Chicago, IL – “Rough-Rocker-Chick” – Shuba’s – August 20, 1999

The winds of August have had their way with July and are leading a violent revolt against September.

I find the sky at its very tallest in fall. As a child, growing up on the Northeastern Island of Martha’s Vineyard, I used to delight in watching nature’s ceiling grow deeper and darker as the calendar pages flipped from one month to the next. I imagined the sky, an upside-down swimming pool, growing darker blue as we moved from the shallow end of spring to the deep end of winter.

At Shuba’s, we ate our comped meal the crowded, sunny patio. I opted for a salad that came with an exuberant amount of creamy Italian dressing. The tails of fall breezes tangled in the hair I’d tried to tie back off my face. I had to rescue strands from my mouth between bites. College Boys in backward baseball caps, looking fresh off Abercrombie and Fitch shoots, cruised by in red convertibles. They ogled and cat-called pouting, glossed-up girls in outfits copied verbatim from last week’s episode of “Friends.”

Kenny’s sneezing fit began as he was finishing a plate of fried chicken. Furious, food-expelling sneezes erupted from his face in consecutive expulsions. I joked that he must be allergic to bad pick-uplines. His eyes watered and glowed red. The antihistamine I secured from the club stopped his allergies but put him into a zombie-like state for the rest of the night. He was hardly out of place, we were all a little out of it after our marathon drive from Boulder. I was slightly worried we’d forgotten how to play— it had been 3-weeks since our last gig.

I wrote a set list on the back of a receipt: WAIT, 40 YEARS, IN MY MIND, MARCH LIKE SOLDIERS, DEVORIN, WITHOUT ME, ONE STEP, RED ROOM, CONVINCE ME, FOR KIM, HAPPY NOW. I was shocked that the majority of what we now play are new tunes, not those on Tomboy Bride. I’d written the music on Tomboy Bride throughout my life. It’d taken 10 years to compile all the songs on that record. The contents of the next album will have been written in less than 6 months—birthed in backstage rooms and motels with glued-down furniture. It’s time to go back into the studio…November maybe, December.

In the dressing room upstairs, I agreed to let Kenny and Brian dress me for the gig. They insisted I needed to look more “rough-rocker-chick.” They had me try on four outfits before agreeing I looked “tough enough.” Next, Brian instructed me on my hairstyle — “Tie it back…now get some little wisps coming down on either side….no not too big….yeah that’s good…YEAH THAT’S GOOD!!!!” Brian and Kenny were very pleased with themselves as they studied my reflection in the mirror. Before I hit the stage, they added a pair of sunglasses.

The show was spectacular. Shuba’s got a stellar crowd and one of my best friends, Kate, drove all the way from Nashville, just to surprise me! Post gig, there was a two-hour-long line for CDs. I stood next to the merch table signing each disk by candlelight but my “rough-rocker-chick” heels were killing me. Gallantly, Jayson Sites (my dad’s lighting engineer who’d come for the show) gave me his leopard skin flip-flops and walked around barefooted the rest of the night. What a gentleman.

Toward 1 am, some very drunk guy came over, kissed me sloppily on my shoulder, stared at me through red glossy eyes, and walked away without a word.

It’s really good to be back on the road!!

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “Chicago, IL – “Rough-Rocker-Chick” – Shuba’s – August 20, 1999”

  1. Such a gentleman;) I’m back in Chicago visiting for a couple of days, and just read this while in an Uber not far from Shuba’s. Sometimes the cosmos just set the right scene. Fun memories. 🤗

    1. Awweww, Jayson. You always have been such a gentleman!

Comments are closed.