Now That's How To Put On A Concert

I admit: when I hear “free concert” and there’s a big name act I expect a long line, a short set, and a whole lot of aggravation. That meant last Thursday’s Barenaked Ladies show hosted by WTMX The Mix was a very pleasant surprise indeed.

There were a few factors that went into this equation. One was the venue: located in a strip mall, 115 Bourbon Street is deceptively large. Lead singer Ed Robertson said they pulled into the parking lot and thought “what the (insert expletive)??? Where do they have us playing???” Then they walked in and saw the place is like a giant playground. With its many rooms and Mardi Gras theme it’s more like a trip to Disney than to a bar on the southwest side of Chicago.

Another were the hosts. I’m good friends with WTMX’s Cara Carriveau so that may make me a little biased, but I thought she did a great job not only introducing the band but also keeping the waiting crowd apprised since a pet peeve for many concert goers is never knowing when the show will actually start.

Then there’s the band. I’m also biased towards BNL. They were the last group I saw in Indianapolis before moving to Chicago in 2001, so I’m not only nostalgic for the memory of my home town, they were just plain fun. And they still are. They would stop for bits between songs, and while with some bands that can be annoying and you just want them to get on with the music, for them it just seems like an extension of their work since many of their songs are comedic anyway. (Favorite quote? “This is a new song. I rhymed orange three times.”)

And finally – and this is a big one – they started on time. Even allowing for multiple photo opps with fans in the teensy tiny backstage room and then a few moments to focus, they still headed on stage two minutes early and then played for an hour. This was in part due to the expert organizational skills of WTMX”s staff, and it also speaks volumes to Barenaked Ladies’ professionalism and their respect for their fans. Even after twenty-plus years they are neither entitled nor do they take their fans for granted. Bassist Jim Creeggan and I even chatted a bit about where he could take his kids while in Chicago.

This was in stark contrast to Lupe Fiasco’s fiasco at The Shrine on January 28, when the comparatively nascent star rapper went on stage over an hour late and played for a beggarly 25 minutes. Granted, he was there for a political fundraiser, but it seems to me his endorsement of a candidate would prompt him to put on an even better show.

I freely admit that experience, combined with backstage access and a friendship with the emcee colored my opinion of the Barenaked Ladies show, but I also know that it’s because of that insider knowledge that I respect it even more. I saw WTMX’s Sandy Patyk check her watch constantly to make sure everything was running smoothly. I was with Cara as she rehearsed her announcements. I witnessed the band laughing and joking with fans and each other before taking the stage. All of that combined meant that the evening was, as a fan wrote on TLT’s Facebook page, the “Most fun I’ve had before 10pm in a long time.”

Thank you, Barenaked Ladies, WTMX, and 115 Bourbon Street! You are all class acts!






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