i was there: jack white (secret show) at reckless records

9 Aug

Let me tell you a story. Everyone likes a good story, right?

This story takes place during my first trip to Chicago on the weekend of August 4, 2012. Why yes, festival fiends, that was the date of Lollapalooza 2012. And no, strangely enough, I did not have tickets.

I was in Chicago for many reasons that did not include live music- namely, to celebrate a friend’s engagement. While I was stoked to see Chicago and celebrate the impending nuptials of my two friends, it was hard to avoid some Lolla FOMO while staying at a hotel downtown, a stone’s throw from Grant Park. Particularly when you’re on a packed train at midnight, en route to a bar, and it’s full of post-festival revelers, dripping with sweat and basking in the glory of that night’s headliners (Black Sabbath, Bassnectar, and Black Keys).

But even without Lollapalooza, Chicago gave me a million things to love that weekend- I couldn’t get enough of the city’s architecture, energy, views, food- not to mention the great friends I got to see.

So there I was, happy as a clam, wrapping up a great trip with a Sunday afternoon excursion to Wicker Park (which I dubbed Chicago’s own Lower East Side). We ate lunch at a vegan cafe, I scored some sweet deals at a secondhand shop, and we hit up some record stores- life was good. But I was totally unaware that my weekend was about to get smacked upside the head with a whole new dose of awesome.

When I walked into Reckless Records, a large crowd huddled was huddled at the front of the store. I quickly found my gentleman companion in the group and asked him why everyone was standing around. “There’s going to be a surprise show!” he told me excitedly.  I asked who, but no one seemed to know. A fellow bystander speculated Franz Ferdinand, saying he had seen the lead singer in the store earlier. “Oh, that would be neat,” I said. But probably only neat enough to wait for 20 minutes or so, particularly with our flight home looming.

Just then, another shopper chimed in casually: “Didn’t you guys notice the Third Man Record truck outside? That’s Jack White’s label. It’s going to be him.”

Hooooold up. THE Jack White? Are you telling me I might see one of my favorite contemporary musicians, and arguably a top five most talented living guitarist, play right here in the store? Yes, that’s what he was telling us. Shit just got real.

We started frantically speculating how long we could hold out before we would miss our flight. I started scouring Twitter for clues, while my companion checked us into our flight and plotted our best taxi route. If our suspicions were correct, this would be worth some travel stress.
Soon enough, we were validated. Some guys in Detroit Tigers hats (White’s hometown) started to crop up. When the band finally took the stage, we knew- this was Jack’s band, no doubt. After a prolonged warm-up/intro that seemed to last for eternity, there he was- a legend with pale skin, crazy hair, and some weird cowboy shirt strolled through the shop’s front door and took his place 10 feet in front of us, guitar in hand.

Our faces were, of course, melted. Jack White is as talented a performer as he is a musician, and that is no small feat when you’re a genius like White. I’d seen him perform once before (with the Raconteurs in 2006), and during both shows White’s energy and engagement with the crowd seemed so effortless- like all the greats, he makes it look easy. Just as a great politician makes you feel like the only one in the room when they’re schmoozing, White makes you feel like you’re the only fan in the room when he’s shredding.

The show seemed to pass in a flash, though in reality White packed in two White Stripes tunes (including the classics “Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground” and “We’re Going to Be Friends), two from the new album, and a meandering ad-lib jam at the end that I couldn’t identify. The band was having a blast, he was having a blast (as much as Jack White ever does, anyway), and the crowd ate it up.

This clip doesn’t begin to do justice to the experience, but it will at least give you a taste of why I fell thoroughly in love with Chicago this weekend (well, one of the reasons). It was one of the most memorable musical experiences of my life, and I wish similar good fortunate on all music fans out there. For all the money you spend on tickets, time you spend standing in sweaty crowds, and energy you spend trekking to concerts any night of the week- everyone deserves a little live music karmic retribution once in awhile.

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