Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Outing to Buddy Guy's Legends

At 8:30 last Wednesday, November 3rd, about 20 travelers set out for Buddy Guy’s Legends to hear Scott Holt and his band play some blues. Although I had signed up to be the local guide, I had never actually been to the venue myself. Although none of us knew what we were in for, everyone was ready to have a good time.

My role as the local guide was literally a little misleading since, upon exiting the hostel, I turned north towards State Street rather than south to Wabash. Lucky for the twenty of us, one of the guests immediately called this to my attention. Upon arrival, our efforts to enter the club were once again thwarted, this time by a crowd of inebriated businessmen and a large, gruff doorman, who notified me that the bar would be closed until 10:00pm for a private party. With an extra hour to spare, I looked at our eclectic bunch of world travelers, and I felt a brief moment of panic. Luckily, a friendly bystander directed us to the South Loop Club just down the street, and most of our good-natured guests obligingly followed.

As the extremely friendly staff pushed the tables together into one very long row, it felt a little like my own private birthday party-- only it wasn’t my birthday. Still, a few of the hostellers affably bid me a happy one just for good measure.

Despite my initial panic, our small detour provided us with a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with each other. At my end of the table, I sat among a group of people from Minnesota, San Francisco, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland where the discussion led to a friendly debate on American social etiquette (the arguable verdict being that Americans are typically more polite than other cultures at the expense of sometimes being less genuine). As a Chicagoan, it is sometimes difficult for me to gauge what guests truly think of the city. Nonetheless, my companions seemed particularly impressed by the local music scene and by Chicago’s role in many classic films. In fact, one guest had recently been to the Art Institute and admitted to appreciating Seurat’s "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" as much for its significance to art history as for its cameo in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

At about 10:00, we all paid our bill, tipped our waitresses, and trekked back to Buddy Guy’s. The private party which had just let out must have had an open bar, because the place was teeming with randy, middle-aged men in neckties and blazers. A few of them offered to buy drinks for the travelers, but as far as I know, most people politely refused. Ultimately, I think we were as amused by them as they were by us.

Although most of us had come to the club expecting traditional Chicago blues, Scott Holt’s style had a bit of a country twang. Still, he was a talented musician, and I was pleasantly surprised. The club was standing-room only, and many of the hostel guests began to disperse among the crowd shortly after we arrived. Nonetheless, it seemed that most stayed well-after midnight. As they made the last call, Scott Holt and his band finally succumbed to their apparently irrepressible urge to close out with “Sweet Home Alabama.” Meanwhile, a few of the remaining hostellers had made new friends and were even making plans to find another bar.

In the end, all of the missteps and unexpected surprises of the evening seemed to work in our favor. Although things did not necessarily go to plan that night, as Ferris Bueller would say, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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