02 October, 2008

Dubuque, IA

We couldn't possibly be disappointed by our night in Dubuque. There are a few reasons for this. First, who would expect that playing in a small town in Dubuque would be anything less than miserable. Iowa is, what some might call, "The Middle of Nowhere". Also, this show was the last one we booked - coming on our schedule just days before leaving town, in a "Hail Mary" effort by Jason to connect the dots between Friday in Cincinnati and Sunday in Saint Paul. If we had not booked this Iowa show, we would most likely have canceled Minnesota, so that we could save our vacation time, cut the losses of a self-funded trip to the Midwest.

But Dubuque came through. And it did not disappoint.

We arrived at the club on the early side. It was called "180 Main" and accordingly, was located at 180 Main Street. Dubuque is a small enough town that Main Street actually is the main street in town. That's kind of quaint when you think about it. And the club, which could have been anything - could have been a dive, a pit, or a colliseum - turned out to be quite a nice venue. The upstairs was an upscalish restaurant, with a variety of cuisine, of an American and slightly Italian variety. The downstairs was a stone and brick encrusted basement, with two bars, a respectably deep stage, and cool, almost castle dungeon like decor. Being the first guests in the downstairs, we had the full attention of the young bartender, who immediately handed us his iPod and asked us to go ahead and pick whatever music we wanted to hear. He also comp'd us several drinks, because the business of the upstairs restaurant caused our food delivery to be a little slow. We were not upset by this, and the food proved excellent. I had potato soup, and one of the best Caesar salads I have ever had.

After that, we were setting up, and met the members of the other band, J.C. Brooks and the Something Or Others (?) from Chicago. They were a soul-rock band, dressed sharply in either suits, or vests or ties, all black and white outfits - looking retro.

The show itself saw a pretty good-sized crowd. We had a lot of people who kept poking their heads in from the bar on the other side of the stone wall - pool players who liked what they were hearing, and leaned in to watch between shots, plus a handful of people either dancing or watching attentively up front. We felt well-received, and had a great time playing.

This was the night that I think I probably drank the most of any night, and it wasn't even that much... a couple of beers, and maybe 3 tequilas, but I was feeling it enough that I took active part in the post-show socialization outside.

The club was a couple of blocks away from the Mississippi River, which made the air feel warm, damp, and breezy. It felt nice. And out back there were dozens and dozens of people hanging. I started talking to one guy, of whom I initially had no, or low expectations. He was probably 24 or so, with a baseball cap (always makes me biased), but we got to talking about Seattle, and then about coffee, and then about beer, and then about politics. Turns out, he is a trainer for a local espresso company and he was quite the expert on both coffee and beer. He had passion, and he was fiercely liberal. He spoke of dreams to someday move to Portland. We talked about the state of Iowa, and I learned that Iowa City and Dubuque are liberal, whereas Cedar Rapids is conservative. But almost everyone we met there that night seemed liberal, and the bar sported a portrait of JFK on the wall. It was strange to be in the Midwest and to be in "Blue Country", but we had to know it was out there. Right? Those states are often swing states, and it would stand to reason that there would be cities that swing either way. But it felt good to be in a small town, and to be surprised. The conversation with that guy, and a few other people, really made the night for me, and in some ways, the entire trip. Because it forced me to see things differently.

The same was somewhat true in Cincinnati, meeting Jim's friends, who were as liberal as me. A lot of elitists on the coasts want to see the entire middle of this country as a heartless or soulless wasteland - "the problem" - but the reality is that people are just people, everywhere you go. How profound?! It is not so simple as the coast, or the interior. And it is even less simple than red state versus blue state. Because even the reddest states have spots of blue, and vice-versa. It is a giant country of patchwork ideologies. That's what we are stuck with, for better or for worse.

That night was a bit of a wild and crazy night, in the end. We ended up at a rather sleazy hotel called "The Canfield", which had the Dubious (or Dubuquious) distinction of being both the nastiest, as well as the most "character-filled" of the places we stayed on this trip. From the Native American mannequin couple in the lobby, to the thin walls, loud TVs, and rather seedy room decorations - it almost felt southern more than Midwestern. I barely slept at all, amidst the noises from adjoining rooms, plus the "chainsaw twins" snoring in the room with me. But I survived, and rose early to experience digestive distress (undoubtedly from the drinking).

Then I checked out a local diner that felt extremely small town (by myself, could not find Jim, and the others were soundly sleeping). Then I hooked up with Jim and he took me to the hip cafe a few blocks away that he found (Jim is a master of exploration - he is the one who will discover the cool place, or as the case may be, end up partying with Vince Gill!).

Finally, Jason and Craig awoke, and we ended up back at diner #1 again, where we were approached by the "hottest girl in the bar" from the night before, who told us she liked our show, and even squeezed Jim's arm. We are the rock stars from Seattle!



  1. Glad you liked your stay in Dubuque. Historically it's the only county in IA that's votes Democratic. Probably because of the 12 Catholic Churches and strong labor unions that onec existed at John Deere and The now defuct Dubuque Packing Company.

    Did you ride the 4 th Street elevator?

  2. Dubuque is a rocking town. Too bad you didn't catch a chance to ride the 4 th St. Elevator.

    Where's your show in Minnesota