#210: Free Show

August 30th, 2013

In the darkened street where the road bends for no reason, the woman leaning against the motorcycle shook her head.

She didn’t know.

The man wandering down Milwaukee, head up in the air and body doing that search-stumble thing you do when you’re not looking where you’re going, I didn’t ask. He clearly didn’t know.

Nor did the two women who slowed their conversation to look up to the roof as well. Nor did the woman walking stately on in a kinte cloth dress and matching head wrap. She didn’t look or care where the music was coming from, this one. She just kept going, as unstoppable and elegant as an ocean liner heading out to sea.

I didn’t know. And my girlfriend didn’t know. And the guy with the earbuds hanging around his neck who came up to us to ask, he didn’t know either.

“Do you know what’s going on?” he asked.

We said we didn’t. Then kept listening to the band.

At the end of a hot night, the girl and I had gone story hunting, my dramatic term for dicking around until something weird happens and then writing about it for this site.

We didn’t wait long. There was music. Music playing from nowhere on the streets of my little hood.

We hunted down corridors, traced echoes as they bounced down alleys, eyed every car, poked an eye at every window where we saw movement.

We finally found them playing on the roof of the seven-story apartment building next to the occult bookstore.

It was a band, playing on the roof. They were good, too.

From that distance we could only see the drummer and a hint of bass player when he turned in just the right way. We circled the building, looking for a way up. The doors were locked and neither of us felt like pressing all the buttons on the off chance a lazy person would buzz us in without checking.

It worked in “The Maltese Falcon.”

Eventually, we just went to the street to watch the band on the roof, trading theories with our new friend with the earbuds.

Maybe they were doing a show. But no, we couldn’t hear cheers.

Maybe they were shooting a video. But no, the song was too long. It might have even been a medley.

The only thing we knew was that they were on the roof, it was a full band and they were really, really good.

We listened for a while. It was seedy and poppy, just right for a hot night in the dying days of summer. We listened as it trickled to an end.

“What are you doing?” I yelled when the song was done.

The drummer flipped around, looking briefly for the source of the noise before he spotted the three of us.

“We’re just fucking around!” he yelled back.

We traded a few more shouts, the man, my girlfriend and I. I think he eventually realized we weren’t complaining and just wanted to hang out. He still wouldn’t let us in. We still realized later we should have told him how much we liked the song, not that that would have gotten us in, but it was true and would have been nice for them to hear.

The lady and I walked on, after another weird incident in a town where stuff like this just happens.

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You are currently reading #210: Free Show by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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