The email arrived the morning of Oct. 19:
PSSST! C’mon over here…SHHHHHH!
OK, check it out: We got a call from a GREAT band who wants to play here on November 18th but there’s a catch: It must remain a closely guarded secret until showtime. We’re not allowed to tell you who it is, but we are allowed to tell you that seeing this band in this room will be freakin’ legendary. We can also tell you that it’s only $25 and that’ll be the finest $25 you’ve ever spent, guaranteed. Don’t think too long and hard on this one, grab this ticket before everyone else does…
I was intrigued but also considered that it was a weeknight, and FitzGerald’s in Berwyn is a schlep if you live in Evanston. I assumed they’d booked a very good band, but there are a lot of very good bands that I miss. I’m bad at planning ahead, so I kept the email, didn’t act on it and eventually let it slip my mind.
Then came yesterday and speculation on Twitter that the Rolling Stones might be playing at FitzGerald’s. After all, the band had played a freakin’ legendary show at the Double Door in Wicker Park in 1997, they performed Monday in Detroit and didn’t have another show scheduled till Saturday in Austin, Tex.
Or Genesis played at the United Center earlier in the week—maybe they wanted to bring their prop-pop to a club audience! Or it might be Richard Thompson, who just played two nights at the Old Town School of Folk Music—though the FitzGerald’s email said “band,” and he’s been touring solo and had a St. Louis show scheduled for that night.
“Can't sleep. Too excited about whatever the hell is happening at Fitzgerald's Thursday night…” tweeted @TheLinusLee.
The FOMO kicked in. If I missed a chance to see the Rolling Stones, even without Charlie Watts, at FitzGerald’s for $25…
The secret band’s identity would not be revealed until it took the stage, and the guessing game ramped up as the 8 p.m. show time approached. One guy tweeted that he’d reserved a ticket for the Latin jazz show in the FitzGerald’s Sidebar so he could attempt to sneak in when Mick and Keith arrived. A woman replied that she’d just done the same.
My friend Frank Sennett, a Crain’s executive, was there and tweeted a video snippet of the opening band, Mama Roux, riding a New Orleans groove. “Pretty, pretty good,” he wrote.
As the audience awaited the headliner, Sennett tweeted that he saw a tuba and a trombone through the curtain. “Must be the Stones,” he quipped.
Finally came the big reveal, as the people up front pulled down the curtain to show….
Rebirth Brass Band!
“Shit!” someone says on Sennett’s video showing the moment.
I’m up on a lot of bands, but I’m not up on a lot of New Orleans bands. I don’t know Rebirth Brass Band despite their 2012 Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album. I’m sure it was an excellent show, but I must admit to feeling some relief as I sat on my couch checking Twitter.
No mo’ FOMO!
Some not-surprising grumbling followed.
“Very good band but I couldn't help but feel somewhat deceived by the venue's description in its initial email. I wouldn't consider RBB ‘legendary.’ I love Fitzgerald's but it felt like a letdown,” tweeted @Vinyl_Tones.
“You're supposed to undersell and overdeliver, not the other way around,” concurred @SeanStanglandDH.
Did FitzGerald’s do anything wrong here? The club booked a name band that’s in its rootsy wheelhouse and added elements of surprise and suspense. My wife and I had bought tickets for the club’s late-July Golden Ticket grand reopening show the previous December without knowing who any of the acts would be, and it was a wonderful evening, with C.J. Chenier headlining and Shemekia Copeland and Ike Reilly delivering spirited opening sets.
FitzGerald’s never hinted that the Rolling Stones or anyone of that stature would be playing. On the other hand, “freakin’ legendary” does raise the bar.
Would you jump at tickets for another such Secret Show?