This show was about as random as I’ve seen Tonka play. A show at a fancy arts center in a little town an hour north of Chicago at twenty five dollars a ticket seemed a little odd, but it was only two hours away so I decided to go for it. When you are coming from the city I am sure the drive is all four lane highways and urban sprawl, but from the north Crystal Lake is the middle of nowhere. The three routes my phone gave me involved lots of rural highways, very little Interstate, and lots of farm fields. I pulled up in front thinking “It’s a barn, they’re never going to fill it.” Turns out filling it was never their intention, in fact they wanted us all to fit on stage. I’d heard of theaters like the Englert in Iowa City doing similar shows, the band sets up on one end of the stage while the audience is spread across the rest of it. However, Tonka did not want this to be like one of those shows, and as soon as they started playing everyone at my table jumped up, “They don’t want people to sit down.” I followed obediently.
Even though it wasn’t the most amazing show I’ve ever seen them play, and I’ve seen some awesome ones, it was great to see them. I blame the environment, the theater lighting wasn’t really set up to illuminate one end of the stage, and despite the fact that they had a good crowd they were still playing a “barn.” I’d hoped for a longer than usual set given their “evening with” status (and the ticket price), but even a full set after SXSW’s abbreviated format was welcome, and it was certainly fun to hang out backstage with them afterwards where they had beer, whiskey and snacks. I miss my boys. As always, they seemed genuinely happy to be playing for people who listened to and liked their music, and Brian thanked everyone more than once, “this is the most anyone has ever tried to charge for a ticket to see us, so we really appreciate you coming out.”
I chose a different random collection of turns for my way home. It was equally twisty and turny and got me back to the Interstate just in time to get gas, and pay one toll. Yep, it was an adventure.