Pier Pressure

Pier Pressure

At 7 a.m., the boat chugged back into the dock where whitefaced and sick looking kids stumbled over the gangplank and dispersed, shakily, into the hazy summer morning.

But we still had another gig!

It was halfway to St. Patrick’s Day on Navy Pier, as vinyl signs dotted with Old Style beer logos announced at the entrances.

Barbie Army was bedraggled after a long night on the Puke Cruz. But we still had our tampon headresses and we were still going to rock the show.

Coffee and cigarettes were obtained. We rolled our amplifiers and carried guitars through the cement maze to the main stage, still wearing blurred makeup from last night’s gig.

Yes, it was early, but there was something odd about the Halfway To St. Patrick’s Day thing. No one was there. The pier’s cement corridors were empty. A few staffers carried equipment back and forth, the gates were opened, but only a handful of people seemed to be walking around.

“Where is everybody? I thought this was advertised on the radio,” Mary asked.

At the enormous stage, two sound techs set up our relatively tiny amps -- it seemed -- about 100 feet apart from each other. Tina’s drums were so far behind us, I suddenly worried we wouldn’t be able to hear her or communicate with each other.

Would "Mr. Fucky," my used Fender amp, start buzzing after being rolled across the bumpy sidewalks? Would Mary’s solid state Peavy amp be loud enough to be heard? Would we hear each other in the monitors? My heart pounded. I smelled my own stale sweat on the dingy crushed velvet.

The sky was empty and the worst thing was rows of empty seats -- stretching as far as the eye could see with a few people standing way in the back and a couple of small groups sitting in chairs too far away to make them out.

One of the sound guys, a heavy fellow with red gingery hair and freckles, was gruffly setting up microphones for our amps -- literally a Chicago Irish leprechaun.

“When are the people supposed to get here?” I asked.

“When they get here,” he said.

He seemed -- how to put a finger on it? He seemed enraged.

“But nobody’s here. Can we wait to go on when some people get here?”

“Half an hour,” he said. “You go on in half an hour.”

We huddled offstage for a quick conference.

“This whole thing is a disaster,” Mary muttered. “What if this whole event is a giant flop?”

“How much money did they spend on this? Could they have rented the whole Navy Pier and no one came?” I asked.

“Well fuck it, we’ll just kick ass anyway,” Tina said.