Balloon-framed, The Hideout has the history you’d expect of a hundred year old Chicago hangout. Built and run by the undocumented. Carpenters that didn’t exist and bootleggers that only few knew, did. The devil is in the details and The Hideout kept theirs in a separate set of books. Ten cent drinks and ladies. The hardworking and hustlers, commiserating in the Elston Avenue industrial district. Built by Ethan’s Irish ancestors, it’s now overlooked by the hefty Chicago Fleet Management Facility. Physically, not managerially. This anniversary celebrates its stage. A stage where hush-Wilco, “The K-Settes”, tested out songs that became Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. A stage where Billy Corgan spent nine consecutive Mondays developing Zwan. The stage, singer-songwriter, Neko Case, transformed into the primal entity. The stage where Bobby Bare Jr. plays a cover show. I don’t find out it’s haunted until leaving the outside Rager for the fabled inside back-room.

Our hosts are “Mr. and Mrs. Wednesday Night”. A character driven, 70’s style duo that has an ironic Tuesday night residency. To a crowd of hundreds they improvise funk grooves with sexually charged lyrics. Her hair is enormous, his moustache matches. Kind of an Anchorman based Frank Zappa that likes to hump a Solid Gold performer. I like them. A lot. They welcome The Hideout owners onstage for a version of Happy Birthday followed by cheesecake. No hands allowed. Mrs. Wednesday Night prompts the ownership trio to dive in.

A clamorous introduction has JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound hitting hard from the first beat. A black storm cloud comes up from behind the venue to cast the outdoor stage. People have made their way onto the roof of the neighbouring warehouse. JC is expressive. In a beautiful act of declaration, he removes clothes to ultimately expose his body. As a transgender it’s powerful. With songs of love, the spirit is tearing through the crowd.

I’m dancing. Mainly heavy head-nods and weight shifting. A baby is bouncing on the shoulders of his young father, Ethan’s crushing a PBR and I just caught an eye. Ethan sees it too.

“Dude…”

“I know.”

If you’re gonna act, it’s gotta be from first contact or it hangs around like one of those Blood Meridian babies. A charred opportunity just dangling. The longer one waits the more rotten it turns. I ain’t acting.

I ain’t uncrossing my arms or turning my shoulders to open up body language. I ain’t tilting my head to express interest. It is possible to say hello, offer a quick backstory and maintain friendly discussion for the course of an evening – but not when a glance becomes a gaze. I would probably learn that she’s a Maroons fan and finishing up her BA in Science. Moved to Chicago from Michigan, it was the second option to MIT but just needed to get away from home for a bit. Met a guy and stayed. They just broke up a week and a half ago. Resembling Marissa Cooper from my first box-set binge-watch, The OC. I shamefully put Ethan’s side profile between us.

She’s justa hangin’ out on the rocks. Singin’ away. Let some other guy jump ship and swim over. I stay with my eyes on the prize. Real Country Music.

I finally acknowledge with pressed lips, a nod and an ‘excuse me, Miss’. Bloodshot Records’ Devil in a Woodpile is going to be on the inside stage before Lawrence Peters, Chicago Music Awards recipient for best Country and Western Artist.

Marissa tucks her hair behind her ear and mouths a goodbye.

Mr. Wednesday Night