go to Chicago. As always if you have suggestions send them my way, I want to go to where you like to go!!!!!!! Haters send that hate mail. Send it I want it.

Danny writes about music and other things. You can find him Here. Right here.

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