Tub Ring Week: Going to Chicago

Back in 2007, there was a spring that was filled with good music. During March, April and May, every Tuesday there was a new album coming out from an artist that Heather and I were interested in. From Static-X to Modest Mouse, it seemed to be some kind of fortuitous whirlwind that brought us a new album to listen to every week. Heather and I called it “The Spring of Awesome Music.” While some weeks were only moderately exciting, like the Front Line Assembly album Fallout, which was just a remix album of Artificial Soldier, other weeks were very exciting, like Bjork’s Vespertine album. But the most excited that I was centered around a release in late May. Tub Ring had a new album coming out.

Now, I mentioned how Josh and (sometimes) I had followed them around Ohio and Kentucky, and Josh had stalked them to Michigan and Indiana as well. We new their first three albums by heart. We new every variation of every song. We knew that they closed almost every show with a cover of Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body, but only if they had a good crowd that night (good quality, not necessarily good quantity). But after seeing them all of those times, we were both pretty starved for new material. That’s why we were so excited about the idea of a new album.

Josh did as Josh frequently does when he’s interested in something. He researched it relentlessly. I’m not criticizing, since I’m known to do the same from time to time. Also, if he hadn’t been going to their MySpace page hourly and trawling message boards whenever possible, we would have never found out about the release party.

In honor of their new album, Tub Ring was returning to their home turf in Chicago and holding a release party. It started as just a single show, but demand for the event grew quickly, and they ended up doubling the event into two concerts. They would do an “all ages” show and a “21+ show” in the same night, at the same club. And they promised that the two shows would be completely different. They would not repeat songs, they even had different openers for each show. Josh had suggested going when it was just one show, but now with twice the Tub Ring for one night, he felt he had to go. I had only been to Chicago a couple of times, and the drive wasn’t too bad. Plus it was on a weekend. Why not?

So we bought tickets for both shows. Josh took care of all of the details. He found our hotel accommodations and scheduled out the weekend, including all drive times and meal times. Josh can be oppressively organized on trips. Josh’s co-worker and friend, Ben, was going to come with us, too. It’ll be a guys weekend in Chicago, and we’ll not only get to buy the new album, but we’ll get to see it all live for the first time. What a perfect way to cap off “The Spring of Awesome Music!”

In honesty, we had just begun “The Spring of Awesome Music” when we were making these plans, but I already had a good map of all of the other music I was looking forward to along the way. Plans were made and tickets were purchased in mid-March. However, by April, this show took on a whole new meaning for me. For me, it was going to be my last hurrah for a while before having knee surgery. And now the choice of graphic makes more sense, doesn’t it.

On our way home from the movies one Saturday night in March, Heather and I got into a car accident. We had just gone to see 300. We were about four blocks from our house when someone decided to run a red light. If we had been a couple of seconds faster coming home, she would have crashed right into the driver’s side door and I may not have walked away from it (I was driving). As it happens, we ended up t-boning her car. We weren’t going that fast, probably 30 mph at the most, but our poor little Saturn Ion was totaled. Airbags deployed and seat belts did their job, so Heather and I weren’t obviously hurt. The front end of the car was crumbled beyond any possibility of repair. The other driver, after the impact from us, went careening into a nearby utility pole. Police were called and showed up. Tow trucks were called. The other driver fled to a nearby house and hid there. The owner of the car, her grandmother, showed up. Insurance information was exchanged. Citations were written (not for us). And we all went our own ways. Aside from the hassle of getting a rental car and dealing with getting all of our stuff out of our car from the impound lot, followed by shopping for a new vehicle, we came out okay. Well, that’s what we thought.

A little over a week later, I was at work when my right knee just gave out and I was confronted by shooting pain. A few doctor visits later, it was discovered that in the course of the accident, I had severely torn the meniscus in my knee. They couldn’t get a good picture of the damage, but I would need surgery, either to repair it or remove it if the damage was too great. My surgery was scheduled for two weeks after the Tub Ring show. If they could repair the meniscus, I was looking at a few months on crutches, followed by some more months of physical therapy. If they had to remove it, I was looking at about six weeks on crutches with a few weeks of physical therapy after that. Either way, my summer would now be entirely devoted to recovery. Now the Tub Ring show was vastly more important to me.

As the weeks before the show went on, my knee didn’t get any better. There were good days when it didn’t bother me too much. There were also days where I walked with a limp and couldn’t stand for long periods of time. Leading up to the show, I became increasingly worried about two things. How was my knee going to react to being in a car for eight hours, and how was I going to be able to make it through not one, but two concert sets? I was determined, though. I would find a way. And Josh and Ben were extremely accommodating. Thankfully, the front seat of Josh’s Solara was really roomy, so my first concern was assuaged. We had a fairly comfortable drive through Ohio and Indiana.

When we got to Chicago, we were having a little trouble finding our hotel. This was before GPS was as prevalent as it is now, so we were using Mapquest directions and an actual map. We were finally able to find the Comfort Inn that Josh had made reservations at, but we quickly decided to cancel those reservations once we pulled into the parking lot. The beds may have been comfortable, and judging by the number of other cars in the parking lot, we would not have to worry about noise complaints. But we probably would have been robbed and murdered in our sleep. We ended up at a Ramada by the airport instead. We checked in, then went to a nearby Chili’s for dinner. After dinner, we got ready and called a cab to go to the show (these were also the days before Uber) since we all planned on drinking. Well, to be clear, Josh planned on drinking and he didn’t like anybody driving his car, even if Ben and I stayed sober.

After a long time in traffic, we finally got to the venue. We payed our cab driver got our tickets out, and went in. I’m not going to go into much detail on the shows themselves. They were awesome, but I don’t feel like I need to list all of the minutia of them. The opener for the first set was okay, but we weren’t really into it. We spent most of that time at the bar. Tub Ring came on, starting the show with Dog Doesn’t Bite like they always did, and did an amazing set of the familiar “classics” we knew and about half of the new album sprinkled in there. We were all a little disappointed because we had yet to hear the songs we wanted to yet, and Josh was to that point not impressed with the new material. That didn’t stop all three of us from buying the new album in the break between shows, as well as getting the bonus EP Alter Egos. Since we had a couple of hours before the next set started, we retreated to the bar area and commandeered a table. As we were sitting there, we noticed the guy next to us looked a lot like Tub Ring’s lead singer Kevin Gibson. When Rob Kleiner, the keyboardist, came over and started talking to him, we realized that the reason he looked like Kevin Gibson was that he was Kevin Gibson. Being the fans boys we were, we took a chance and struck up a conversation. Ben ended up spending a good twenty minutes talking to Rob about his preferred keyboard and studio equipment. It was a conversation that, due to lack of knowledge, I had no business even trying to be a part of. So I hung by Josh while he and Kevin talked about music. It was pretty awesome, and we had them sign our albums. We sat back down, both because tables were becoming a lot more scarce and because I could no longer stand up.

That’s when Trevor, the bass player, sat down with us. Like us, he just needed a place to sit, and the three of us were at a four-top table, leaving one seat available for him to grab. We ended up hanging out and talking to him for about an hour. A bunch of people came up to him and interrupted to get autographs or just tell him that the show was great so far. But he stayed with us and kept chatting to us about music and movies and random bullshit for quite a while, right up until he had to go backstage and get ready. He also signed our CDs before he left, though.

The next opener came on, and though we tried to give them a chance, we found ourselves uninterested, so we headed back to the bar. I was not doing so well at this point. The combination of the long drive, the cramped cab ride, and all of the standing I had already done for the first set was really taking a toll on me. I wanted to sit as much as possible before the next set.

When Tub Ring took the stage again, the room again went crazy. They played everything I wanted to hear, and played the rest of the material from the new album. It was a helluva show. My knee, however, was throbbing with pain. The club kicked everybody out, and we called for a cab. While waiting for them to show up, we decided to just grab one of the cabs that had just pulled up. Half of our cab ride back to the hotel was Josh yelling at the other cab company that had taken too long to show up. They insisted that we should pay something, even though we took a different cab. Josh maintained that we waited for thirty minutes and he owed them nothing. After they finally gave up, Josh and Ben passed out and the rest of the ride was really quiet. We got back to the hotel and passed out. The next day we headed home, but we stopped for a game of disc golf in Indianapolis. I made it through about half of the course before my knee gave out while we were walking up a grassy slope. I headed back to the car and the other guys finished of the course and joined me. We got home late that night and, again, passed out.

I did not end up having knee surgery that May. A few days later, while getting my pre-surgery MRI, I started experiencing some really serious tooth pain. A trip to the dentist revealed that my wisdom teeth had become infected and they needed to be removed. My knee surgery got postponed by six weeks, enough time for me to get all four wisdom teeth removed and fight off any lingering infection. When they finally put me under the knife for my knee, it turned out my meniscus was too shredded to be fixable, so the just took it out. Now my knee can tell me when it’s going to rain! I did spend a good portion of that summer playing Wii Sports (when I was confined to the living room) and World of Warcraft (when I could finally handle stairs and go up to my computer). My knee still bothers me from time to time, but it’s better than it was before the surgery.

Josh and I didn’t go to as many Tub Ring shows after Chicago. We went to a couple, and Josh was upset that they were playing more from  their new album, The Great Filter, than from his favorite album, Zoo Hypothesis. But the Chicago show was the best Tub Ring show I ever saw, so I didn’t mind so much thinking of that as our “swan song.” I was also right that it was the perfect way to cap off “The Spring of Awesome Music.”

Sincerely,

Mr. Tooduloo

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