I found out that Nicole is coming back to Chicago in July and I thought I’d better share my story about the last April show before summer. Haha. It’s partially true, but I’ve just finally got some free time. So, here it goes. I am sorry if it gets too long.
The show was on April, 4th. It was rainy, freezing weather. I had to work till 6 on that Friday and run to the venue. I came back home, dressed up and decided to get flowers for her. I didn’t care that it was 'raining cats and dogs outside of the window' and that I was running out of time. I knew she would love to get some flowers. I didn’t mistake.
I caught a bus and ran into the closest store and bought a dozen of roses. It looked cute and 'friendly'. It made me feel more excited. When I came back, it was almost 8 p.m. The doors were supposed to open at 9. For some reason I didn't worry that much and was sure to get a good spot since the venue was about 15 minutes from my home.
As a ritual, I put my ukulele in my backpack, hoping to get that signed. The weather didn’t want to make me feel dry and it started raining harder. And then again, nothing could be on my way and ruin my plan or let me down. I got the backpack, umbrella (which I never took out from the backpack because of excitement), my camera and the flowers.
8.30 p.m. I got to the venue. No line, no crazy fans. Just some people waiting at the bar. I took off my soggy coat, checked out my ukulele and took care of the flowers. Luckily, the bouquet didn't fall apart. It still looked great and fresh. I went to the bar for some beer and waited till they told us that the doors were opened.
9 p.m. and I got to the first row. I put all my stuff in the corner by the amp. It was a perfect spot and view. I got my camera ready and made sure that nothing would happen to the flowers.
9.30 p.m. and there was the first opener for Nicole. I'd say they were OK. It was some band from Los Angeles. His voice seemed too weak to break so much sound that was coming from the amp... And no, it wasn't anything wrong with the volume/sound balance. I liked the music they played though. The vocals didn't impress me at all.
10:30 p.m. and the second opener 'Cotton Jones' was on the stage. They were really good! I was getting more thrilled for Nicole's performance. They greatly warmed the crowd up.
11:30 p.m. Yes. It is finally time. The band members started coming out and there was an intro for 'Heavy Boots'. A minute later everybody could see Nicole's dark gray boots as she was coming downstairs. As she started singing I felt like a wave of awe and amazingly beautiful sound was covering me from my toes to my ears. I literally couldn't get my jaw closed. 'Heart beats loud like a thousand drums...' That's how I felt.
During the show I caught her look for a few times. I couldn't help myself and smiled like crazy. I sang along with her, danced and watched my flowers. Yes, I was very concerned about them.
Nicole looked gorgeous. The style was pretty casual: leather jacket, which she took off later, jeans, white t-shirt and leather boots. She got a new hairstyle a day before the show too. Every detail played its part and in total everything was perfect.
I loved her new band. Her new guitar player Irina Yalkowsky is something, like everyone in the band, of course. But, she is a real guitar monster. She is so extremely good:
As always, the whole show went very fast. That's what I say every time, but what can I do if it’s true. During the show Nicole spoke quite a lot to the crowd and that made the show more intimate.
I really hoped she would play some songs from her other albums, so she did. The set list consisted of the songs from her latest record Mondo Amore mostly, but balanced with other songs and a great cover of Monterrey Honey by Cotton Mather, which sounded fantastic.
The show was almost over, the band left the stage and the people kept on applauding and they came out to play two more songs.
There was the very end of the amazing evening. That is how I thought. More surprises were waiting for me.
The stage was on the second floor. After the show everybody came upstairs to the third floor to buy copies of her latest record, LP's posters or t-shirts. I bought her LP record of Mondo Amore. I ordered her Mondo Amore CD, but it never came on time. So, I thought I had to have something to get that signed since I was not sure if I would have time to get my uke out from the backpack. A guy, whom I met at the show and I waited for a bit, but nothing happened. The workers told us to get out because they were closing the floor... I got a bit frustrated. We went back downstairs to the second floor and were told to do the same. That guy had to go back home, so I came out with him and said good-bye and stayed by the door of the bar. I did not know what to do. I looked pretty stupid with my flowers and the LP. And it still was raining so hard. Thanks to my curiosity and non-fear talking to strangers, I asked a guy who was coming out from the bar, holding Nicole's poster if he got that signed. He approved and told me to run upstairs to the second floor. So I did! Nobody said a word. I mean, the security guy was totally fine. I got by the stage and couldn't see anybody, just the bartender and some other 'tech' guys.
I decided to go upstairs to check that out again. It wasn't any difference except that there were girls, who sold the merchandise before but by then they were packing all the stuff back. I asked them if they saw Nicole and heard this back: 'We are not involved in signing things.' I said that I knew that but asked them again if they saw her. Fortunately, this world contains of kind people too. So, the other girl whispered in my ear that I should have gone to the second floor and wait for her there. I asked her if she was sure and she approved.
I ran downstairs expecting some changes. Everything looked the same. Nobody was around. I leaned on the wall and just waited. I thought that maybe I was waiting for nothing, but at least I wouldn't regret it in future. At least I would make an attempt. Because those who wait, get their awards. I forgot to mention that I was the only person who stayed and waited. I looked like an obvious fan, holding the flowers and the LP in my hands. But then again, nobody said a word. I kept on standing there, looking dorky and hopeful. Then I saw her drummer and bass player on the stage. They were packing their stuff and talking to each other.
Then I thought 'Why wouldn't I ask her guitar player to ask her to come out? He wouldn't bite me. And there are always two answers, either yes, either no. Let's give it a try.' I had that little conversation with myself and rushed to the stage. Then the dialogue sounded like this:
- Excuse me?
- Yes? - said Jeremy, looking and my LP and flowers. Should I give this to Nicole?
- Well... *making sad eyes like that cat from the 'Shrek'* Can you ask her to come out for me? *making the same eyes again*
- Uhmm... Let me see what I can do for you.
- THANK YOU!!!
He smiled and left. One minute later I could see those gray boots coming downstairs. Nicole was heading straight to me. By that time I already took my uke out and was ready to give her the bouquet.
I was smiling that my cheeks hurt. So she did back too. Here is the dialogue and some descriptions of my feelings and other details:
K: I just wanted to give you these flowers to you... *giving them to her*
N: Ahww, thank you so much! They are beautiful! *putting them on the floor*
K: ... I didn’t bring my guitar but I brought my ukulele. Can you sign this for me?
N: Oh, sure!
K: *gently giving my uke to Nic* Well, Amanda Palmer took the whole spot on the back... Could you sign it here on the front?
N: *smiling* Sure! What's your name?
K: Ah. It's gonna be hard because I’m Russian. Ksenia.
K: Yeap... *blushing and thinking that she's one of those few people who got to pronounce my name right from the first time...*
N: Spell it for me.
K: K S E N I A
N: *Signing my uke* Do you know Regina Spektor?
K: ...Yeaa, I am a BIG fan! *barely stopping myself from yelling that out* That is how I got to know about you, because you opened for her.
N: *smiling* Yea, we are friends. Well, you sound like her...
K: *trying to shut my mouth up and not to yell out because of excitement and then eventually getting stuck* Reeally?
I was so shocked. I didn't even ask her why she thought so. I was lost in thoughts and confusion (but in a good way).
Then she took my uke and tried to play that. She tried really hard. I said that it was untuned, but she didn't care.
N: I want to play that song from the movie. (which name I didn't remember, of course)
K: *smiling more wider* Did Roy Orbison really sign your guitar? (I wondered because it really looked so and I knew she was a big fan of him. But I was really unsure because Roy passed away about 20 years ago. I wondered if the guitar was so old and where she met him...)
N: Oh, no, it was the guy from 'The Kings' *smiling and trying to play that little thing*
K: Ohhw, really! Okay! *a little pause* Is your guitar player Russian? She has got a Russian name.
N: Yea, but she is half-Filipino and half-Russian.
Then Nicole stood up, took my uke, turned to the stairs and said 'Come on up!'
I said to myself 'Oh God. Me? Seriously?' Then I immediately jumped on the stage and followed her.
N: Oh, and don't forget my flowers! *chuckling*
K: Sure! *picking them up from the floor and rushing upstairs*
I had no idea where I was going and what she wanted to do with my uke. I just knew I was going somewhere with Nicole Atkins. That only mattered.
I got into a foggy room where a bunch of people, including her band members were talking to each other and drinking. Nicole sat on the sofa and tried to play my uke again. Then she asked if somebody could tune that for her. Some guy did. She happily got that back and tried to play the song over and over. I was standing behind a girl and a guy. There was somebody's luggage, which separated me from Nicole too. Then the girl and the guy turned to me, looked at my LP and said 'Oh, she probably wants to get that signed.' On what I answered 'Don't worry, she got me here.' Haha. 'Oh man, did I just say it?' - I thought.
Then they told me to come closer to Nic. I kneeled to the floor and stared at her playing my uke, just a few inches away from me.
I saw her guitar player Irina sitting with the bass player Jeremy on the other sofa and asked her if she spoke Russian. She said she couldn't and asked if I did. I agreed and then Irina asked my name and said it was beautiful.
I turned my eyes back to Nicole. She still tried to play the song.
Then Nicole and I talked for a bit:
N: I'm sorry, but I can't play this thing.
K: Oh, it's okay! It's really easy though.
N: Well, if I can't sing for you, maybe you will sing for us?
K: *frozen for a moment* Um, I haven't got a good voice... Besides, I know only Regina's songs...
N: Oh, I know all the lyrics!
K: Okay, do you know 'Us'?
I started playing the intro. How did I do that? Nobody knows, even me. I am usually shy to play even in front of my relatives and friends. But, in this sort of situations I just get courageous somehow...
I started singing and Nicole caught up with me. I messed up the chords (in the chorus), although there are only four chords through entire song. Well, I was super nervous! What can I say more. You couldn't hear that I messed up because we were singing. (Nicole obviously could, haha). Then I forgot the part of the song, but kept on playing. Damn. How could I. We sang the chorus again and that was the over. I wanted to play 'On The Radio', but she told me they had to pack and head to the next town. Then we talked for a bit again:
K: But you know what?
K: Nobody is gonna believe me...
N: Why? Who cares?
K: Well, our people from regina's forum do. We share out stories from the shows.
N: *Smiling* Oh, okay.
K: Yep. Can I ask you for one more thing? Can we take a picture?
N: Of course!
I gave the camera to her friend. The result looked like this:
K: Thank you SOO much!
N: Well woman, it was nice meeting you!
K: Are you kidding me? It was nice to meet YOU!
N: And thank you for letting me sign your uke!
K: Thank YOU! *just melting of that sweetness*
We hugged each other and then she started talking to some other guy. I was coming back to the stairs and met her bass player Jeremy and thanked him once again. I came downstairs to the stage and had a little chat with Irina:
K: You are awesome!
I: Thank you!
K: Really, you are SO good. You know that Nicole had violinist and piano player in her band before, but you guys are great! I couldn't feel that something was missing. You fill out all the songs! There are no gaps or emptiness!
I: Thanks, dude! *smiling* I didn’t know how I would do that and how that would sound when she asked to play for her new record.
K: Sounds GREAT! Do you need help with carrying anything?
I: Ah, no, thanks! We've got many people to help us since we are on tour.
K: Okay! Good luck with the tour!
I started heading back home. The only thought I had in my head that I had to get home safely so I would share my story. Haha. What a stupid head.
I was so high on adrenaline and couldn't believe what happened to me. I couldn't fall asleep either. I spent other two hours surfing on internet, calming myself. I texted my friend Julia from Russia that she had to call me when she got a chance. She called me a little bit later and I told her the whole story. She was happy and excited for me as I was.
When I woke up I wanted to make sure that that was true and looked at the picture of Nicole and I. I was high on adrenaline for the next month. It is better now. I am slowly getting better by sharing my story with people. But I am seeing Nicole in July again. Who knows what is going to happen next time. Should I bring my uke again, so the miracle would happen..?