My first concert of the month was the closest one all year that wasn’t on the lake. Michael Clem was playing in Julie’s backyard in Vienna on Saturday the 4th, and it was a 6 minute drive for me. Our friend Susan had set it up and was playing the host. It was billed as a “cocktail and mocktail party under the stars”, so they had a dedicated bartender you could get one of two drinks, with alcohol if you wanted. Naturally I did, so I had the whiskey and cider. It was my second time seeing Mike at a house concert that year, and they were almost completely different setlists, but he had some nice new songs too. After the show, they’d made pies for someone who’d just had a birthday, and served us slices with some of fellow guest Susan Soorenko’s Moorenko ice cream.
The next Saturday Jill and Nina left in the morning for a Girl Scout overnight camping trip near Solomon’s Island. I needed to get something from a coworker and we met up at University Mall, then I ran errands. First stop was Chubby Squirrel in Fairfax where I stopped for a flight of beers and some pinball. What was appropriate for that day being Veteran’s Day was the “Buy a vet a beer” board, where you pay for it and they put your name on it, to be crossed off when a vet wants a beer later. I had a light lunch of shishito peppers and a fried chicken bao at High Side, where I was happy to eat outside in the sun as they had a private party coming in 30 minutes. I checked out Mobius Records – disappointing as they only had new CDs. I also stopped at the ABC store and Safeway to pick up supplies. The next day Nina and I tried Lilah on a leash in the backyard. She was not a fan, and scrambled under the Azalea bush to seek shelter for most of the time we were outside.
Tuesday I said that some bands have been accused of inappropriate promotions, but this is very on brand.
I also got a stuffed cat and Coraline figure from the Coraline movie, and tried the stuffed cat and Lilah as companions.
Thursday I went to see Valerie June, Rachael Davis, Thao & Yasmin Williams at Sixth & I. They were playing together in the round, and I missed the first three songs as Jill had to work late. But it was still a great show with a fair amount of playing together. I stayed after to get some merch and said hi to Thao and Rachael Davis, the latter of whom I told was probably the only person there who was on my Facebook friends list.
Friday the 17th Nina came home from school and we got on the road for a rush hour trip to Ocean City NJ. It was time for Friendsgiving again, in the same house we rented last year. The folks who’d arrived already had gotten pizza, and I wolfed down a couple slices before heading over to Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City. And no, not to gamble. In 2005 and 2006 VH1 had a show called Decades Rock Live, where a classic artist performed a show in Atlantic City with some famous fans. Heart got Alice In Chains, Carrie Underwood, Duff McKagan, Dave Navarro, Gretchen Wilson & Rufus Wainwright, Elvis Costello and The Imposters got Death Cab for Cutie, Fiona Apple & Billie Joe Armstrong, Cyndi Lauper got Scott Weiland, Pat Monahan (from Train), Ani DiFranco & Shaggy, Pretenders got Iggy Pop, Shirley Manson, Kings of Leon & Incubus, while Bonnie Raitt got Norah Jones, Alison Krauss, Keb’ Mo’ & Ben Harper.
So when I found out they were starting the show again on a weekend when I was only 30 minutes away, I was in. So much so I sold my ticket to see Geddy Lee talk about his new book in Maryland. I had a little bit of time before the show, but by the time I’d worked my way to the entrance (good call having Wi-Fi available for the Ticketmaster app as I had no cell service that far in) and found my seat, I only had 3 minutes before they started showing videos. Chicago started playing about 7 minutes after the 9pm start time, and went straight into 4 songs off their first album (and I had no idea it was the 55th anniversary of that). The first guest was Robert Randolph, and he played sacred steel guitar and sang lead on “Listen” (the last time Chicago played that song was in 19xx). Next up was Steve Vai (and the true reason I was there), playing amazing solos on “South California Purples” and “Poem 58”. Then both Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram & Chris Daughtry joined the band for their cover of “I’m A Man” with a truly unnecessary drum solo in the middle. Robert Randolph returned for “Dialogue (Part I & II)”, then the band played 4 songs without guests, then brought up Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram again and singer Judith Hill to sing 3 of the songs from the “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” suite. She stayed for “Alive Again”, then we got a Christmas song from xxxx: “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”. After “Old Days” and Chris Daughtry rejoining for “Hard Habit To Break”, we got an unplanned intermission (one of the Chicago guys called “set break” and walked off the stage.
I wasn’t sure how long it would be, but after 5 minutes it was clear it wasn’t soon, so I stood in the bathroom line (rare parity in length for both men’s and women’s). I got back and they still hadn’t started, but I as I was considering a cocktail, the lights dimmed and I resumed my seat. They had an enormous fake bonfire at the front of the stage, and chairs ringing it. Chicago was joined by the a capella group VoicePlay for “Wishing You Were Here”, “Happy Man”, “If You Leave Me Now” and “Look Away”. Then we got a great cover I wasn’t expecting: The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour”. That was just the band, and it was just them for “Just You ‘N’ Me”, “Hard To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away” and “The Christmas Song”. Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram was back for “In The Country”, then we got our final and most miscast guest: Robin Thicke. Thankfully he was mostly there as a hype man for “Saturday In The Park”. They played “Free”, then Judith Hill returned for great versions of “You’re The Inspiration” and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”. The encore of “25 Or 6 To 4” featured all the guests, with some sharp solos from Steve Vai, Robert Randolph and Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram.
When I got back to the house, everyone was fast asleep. I was up by 10 the next day to go shopping at Acme (remembered to bring bags this time). Jill, Nina and I walked on the boardwalk in the afternoon, then I played pinball with Tony for an hour. I’d chosen a relatively quick recipe of pork, apples and brown sugar, but the apples took a while to slice finely and Jill helped with that task. We had dinner upstairs (there had been a sewage leak downstairs where we had it the previous year) and it went well. There were lots of desserts, but I brought the makings of a pecan pie martini, and it was pretty tasty.
Wednesday the 22nd we had Cardinal Chem Dry stop by as the rugs (especially the stairs) were looking haggard. They recommended a two step process, starting with a deep stain cleanse. Jill made pecan, apple, and pumpkin pies from scratch. Thursday was Thanksgiving, and I got up at 11:30 to start the turkey. Jill made rutabaga, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce while I made the green beans and stuffing. As I pulled the turkey out of the oven, I rested the pan on the counter while I transferred the turkey to the cutting board. Turns out it was unbalanced, and tipped over onto the floor, leaving half the juices on the floor. It took me an hour to mop the kitchen and thaw some homemade chicken broth so Jill could make gravy. But the dinner turned out wonderful anyways. This was the perfect recipe for a juicy turkey that I was able to start and forget.
No Black Friday shopping for us, but Nina wanted to go see the Reston Town Center holiday parade since one of her besties was going. She was dead asleep when they came to pick her up, so I had to take her when she was ready to go 30 minutes later. I didn’t stay because I hadn’t dressed warmly enough, but leaving 10 minutes before the parade started was crazy, as half of Reston was headed in (there was a half mile long line of cars on Reston Parkway waiting to turn in). Nina got lunch with her friend and stayed at their house during the afternoon, so I was able to do computer stuff and go out for a walk with Jill when she got home from work.
Saturday morning we drove off to Maryland to see my dad. Jill chose to have lunch at Ketch 22, which had lovely views, and we all had seafood except Dad, who chose the meatloaf. Afterwards I got to serve as tech support. I think a power surge of some sort fried his router and phone service, so I scheduled phone repair. We took the router to the nearest Verizon store where they exchanged it, then I mailed it to him the next day. That night I went to see Mark Williams and Friends at Jammin’ Java. Lena Traynham opened, then I finally saw Ryan Wright with her band, then Mark Williams’ band T.O.E. (Things Over Easy). The real magic came next, as we got a covers set that featured the previous bands, as well as Todd Wright. And if you start with a Fountains of Wayne song, why not get the original guitarist?