Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Soup at the Goose

I have often told myself to avoid copious consumption of alcohol in public because it embarrasses me to stumble, slur, and offer too-candid observations of those sitting near me. However, this Mother’s Day Eve I decided to risk an exception. I could afford to do this because Snuckafoo usually provides an energy that will carry me through a reckless binge, constantly reinforcing the joy of being alive, the goodness of my fellow man, the attractiveness of my fellow woman, and my legs. For this experiment in positivism, there is no better venue than The Wild Goose, and Snuckafoo did not disappoint.

The Wild Goose at 4265 N. Lincoln Ave. is a cozy neighborhood tavern in North Center. The stage rises at the front of the bar, and high and low tables stretch to the back with the exception of ten feet cleared out in front of the stage to accommodate those whose inhibitions have melted away into a dancing frenzy sometimes with lots of elbows and thumbs.

Snuckafoo set the table with their original Bluegrass favorite, “Aloha Mexico.” Heads nodded, and shouts rang out, though no one hit the floor. Late arriving fans were treated to a steaming helping of rapid-fire lyrics in Pat Reilley’s faux-Kentucky drawl and tender high harmonies from the rest of the band.

After a jam-proper unification of their original “Miller’s Fury” and Neil Young’s “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” they treated the crowd to some Blues Image with “Ride, Captain Ride.”

Snuckafoo and the crowd settled into synergy. The beginning of one of their signature songs, “Advice for Neddy,” brought squeals of “I have this on my MySpace profile.” These succumbed to the roar of Snuckafoo’s engine, Hondo’s bass. Thanks to Jagermeister, I had begun to use my imagination, and Hondo’s right arm became a four-beaked goose pecking a steady rhythm. This goose would not eat stale bread, as I discovered by inadvisably tossing old baguette chunks at the stage.

The band ended the first set with “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Wildlife still roamed my mind, and keyboardist George’s hands became Daddy Longlegs, strutting and prancing about the keys. Then they were tarantulas: hairy, poisonous, and misunderstood. If I were to rub them against my face, I would find them soft and kind. To rousing applause, Snuckafoo left the stage, jarring me back to reality. Rub George’s hands against my face? I went out for some air.

Having recovered most of my sanity, I threw it out the door like an unruly drunk when to open the second set, George took the lead vocals for the Talking Heads cover, “Found a Job.” As if by magic, three couples appeared in front of the stage laughing, stumbling, and doing some type of waltz. Within minutes, all six people lay in a pile, but the tone was set. They found their job and did it. Now anyone could dance without fear of shame.

Dance people did to the whirlwind circular guitar of the Snuckafoo original, “Trippin’ Dub.” Pat pushed up his glasses, and smoothly delivered his classic lines, “You no good dirty gigolo/who do you think you is?” I found myself laughing, ensconced alone in a corner. A mustachioed fat man stared at me. Minutes later, the fat man heard the first two bars of “Let It Bleed” and began chortling to himself in obvious enjoyment. I stared at him.

Having found my way out of the corner and up near the stage, I noticed that drummer Dave Schmitt had executed a costume change into a T-Shirt reading “Sexual Dynamo.” During “Swank,” he pounded in steady, rhythmic anger, each drum perhaps the high-school quarterback’s face yelling “Short-stuff” or “Shrimp-o.” My therapist has warned me against projecting, but still the drum-face bled to the beat of the song.

Toward the end of the second set, the room seemed to fill with a soup of music, smoke, and sweat. Pat’s guitar and “Shakedown Street” added noodles to the soup, and perhaps my vision and temporal awareness had blurred, but Pat and Jerry became one and the same. I swam in the warm liquid environment, soul floating euphoric.

Then it was over. Oh, no, it was over. I felt cold. Who would get me a towel? Who would buoy my legs now?

Panicked, I implored Jesus Christ and the band for an encore. The band took the stage, but was it just to get their equipment? They whispered to each other, and Pat picked up his guitar. The doors and windows opened, and I was carried off on a wave of Snuckasoup and the sweet college memories of Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing.”

Beyond the stage, the Heineken star rose red in the window and beckoned me to further joy.

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