I don’t really know where to begin talking about The Tonic Room. It’s been such a present part of my life for the past 7 or 8 years now, it’s hard to really put into words everything that the venue means to me. I’ve been there in a crowd of one to watch friends bare their hearts on its stage. I’ve been there in a sold out room watching heroes and big name acts rejuvenate their love of live performance in its intimate setting. I’ve had one too many ‘Chicago Handshakes’ at the bar, and stumbled into Allende across the street in the all too familiar search for a late night after-show burrito. A routine night out for a local show at The Tonic Room in 2012 turned into the most pivotal night of my life, as I met the woman that is crazy enough to marry me later this year. Shortly after that, we went back to Tonic Rom to see a group of my old friends that I was still calling ‘The Dilfs’, before realizing after I got there that they had begun calling themselves ‘The Big League Boys’ instead. I distinctly remember thinking, after a shot of well whiskey and Old Style tallboy of course, “Man, they’ve got to do something about that name. They sound like jackasses.”
Flash forward a few years and here I am, a Big League Boy myself, back at The Tonic Room for the band’s fourth appearance there. As great as the venue is for a fan or patron, the place is somehow even more accommodating for artists. It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Tonic Room is the most artist friendly venue in Chicago.
Working with Donnie Biggins and the Harmonica Dunn team is always a pleasure, and this show was no exception. The bar and door staff were amazing, and I want to make sure I give a special shout out to our sound tech, Seamus. Even after Tim warned him we would be ‘really fucking loud’, Seamus had the room and stage sounding better for us than it ever has before.
A lesser professional would have simply turned the mics on before quitting on the spot after he realized he had to listen to us play Cyndi Lauper.
The set itself was particularly fun for us, as the intimate setting of the Tonic Room always screams, “Play the heavy stuff and make their ears ring!” As such, there were a lot of classic rock tunes like “Jump”, “Footloose”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, and “Roll with the Changes”.
We featured some more modern alternative bands like the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs , and Arcade Fire. A highlight for me was when we honored the portrait of Boognish behind the stage by playing “Roses Are Free” by Ween. Our uber-talented, multi-instrumentalist Tim helped out by somehow holding a floor tom, cowbell, and drum stick at the same time for the percussive intro of ‘In a Big Country’. By the end of the night, those in attendance had drank the bar out of Hamm’s, so most people weren’t even sure if 311 even happened.
All in all, another great night at one of Chicago’s best intimate venues!