Chicago. Several years ago in a Wicker Park loft.

The first and last gig of UK Grief.

UK Grief The Dodgy image

“You assholes are in a band?”

That can’t be the worse thing you hear when you’re getting in a lift with your bandmates and instruments. Especially when it’s from the mouth of Beer Belly Bob, a local nit who apparently left his bar stool at Mickey’s Tavern to be a pain in our ass at our friend’s Wicker Park loft. The “our” is UK Grief, a newly formed band consisting of myself (vocals), Chicago reclusive author Clive Javanski (keyboards), Aidan (bass), Franz (guitar) and Sasha (percussion and vocals – and back from living in Paris for a year). We were having what businesses call a “soft opening.” After numerous rehearsals we wanted to stage an actual live show for friends and friends of friends and others we put on the invite only list. We had six new songs to try:  “Black Box,” “Leavitt Street,” Jeep Jerk,” “Sasha Says,” and “I Left a Good Impression.” Our covers for the night included “Think” by Information Society, “I’m Just a Girl” by No Doubt, “Malibu” by Hole, and  “Horrorshow” by The Blacks.

We walked in the loft to find Tomas, its owner, dancing in front of the stage he helped us built with a tall pale girl. I think it was an old Cure song, but either way it was about to be replaced by our sound check, quick rehearsal, and show.

We hoped people would be dancing in front of the stage during our show. Same for the back of the room. And in the kitchen. The bedroom. And bathroom. Hopefully in the lift, too, if our sound made it out there.

After rehearsal we hung out in the kitchen with Tomas and the tall girl, who always kept at least one hand locked on his body. He said her name, but I don’t remember, probably because I was nervous. I was on my third beer, hoping it would help. Clive was smoking out of guitar-shaped bong. Sasha, who I didn’t know well (Franz brought her in), was working a cigarette.

We started. There were probably 150 people in the room. Some were playing pool. Couples were sprawled out on couches. Tomas introduced us, although most everyone knew us, and then gave us a thumbs up.

We were about two songs in when someone yelled, “Hey Aidan, learn how to fuckin’ play that thing.”

“Fuck you,” Aidan said. “When I’m done I’ll wrap it around your fucking head.”

It was Aidan’s brother.

I kept my eyes closed for most of the set. It was dark, but not dark enough where I could keep them open. I thought I might move around on stage more, but I didn’t. I tapped my boot and sometimes backed up to where I was almost behind the rest of the band.

We didn’t play too loud so people could still hold a conversation. And people did dance. People I knew and people I didn’t know. I opened my eyes wide enough to see that.

And then it was over.

Back in the kitchen we drank some more and talked with friends, some who said things like, “You do a lot of things that are shit and this is one of them.”

Aidan was wrapped up in his new girlfriend. We heard about her and thought she was fake. But here she was, all pretty and sweet and…with Aidan?

“I know she’ll break my heart,” Aidan told me. “I just hope it’s not for a while.”

I never heard Aidan talk like that.

I soon found myself alone on the balcony with Sasha, who was voted as the most likely of the bunch to move on, musically.

“How’d you think I was? I asked her. “I mean, singing and all?”

“I don’t know really,” she said. “I was kinda busy checking out your ass.”


“I just want to fuck around,” she said. “You game?”

I was. And that was the first and final gig for UK Grief.

But you never know. We’re still around. And Sasha is back in town. You game?