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Meet Leslie

Regular visitors to the Old 97’s forum may recognize MeanJeen as a devoted fan and great storyteller. MeanJeen, also known in real life as Leslie, greeted 2012 with a mini-vacation to Chicago with her husband, where they celebrated the New Year’s Eve Rock ‘n Roll Ball featuring the Old 97’s.  She bonded with fans, had a serendipitious encounter with Murry, rocked 2011 into the ground with a killer set list, and lived to share her experience with all of us in this fantastic recap. After you read her story, check out the Old 97’s Flickr page to see some great shots courtesy of her husband, Bert. Thanks, Leslie and Bert! Here’s to another year of rock and roll!

I jumped at the chance to buy tickets to the New Year’s Eve show in Chicago when it was announced a couple months ago. Why drive seven hours to see a band at a hotel out by the airport? Bert and I had New Year’s Eve’s the last few years have been somewhat disappointing. Our friends are growing ever more responsible, and their celebrations have shifted to focus more around their kids. Forget that, the kids had Christmas and the old people had Thanksgiving! We “young adults” needed a good release from all that wholesome family time (that requires pills and booze to survive it).

I knew nothing about the hotel, and didn’t care. We just made a vacation of it. Seems like we tend to do that–build a vacation around an Old 97’s show. We checked into the Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare hotel Saturday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised. It’s got a huge, modernly designed lobby–just a really beautiful space. Our room was also very nice. We would stay here again if we needed to fly out of O’Hare or some such scenario.

Before the evening’s festivities, we were waiting on the elevator to the lobby. When the doors opened, there was Murry! We said hello, and he asked, “Leslie, right?” Holy crap, I love this band. Murry has to be one of the nicest people on this planet, right? He has an amazing memory too, which always makes a person feel pretty good.

Thanks to the chat forum on the Old 97’s page and Facebook, we knew a few folks that would be at the show. Dave & Amy G. got in touch, and we met up for some snacks in the Ice Bar at the hotel. We figured the “passed hors d’oeuvers” the hotel listed for VIP’s would be few and far between. Once we found the VIP lounges, we found that we were wrong. We could have made a meal out of them. We also discovered that we got free drinks! Granted, they didn’t have Jameson or dark beers. You can’t have it all, right?

Clay D. brought a large group of friends to the show, and though we never actually saw him, we know Art C. was there too! Dave and Amy proved to be true to Old 97’s fan standards. We enjoyed good conversation, laughs, and when the time came, a spot together up front between Rhett and Murry. We quickly discovered we were surrounded by other super fans, and a rowdy group to our left. Bert served as a blocker, got grinded on some, and also served as our photographer. Good man. We spotted Rhett’s wife not far behind us. It was a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd for a NYE party at a hotel by an airport.

The band took stage just after 11 pm and barreled right into “Doreen!” They were out of the gates just like bucking bulls. Rhett broke sweat by the second song, as per usual. Murry announced, “this is a song about West Texas,” and the crowd cheered. I don’t know what others thought about the lighting for the show, but I enjoyed it. It lent for some great photos too. The guys galloped through several of their live regulars, including some top shelf selections–”Victoria Lee” and “Salome.”

I always cringe at the first few notes of “Question.” It’s such a sweet song, sort of opposite of everything else they do. That night, though, I had an epiphany. Twelve years ago, on this very day, I was answering that same question. It wasn’t romantic or anything–Bert just pulled the ring out of his pocket and said, “well, will you?” I think I said, “let me see it.” Then, of course I said yes. Then we went to a party with a bunch of friends. How will I react the next time they play it? That’s yet to be determined.

We enjoyed one of my favorite live Murry songs–“Mama Tried” It was ten minutes before midnight, so they did a few more, including “Big Brown Eyes,” accompanied by the crowd tooting the free noise makers the hotel provided… “the end is coming soon” *beep *beep *beep, “a pill or three” *beep *beep *beep, “I wish you were here” *beep *beep *beep, etc. It was pretty funny. We all answered “YEAH” when Rhett said he’s got issues, of course.

The countdown began, and then the band started in on Auld Lang Syne, slowly at first, then they put their Old 97’s spin on and turned it into a pretty rocking tune. Near the end of the song, Rhett and Murry played back to back and truly looked like they were having a great time. One of the rowdy folks to our left looked like she might hurl, as she leaned against the press barrier, I’m thinking she wasn’t having such a great time.

The guys stumbled into “White Port,” but quickly got their footing and were bouncing around the stage. “Time Bomb” came a little early. I was in disbelief–you know the bittersweet feeling when you hear the first few chords of the song, right? Then it was over, or so I thought. They came back and did two more–”Dance with Me” and a really fun “Over the Cliff.” I never get tired of hearing that one. We didn’t hang around afterwards, we were both tired from the drive and the colds our families shared over the holidays.

Did we have a great time? YES! We also got out and explored some museums, ate some good food, and got a feel for winter in Chicago. Dang, it was cold and windy!

Set List (from my notepad)
Doreen
Barrier Reef
Every Night is Friday Night
Perfume
West Texas Teardrops
Victoria Lee
Salome
Murder or a Heart Attack
Champaign, Illinois
Won’t Be Home No More (Heisman–does he even say pavement anymore?)
Question
Mama Tried
Indefinitely
Big Brown Eyes
Wish the Worst
Auld Lang Syne
White Port
Four Leaf Clover
Time Bomb

encore:
Dance With Me
Over the Cliff