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The Head and the Heart, Vic Theater, Chicago, March 7, 2012

It occurred to me recently that the concert “encore” is sort of like the adult version of reviving Tinkerbell.

If you believe in fairies, clap your hands! If you are getting legitimately concerned that your favorite song off the entire album hasn’t been played yet and we seem to be leaving the stage with our instruments forever, CLAP YOUR HANDS.

We all know how it’s going to work out, but we play along because it seems way too risky not to.  Is Billy Joel really not going to play “Piano Man?”  Of course he is; that’s why you came, and he knows that.  But he’s going to make you beg for it.

As a child, watching a PBS broadcast of the Mary Martin staging of Peter Pan on low-fi 1980s VHS, I was always tempted to see what might happen if just-this-once I didn’t clap my hands.  Would Tink be gone forever? (Sidenote: She was, let’s be real, juuuust the tiniest bit obnoxious.  Even my four-year-old self didn’t really suffer minxes gladly.)  I was ultra-intrigued, but the potential crushing guilt of being the child who had changed the course of fictional humanity forever was too strong for me, and at the last minute I always burst into full-wingspan applause to bring our girl back to never-Neverland.

No such personal debate was necessary when, last week, The Head and the Heart played at the The Vic.  If kids clapped dutifully to prevent the publicly televised demise of a fairy, this audience applauded desperately for TH&TH–and the reward of hearing the folky, aching, hurtling Down In the Valley”–after all hope of another tune seemed lost– was far better than anything Tink ever drummed up.

I am on my way/ I am on my way/I am on my way back to where I started…

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This weekend I celebrated a milestone, and so did my favorite place in Chicago.  The Hideout, “a regular guy bar for irregular folks who just don’t fit in, or just don’t want to fit in,” marked its 15th anniversary–or, more accurately, this most recent 15-year phase of an illustrious career begun post-Prohibition–and their annual block party happened to coincide with my birthday.  (I keep envisioning a 30Rock-style flashback to a bespectacled eleven-year old me, wearing a shirt that said “Book Woman”, which I unfortunately liked a lot, pausing to look up from Vanity Fair and saying “I have a feeling that someone in Chicago just bought a bar I’m going to really enjoy in my twenties.”  Sidenote: I’m pretty sure a variation of that shirt is now available at Urban Outfitters.  I wish I had realized how powerful the ironic t-shirt trend was going to become when I was eleven.)

Snuggled in between the warehouses of the near-West side and the Chicago Department of Fleet Management, where the city docks its snowplows, the Hideout always draws an off-beat all-ages crowd, despite the dizzying number of fixed-gear bikes piled out front and the amount of people who seem to know each other from working at Groupon.  When the owners discussed their experience earlier this month at Mark Bazer’s Interview Show, they said they envisioned a place where musicians could come perform when they were just starting out and again over the years as they formed different bands, a place where people could come hang out and hear great shows any night of the week, a bar that could host rock performances and the luncheon following the baptism of the frontman’s first baby.

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