Yesterday, I did something that I never thought I’d do. I went to Taste of Chicago. It’s been at least twenty years since I’ve been. I had built it up as this thing that only tourists do in Chicago. I was really young when I last went but I remember crowds, sticky hot days, and generally no fun. However, when I heard that the band Nickel Creek, NOT NICKELBACK, was playing, I wanted to go.
And I’m quite pleased with that decision.
Before heading to the Petrillo Music shell for the performance, we had some food at Taste. The ticket thing is a bit awkward since you buy them in chunks of 12 for $8.5. But what I realized is that Taste was kinda like tapas or small plates. You could go from booth to booth and have a small taste of different foods. It’s my idea of heaven. So I had a tamale at Carbon, a restaurant in Noble Square that I’ve been meaning to go to. It was rather tasty with the mild sauce on top. Then I went to Kasia’s and had two cheese pierogis. Yes, I live in the land of pierogis but I regret nothing. And then I had a vanilla churro from Churro Factory. Churros are absolutely incredible when they are freshly made. This was sweet, cinnamon and perfect. I should mention that it had been raining so perhaps the crowds were fewer. All in all, it was pleasant.
And then we went to the concert. Emmylou Harris warmed up for Nickel Creek. She wasn’t bad; it wasn’t exactly my favorite music. However, she sang this incredibly haunting song about Emmett Till.
Then it was time for Nickel Creek. Now, I had heard some songs of Nickel Creek on the radio and Pandora. But I’ve listened to a lot of Prairie Home Companion so I was really keen to see Sarah Watkins play. And it was totally worth it. Not only was Sarah absolutely incredible, I was blown away Chris Thile, the mandolin player, would rock out. I will say that I tend to prefer their instrumental pieces over their singing but this tends to be true for a lot of bands including Solas. I’m a musician; what can I say? But there was this amazing song called “Hayloft” which was about getting laid in a Hayloft. It knocked my socks off! There was also a wonderful song about the Rapture. And any song that Sarah Watkins took the lead in was well worth it. I’m so glad to finally see her in person.
One thing that was really unusual for me was that the band seemed to have a designated tuner. There was a guy who would take the instruments and tune them in the back of the stage. Then he would give them to the band members when the time was right. I’m so used to watching musicians have to make small talk as they tune their instruments. Nothing wrong about either way; it was just unexpected. Perhaps a designated tuner is standard but I just don’t know. I may not have seen the superstars of folk play. (Well, what others call superstars.)
And now for a shameless plug. I found out yesterday that the wonderful WBEZ show Curious City has chosen my question as a contender for their program. I asked: “Who are the Tamale Men?” These are the people who go into bars and laundry mats and sell tamales, which are delicious. There are three questions and you get to vote for the story you want to hear. If my story is chosen, they will research it and bring me on the show. I’m really keen to learn about the famous tamale men in Chicago. So if you are interested in this too, please vote at Curious City. http://curiouscity.wbez.org/