Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Red Elvises at Fitzgerald's, Berwyn, IL (2001)

April 10th, 2001
By Rick Vaughn

(come on, all you Svengoolie fans out there; let me hear you say, "BERRRRRWYYYYNNNN???") lol

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.

(c)1998 by Red Elvises

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 (go to for more info). 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 teqila!" to which Oleg responded, "Tequila, it does the body good!".

Photo by Kenneth Karp, Gremlen Studios. Taken at Fitzgeralds, in Berwyn, IL on April 10, 2001

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

Photo by Kenneth Karp, Gremlen Studios. Taken at Fitzgeralds, in Berwyn, IL on April 10, 2001

22) Lovepipe
23) (I don't know the title, the "Where the F*** are you? song) (Juliet)
24) Voodoo Doll (my request, thanks Z!)

Afterwards I had a talk with Igor, Jackdaw & Ron (whose custom decal'ed car the band signed afterwards) and my new friend Alma mostly about web pages and bad movies... including "Leningrad Cowboys" (RE's real story, Igor tells me); "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!

Photo by Jackdaw. Taken at Fitzgeralds, in Berwyn, IL on April 10, 2001

Driving me to the "L" that night, my friend pulled into the Wendy's drive through and the Red Elvises' van 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).

I tried to call in sick today to catch the second show at the Elbo Room, but my boss wouldn'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.

Photo by Rick, taken on a cellphone in 2005.

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.

Oleg from the Red Elvises nearly woke up the neighborhood when he saw this sign at 3 a.m.
Photo by Rick, taken on a cellphone in 2005.

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

-Rick Vaughn
Chicago, IL

Zhenya in Chicago. Photo by Kenneth Karp, Gremlen Studios. Taken in Chicago, IL on April 11, 2001

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