Music and Beer at the Pier

By The Columbia Chronicle

Lawrence Benedetto

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Photos by Erick Borkowski

Special to the Chronicle

An interesting dilemma occurred last Thursday night at the 7th annual World Microbrewers Oktoberfest in Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom. Agents of Good Roots had finished their set and the Freddy Jones Band was about to start. Meanwhile, upstairs in the lobby, a pair of 19-inch televisions were tuned in to Game 2 of the Cubs-Braves playoff series. It was the bottom of the tenth inning, the game was tied 1-1, and a large mass of bodies had assembled around the sets. But FJB was walking on stage in the Grand Ballroom. But the Cubs aren’t in the playoffs very often….

On this night, the Cubs game outweighed the importance of the show beginning downstairs. However, the game came to a sad and quick end when Chipper Jones’ base hit dropped just inside the left field foul line as the Braves beat the Cubs 2-1. At that point, the dismayed throng of fans headed back downstairs, having missed the first ten minutes of FJB’s set.

The night began earlier with a spectacular performance from San Francisco-based band Train. This was the second time in the last four months that the five-piece group had come through Chicago and put on an outstanding performance. Train relied on four great musicians to create the perfect backdrop for lead singer Pat Monahan’s voice. Lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford, who hails from Morris, Illinois, played powerfully from start to finish during every song, weaving through melodic solos and completing the spectrum of sound.

Highlights of Train’s set included a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic “Ramble On.” This featured Monahan’s dead-on impression of Robert Plant’s voice, which had the crowd double-

taking to make sure it wasn’t the 1970s all over again. They ended with the first single from their self-titled debut album, “Meet Virginia.” The late-arriving crowd got into it, singing along with the band throughout the song.

Agents of Good Roots continued the evening of beer and music with a rather lackluster performance. After hearing their latest album, “One By One,” I was expecting a spirited show filled with energy. However, once they had finished their live set, I was left unfulfilled. Lead singer Andrew Winn seemed indifferent in his performance. Also, without the help of the backing vocalists that fill out the album, the sound seemed incomplete. This was especially prevalent on “Upspin.”

Conversely, Winn’s raspy voice was a unique aspect that set the band apart from other groups that are currently in the music scene. Also, drummer Brian Jones took over lead vocals on a couple of the songs, which was a cool change of pace for their set. Saxophonist J.C. Kuhl was one of the highlights with a number of crisp solos that added to their sound.

Freddy Jones Band came out and played a tremendous set that was filled with many extended jams. Lead vocalist Wayne Healy proved once again that he is an outstanding guitarist who never lets up. Columbia graduate Simon Horrocks carried his weight behind the drum kit, even improvising with Mark Murphy when the bassist unexpectedly went off into an Aerosmith cover.

The band had a couple of fun moments that included the partial Aerosmith cover that turned in to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” During their closer “In A Daydream,” an adventurous fan who had obviously enjoyed a few microbrewed beers decided to hop up on stage. She danced alongside Healy and Marty Lloyd as they played one of the long jamming solos, before getting escorted off the stage by a friendly security officer.

The evening was filled with a number of ups and downs (including numerous pints of microbrewed beer). Train, who will return to Chicago this Friday to play at the House of Blues with Guster, started the night right, stealing the show from the headliners. Agents of Good Roots brought the crowd down a notch just before the Cubs’ playoff loss sunk feelings even lower. Nevertheless, Freddy Jones Band put on another pumped set that returned smiles to the faces of the crowd and closed the evening out on a high note.