Holiday 2009 – Sara Jean at Schubas

Our Sarah’s High School friend Sara Jean performed with Tom Schraeder and His Ego on Dec 28th at Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago. She had done this before last year and I had asked her to tell us when she would be preforming again. She Facebooked me and since both Bette and I were on vacation the week between Xmas and New Year’s, we went for it.

We got a cheapish ($90) room at the Hampton Inn at 33 W Illinois (careful though, taxes are an automatic $15 and overnight valet parking was $42!!!) THe hotel is a nice place, with a Prarie style decor in the small lobby and the usual Hampton coffee bar and free breakfast. After checking in and grabbing some coffee, we head to the room to read and have a bit of a nap. My cell phone goes off at 5:30, and we are off to Elizabeth and Nick’s.

They live north of Belmont on Ashland in a new condo. We cab to the place – Lake Shore Drive is backed up a bit, and traffic on Belmont is terrible, so cab fare is over $20 with tip – and find the buzz box. We are buzzed in. ON the 3rd floor, none of the apartments are marked with a letter. Elizabeth calls us on our cell, and we say “we are in the hall!”. She opens the door. Guess the association does not want condos marked…

THeir condo has lovely dark brown wood, 15 foot exposed concrete ceilings, and a couple of bathrooms, but at 1200 sq ft, it is not huge. But it is nice, and overlooks Ashland. THe kitchen is modern, small and would be a galley kitchen but the space between the kitchen and living room is open with a granite counter. Nice. We are served hors d’oeurvres and wine.

The door knocks, and it is Chellie. She was let it by a resident, who gave her explicit instructions on how to get to the apartment — “2nd door in the left”.

We visit an hour and grab a cab for the 3 blocks to Schubas at Southport and Belmont. I tip the cabbie well – we could have easily walked.

It is an old bar, lots of dark wood. My parents seem to remember going there back in the day. We have dinner. I had the Texas chili, listed with the veggie chili mac. Bette and Chellie have salads. We get sweet potato fries and a small mac-and-cheese (house specialty), which is free, when you prebuy tickets on line as we did. It is also 1/2 price wine night, so Chellie and Bette split a bottle of a French Sauvignon Blanc. I got a Guinness.

The fries are thick, not the thin curly ones everyone has. The Mac is hot and good. Bus staff keeps up with plates and water is refilled.

When our entrees come, the salads are wonderful, but my chili is just – no mac. I want mac. They give me a plate of buttered macaroni with a name for $5. Yow.

So we finish, and the line at the will-call is building. At 8:30P one band is still doing a sound check and our entry is delayed. We head back with the leftover wine, stamp our hands and Chellie pays her cover. I get a Goose Island IPA for $5.50 and we head for the church pews along the south side of the room. On the north (Belmont) side are some small tables with a few chairs; these are filled (the reason for the line). A line of coat hooks is behind our pew, people are hanging coats. The center of the floor is bare. You expect a Christmas pageant to break out at any time.

The first act is Dick Prall, who, as it turns out, is performing his last gig at Schuba’s before he goes on hiatus. (As his going away present, I bought two of his CDs for $10.) I really liked him, and I have since found some concerts from Schuba’s from 2005 on Rhapsody and have enjoyed them.

The next act is John Henry & the Engine from St Louis. Eh. The lead singer kind of moans and is not 1/2 the vocalist Dick is. The band is good, and they have an electric fiddler which is cool. Chellie leaves; we give her cab fare. We are glad we brought our earplugs.

Between acts, Bette sees a girl that could be Sara. I walked up to her and saw her tattoos on her arm — it is indeed Sara. I say hi and she gives me a big hug and comes over to Bette. We chat for a while; then she must prepare.

At 11PM, Tom (and Sara) come out with the other zillion members of the band. Sara has a wonderful voice, but at times is way down in the mix so is hard to hear. But she is having fun, and so did we. I have listened to Tom’s music on Rhapsody, and was familiar with some of the songs. He makes very interested facial expressions up on stage! One song brought all the bands from the evening up on stage – that was fun.

Post show, we said our byes, cabbed back to the hotel. Next morning, headed down to the free breakfast — big mistake! Crowded, food ok but nothing good, loud — we should have gone out. As we walked down to river afterwards, and later when we were driving out Ontario toward 90, we passed a bunch of places we could have breakfasted. Nuts. Next time. Let us know, Sara…

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