Monday, July 20, 2009

Chicago, IL to Las Vegas, NV

One last day on the town, before returning to the nasty summer that is Hell Vegas.

For some ungodly reason, Robbie had the need to see Chicago from the Sears Tower. I wonder how long, if ever, it will take for it to be known as Willis Tower (NEVER! is my guess). So we walked over to the Tower and while Robbie made his way up the tower, I kept my fear of heights in tact, and zigzagged my way over bridges on the Chicago River. I was back before him, so I relaxed with a paper and a smoothie in the park across the street.

Once done, we followed the river up to Michigan Ave, where we met Amy. She had meetings in the morning. A last minute shop on the Magnificent Mile before we jumped on a 90 minute Wendella architecture cruise of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Amy and I had done a similar cruise last time we were here with the Meyers', but this was longer, included going through a lock into Lake Michigan, and was far warmer than doing it in November. The cruise travels west along the river (towards Sears Tower ironically enough) and our guide outlined tons of the buildings, old and new, visible from the river. Out on the lake gave us a great overall perspective of the city as well as an opportunity to get a feeling of how Chicago was built after the Great Fire. I feel like I've learnt more in the last 4 days than I have in a very long time.

Cruising Chicago River

As it happens, time was running short and the South Water Grill was between the boat cruise and our hotel so we stopped there for lunch (again) before taking the taxi out to O'Hare. We dumped Robbie off at the American terminal before swinging back to United for our flight back home. Which went off without incident (unlike the previous two trips Amy and I have made together).

I need to reiterate how great a city Chicago is - maybe one day we'll live there - who knows. Was great to catch up with Bob again, even if his lovely wife snubbed us again. Hope to see him in the new year when if head back to Australia. Chicago is our kinda town!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chicago, IL

Unfortunately today is the day Amy has to work, so Rob and I are off for a boy's day.

The day started with us walking down towards the Field Museum of Natural History, where we are to take in a great display of history before heading down to see the White Sox take on the Orioles. This building is grandiose at best. From the overwhelming size, to the columned frontage, to the spectacular view of downtown and Lake Michigan from the front door, it is a building that can match some of the great buildings of Europe. However the building is nothing compared to the collection inside. From the moment you step in and see "Sue" the most put-together T-Rex, you are in awe. So much so, we spent the next fours and a half hours inside. We didn't even get around to the featured Real Pirates, and Water exhibits. We spent a long time in the Evolving Planet Hall, with it's dinosaurs and timeline of the world. There is also a fantastic exhibit of the Americas, which finishes with artifacts from Pacific Northwest Native Americans (my favorite). All the masks, totems and imagery really catches my imagination (again like the Dali Museum in St Petersburg - I don't now art but I know what I like). Another highlight was a photographic retrospective of the Civil Rights Movement. 150 black and white photos, each more powerful than the last. The photo that summed it up for me was a Will Counts photo of Elizabeth Eckford, who on her own, tried to enter Little Rock Central High School in an attempt to desegregate the school, even when the rest of the Little Rock Nine did not show due to a miscommunication. It is a compelling image of a strong and proud woman holding her own in the face of the worst adversity. The picture can be found here.

Once we'd finished, and missed the start of the baseball by 2 hours, we opted to walk over to the the Adler Planetarium - cause one museum a day is never enough. While the Adler had some interesting stuff - I particularly liked the Apollo 11 and Telescope exhibits - it was a bit benign after the Field Museum.

We walked back to The Essex Inn for a drink, while deciding on where to eat dinner. Not a lot of thought was put into it as we ended up back at the Weber Grill for burgers and beer. By the time we finished the day it was near 9pm and we'd walked at least another 4 miles, as well as trekking through an amazing museum. Sad there is only one day left.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chicago, IL

Today is a day of walking. And we cover some ground in Chicago - at least 5 miles.

We walked down towards Robbie's hotel to meet him for an extended breakfast, before the three of us wandered across Millennium Park to the lake front. From there we casually strolled up to Navy Pier. A beginning regatta had the lake full of boats and plenty of people enjoying the perfect weather (70 degrees with a light breeze). So much more pleasant than the furnace that is the Vegas summer.

We headed west along the north bank of the Chicago River, back to Michigan Ave where we walked up part of the Magnificent Mile til lunch was decided upon - The Weber Grill. I really like the warm feel of this place. And you can't go wrong when burgers and barbecue is cooked on a Weber. Afterwards a bit of shopping was done before we made our way back to the hotel via Cloud Gate sculpture in Millenium Park. This is such a simple piece of art, but it brings so much pleasure to people. Everyone enjoys it, and makes the most of the reflective photos.

Bob & I @ The Bean

Robbie had been given the tip of Gibson's for dinner by a friend. So we thought we'd see if we could walk in on a reservation. A quick cab ride north of the river and the area around Mariano Park was hopping. No chance of getting a table at Gibson's, but we walked into their next-door-sister restaurant, Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House, and were seated in the bar area of yet another busy restaurant. Score. Again it's steaks for Robbie and I and a nice piece of fish for Amy. The food here was magnificent (better than last night) and the noisy atmosphere made for a great all round meal.

Me, Amy & Robbie @ Hugo's

We lucked out again across the street at the Hunt Club, where we walked in and found a couple of guys leaving what was to become the only vacant table. A few drinks and shooting the shit - a great finish to a productive day. We finished up there when the club started getting going. A cab back to the hotel and a good night's sleep after an exhausting day.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Las Vegas, NV to Chicago, IL

17 July 2009
Ahhh! Chicago! 2nd visit here and I loved this town the first time. I could live here if it weren't so cold in the summer. ABH has work to do in this great city, so I must accompany her to ensure there is no bad shenanigans going on. And as a bonus, Robbie, who has been in New Orleans for work, will be flying in to join us.

Gratefully ABH booked the tickets so we arrived at the hotel at midnight last night and we wake up ready to take on the city (well at 10am anyway). We are staying at the University Club of Chicago (on Monroe & Michigan), right across from Grant Park. Not too impressed with the hotel. For a private club with all it's pretentiousness, I was gobsmacked to find two huge holes in the wall outside our room, with no indication that work was taking place. But it's a great location, and free - so that's the last of you hear me bitching about it.

We started with a late breakfast / early lunch at a favorite place from last time. The South Water Kitchen. Just typical bar and grill food, but a nice restaurant, good food and good service to get the whole shebang started.

From there we walked back down to Grant Park and Art Institute of Chicago to begin our cultural education. There is a lot of Modern Art which is too highbrow for Amy and I , but there is plenty for us to enjoy. Like Seurat's "A Sunday On La Grande Jatte", Wood's "American Gothic", some El Greco, a Lichtenstein and some Monet. Glad we stopped in there, even if he museum layout is a little confusing.

As is usually our want on trips away, the afternoon nap called us away from the city for a period of time. I rested while the boss did some studying. Basically we were killing time waiting for Robbie to fly in that evening. We ended up meeting him at his hotel (The Essex Inn) before we headed up to the Chicago Chophouse for a late dinner. This restaurant is a legendary Chicago steak house and it did not disappoint. Beer. Wine. Steak. Potatoes. It's all good. We did head out to look for a bar to have a drink after dinner and ended up at the Hard Rock Hotel. It surprises us in other towns when last call is midnight. Las Vegas has spoiled us. It was this time last year we last saw Bob (his annual work pilgrimage to a meeting in the US) so it was good to catch up with him. But we still have 3 days of adventure....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jet @ Wasted Space

Time for a bit of Aussie rock (it has been too long between gigs). Tonight I came to see Jet for the second time in Vegas (the first was 5 years ago at the Joint when they were wedged between the awful Vines and the awesome Living End). Was also curious to check out Wasted Space as a live music venue.

Wasted Space seems to be more of a nightclub that put up a stage as an afterthought, as it is an oddly shaped venue. But no complaints from me. Being 6'4", I was stoked to be 8 feet from the stage, leaning against a railing, and not blocking anyone's view. I'd guess that about 300 people made the place fairly full, and everyone erupted when Jet hit the stage. From the get go Jet were ready for a good time, and the crowd reacted accordingly. They played a mix of songs off all of their 3 albums, none better than the early-played Are You Gonna Be My Girl? Plenty of good banter with the crowd. Nic did a couple of songs from the bar and spent some time on the dance floor as well. This was heaps better than last time and a much better venue.

Rip It Up / Killed In Action / She’s A Genius / Are You Gonna Be My Girl? / Seventeen / Cold Hard Bitch / Look What You’ve Done / Goodbye Hollywood / Money Mouth / Black Hearts / Get What You Need / Get Me Outta Here
Encore: Bring It On Back / That’s All Lies / Holiday

The Crap Facts:
This is my 288th concert.
Wasted Space is the 78th venue I've seen a concert.
This is my 86th concert in Las Vegas.
This is my 86th concert in Nevada.
This is my 95th concert in the USA.
This is my 2nd Jet concert.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rise Against, Rancid & Billy Talent @ The New Joint

So the New Joint has a much larger feel when you are on the floor than in a VIP Booth (as per Santana). Mind you it is tons bigger than the old Joint (much to my dislike), but this is what I am working with so I will go with it.

After queueing all the way through the casino to the parking lot, we got in to see the last 3 songs of Billy Talent. They seemed ok, and had plenty of people up front interested. This may be too big a venue for their style of performance.

It has been a couple of years since I first saw Rancid at the House Of Blues in Vegas. That time they blew the PA halfway through a rockin' show and it ended fading slowly. Not so tonight. A good, solid set with some of the new album and plenty of old stuff. All the songs I wanted to hear were spread out through the set (Ruby Soho, Time Bomb, Fall Back Down, Olympia, WA etc) and the graphics / pictures on the screens on and surrounding the stage added to the performance. An hour only whet the appetite, I really need to see Rancid headline their own show (in a smaller venue) soon. Props also for dedicating a song to Lux Interior.

Rancid was my reason to go tonight, as the only Rise Against song I really knew was their cover of Nervous Breakdown from the Dogtown & The Z Boys movie a few years back (because I'm old and can't keep up with the kids today), though I had downloaded a bunch from iTunes the week before and listened to them enough to recognize a few songs. Regardless, I thought Rise Against was good - mainly because their drummer is awesome - but a little too much synchronized skipping between the guitar and bass players, and a lot of rock n roll face from the guitar players. Again I stand in the minority as the masses spent a good hour and a half going berserk.

Intro / Collapse (Post-Amerika) / State of the Union / Re-Education (Through Labor) / Paper Wings / Long Forgotten Sons / The Good Left Undone / Intro / Chamber The Cartridge / Drones / The Dirt Whispered / Audience of One / Blood To Bleed / Savior / Survive / Blood Red, White, and Blue / Prayer Of The Refugee
Encore: Everchanging (Acoustic) / Hero Of War / Dancing For Rain / Give It All / Ready To Fall

The Crap Facts:
This is my 287th concert.
This is my 2nd concert at The New Joint.
This is my 85th concert in Las Vegas.
This is my 85th concert in Nevada.
This is my 94th concert in the USA.
Billy Talent are the 355th band I've seen.
Billy Talent are the 100th different band I've seen in Las Vegas.
This is my 2nd Rancid concert.
Rise Against are the 356th band I've seen.