On our way out of town on Friday, I was scrolling through my social media feed when I saw a headline with the words “This might be the biggest Twin Cities weekend of the summer.” That is not what you really want to see when you’re leaving for a weekend getaway. We already knew we were going to miss Northern Spark and the launch of the Green Line, but we kept our eyes on Chicago.
It seemed that city was also having a pretty big weekend, and we were right in the middle of it. Most of our fellow commuter train passengers on Saturday appeared to be headed to the Blues Festival . We were there to play tourist. I grew up outside of Chicago, and a part of me will always consider Chicago to be “my city” no matter how Minnesotan I feel these days. It’s always fun to share my memories of Chicago, especially now that my daughter is old enough to get excited about it too. I love that she showed as much enthusiasm for some of the more iconic scenes as she did a random playground we happened by.
That evening we made our way to the Wicker Park neighborhood (after the six year old was safely deposited at Grandma’s) for the reason we were willing to leave town on one of the best Twin Cities weekends of the summer. Braid and the Smoking Popes at the Double Door’s 20th Anniversary celebration. As soon as we saw that these two old favorites were playing, we jumped on the tickets and made our plans.
I grew up listening to these bands. I mean that specifically: I listened to them in my late teens and early twenties. They were, along with a few select others, my coming of age soundtrack. Braid, in particular, was perfect coming of age music. With lines like “let’s stop clapping / let’s start doing / a dream for the teens and in-betweens / and twenties yet unseen” the teenage me was conscious of the fact that these were guys just a couple of years older than me. They often sang about finding your way, and it had a strong impact on me as I sorted out my ideas about life and love. I saw them live a few times before they broke up in 1999.
In 2004, I caught the reunion tour. By then, I lived in the Twin Cities, and I was dating my now-husband. I was in my mid-twenties, which meant that the band members were pushing thirty. My youthful optimism never considered that the show might disappoint, and it didn’t. It actually made my Top Ten Favorite Shows even though it made me feel older than my years to have a reunion show on my Top Ten list. I still consider myself an optimist, but I have to admit that it did occur to me, how ever briefly, that ten years might make a difference.
They opened with a song I didn’t know–the new record comes out next month–and then launched into a series of older songs from Frame & Canvas and other records I know so well. There was no need to worry. Funnily enough, lines like “a dream for the tweens, and in-betweens, and twenties yet unseen” can still resonate several years past one’s twenties.
The show could have ended there, and it would have been worth the trip. It was already on my Top Ten Favorite Shows of all time–no matter what having two reunion shows on my list might mean about my age or taste. But the Smoking Popes were up next.
The Smoking Popes were the first local band I listened to. They were the first band I saw play live so many times I lost track of when and where I saw them, and eventually it became no-big-deal in that way that local bands can sometimes get even to their super fans. After a while, they didn’t play as much, and I moved away anyway. I did catch them at the Triple Rock a few years ago. That was a good show, but it doesn’t compare to the one I saw this weekend. Saturday’s show was a reunion of the super fans. It seemed like every song was a sing along in a crowd that knew every word. No one yelled out “Pretty Pathetic” even though we all wanted them to play it. Probably because we knew they were saving it for the end of the show with the stripped down beginning and dramatic end. It was far from no-big-deal.
Here’s to the past for the memories and the music. And here’s to what is still unseen. Let’s stop clapping and start doing.