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David Byrne is Cool, and Here’s Why

11 October 2010 Stories and Appreciations 4,358 views No CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

I haven’t met David Byrne, but I have a pretty cool David Byrne story.

In Chicago I worked a lot of shows for Jam Productions. (As Bill Graham was to the West and Don Law to the East, Jam is to the Midwest). Among the great venues where I worked dozens of shows was the Park West, a really cool 1,000-person room. I normally worked in low capacities like production assistant, runner, catering assistant, and sometimes even as a stage hand — whatever would pay the mortgage and keep things on an even footing, as the seasonality of owning and operating a booking agency needed a cash flow stabilizer.

Sometime in the late 1990s, David Byrne played a show at Park West. I didn’t work Byrne’s show because I was working another show at another venue — the Sex Pistols with Reverend Horton Heat and the Dropkick Murphys at the Aragon Ballroom. (What a show that was, and what a crazy but very nice bastard John Lydon is).

Anyway, not long after Byrne’s show I was standing in front of the Park West, waiting for Steve Earle and talking to a stage hand who told me this paraphrased story.

——

Yesterday, I’m out here to help direct the production truck back into the alley and this dude rides up on a bicycle. He asks me how I’m doing, and we spend like five, ten minutes in small talk; he’s asking about where to find good food and a cool place to hang and read a book in the neighborhood. Really nice guy, you know; he asks questions and then he listens — you know how many people ask a question and then they’re looking around while you’re answering?

Anyway, he asks me if it’s okay to lock his bike up to the bike rack in front of the venue and I say well yeah, that’s what it’s there for. Then he asks if it’s safe, and I say yeah, we have security out here all night, nobody’s gonna mess with it. Then I ask him where he’s biked in from, and he says Oak Brook (some 20 miles away). So I assume he means Oak Park (10 miles away). The guy says, “No, my friend lives in Oak Brook. Whenever I come to Chicago, I stay with him and I bike into the show. It’s a great way to see the area.”

So I ask, “The show? You go to a show every time you’re in the area?” And the guy points toward the door and says, “Yeah, I’m working here tonight.” I’m thinkin’ this is weird, ’cause I work here and I’ve never seen him.

So he locks up his bike, walks around the corner, and that’s that. Later, I’m inside during the show and that’s the guy on stage! I recognize some of the songs and realize, that’s the dude from “Stop Making Sense!” Then I see him after the show and say to him, “Hey, you coulda told me who you are! Anything you need?”

He says, “No, everything’s great! That Mexican place you recommended was fantastic!”

And I’m thinkin’, doesn’t he know there’s catering for him inside? And I wonder, does his tour bus drop him in Oak Brook and then take the band to the show? Does he do this in every city? Is it his bike or his buddy’s? So, way after the show is done and the place is empty, I’m loading the truck in the alley and I see him unlock the bike, get on it and ride away. I was loading a truss into the truck. Never got a chance to ask him about all this. Dude peddled all the way back to Oak Brook? What, does his buddy not come to the shows? Does his buddy even know who he is?

——

I have a lot of cool stories from the shows I’ve worked, rock star and musician encounters and such, but this is one of my favorites … and ironically, it isn’t even mine.

Read more true stories of rock-and-roll moderation at Eric Maloney’s excellent Mystery Train blog. And David Byrne’s document of the two-wheeled life, “Bicycle Diaries,” is available now through Amazon.

Eric Maloney

PHOTO BY ALTERNA2

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