Sunday, May 06, 2007

CHI-TOWN, CONRAD HILTON AND DON CORNELIUS...

Wow, just got back yesterday from a 4 wonderful days in Chicago for NARM (the annual handshake convention sponsored by the music industry) where, among other acts, you can find this guy performing in the penthouse. Just kidding, this man was not there, but the great Don Cornelius of "Soul Train" fame was there receiving an award for his achievements in music and culture. It was awesome. Only real problem is when he spoke, I'm not sure I had any clue what he was talking about. It was like a mixture of Jesse Jackson and Mr. Ed. Nonetheless, that's in the presence of royalty, b'lee dat.
I'm quite sure if you mic anyone over the age of 60 in large ballroom, they're gonna sound like Mr. Ed. Sometimes like a drunk Mr. Ed or a happy, exuberant Mr. Ed. But it's gonna sound like Mr. Ed and you can trust that.

I'd like to take a moment to proclaim the discovery I made in Chicago. I know for Chicagoans, it'll be no discovery, but for a cat from Tejas where our greatest export to the rest of the nation is Lone Star and Shiner, I found it monumental and worth noting. There's a local beer up there called Goose Island that is absolutely terrific. It was so good that I had to watch myself because I was drinking them like chocolate milk until my belly hurt. In fact, my better judgement caught me before requesting from the hotel staff to fill my bathtub with with the Urban Wheat malt. It's a fantastically amazing beer and I look forward to the day that I can have another. My personal favorite was an ale called "Honker's Ale." As described on their website (http://gooseisland.com): "Inspired by visits to English country pubs, Honker’s Ale combines a spicy hop aroma with a rich malt middle to create a perfectly balanced ale that is immensely drinkable. A smooth, drinkable English Bitter for those looking for more from their beer." Amazing beer. I'd cheer and clap loudly whenever a waiter would announce it as an available beer at a restaurant. Once I find away to have it shipped to my house, I'll let everyone know and then you too can enjoy the wonder of Goose Island.
Also there was Amaechi from Defintive Jux in a panel discussion about the future of music retail. He caught some boos and hisses when he was quite outward with his support of iTunes and non-traditional (digital) means of delivering product and promotions for that product. It started when he said, "No one's coming into music stores any more so we have to go to them." It was a comment that I agreed with, but was obviously in the minority. More on that later.

The band Chicago was there. Went to an excellent party to meet them. They were the nicest fellas in the world. I got a Chicago box set signed which I'll present to my father today for a little pre-Mother's Day gift. That makes absolutely no sense.

R. Kelly was there with Mya. Went to his suite party where I missed his performance of Donny Hathaway on the grand piano they had up there, but caught all of his lip-synced performance. I mean, only R. Kelly will attempt to dupe a room full of industry heads by lip-syncing every song off his new record. Played. I just kept an eye out in the room for the underaged girls to know when was a good time to make an exit. I made an early exit anyway because it was a little corny. Looks like I left before he launched into his new juggernaut "Planet Sex." Good thing.
Listening to Jungle Brothers right now. Wow, that just hits the spot.

The band Chicago was there. Met all of those guys and had them sign a box set for my father. You know, you really can't find a nicer group of guys. They worked the rooms like champs, shaking hands, telling stories, taking pictures, signing every item. Very awesome.

Took in very little of the actual city, but that's how these events typically are. You sit in either really stuffy or really chilly suites and conference rooms and talk the biz. As someone who has never been to Chicago, I really wanted to just get out on the town and check it out. They have some incredible galleries and exhibits there. Some great sports. Rich culture. Oh well, I ate frog legs. Yes, they tasted like chicken. Never made it by the pizzaria that my brother was pushing. I did, however, make it to Buddy Guy's place for a few sponsored events. It was a cool lil' dive just across the street from the hotel. Among some of the memorabilia on the wall, they had a picture called "The Last Jam" which was a grainy picture of Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton playing on stage in Wisconsin place just five hours before Stevie Ray Vaughan would die in a helicopter accident. Haunting.
Heard 50 Cent was there, but missed him. Apparently he was pitching his new record. Also heard that Smashing Pumpkins were there, but missed them too. Don't know what they were selling.

A group called Los Straitjackets were there and according to a fairly trustful source (except for the fact that he's a life Yankee fan), they put on the best show he's ever seen at a NARM. I came in on the tail end of the performance to see a small suite with shoulder-to-shoulder bodies headbanging and gyrating in a pool of sweat and beer like a freaking frat party. I thought I heard "Louie Louie" in Spanish. It was awesome. It climaxed to a finish with the lead singer dancing through the drunken crowd pumping his fist and launching the place up into a fury. Quite regretful I missed the whole performance. Upon making my way to the bar, I realized what had set the whole place up into frenzy and it was Old Style Beer that was being served. Must make a note to catch Los Straitjackets next time I have the opportunity. There's just too much condensed into a short period of time to possibly make all of it. But it wouldn't stop me and trooper roommate from trying.

One bright moment from the awards ceremony was the discovery of Rodrigo y Gabriela--two insane guitarists who put on a set for the ages. I'm including a video so you can see what they do as performed on David Letterman.

They performed Metallica's "Sanitarium" for the hushed crowd which brought everyone to a mid-song standing ovation. It's not often you can stir such excitement from an industry crowd. Normally, they're waiting for you stop playing instead of waiting anxiously for the next song. Met Gabriela on the way to the restroom and I shook her hand. My poor little hand almost folded under her strength. And her palm was just like one rock-hard callus.

The end of the evening (as it normally goes) was spent at the UMGD party which was on the top floor with access to the helipad which provided a panoramic view of downtown Chicago and a spectacular view of Sears Tower. It was the Conrad Hilton Suite. It was built after Conrad suffered from an ego trip when the Queen Elizabeth, in her first trip to the states, asked for a top floor to be built onto the hotel to accomodate her. Years following, Conrad felt slighted and insisted he should have the top floor so they built the penthouse on the ground and had it airlifted. Also airlifted was the 12-foot portrait of Conrad that hung from the wall. And that's how I would end my trip: dancing to the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" under Conrad Hilton. Life ain't so bad. Last night I had my first good sleep since returning. And I swear that Tucker has grown three inches since I left. I came back and it's like he's on some sort of hormone or steroid. Pics to be provided later. Gotta mow the yard and get things going.

Sox in first place by 5.5 games. Bro Bro's Cubbies are riding a 4-game win streak and climbing the Central Division.

1 comment:

TX said...

Hey bro...
So, did you go to Lou Malnatti's? No talk of the excellent pizza! Dad will love his gift. Very cool. Any word from Watkins? Cubs won their 5th straight today. Over .500. Playing great ball. Holler at me.