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Team Scott Chi-town Lowdown – Duo/Umphrey's


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This puppy is long, folks, so here are the chapter readings for those just looking for show reviews.

A Very Good Friday

Lost in Wrigglyville

The Duo Review

Eyes Gazing Upwards and Da food

Saturday Night Part 1 – Sid (story of the weekend)

Saturday Night Part II – Converted to a New Faith on Easter – The Umphrey’s Review

Saturday Night Part III – Blues Time

Final Thoughts

Never had Port Huron held such appeal to any man (or men) as myself and Guigsy prepared to embark on our weekend of music and mayhem in the Windy City. The knowns: Bennevento/Russo on Friday, Umphrey’s McGee on Saturday’s. The unknowns: pretty much everything else. The ease of the border crossing once again made us question why we chose not to smuggle, but the prospect of career loss on my part and the 2003 run-in at the Maine border is always enough to convince me that this is always the right decision. Something will work out and as it would turn out, it did to the effect of being the trip’s top story. This truly was going to a weekend in which Chicago would provideth. However onward…..

A Very Good Friday

Heading into Jesusland on Good Friday gave a tangible sense of foreboding. We were in the land of bad highways and bible billboards barreling down with a belly full of Bob Evan’s. However despite not being able to unravel such mysteries as to why some would choose to display large murals of soldiers, wolves and other such wild life in their entire back windows, or why all things snack food must be labeled Double Maximum Ultimate, we emerged after 7 hours on the road safely in Chicago. The city instantaneously makes its impression as the Lakeshore Drive holds you at arms length from the city’s one of a kind skyline. Chicago, from the get-go, was to be about its architecture. Our hotel was the lovely Raphael, just a block away from the northern part of the Magnificent Mile, its downtown shopping showcase. Anxious to get at the city, we set out immediately for what would be the key to the weekend, heel-toeing it everywhere. Overall, it’s easy to buy into every stereotype you’ve heard about the place. Clean, check. Amazing architecture, check. Great food, check. Vibe galore. Check. Enough so, that rather than bore with the chronological, a thematic treatment should and will be dealt with farther down.

Lost and Found in Wrigglyville


Friday night truly had one main goal but when we found out that we were going to be in the same area (roughly) as Wriggly Field, baseball historian and ex-second baseman Guigsy had very little convincing to do to get me to this living piece of history. Even at night, you could sense that this was so buried in the community, it was Chicago. Great moment. Having seen Grace St earlier, we figured that we must be within walking distance of the Abbey Pub, home to Bennevento/ Russo Duo for the evening. This assumption was, however, painfully wrong, but for the first half an hour afforded us a look at another amazing part of Chicago, still clean, still original as hell. Grace however would run out and after following three Easter Bunnys (which we took as a sign)and some adventuring in an industrial park, Grace was rejoined and we arrived an hour and a half at the Abbey, just as the band was taking the stage.


The Duo Review

Having had the benefit of seeing the Duo before but having it been on my blurry birthday, it was sort of like the first time. The crowd was good, the venue very solid, with about 150 or so in attendance. The band was pumped, commenting that it was their first “real” show in awhile (perhaps a happy to be free of the Gordon stigma) Overall the show was solid, showcasing some new originals and displaying to many who had never seen the bad before, the balls out intensity that these two men can throw out.


Actually, our “hook-up” was supposed to be a guy named Doug, but since we had little idea who this guy was or even what he looked like, we were forced to yell “Doug” at the top of our lungs all night, but to no avail. Chicago was Doug-less (listen for it on the tapes!) I met some dude who was kind enough to help out wayward Canadians, having been helped out by Canadians. Andrew as well would further our excitement for Umphrey’s the next night and give a glimmer of hope for maybe taking care of our needs then. Perfect. Overall the show’s highlights were covers (their Paranoid Android is becoming owned by them; it’s so long, so good) and I still maintain that Bennevento needs to drive more lyrical lines and soloing home and not so much chording and filler , but Joey Russo is an animal and is worth the price of admission any day. Got to talk briefly with Russo at the end and he said they’d be up this summer and I got to bug him about playing dress-up with M. Good times.


What’s not to love about a city that has bars open until 4am on Friday and 5 am on Saturday? The people that stay out that late to inhabit them. We gave up on Rush and Division around 4am and focused on being the best tourist we could be in the morning.

Eyes Gazing Upwards and Da food

Anyone that has been to Chicago will tell you that the sights are phenomenal, but personally I was blown away by the diversity of older and modern architecture to stare at. Guigsy and I walked about a total of 10 hours around different parts of the city on different days. Not once where we bored. Overall the whole vibe is so slick. The city is in top notch shape and its history is palpable.


We managed to pack in some touristy stuff too. We had a great time at the Art Institute of Chicago. We went up the John Hancock Tower. We found the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Buildings. We shopped, found great jazz record stores, and stared at landmarks. The people too were fantastic. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, it could have been Canada. If you were ever thinking of visiting, I can’t recommend it enough.


The above is Guigsy's actual shot of the buildings, obviously altered but pretty faithful. Mine don't look this good!

All I can say is that I pigged out all weekend. Two different types of deep dish (Giordano’s for the best of the two stuffing wise but the crust at Pizzano’s was the best I’ve ever had), and Italian Beef and Chili Dogs at Portillo’s were the highlights for us, but needless to say, there’s probably more were that came from. Honorable mention goes to the BBQ pulled pork at Bob Evan’s, our road stop pick of the weekend.


Saturday Night Part 1 – Sid (story of the weekend)

So the Umphrey’s show was all ages and was slated to start early. We hadn’t been able to get in touch with Andrew and faced the prospect of walking in having to rely on gin and Red Bulls to provide our inspiration. We flag a cab and settle in for the long ride uptown to the Rivera. Our cabbie, Sid, upon hearing we were from Canada, inquired about our Mary Jane laws but after a slight hint that we were looking, soon the conversation was heading back to the city etc. All of a sudden, Sid reaches back and passes us half a lit doobie and cranks up the Beatles. We were shocked and it was gooooooood. Sid THEN proceeds to give us another whole one for the road.


Now please, dear reader, picture this if you will. Team Scott has already had a fabulous weekend up until this point. The city has been marvelous to us as we commented so many times out loud. Timing wise we have been on the ball all weekend, never wanting for a single thing, save one. And now the one cabbie was the miracle we were looking for. We pulled up to the show, stoked, stoned and thinking how could this get any better?

Saturday Night Part II – Converted to a New Faith on Easter – The Umphrey’s Review

We stepped into the Rivera at quarter to eight, to find the band had just started and the place packed to capacity (I’d say around 1500-2000). Hometown show, the band just back from Amsterjam and just raging from the get-go. Our first time seeing them, I was familiar enough with their tunes from the handful of shows I have to

a)obviously drive to Chicago to see them

b)get pumped for the big tunes but not be able to name them

c)to have my expectations exceeded.

Now I do not have to lay out my credentials for y’all. I know my shows, and I have my favs. I miss Phish. I like moe. I’m a ‘head. Here’s why I would go see Umphrey’s McGee again (and again).

They are like nothing that is out there right now. It’s jamming, but it is so tight it looks rehearsed. More importantly, they actually sound like they DO rehearse (remember 92-95, Phans?). They play more prog rock, metal, compositional (ala Zappa) while invoking a white funk ala Talking Heads. The double guitar attack is disgusting. Moreover, there is seemingly no ego in any parts of the band. The band themselves look like they are having too much fun to be that solid. The drummers are very different, but providing what the other lacks in the sound. Do I love the singing? It suits the tunes but average. However, you aren’t there for the singin with this band. They are that good and will only get better.

The scene is young but it’s a scene again. Frankly, this stuff is not going to appeal to all, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. For me, I love watching a band hit its stride. These guys will keep me coming back whether it’s the small theatre scene, the arena or the festival. All I can say is catch it while it’s still infancy and watch this puppy grow.

03.26.05 - The Riviera, Chicago, Illinois

Set One: Believe the Lie, All In Time, Sociable Jimmy > "Jimmy Stewart" > The Fussy Dutchman, Push the Pig$, It All Comes Down to This* > Divisions$$

Set One: Atmosfarag, Roulette > "Jimmy Stewart" > Roulette, Wabash > 2x2 > Professor Wormbog, Fool In the Rain > Front Porch**

Encore: Der Bluten Kat^


Rjd2 opened

$ with Syncopated Strangers tease and a Motown jam

* first time played, original

$$ with Top Gun theme tease

** with Resolution and Hysteria teases

^ preceded by They Love Each Other tease by Jake; with Brett Padgett on tuba, from the audience

last Wabash 11.02.02

All in all, fun, fun fun. By the time, they broke out Fool in the Rain, I was losing like I haven’t lost it in years. Thumbs way up.

Saturday Night Part III – Blues Time

After a brief and somewhat hilarious interlude at a lounge near the venue, Team Scott decided to hit up a blues club. The Kingston Mines had been recommended to us pre-trip, but most (including our saviour Sid) agreed for a more genuine experience, B.L.U.E.S, right across the street was a better bet. It was definitely cool to be in Chicago, late night, hearing the house band tear it up. The sit-ins were the best part and the stage was so small, the guest sax man had to stand on the floor. All and all, a great way to top off the night. We headed back to the hotel, finished our last smengy, ate some cold deep dish and passed out, legs sore, souls very happy.


I’m your coffee man. I’ll grind you and never stop.x2

I’m your Maxell House, baby. I’m good to the last drop.

Final Thoughts


The city treated us like gold. We commented that every place we went had cool music, a cool look, just something about it. Chicago provideth! All and all, we didn’t get to see everything we could have, but that’s just more reason to go back. A super solid roadtrip with a super solid partner in crime. As we pulled out of Chicago (you Slip fans can only guess what Guigsy qued up), the sun was going down, and we, not unlike a certain other hippie on that day, felt resurrected and full of the spirit of Chicago. Amen.

for more photos from Team Scott Chicago, try here chicago

We'll be adding more soon.

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Scottie, thanks for posting this. You write very well and it's so cool to vicariously enjoy someone else's good fortune (we also manage to find our American "fairy drug fathers", as my friend likes to call them, in the strangest of places!)

but I do have to ask, what the hell do you mean by "finished our last smengy"????? ::

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wow! nice one scottie!!

yeah, he definitely summed it all up right there, there's not much more i can add, but i gotta say a couple things..

chicago really treated us like a city that wanted us to come back, and really, i think that should be the goal of any major city that is going to attract tourists/heads/wayward travellers. mostly everyone we met was sincere and kind and just treated us real well.. from the dude at the art insitute giving us a break on admission cuz we didnt have a zip code, to the tip on the spinach stuffed pizza at giordano's, to sid the cabbie, to our meeting of andrew at the duo show, etc etc etc.. good vibes, atmosphere and chance all over the place.

it was my first time seeing the duo, and i was super impressed. im with scottie on wanting to see benevento go off a little more up and down the scales (gimme an 'ersh anyday!), and russo just being an absolute monster behind that kit. dude lays it down and refuses to quit. seems like a really nice guy, too. they had me gettin' down hard on more than a few occassions, and the crowd was eating it up! the paranoid android explosion was probably the highlight of their show.. but truthfully, there was nothing there to shake a stick at. or 4. so glad i got to catch them in an atmosphere like that, and cant wait to see them again... our meeting of andrew at the show was perfect, as i had someone i was supposed to meet but it never materialized. andrew took care of us there, pumped us up for umphreys and told us of his friend who could help us out there...

.. well, we never got a hold of andrew before we left for umphrey's, so, back to square one we were. hailing that cab, again, right place, right time... there were close to a half dozen other cabbies on the street, and we got the guy who was interested in canadian marijuana laws. thats when i knew he was our guy. those moments in that cab were absolutely priceless, and as soon as he dropped us off, who do i spot ont he corner about to cross the street? andrew! (still not doug, although we looked for him all over the city, haha..). so, we had another phriend to hang out with at the show and man, did we get loose!

umphrey's mcgee. holy wow, that was ingcredible!! yeah, again, everything scottie said... these guys are a top notch band with all the right tools. the presence, the musicianship, the lack of ego, the lighting, the energy, the songs, the jams, all of it. they have all of it. if they've been touted as heirs to the thrown, so to say, there's a reason, and i've been witness to that reason, and i fully agree: these guys are the real deal. literally pushing each other up and down the stage with their instruments, working the crowd into a frenzy, building it up, tearing it down, and building it up again, it was magic. plain and simple. the crowd was insane. loving every second of it, and going ballistic - fool in the rain - fuggedaboutit! keep an eye out for these tapes, and get them if you see them. umphrey's mcgee, man. im a believer.

i could go on and on about how great a time this was.. the art institute, the magnificent mile, the pizza, the blues... chicago was an experience, man, through and through, and a good one all the way.

lastly, i just wanna thank scottie for putting this together and getting me on board... this was huge. cheers.

go to chicago sometime. see umphrey's sometime, too. neither will disappoint.

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Wow. That was a great read!! I lived in the area for a little over 10 years and after reading that, I NEED to go back for a little visit. It would be worth it to go for the Giardano's and Portillos alone, but there is something special about that city for sure. I've been to every major city on the eastern side and a good handful in between and in the west...HANDS DOWN the best city. Clean, cultured, beautiful, curious and scrumdidilyumptious! I miss that town and all my great friends still there. Glad to hear she provided well for you cats...gonna have to get there this summer me thinks..Cheers.

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but I do have to ask, what the hell do you mean by "finished our last smengy"????? ::

[color:"green"] smengy.

glad I got my answer before you edited it out. I've never heard that term before. I kept thinking of the SCTV Candy/Levy routine of the Smengy Brothers and their cabbage rolls!! ::

love learning new slang -- SW Ont is great for its variations-- in fact this deserves a new thread!!

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