Gov’t Mule w/ John Scofield @ Rivera Theater – Friday, February 27th


Friendly cabbies, trippy tunes and burritos…This is the story of “The Trifecta”…

My friend Adrian was playing a show over at Tonic Room, so I decided to meet my buddy Matt there after work.  The plan for the evening was to watch our friend rock some great hippy drums and then catch Government Mule over at “The Riv” afterward if we had time.

My cab ride to the venue was a perfect start to the evening.  We had a lovely chat about life and even monster-trucked our way out of an inconvenient cul de sac, over the curb, and into a parking spot. Unnecessary?  Sure, but certainly in the spirit of a Friday night rockin’ in Chicago.  I was pretty sure, at this point, this would not be a one-concert-only kind of evening!

First of all, as someone who has, both, played and been a patron at Tonic Room, I must say it is an awesome little spot.  The stage is RIGHT in front of the door, which allows each concert-goer to enter the room and walk straight to the front of the stage.  I know, when I play there, I try to greet each new person from behind the drum kit as they walk in.  The guy at the door even drew pac man eating pellets with a sharpie on people’s hands as the re-entry stamp!  How could you not love that?

The Phish ensemble that played was born from a class at Old Town School of Folk Music, which was quite interesting.  The teacher of the course even stood in the corner, pulling the band together with his Strat occationally and giving subtle instructions to the band members.  There were 4 guitar players on stage total, which really gave it that full Phish-y kind of sound.  I’m not a huge Phish fan myself, but these guys were crushing it.  Especially my buddy, Adrian, who absolutely took me to another world with his drumming.  I have know this guy a while and jammed with him on many occasions, but I never saw him play a show before.  Clearly, the boy can play!

I felt bad jetting out before the end of the set but, as I mentioned, this was the spirit of the evening.  The night was to be an epic journey, not a simple night out on the town.  As Matt and I sped toward The Riviera Theater, we enjoyed an interesting conversation with another cool cab driver.  Although this fella didn’t drive on the sidewalk at all (bummer), we talked about the very tense situation in Sudan.  We learned that, although there are certainly tension over religious beliefs between Christians and Muslims, the real issues are stemming from tribal feuding.  Pretty heavy conversation for a Friday night, but I would say it certainly added to the randomness of the evening.

Government Mule was just getting started as we ran inside from the freezing cold and grabbed tickets.  We weren’t even sure that we would get in as we were flying by the seat of our pants at this point.  Besides our easy entrance, we also managed to walk right into the middle of the floor about 15 feet away from the stage.  Warren Haynes sounded bluesy and soulful as always.  Half Greg Allman, half B.B. King with the guitar riffs to boot.  Of course, John Scofield added to the guitar shredding with some hot licks of his own.  The pair looked like dueling wizards…happy guitar-playing wizards.

After seeing Scofield in December with Medeski, Martin, and Wood, I wasn’t sure that I was the biggest fan.  His playing is great but his ridiculous guitar faces, coupled with the jazzy context of that show, sort of put me off.  With Gov’t Mule, I thought Scofield was PERFECT.  His playing was very tasteful and I felt he really was able to take some classic blues structures and really take them into the stratosphere.  Perhaps it was opposites attracting, perhaps it was the incredible evening, but I was sold.  Coupled with meeting a delightful young man named A.J. who helped save our spots on the floor as we hit the bar and restroom, the show was a blast.

As we left “The Riv”, Matt and I were on cloud nine.  With two shows in the books, this was truly another legendary evening with my friend who I affectionately refer to as “The Duke of Frenchman Street”.  We were closing in on our favorite Mexican restaurant, ready for a late burrito when we saw it….The Green Mill.  Matt mentioned how much he loved the place.  I mentioned that I had never been there, but that I heard Al Capone used to hang out there.  “You’re a Chicago musician and you’ve never been to Green Mill?” said Matt.  It was all the convincing I needed.  Burritos would have to wait…it was time for “The Trifecta”.

The look and sound in The Green Mill was rad.  Sort of strange seating arrangements for a concert but, given the music, I suppose it was appropriate.  The guy onstage was some sort of cheeseball lounge-y singer who I didn’t particularly care for but I high-fived him as he walked through the crowd for his set break anyways.  “Trifecta!” I triumphantly announced to him.  He replied with a very confused “thanks.”  With the addition of sneaking into what I am going to assume was the booth Al Capone used to sit in (I’m judging this from my memory of ), I must say the evening was a grand success.

I can’t really recall when but Matt and I did make it over to the Mexican joint next door, grab burritos, and eat them in record time in his apartment.  “Trifecta, man…TRIFECTA!” we exclaimed with a bro hug before calling it a night.  3 shows in one night?  Not too shabby for a few ole’ rockers in their 30s.  My 3rd cabbie of the evening didn’t say much, which was quite appropriate as he had to wake me up when we arrived at my destination.  “You must have had some fun” he warmly joked as he realized that I wasn’t about to puke in his cab.  “I had ALL the fun” I joked back.

Trifecta complete!

Written by Fusion Alternative Blogger: Jason Polakowski