Monday, January 23, 2006

Reconstruction from an old blog from 2001

Fitzgerald's, Berwyn, IL April 10th, 2001 By Comrade Rick

L to R, Zhenya(G), Igor(B), Oleg(D); photo by Kenneth Garp

Hello all,

As this is my first RE concert review, I should probably start at the beginning... My first introduction to the guys was a copy of "Bellydance" sitting on someone's desk at work. Needing some tunes during a long evening, I popped in the disc, thinking it wouldn't be any good. Boy was I surprised! The production values and musicianship as well as their sense of humor made me an instant fan.

Fast forward to April 2001; I cross the parking lot at Fitzgerald's and parked in front of the entrance is a huge red van with a Russian guy named Igor rummaging through suits in the back. "We start in a little while", he tells me. "I'm just choosing my clothes for the evening." Inside on the stage two more guys work at setting up a drum kit, microphones, amplifiers and proceed to do a soundcheck. "There is too much feeding back", Oleg tells the sound man from behind the drums. "Something is too high." An audience of maybe 50 or so people cluster around tables with beer and popcorn, waiting expectantly for the show to begin. "How's the popcorn?" asks Zhenya from the stage. "I may get some later."

During the first part of the set, most of the audience stayed seated. Maybe that's because this is a working class suburban Chicago audience and it's the middle of the week. Maybe it's because last time the Reds played this stage they had an opening act, the very good local band Satya Graha. Maybe no-one knew what to make of the new 3-piece lineup. So midway through the set Zhenya Rock (his official name, it's on his license!) told the crowd, "If you like to sit down, that's OK. But for those who like to dance, the dance floor is right up here!". A good number of us proceeded to the front to dance and drink like maniacs (I'm still tired and hungover). At one point, when Igor asked everone to show their beer, one man near the bar yelled "I have tequila!" to which Oleg responded, "Tequila, it does the body good!".

Here's the setlist, which I managed to scribble on a bar napkin during the set.

1) Welcome To The Freak Show
2) San Antone
3) She's Running Away
4) Who's Your Daddy?
5) It's Over Now
6) I'll Be Back
7) Scorchi Chornye
8) Three Alley Cats
9) Telephone Call From Istanbul
10) Rocketman
11) I Wanna See You Bellydance

During the intermission, Zhenya wandered over to my table with beer and popcorn and was instantly enraptured by a Bulgarian girl sitting at the table who had only been in the US for one week. Oleg and Igor had to send Mr. Fabulous to pry him from their English-Russian-Bulgarian conversation for the second set.

12) Groovin' To The Moscow Beat
13) Gypsy Heart
14) Red Lips, Red Eyes, Red Stockings
15) Kegga Beer And Potato Chips
16) Bedroom Boogie
17) Not That Kind Of Guy
18) Please Don't Tell Me What I Did Last Night
19) Susanna
20) Strip Joint Is Closed
21) Sad Cowboy Song

22) Lovepipe
23) Juliet
24) Voodoo Doll (my request, thanks Z!)

Afterwards I had a talk with Igor, Jackdaw (whose custom decaled car the band signed afterwards), my new friend Alma mostly about web pages and bad movies... including "Leningrad Cowboys", the band's real story according to Igor; "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which he still hasn't seen but I'm sending him a copy of; "Blues Brothers", which Igor learned his English from!

Driving me to the train later, Alma pulled into Wendy's drive through and the Redmobile was right in front of us! She yelled into the intercom, "TELL THOSE GUYS IN THE VAN THEY ROCK!!!" (which the drive-thru girl did, by the way).

Igor signing Jackdaw's car outside of Fitzgerald's. That's Alma holding the flashlight. I'm just out of the frame! photo by Jackdaw

The Elbo Room, Chicago, IL
April 11th, 2001
I tried to call in sick today to catch tonight's gig, but my boss would't hear of it...

I got off work at 11:00 p.m. and rushed straight up to the Elbo Room- just in time for the intermission! A lot of folks from the night before were there, as was Megan, whose bellydancing routine earlier in the set I had missed. Last year when I met her she was wearing these cool red leather pants. This year she had a blue pair on.

The band started their second set and played some tunes they hadn't the previous night, like "Girl From Malibu", "Boogie On The Beach" and some others (I guess I was having too much fun to remember what they were).

After the show someone decided it would be a great idea if we all went to the Green Mill (Al Capone's old hangout as well as John Cusack's in "High Fidelity"). No one in the band was too sure what that was until someone else mentioned that it was Tom Waits' kind of bar and that settled it. I didn't have a ride so Oleg told me to get in the "captain's seat" (i.e. I rode "shotgun"). I could tell the guys were tired and hungry and probably wanted to just eat something and collapse so I suggested the possibility of Chinatown. Oleg kept saying, "Yeah, let's just ditch everyone and go to Chinatown!" (about 5 or 6 different times, while playing with a bass fish pillow and jamming out to Midnight Oil on the radio). Crossing the street outside the bar, someone pulled up to the intersection blasting hip-hop and I heard Igor say, "Awww, yeeeaaahh".. Kind of made me wonder if their next album's gonna be Russian gangsta rap.

Chicago bouncers are a mean lot and the Green Mill's doorman turned away a few in our group for being either underage or not having ID's (including the girl hanging out with Zhenya). So we all stumbled back onto the sidewalk. Oleg, not to be deterred from having a good time grabbed Igor's shoulder and pointed at a sign in the near distance. "Look!" he said, loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear, "It's the Thailand Food Corporation!" Meanwhile Zhenya set up a camera on a street lamp and proceeded to try to take a group photo.

Green Mill and Thailand Food Corporation, January 2006 (photos by Rick)

Last I saw of the Red Elvises, Igor was saying something about stopping at a gas station to buy some food (probably potato chips)...

Wednesday, April 11, 2001. Parking on a Chicago side street at 3 AM is nearly impossible; Ron had to wake up before 8:00 to move the car, which he'd parked in front of a school. Some more sleep, then breakfast at a Greek diner, a look at the local Salvation Army store (I bought a red skirt, and a pair of leopard-print high-heeled mules to go on the Nice Shoes shelf), and some reconnaisance around Chicago, to find Willie's place (he'd invited us to dinner) and The Elbow Room, which wasn't open yet, so we couldn't hang the banner up ahead of time. 75 degrees, hot and muggy. Ron discovered that the film he'd had in his "good" camera the night before was Kodachrome slide film, so no one-hour photos for us.

Turkey dinner with all the trimmings at Willie's, somewhat delayed by Ron having to go back to Rikki's (our neice) to pick her up and bring her along so Willie could drive her to the show (the Redmobile is a 2-seater, a logistical difficulty I had overlooked.) Rikki is an art student, and Willie's significant other is an artist, gallery owner, and thoroughly charming woman; she charged us all with the task of trying to get Zhenya to do a show of his paintings at her gallery.

On to the Elbow Room: pouring rain and no place to park, then a mad dash to the club. Waiting in the street-level bar until the doors for the downstairs dance room opened at 9:15. RE not there yet; warm-up band the Stray Toasters, who'd come to Fitzgerald's the night before to see RE (this was the only night they had an opening band.) RE arrived, and Willie and Ron helped them carry equipment in and downstairs (no ramps or elevator.) I played Pencil Fairy, and we hung up the banner, but we were off to the side in a sort of low cave area, so I doubt if anyone saw it. Rick, whom we'd met at Fitzgerald's the night before, spotted us and came over. Ron and I dressed as red-dashiki-clad Twinkies; by this time, we had decided to save our RE shirts for daytime promotional wear.

Better rested, and after seeing Rick writing down a set list at Fitzgerald's, I managed to get a pretty good account of who was doing what, and when, except for singing. The initials are names first, instruments second.

ZG, IB, OD: Running Away; San Antone; Space Cowboy; Red Lips Red Eyes Red Stockings; 200 Flying Girls; Who's Your Daddy?

ZG, OB, ID: Scorchie Chornie; 3 Alley Cats (Z put on Phelan's stocking cap and rapped part of song); Boogie on the Beach; Love Pipe

ZG, IB, OD: Rocketman (Z grabbed crutch that a girl had leaned against stage, and used it as a 'bow' on guitar strings); I Wanna See You Bellydance

BREAK, then ZG, IB, OD: Move to the Beat (new song? not on albums; title unsure); Harriet (with Oleg playing bass and drums, Igor singing); Juliet (new song, maybe Romeo & Juliet, great!); I Will Come Back; Flaming Cheese

IG, OB, ZD: I'm Not That Kinda Guy (Z removes shirt...slight farmer tan!); Please Don't Tell Me What I Did Last Night; Susanna; (somewhere in here I lost track of who played what) Strip Joint is Closed (audience member picked up tambourine, did a good job); Sad Cowboy Song (triple drum 'solo', all of 'em banging away at once); Girl From Malibu

ONE MORE: Closet Disco Dancer

Rikki had been dancing down in front for most of the night, joined by Marty, who showed up during the break, I think. Zhenya must have liked how Rikki danced, because he autographed a guitar pick for her, even though she'd been too shy to get up on stage during "Bellydance." Mr. Phabulous and his table of goodies had remained upstairs; this was probably a good thing, because, by the end of the night, the downstairs floor was wet and the very walls were sweating from condensed exhaled breath. Willie had to go home, but, after teardown, the rest of us tried to go to an after-hours club to unwind with a nightcap.

Unfortunately, after Rick rode with the band to show them the way, and Rikki rode with Marty to direct her, and we followed as best we might, the club refused entry to anyone without an ID. Mr. Z and his lady friend didn't have theirs (neither did Ron, but we didn't get that far) and the commissar at the door got snippy when Z asked if they couldn't just mark them as 'not drinking'. "What, am I talking Japanese here? no one comes in without an ID!" Jeeze. That pretty much broke up the party; the guys went off to their hotel, and Marty and Rick came back with us to Rikki's to chat for awhile. Ron had to park in front of the school, again. (It was hilarious when the doorman at the Green Mill told Zhenya, "What, am I talking Japanese here? no one comes in without an ID!" because Oleg immediately told the doorman, "It's OK, he dosen't know Japanese anyways!" -Rick)

Jackdaw & Ron groovin' to the Moscow beat!
photo: Kenneth Garp

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