niu mlk commons. tuesday. november 30, 1999. 12pm.
steeling ourselves for what was to be a serious stretch of rock shows, we readied neckface for our first expedition since the east coast torr. bursting westward through rush hour traffic, we set out towards dekalb, illinois, and northern illinois university. we coasted through the perfect summer day and onto the lovely niu campus where we anchored neckface. carrying the preliminary load of gear, we made collective eye contact with a young female hot dog vendor. somehow, this subtle interaction must have subconsciously triggered or sparked the beginning of what was to be a gloriously surreal and spectacular afternoon. if, indeed, the hot dog girl was the unofficial acolyte of the dayís unique character, then the appearance of our friend john ugolini of whereís jimmy k at? marked its arrival in full force. all exchanged warm greetings.
one of the first orders of business upon setting up rock shop in the open air plaza/piazza at niu was to locate a distortion pedal to replace robertís recently stolen one(thanks to nilay, conor for lending us instruments). john volunteered to help and rushed robert and gabe to the wjka headquarters. on the way, gabe and john discussed the finer points of the recent dvd edition of the 1966 adam west/burt ward vehicle, "batman: the movie." upon arrival at the headquarters, we met up with wjka guitarist mario donini. john and mario treated robert to a russian-made big muff pedal; it came in an ammunition crate- like wooden box. also of note at the wjkahq was an incredible hand-drawn flyer for the show that john had copied distributed to publicize our show. the boys dashed back to campus in time to find chris and travis primed for rock.
outside of the city, in a big open space, the sky seems enourmous. so we tried to fill it with rock. much like our first journey to dekalb, the set seemed to unfold in slow motion; all sensory input was cushioned by a soft angelic glow. rock and roll heaven. playing late at night in smoke-filled bars is all well and good, but rocking for fresh-faced youngsters under the high-noon sun, rounded off by a cool summer breeze and generously provided beverages--thatís living. john contributed to the wholesome glee of the afternoon by providing chris with a pinwheel to mount on his set. towards the end of the show, we unveiled our secret weapon, a surprise cover of the wjka classic, "nateís song." john came out of the crowd and worked his way through our ranks expressing his gratitude.
after wrapping up the set, reloading neckface, and chatting with the amiable sound crew, we found ourselves in possession of both hunger and niu meal credit cards, so we adjourned with john and mario to a cafeteria in hopes that they would cancel each other out. chris and gabe landed themselves heaping plates of spongy, breaded chicken tenders, while robert and travis partook of non- chicken-patty burgers. we packed ourselves with cafeteria food as john and mario entertained us with tales of their shocking exploits. the food and the stories were surreal enough, but the architecture of this student center cannot be amply described without speaking in tongues. the dining area in which we ate overlooked a billiard hall through large bay windows which had been installed at starship-like angles to make the space beyond them seem completely unrelated, nay, in direct conflict with, the space in which we were eating. on the way out, we wound our way through a menagerie of architectural wonders and horrors. perhaps the most notable was the room subsumed by a kind of under- water motif, with thick 1960s-colored glass everywhere.
back out in the fresh air, our heads began to clear. we thanked john and mario for their hospitality, took their pictures with the rocktopotamus, and headed back to chicago for our second gig of the day...