Late Saturday afternoon, Chicago nightclub owner Robby Glick received a text from a buddy with some remarkable news: Lucinda Williams, the alt-country musician whose Taste of Chicago set had been rained out, was looking for a place to put on a show.
“(It’s) probably highly unlikely but let's just say that we are poking around to see if there might be somewhere a stranded band could play and have some fun tonight,” her management had posted on Facebook a few moments earlier.
Glick quickly volunteered his South Loop club, and before the day was over, Williams, a critically acclaimed artist with a passionate fan base, was onstage with her band, playing borrowed instruments in a free gig some in attendance say they’ll never forget.
“It was really fantastic she wanted to do something for the fans,” said Diane Callahan Mastny, 59, of Berwyn. “She came (to Chicago) ready to rock and roll, she found a place to do it and she got a crowd that was ready to have it happen.”
Williams had been slated to play a Saturday afternoon Taste of Chicago show with Jeff Tweedy, but when heavy downpours that morning prompted city officials to cancel the day’s festivities, she searched for an alternative venue.
It wasn’t a simple task. According to Williams’ Facebook page, another Chicago club approached by her management was decidedly unenthusiastic.
“I also got the feeling (the venue’s representative) might not have known who Lucinda was,” the page said.
Glick said Williams and her musicians had not brought their instruments to town — a common practice for bands flying into a city for a quick gig — so they had to borrow guitars from the Hard Rock Hotel and some of Reggies’ own gear.
But once the logistics were worked out, Williams announced the show on Facebook about 8 p.m., two hours before it was supposed to begin. That’s where Adolfo Laurenti got the news as he was coming back from a wedding in Iowa.
“It’s funny, because I have tried at least twice to go to her Chicago shows and they were always sold out,” said Laurenti, 44, who lives across the street from Reggies.
Paul Murphy, 49, of Naperville, heard about the show just as his household was winding down for the night.
“I saw her post and headed down there,” he said. “Forty-five minutes later, I was standing by the edge of the stage.”
Glick said about 150 people jammed into the small, sweltering space to hear Williams and her band play about a dozen songs. The crowd sang along to all of them, and when the show ended a bit after midnight, the audience left energized by the concert that almost didn’t happen.
“She put a lot of heart into this one,” Murphy said. “You knew she was there because she wanted to be, and the crowd was really, really appreciative.”