On Friday the 13th I rented a Zipcar and drove to Oak Lawn to see Califone play in someone’s living room. Getting there entailed going through Beverly, where I lived for three years. Thinking about that time as I drove lent a sadness to the trip, but it probably wasn’t the worst state of mind in which to hear Tim Rutili’s wistful, shambling songs.
It’s often odd to be in a roomful of strangers who are each having a personal experience listening to music. It’s even more awkward when that room is a suburban living room in some stranger’s house. I overheard a lot of people complimenting the blinds and the lighting fixtures. The couple on the couch next to me introduced themselves and then we didn’t utter more than two words to each other the rest of the evening. That’s normal in a bar or nightclub but strange in a private home. There’s an expectation of familiarity or intimacy there but the fact that the thirty or so people crowding the space had paid to see musicians who could pack a venue holding hundreds lent an unreality to the whole experience.
It is a testament to the songs played that night that I was able to get past the social anxiety that the setting presented. Afterwards, a couple people who had seen me drawing asked to see the sketches and said nice things about them. The hostess’s cousin even took cellphone pictures.
I bought a record at the merch table—which was set up to strategically block access to the second floor of the bungalow—and ran out into the rain. The guys had played a half hour longer than advertised and I had to get the Zipcar back to Pilsen quickly in order not to incur a late charge. When I pulled into the parking spot off Halsted, it was pouring. I used the shrink-wrapped record as an umbrella as I ran to the bar for a nightcap.
But wait: I wrote short reviews of an above average Hong Kong actioner and an interminable Bulgarian epic about a girl with no belly button.