This blog is a continuation of Lolzafest 2021: Part 1, my review of day 1 at Lollapalooza Chicago. Feel free to read that first, or go on ahead without the context.
Since I no longer had complimentary coffee service to look forward to, my first real stop of the day on Friday July 30th was a local coffee shop. It was my 31st birthday and once again I was finding myself spending it alone. Well, this time even more alone; last year I had Dakota to hang out with, this year I was by myself in Chicago.
I treated myself to a birthday vanilla latte. I asked for it hot but they served it cold after a wait that was, let’s just say, longer than it takes to make a latte in an otherwise not super busy shop. But the mobile orders had piled up and those took priority; I was quick to notice almost everyone else in the shop had ordered cold coffee’s, so it was an easy enough mistake to make.
I’m legitimately not trying to be an asshole when I mentioned things like this, I just have a lot of experience working in a wide variety of places, including coffee shops (I worked at a JJ Bean on weekends in addition to my full-time Monday-Friday job at OsgoodePD when money was extra tight living in Davisville, Toronto; my then-husband had lost his job and wasn’t making much effort to look for a new one, but that’s neither here nor there, except it is).
Last year I had a particularly shitty birthday so I was really trying to make up for it this time. I had my ticket secured for the Jimmy Eat World show at the Metro Chicago slated to start at 11PM, which is a late one for an old girl like myself but I can hang with the young bucks, too.
On my first day in Chicago I had discovered the waterfront and Navy Pier and kept finding myself drawn to it. Since I knew no one in town and hadn’t made any friends here after being booted from the hostel, the closest thing I had to spending time with someone was the memory of my old friend Sean Gallagher who was a U.S Military officer and Navy Seal I lost touch with many years ago.
I’ve talked about him a bit on Twitter which I’ll detail in another blog when I get the energy for it. Even blogs like this one right now are sort of sucking the life out of me as I write them, but it’s important to me that I get these stories out.
The latte from Peets was pretty good, can’t complain. Better than Starbucks anyway, which is all I was looking for. The only bummer is that I keep reflecting on how coffee shops, and food shops for that matter all keep prioritizing mobile orders over the patrons in their store. If anyone’s coffee were to be an error, it should be the guy/gal “too busy” to stand in line for one. I say this because for local/mom & pop shops, what’s most important is the relationships you build with your customer base, and I’m just not sure how you can build one at all when your process is to just leave their food and drinks in a container for them to quickly run in and grab without so much as a hello.
If you’re in that much of a hurry, get it at a gas station.
I knew I wanted to go back to the waterfront to spend the afternoon but I also hadn’t spent too much time walking around downtown yet and wasn’t sure what I was missing. So that’s how I spent the next hour or two, strolling around with no real destination in mind and just seeing what popped up.
The reality of downtown Chicago as far as I could tell is that it’s not all that special. A lot of buildings are in repair or some manner, and there’s a couple cool skyscrapers but when you’ve lived and worked in Toronto for years that’s nothing to write home about.
I did enjoy seeing buildings like the NBC, Laugh Factory, some of the theatres and of course, the Chicago Tribune popped up again (must be a busy paper!).
Otherwise I think some of the more interesting historical statues are near Grant Park, and with Lollapalooza day 2 underway I had no interest in heading over that way.
I did like learning about the rivers and why they exist though; an engineering project to curb pollution away from Lake Michigan. Nice to see stuff like that, but based on the way the water seems to be rising again here, I think they’re in for a problem in a few years.
So really all I did on this day was wander back over to the Pier where I finally got some food in my stomach; I settled for McDonalds breakfast wraps. I don’t eat fast food basically at all at home, and I sort of hate supporting them especially over local businesses, but I was feeling like a fussy eater this whole week and just wanted something familiar. Plus, I was able to get another coffee.
Afterwards I decided I’d make the walk up to Wrigley Field because I’ve always wanted to see it, and the Metro Chicago happens to be about 2 blocks north of it so I could check that out from the outside too and get my bearings of that part of town.
Easy enough to find, but this part of Chicago also seemed a little sketchier than where I’d otherwise been. I noted that the “Smart Bar” which was something also noted on the ticket I bought was not only right next door but seemed to be connected to the same building. This comes in to play a little later when I make my return for the show.
I wouldn’t say I’m a huge baseball fan but I do enjoy going to games, generally, especially if its an outdoor stadium, and some fields are more interesting than others. In Boston I was able to take a peek into The Green Monster which was really cool; you can see into it from nearby rooftop patios.
I wandered up to the box office to inquire about tickets, forgetting that Chicago has two teams and as it turns out it was the White Sox that would be playing that day and at another arena across town. The man was nice and let me know about my mistake, I’m sure afterwards chuckling about the silly tourist.
I like baseball but not THAT much. I don’t even know the name of the other field, even now. Honestly at this point of the day I was mostly just looking for some place to sit down for a couple hours to kill time until the show without being bothered, but that was clearly not in the cards.
When I walked around the side of the stadium I could see inside just enough to get a sense of what it looks like. For someone like me, sometime’s that’s enough. So I parked myself on a bench outside the Cubs shop and tried to make the most of it.
I’ll talk about this more in my other Sean Gallagher-specific blog post, but he seemed to be following me everywhere in this city. I tried to keep my composure but I cried more than a couple times on this trip every time something reminded me of him.
A common surname, but what are the odds.
I was hungry but I couldn’t bring myself to stop in at one of the restaurants along this strip. Something about eating alone in a strange city for so many days just really loses its appeal quick. It was around 6:30PM when the wind started picking up and I thought it best to walk back to my hotel to change for the night, and rest my feet for an hour if I could make it there fast enough.
The nice part about walking around the city like this is you feel like you’re heading somewhere even if you have no where to really go. So I walked a lot, even when I knew I was too tired.
By the time I got back to my hotel, I only had like 45 minutes before I’d have to get changed and start making the trek back, and that was with hopping on the Red Line train to save some time. I used my CTA rail pass that I’d purchased on the first day, stoked that it still worked.
I got over to the Metro just after 11PM. I wasn’t too keen on heading in right away because again, there’s just something about being a crowd of people you don’t know, and plus, this was a late night Lollapalooza afterparty show and I had a feeling I maybe wouldn’t fit in with the crowd.
But, I reallllly had to go to the bathroom.
I watched some people enter Smart Bar, showing tickets, and others mainly flooding the main doors. Again, they looked connected, and both names were on the ticket, so I thought I’d try my luck to find a bathroom before parking myself on the GA floor of the Metro for the Jimmy Eat World set.
I approached the two bouncers, and was at this time still wearing the same sweater you see in the picture above. It was obvious what I was there for.
Our exchange went something like this.
Bouncer 1: ID.
I hand my ID.
Bouncer 2: What are you here for?
Me: The show.
I was holding my phone/ticket out.
Bouncer 2: Just asking cause you’re wearing a Jimmy Eat World sweater.
Me: Yeah, can I not get in this way?
Bouncer 1: Do you have your vaccination sheet?
Me: Do I need it for this show?
Bouncer 2: Yeah it says on the ticket.
Me: Really, I didn’t see that.
Bouncer 2: Yeah, in small red print.
I had checked, I was sure, but again, I was pretty tired. Nonetheless, I shook my head and whipped into my Google Drive folder. Since I was travelling, I’d had to show it several times. I showed them the sheet and they took their time with it.
They waved me through. The said to go down the hall and to the right. I said thanks, but I felt like they were messing with me.
Midway down the hall another bouncer who scanned my ticket and then also started a spiel that seemed odd to me.
Bouncer 3: If you need to come out for air, this stamp will get you out.
What the fuck? Okay.
Bouncer 3: Down the stairs to your right, down a hall.
Complicated. Okay. Thanks.
As soon as I got down the stairs I knew this was a big mistake. It was clearly an adjacent club which is what I suspected but, fuck, I had to pee.
I walked into the room they directed me to which was full of smoke. Fuck this, this isn’t right at all, I hate places like this. Where are the bathrooms?
Weird, definitely a gay club or something, but okay, I’m not a wimp, I’ve seen dicks before.
I walked into the bathroom but was already feeling really uneasy. I understand why clubs like this have these types of bathrooms, but the fact of the matter is they’re incredibly unsafe for everyone involved and if you ask my sissy Canadian ass, they shouldn’t exist at all.
Someone was buckling their pants by the sinks. Two girls were in the stall on the right. One girl was in the stall on the left. I waited.
Finally, they finished whatever they were doing. I knew I had to pee and get the hell out of there, quick. I took off my sweater because it was already way too hot down there; the smoke and temperature is obviously why people would need to leave for air.
After I left the bathroom I noticed again a large set of stairs across the floor by the bar. They clearly led to the theatre, or so I thought. So I tried to walk through but was stopped by Bouncer number 4.
Bouncer 4: What are you doing? You can’t go up there.
Me, now a little distraught: I’m actually just trying to get to the show, I’m not sure why I’m down here but I thought this might lead there.
Bouncer 4: Stay here. I need to get to the bottom of this.
The way he said it made it sound like I wasn’t the only one who had found themselves in this creepy club.
He was talking to someone over his headset and told me he needed to get his boss down here. I was immediately even more worried. He started to explain to me that I’d have to go back up for the show, and me, getting antsier by the second, said, “If I just have to go back up then I’ll just walk up and go in the other doors.” I started to walk away when he grabbed me by the arm and I recoiled fast.
I don’t really care who you are, security or otherwise, there’s rarely a situation that calls for any man to grab a woman like this. But I’m not saying I necessarily felt threatened by this man in particular, just that I was now extra on edge.
I felt like we were waiting an eternity for his “boss”. I repeated myself, “I’ll just go up the other way.”
Bouncer 4: No, I really need you to stay and get to the bottom of this.
Weird, but okay.
A small blonde girl approached us and the bouncer explained the situation. She looked at me a little concerned and I was now getting a little emotional when I told her, “I’m not sure why they told me to come down here if this wasn’t the right way to get over there.”
Blonde girl: Did they scan your ticket?
Me: They did. All the guys up there told me this was the way to go.
I was near tears now.
Me: I’m not from here and I really don’t want an issue getting in. Am I going to have a problem getting in since they already scanned my ticket?
I had already overpaid and didn’t want to completely ruin my otherwise wicked lame birthday.
Blonde girl: It’s okay, I’m going to escort you up there.
And she did. They checked my ID again at the second door, which is something that is always mildly funny to me now knowing I have no intention of drinking, but let me in with ease.
Clearly the right location now.
A band called The Aquadolls were opening and let’s just say I was less than impressed. Thought they had a shitty attitude, bad wardrobe, lame stage antics and even worse songs. But I was also in a pretty bad mood at this point, trying to shake it off.
I grabbed a water from the bar ($3USD) and found a spot right in front of where Tom Linton would be standing.
The second Jimmy Eat World show I ever saw I was in pretty much the exact same location at a Toronto venue, and the day before this show I wasn’t able to see him at all from where I stood so I thought I’d just park it there.
The crowd was interesting to say the least but the most interesting of all were the man and woman who barged through the crowd while the Jimmy Eat World crew were setting up with their beers spilling all over, the man was being a total dickhead to everyone around him and the woman, who for the record is built like a small thick truck and looks oddly related to one of the members of The Aquadolls, kept her elbows out as they rudely and loudly pushed through the otherwise totally calm and more mature crowd.
The man turned back to a very slight girl in front of me with pink hair tell her to fuck off. I had half a mind to say something to him then but again, with all the other issues I’d had in Chicago already, I just wanted to enjoy the show, but I knew I’d have to keep an eye on this guy because the pink haired girl was even smaller than me.
Any man who talks to a woman like that, even drunk or high, is no good.
Other people saw this exchange of course and you could feel the tension in our small section.
Jimmy Eat World came out just before midnight if I recall correctly, meaning they played 1 song on my actual birthday. The energy on stage when they entered was a lot different than the day before. Jim seemed agitated but trying to play it off, Tom seemed like he had something on his mind, quiet, and Zach was all business. I didn’t really catch Robin or Rick getting on stage but they played like true pro’s the whole show as they do.
Comparatively, the day before when the guys went on stage they seemed excited and happy to be back on stage; lighter.
These are just my perceptions, I have no idea what any of these guys were actually thinking of course.
I was pumped when they came out though. Finally, something fun to do.
They started with 3 songs off of Surviving and then surprised the crowd with the news they’d be playing Bleed American in full. Oh hell yes, now I’m really ready.
My feet were full of blisters but I was ready to bounce.
It was only a couple songs into the BA set that people started moshing and getting into it. On the one hand that was great news for someone like me that wanted to get some energy out, on the other hand, it meant people were starting to fall into that man and woman douchebag couple I mentioned earlier, and that dude was not having it.
He was getting aggressive with so many people. I kept half an eye but noted their was a security guard pretty much right in front of me who surely would see if anything really went down. There was also a curly haired blonde security guard running back and fourth in front of the stage.
At one point, while I was casually jumping up and down in my place (I like to jump, not mosh; I’m 31, remember? And I was also wearing my Jim Adkins canary tee proudly and wanted the band to see cause I’m that fucking lame sometimes, go on and @ me about it, Aquadolls), someone pushed into me and subsequently I pushed into someone else and so on. This was when someone really pushed into the truck woman.
Now, I’ve been going to concerts since I was about 8 years old (Cher & Lou Bega, what up!), and in my younger years I was that kid who ran from the back of Arrow Hall in Mississauga and as politely as any Canadian girl could, pushed my way up to the front of the stage for my first ever Jimmy Eat World show.
I’ve been hit in the head before by the flying feet of crowd surfers, and elbowed into my ribs and back and been toppled over and broken my glasses back when I used to wear them. That stuff is normal.
The douchebag dude held up his elbow to the left side of my neck pushing into it hard. I tried to back off, not even understanding why the fuck he was doing that to me (because it wasn’t even me that was causing any shit at this point), but he pressed harder. I started to feel my airway close. I was nervous as fuck, but managed to pull off enough and yell out at him and at security “What the fuck are you doing, get this guy the fuck out of here.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now: any man who puts his hands, or in this case elbow, on a woman is this way is a pure fucking sociopath and can and will literally kill someone one day. Look it up, it’s human psychology.
I caught my breath.
I saw the curly blonde security guard ask the guy what happened, and I saw the guy play it cool like nothing happened at all.
Two people behind me asked me if I was okay.
Me: That guy tried to choke me.
Them: We saw. Are you okay?
Me: I’m fine.
They talked amongst themselves about what an asshole he was while I tried to gain my composure again. My heart was beating fast and I was really worried I was going to start hyperventilating in the crowd.
The adrenaline kicked in and I kept jumping until I realized, no, I really need to slow down for a few minutes until my heart relaxes.
The curly blonde appeared in front of me at the railing and motioned that he wanted to talk or something. I had already seen him speak to the other guy who was now kissing up on his girlfriend enjoying the show again, and there was a look in this guys eyes that told me he was going to kick me out.
I didn’t approach him.
I spent the rest of the show trying to get my mind of it, occasionally rubbing my sore neck and just internally fuming that anyone would do that to someone, a woman no less, at a god damn Jimmy Eat World show moments before they go into fucking “Your House“.
This crowd was fucked up.
Needless to say I couldn’t really enjoy the rest of the show because this asshole and his girlfriend, the ones who had been causing shit well ahead of the set starting, were able to stay the whole show and stood with only 1 person in between us the whole time.
And the person that was between us was some lanky dude who was friends with them. Not exactly comforting.
The crowd on the left side of the stage was having a blast. I wanted to be there, but I had two things that I couldn’t shake.
- To get there I’d have to make my way past the guy and his girlfriend, and God forbid I actually graze his sensitive ass.
- The pink haired girl was still in front of me. If something like that happened to her, she’d pass out for sure.
So I stayed.
At some point maybe 20-30 or so minutes before the end of the set the curly blonde appeared again in front of me and flashed an “OK?” signal. I nodded, but I was bummed out.
The last little disheartening part about this show experience for me was that, at the day before’s Lollapalooza set, Jim had his sole focus on the left side of the stage (from his perspective).
At this show, he chose the right.
I was wrong both times. Fuck. Just my luck. This seems like a petty thing but in the moment it bothered me more than it should.
Tom Linton doesn’t look at the crowd at all, just the people upstairs, and his guitar. Just something I noticed. Funnily enough I think Zach paid the most attention to our section out of everyone.
In any case it was definitely the best set the band has ever played that I’ve seen. After the BA set they played a couple numbers from their other records, ending with “23”.
I hesitated after the show ended. It was late, but maybe the band would come out for a second to say hi to people. The venue was emptying quickly; Zach handed off drum sticks to the people just to my left in the first row, and Tom threw some guitar picks to the people around me.
No birthday gift for me. Oh well.
I made my way outside knowing I had a long walk back to the hotel ahead of me. On my way out, the douchebag couple were just ahead of me and I avoided them like the plague. Last thing I needed was a trip to an American hospital.
Outside it was even more clear how fucked up this crowd was. Which I’m not saying to be judgmental, it’s a rock show and you do you assuming you don’t hurt anybody, but I was still on edge. I’ve literally never experienced something like that in all the years I’ve gone to and worked live events.
I hung out around the side of the venue hoping maybe the band would pop out for a quick hello there; after all, I had come all the way from Toronto and wanted to quickly talk to them about my music projects and how it related to them, and how I thought we might be able to build it into something. Bold, I know, but I really think I’ve got a good idea brewing if I can just get the time to say it.
People around me starting acting weird so I walked across the street to pull out my map home.
Of course, then I noticed Jim made his way outside after all, but he seemed to be in a hurry.
I hurried over, politely got in the “line” for a picture.
By the time he noticed me I was exhausted and didn’t really have the energy to say anything I wanted to.
Me: I’m not sure you remember me but you featured me on your podcast.
Me: I came from Toronto to see you guys.
Jim: Oh, cool.
Me, holding up my phone: Can I?
He left. I walked the hour and half home in a dead Chicago night by myself, careful to keep an eye out for anybody else who might be too fucked up and want to try to mess with me in some way.
Travelling alone as a woman sucks.
I made it back and flopped into bed exhausted. Happy birthday Jaimee.
I wrote an e-mail to the Metro Chicago the next day from the safety of my suite. It wasn’t really for my benefit although an apology might’ve helped soften the blow of the experience for me, but mostly I wrote it because there were still 2 nights of Lollapalooza to go and they needed to be aware of the type of guests they would be expected for the safety of the audience.
Plus, I was pretty pissed about the whole Smart Bar confusion.
I shouldn’t have to explain this next part but I’m going to because to me it’s highly relevant to why I feel the need to tell this story at all.
A couple weeks before this trip to Chicago I had to do something I never intended to do. I went into a police station and gave a statement.
About 8 years ago I was sexually assaulted by someone I know. Someone who, to my knowledge, likely still lives right near where I live again now. Someone friends with a band I was acquainted with and on a small level worked with once.
A couple days before this trip, after I gave my statement, that person found me on Instragram and followed my personal account.
We literally haven’t spoken since this event happened, pretty much; that year was the same year I moved away from my hometown for the first time, never planning on returning. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the notification. I panicked and e-mailed the detective at like 4AM.
I live in that same town again now.
To say I get more than a little shaken by men laying their hands on me without my consent is an understatement; I’m a strong, smart woman (usually), but even the weakest of men are physically stronger than most women.
Men don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman, especially one alone in a foreign city, especially one who has seen and heard some shit and herself been victimized. I hate that word, but that’s what it says on the paper they hand you with your case file. “Victim”. I prefer the term survivor.
I had read receipts enabled on my e-mail server so I know the Metro Chicago opened my e-mail.
They never responded.
Thanks Metro Chicago, I’ll never return.
I made the most of my last two days in Chicago.
I went back to the beach and ate at a restaurant. I tipped the guy well even though I can’f fathom how anyone finishes a single meal at that place.
Walking around North Avenue beach I thought about Sean again and what it might’ve been like if he ever had to do any training in Chicago.
I ran with my full backpack on and my denim shorts to the Navy Pier for one last hello.
I took one last walk around downtown Chicago before I left. Saw a couple fireworks over the river. Thought about why I came and if I managed to accomplish what I set out to.
Yes and no, I guess.
I had tried a solo trip last September when I was separating from my ex. It didn’t go very well, either. This trip was sort of to redeem that, too.
I’m not sure I should continue thinking about these things as experiences to redeem but rather just another to learn from.
I guess I could have tried to explain myself better.
I guess I could’ve just gone through the right doors.
I guess I could’ve tried harder to make some friends.
But at least now I know I can travel alone. Even if it was just Chicago.
Air travel with the COVID restrictions right now is a nightmare, I don’t really recommend it. But at the airport I met a woman who was going to be on my plane.
She had a Chicago horror story, too.
She had come on a trip to meet up with a man from Ft. Lauderdale that she met there previously. They had planned to take a drive around Illinois. I could tell she was shaken just telling me even that part of the story.
She let it slip she had to go file a police report in Chicago.
She told me that when they met up and went to go rent the car, which he said he’d be renting on their behalf, they wouldn’t let him rent it.
The first red flag.
She rented the car for them instead even though she made it clear she wasn’t interested in driving in Chicago. (I don’t blame her, drivers in this city are reckless as hell, see the above photo).
She said at one point he tried to keep the keys from her. She didn’t have to explain any further.
I told her I was sorry that happened to her and that I hoped she was able to relax and rest at home. The police station was no doubt terrifying for her.
She said it was.
In retrospect my experience didn’t seem so bad. I felt foolish for even going to a Chicago station for the reason I did on my second day; I still do, but I only had a conversation with an officer, didn’t file anything, they didn’t even ask for my ID.
We both agreed that we thought we were smarter than we acted in our specific situations. I explained to her I too had to file a police report recently; I’m not sure if I did it more to comfort her or me in that moment, but I think it made her feel a little better.
I saw her on the plane and said it was nice to meet her. She said the same.
Maybe next time we’ll be smarter.
Against my better judgement I did one more thing after returning home from Chicago.
I used the last of my Aeroplan points to get one more plane ticket.
I’ve always wanted to go to Poland; years ago I had a whole Europe backpacking trip planned out.
I got married on June 23rd, 2018.
It lasted 3 years, barely, or whatever. Who keeps track.
One more date to redeem, or learn from.
I’ve been practicing my Polish since last years. I’m going to learn all the nicest phrases.
I don’t have a return flight yet because there’s a lot I’d like to try and do in Poland, but it’ll come down to how much money I can save before this flight leaves.
Guess I should really start job hunting properly.
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