New Heathens

46 Hours in Chicago
By Nate Schweber

You've got to love a city where the first person to welcome you gives] you a radio microphone, the best pizza on earth and a beer and the person who says goodbye is spinning on a crowded honky tonk dance floor. That's Chicago, a place where we were happily saturated in music, food, drink, family, old friends, new friends and hundreds of New York City condoms.

The New Heathens landed around 11 a.m. Friday. That's' right, landed. Cheap fares on United Airlines made flying as cost-effective as driving. The cost got considerably MORE effective when United apologized for a last-minute flight reschedule by giving us all travel vouchers worth more than the cost of our tickets.

Our first port of call was our great friend Dan McGuinness' radio show entitled "Daytime Debauchery." Dan, one of our biggest and coolest supporters, welcomed us into his studio with a hug, a Miller Genuine Draft and some mouth-watering Chicago pizza easily twice as thick as the fattest New York Sicilian. Talk about red carpet treatment! We spent the next two hours on air with Dan and his hilarious and foxy co-host Reggie singing songs and swapping jokes. Afterward we
retreated to a nearby bar and watched my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, blow a 5-0 lead in a single inning and lose to the Cincinnati Reds. Ah, Chicago.

New Heathens guitarist Domenick Tiziano, a native a Mundelein, IL (just north of Chicago) set up our gigs and accommodations and oh my goodness did his peeps kick out the JAMS. We went to his parents home for a pre-show dinner and got treated to fine cheeses, pepperoni and prosciutto, shrimp, homemade lasagna, barbecued lamb, homemade sausage
and veggies and fruit for desert. Five courses! Dom's mom mentioned that she'd got up at five to make from scratch the noodles for the lasagna and Mr. Tiziano informed us that he himself had bottled the wine we drank. If I'd ever eaten better (or more), I can't remember.

That night we played a brew pub called Flatlanders in nearby Lincolnshire, IL. A great cat named Ronnie who owns a shop
appropriately titled "Ronnie's House of Rock" in Chicago rented us amps and drums. For crazy low price he lugged the gear to the club, set it up and lugged it back out. Thanks Ron. Your shop doesn't just have a clever title, you really do rock.

As do our families and friends. Domenick's extended family came out to watch the show, as did mine. I got to see my cousins Scott and Brad, and meet Brad's way cool girlfriend Courtney, and when I say "see" I mean "look up at" because I think those dudes are all taller than me now. I also saw my aunts and uncles, my dad's parents and my best-friend-since-first-grade Justin. We rocked for three hours and sold a grip of t-shirts and CDs. One of Domenick's buddies, Dan, even joined us for an Oasis cover (!) Thanks to Dan and his wife Tammy for loaning Dom a guitar and coming out to both shows.

A head cold that the New Heathens have been swapping wreaked a little havoc with my voice so to make me feel better afterward the guys chipped in to buy me a Chicago Cubs pennant, which they all signed. Eric Seftel's note was the best "You are not a loser – Eric." They also had a DJ give me a Happy Birthday shout-out and play Tupac's "California Love" as Domenick and I danced. That shit makes me misty.

Saturday morning we woke up at Domenick's Northern Pike slaying buddy Kevin's house. I hitched a ride to visit my grandparents, Aunt Wendy and cousins Mike and Rob. The rest of the band chilled with Dom's superfriend Mary who made beds for us to sleep in that night. Kevin and Mary, thanks a million.

My two goals for Saturday were to play a kick-ass show at Silvie's Lounge, then dance all night long at Carole's Pub, the world's best honky-tonk which features a live band until 5 a.m.

Silvie's was a blast, and my voice held up just long enough to make it through the set. A supercool chick named Sharri, who heard us on Dan McGuinness' radio show, made our show her birthday party, so dozens of her friends showed up to watch. Shari's favorite song is "Getaway Baby," so we dedicated that one to her.

Our friends from the band One Lone Car drove all the way up from St. Louis, Mo. to see us play thereby earning the award for the farthest anyone has ever driven for a New Heathens gig. Guys, you rock and we can't wait to do more gigs with you like the ones we did in New York. We also hung out with Reggie from Daytime Debauchery and our friends Jason and Julia.

As a special thank you to everyone who showed up we had presents. Our friend and benefactor Gary, who works at an AIDS research charity in New York, gave us a giant bag of the customized NYC condoms that have been given out by the millions at New York clubs over the past month. I gave some to everyone in the crowd at Silvie's telling them alternately "Fuck New York" and "Think of us when you use this!"

The band that played after us, Prairie Town, loaned us their gear for which we're eternally grateful, then they put on a garage rock clinic the likes of which Little Steven would've loved. The whole night was so good that the curmudgeon doorman bought us all shots.

After the gig Domenick was hell-bent on taking Eric, a notorious hot-dogophile, to a joint called the "Weiner's Circle" near Wrigley Field. When we got there I figured out why. There was a line stretched out the door filled and inside all I could hear was a barrage of four-letter words. Turns out it was the chefs and servers doing the yelling. After I ordered the cashier cussed me up one side and down the other commanding me to tip her. I stuck dollar in the plastic tub marked, "All Bitches Must Tip." The cheese fries were worth it.

We rolled into Carole's Pub in the not-even-so-wee-anymore hours and I got to fast work on the dance floor. The band was primed and the place was jam-packed. I was having a ball.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature was throwing a little party of her own back in New York and the region was on its way to the biggest single day of rainfall in history. Flights started to getting cancelled like bad sitcoms. We re-booked our 11 a.m. flight for 7 a.m. and had to high-tail it out of Carole's and get straight to the airport.

But hey, we've got vouchers for more plane tickets so I've got a hunch we'll be back.

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