Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Adventure? Splendid!

Back in January, I knew my life would be heading in a direction I like to call "shambly".  I knew that my interim position was ending and that there was a good chance I wouldn't be returning to my previous position.  Knowing my income status would likely change relatively quickly, I did what most slightly irresponsible 20-somethings would do: I made fun summer plans and bought concert tickets.

I've been a fan of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's band She and Him for at least three years now.  They recently came out with their third album (aptly titled Volume 3) and launched a tour to promote it.  I got an email about a pre-sale at the end of January, contacted some friends, and purchased tickets immediately.  To say I had been looking forward to the concert was an understatement.

At the same time as I bought the tickets, I also started a quick descent into the Joss Whedon fandom.  For those of you who don't know, Joss Whedon is the mastermind behind shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse as well as Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog and The Avengers.  He also has some surprising writing credits including Toy Story and Roseanne.  He has a tendency to work with the same actors because he knows their strengths and their abilities.  In between principle photography and editing for The Avengers, he brought a bunch of actors to his gorgeous home and filmed an adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

I had been looking forward to Much Ado's release for a months, and I got very excited when release dates were finally announced.  I was less than thrilled, however, that "wide release" only included 5 theaters in Illinois - all of them in the Chicagoland area.  Thankfully I found a theater screening the film as a matinee on the same day we would be attending the concert.

Stacey and I headed north to meet our friend, Jenny, who would serving as companion and tour guide for the day.  As we got to the city, we looked for parking near the concert venue.  In case you're wondering, yes I did take a picture of what must have been the She & Him tour bus in front of the ballroom.  

Because I'm a creeper.

By the time we got to the movie theater, previews were rolling, and I realized I wanted to see every single movie they advertised - even the one in Spanish.  Much Ado was everything I wanted it to be.  I loved seeing my favorite actors from the Whedonverse perform what is essentially the original romantic comedy.  I enjoyed Whedon's use of a backstory that I always thought was hinted at but never explored in the original play.  I'm happy the traditional song "Sigh No More" was incorporated in the masquerade scene.  Clark Gregg really impressed me as Leonato.  That character goes through probably the most drastic changes in demeanor throughout the play, and Gregg gave such a fantastic performance of the entire range of emotions.  Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillion's portrayals of Verges and Dogberry cracked me up, as they would for any Whedon fan.  And Alexis Denisof had me in stitches throughout the scene between Benedick and Beatrice just after he's heard Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio describing her alleged love for him.

I'm SO happy I got to see this in the theater.  Thankfully the Art Theater in Champaign was able to get it after all, so I took my boyfriend to see it last weekend.  It made me just as happy the second time around.

After the movie we found a pub with outdoor seating and enjoyed the unusually mild June day.  For dinner, we moseyed down the street to try the burgers at Kuma's Too. 

Waitin' for our food with JNance

While visiting the restroom at Kuma's Too, I noticed all the graffiti inside my stall.  My eye was drawn to the top of the door, though, where a quote from one of my favorite movies, Empire Records, was scrawled.

Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior.
After dinner we headed back to the Aragon Ballroom for the evening's main event.  I hadn't been to the venue before, but I had read up on it (like I do for just about everything).  It was a general admission show, and we got there right as the opening act was finishing their set.  That timing worked out fairly well for us, because a lot of people were walking out to use the bathrooms and/or buy merchandise and alcohol.  Signs were posted asking fans not to take pictures and instead enjoy the moments live.  I do respect that sentiment, I promise, but there was just no way in hell I was going to be in the same room with Zooey Deschanel and not snap a few quick photos.

Knowing we had just built ukuleles, and that I was already fangirling very hard about this concert, our friend Caitlin asked how I would react when Zooey started playing ukulele.  I told her I would probably make a lot of what we call "baby pterodactyl noises".  Then I demonstrated the high pitched "EEEEEEEEEEEEE!" sound.  I think Caitlin was sorry she asked.  I also may have given her tinnitus.  

She and Him put on a great show.  In addition to being starstruck by Zooey and M., I was also impressed with the other members of the band.  Most She and Him songs are under 4 minutes, and the other band members covered all kinds of instruments.  That meant a couple of the guys basically ran from one side of the stage to the other every 4 minutes for the entire set.  There wasn't much banter in between songs, either, so there was no time to dawdle.

As expected, when the show ended after a high-energy cover of "Roll Over Beethoven", the audience kept applauding and cheering, hoping for an encore.  My friends and I all saw a roadie bring out a different guitar at the end of the set, so we knew it was coming.  That didn't make it any less awesome.

After the encore, people started shuffling toward the incredibly poorly designed exits, but I kept looking back toward the stage.  Why?  Because the house lights weren't up yet, and the show ain't over till the house lights come up!  When the band scampered (seriously, they scampered) back out on stage for a second encore, I took off back toward the front of the room.  (Before the show started, I made Stacey promise not to leave without me.  I had a feeling something like this would happen.)  I probably haven't moved that quickly in years.  The second encore was their pretty well-known cover of "I Put a Spell on You".  It was great.

Once we finally made it down the treacherous staircase of doom to the main lobby, I pulled the girls aside so we could document our evening together.  I figured I would just ask the nearest event staffer to do it.  Of course, I didn't realize the nearest employee was approximately 70 years old.  So I had to explain in great detail how to take a picture with an iPhone...  We ended up with a grainy backlit photo that looks like it was taken in a subway.  Still, it's a MEMORY!  I'm so glad I got to share that memory with these particular girls.  When Stacey asked me afterward if I had fun, I told her I wish everyone in that room had enjoyed the show as much as I did.

 We also knew that one of Stacey's former students would be at the show, because Stacey was the one who alerted her to the pre-sale after my email.  We didn't expect to see her but thought it would be funny if we happened to run into her.  Lo and behold, as we were making our way past the merchandise vendor, she and Stacey spotted each other.  Apparently they arrived super early and were in the front row.  She also took illegal photos, but I have to believe that the performers were not nearly as washed out and unfocused in her pictures as they were in mine.

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