Ethan is appreciative. We finally get to have a good chat in following his second set. He introduces me to his boys. Connor Ostrow is a sixteen year old prodigy, with a first love of bluegrass he’s recently immersed himself in Honky Tonk to understand the styles of Kinsella. I know the importance of hanging on to young guys that not only want to play but can play. Ostrow is one of these players. I joke that he should quit high-school and hit the road and he takes me seriously. So does Kinsella. I think it’s funny so I play it up a bit. Eli Broxham has a BM in bass performance, not obvious, I’d have guessed a Master. Broxham is hanging with the fourth member of tonight’s line-up that finished teaching lessons and rushed down to catch the second on third set, Chris Kimmons. Groovy cat, plays left handed on a Les Paul but remains true to what Kinsella is trying to sonically achieve.

One of the old boys has been going back and forth between PBRs and an unmarked clear liquid as his White Sox take The Royals. Good night for Chicago sports fans. The Americans even take my team in the World Cup match. Balls but kudos. He steps through my conversation with the band and begins to display how bent out of shape he’s getting. Dropping a cigarette and using it to light another, not wanting to put it back in his mouth after hitting the ground.

I began my day an hour east of Minneapolis with another half-assed van sleep. Arching one out the side door before hitting the hay, I tossed and turned until deciding to get a start on the 400 mile day sooner than later. It’s 11:30 pm at this point and I’m fading hard. Not too excited about spending another sleepless stir in some Chicago hood, I let Ethan know that it was a pleasure to meet him and that I best be on my way.

In a similar jousting I’d receive from one of the boys back in Saskatchewan he says I’m staying for the final set. I made it a rule to not subtly pry for couches/floors/showers on this trip – I got myself into this and can’t expect anybody else to accommodate my decision. With insisting that it’s time for me to go, Ethan offers a couch. I’m torn between accepting and upholding my independence.

“You don’t look like you’d murder anybody,” he projects.

A shower would be a pretty solid recharge at this point and it probably wouldn’t be too much to ask to throw that freezer-pack in the top half of his refrigerator. I’m pretty fucking tired but pushing through for a good rest would beat an immediate slumber spooning my guitar case.

“Wanna PBR?” Ethan offers.

“I’m good man. Yeah, I’ll hang tonight. Thanks, eh?”

You can tell he picked up on the ‘eh’. With that, Amanda, our bartender comes for a quick cuddle up to Ethan. He’s cool. A little smitten because, frankly, she’s a babe and at the present moment, the only female in the room. Ethan isn’t drinking on-stage but you can tell he likes to put them back – not in a problem-esque way, but because, like me, he understands that life is better with a couple in the tank. A couple. Not a full tank like I had at my vinyl release party in May, prompting this choice to stay off the booze for a bit.

Amanda is a diligent worker among the late night crowd. Another turn-over gets fresh faces listening to Kinsella’s style of Alabama influenced twang.

…And in walk Ron and Pam from The Empty Bottle. Happier than pigs in shit to see, they don’t let it go unrecognized that I skipped out on their recommendation to catch Hodie Snitch at the Irish American Heritage Center. I bring it my absence and they give me an ‘Oh we know’.

The Cubs at this point swept the Astros with that two run homer and to stay true to the baseball metaphor, Ethan steps to bat with Amanda. She watches him from behind the bar as he begins taking requests from the crowd and successfully at that. His listenership is educated regardless of the confusing setting. He’s giving me a long awaited, live, in depth introduction to Hank in both his originals and interpretations. Even though the crowd is considerably quieter from when the ball game had started, Ostrow’s study of Honky Tonk reminds him to play that fiddle loud.

Pam and Ron must have two-stepped to a hundred songs by this point tonight but they have no intention of slowing down. It’s late and they aren’t spring chickens anymore but the spirit of the music is rooted in their love for each other. They have an hour drive to make tonight back to Homewood, Illinois for a big day of smoking meat, but Ron likes to keep Pam out late. I could play their night out if I wanted to.

Ron and Pam

Johnny White Sox is stumbling more than ever and starting to talk about how happy he is to be white.

Kinsella is just rocking at this point. It doesn’t matter that the late night crowd has transformed to a racist and lovebirds. If old Hank hadn’t decided to hang in this realm anymore, he sure has shit has returned as Kinsella. Both Amanda and I see it.

“…honey let me call you babe, babe let me call you hon,” – by telepathic request.

Ethan, Amanda, and I chat following the show while the band goes for late night deep-dish. Upon returning, Kinsella points out how good it looks to watch them all hanging out. I know this feeling. As a newly formed line-up, it’s proof of the chemistry. A beautiful thing. Kinsella and I are shooting the shit like old buddies. I’m sober and have my arm around him at points. Teasing the idea of taking off, Amanda mentions that her shift is over at 3 am. I ain’t gonna last that long but like us guy-friends know to do, I let Ethan invest in the possibility of a post-close hang and take off to the address he gave me. No attempt at memorizing. Google Maps the whole way.

I get it. I’ve had buddies do it for me. I let Kinsella know I’m at his place and will be snoozing in the driver seat. No reply. I sleep and wake. Still no reply. Well shit, I shoulda hung around – hopes of a shower diminish. I sleep.

I wake to a window knocking and missed texts/calls. This Ethan Kinsella’s a good guy.

My 4:30 am shower washes off the longing for home I had the night before. It washes off the unsureness of my travels and the fear of being left without a pot to piss in, so to speak. It washes off worry and doubt. I dry myself, change underwear and sleep in jean cut-offs and a Bros. Landreth tee. It smells like Mel.

“Get some rest buddy,” Kinsella instructs, “I don’t know what time you gotta take off tomorrow but I’m free all weekend to hang, chat in the morning.”

They ended their third set with an encore of “I Saw The Light”This quest to reclaim real country music is becoming more spiritual than I expected.

And no spiritual quest is complete without Temptation.