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The Unexpected Outcome of Googling Yourself (and Other Adventures in Modern Technology)

Bree McKenna

By Bree McKenna  |   Illustrations by Leah Roszkowski


A few years ago, a concert alert arrived in my email. It said Tacocat was coming to the Empty Bottle in Chicago.

This is standard inbox activity, since I get alerts like this all the time. This one, though, was different. Tacocat is a Seattle pop-punk band with quirky lyrics and a bassist named Bree McKenna. That's my name, which makes her my name twin.

In my world, she is the other Bree McKenna. 

Oddly enough, a few months earlier, I actually had reached out to her. After Googling myself and finding out another one of us existed—someone who's way cooler than me, it appeared—I had emailed her, via her band’s website. I wanted to see if she had ever Googled herself and found me—or if this was simply one-way curiosity on my part.

I never heard back.

But now her band Tacocat was coming to Chicago. Here was my chance. It sounded stalker-y, I admit, but I decided to go to the show, introduce myself and see what happened. I was on a mission.


When the day arrived, I dragged two friends to the show. It was energetic and great. Bree was up on stage, rocking the bass guitar like only a badass lady musician can. During the last song, I beelined it to the side door where I had a chance of meeting the band and introducing myself. 

I was more than prepared for a blasé reaction. An, "Uh, oh, hey." Or a "Cool, nice to meet you." I was sure our meeting would fall short of the dramatic buildup I had constructed in my mind.

I wasn't going to let that stop me.

Bree was there, to the left of the main stage. I walked up to her and said, "Are you Bree? Bree McKenna?" She nodded yes. I responded earnestly, with my hand on my chest, "I'm Bree McKenna.” And then I waited nervously for her to respond.


I GREW UP WITH AN UNCOMMON NAME. Not long after my parents found out they were expecting a second child, they went to see the 1971 film Klute. In it, Jane Fonda portrays a prostitute named Bree Daniels who gets involved in a police investigation of a missing executive. If you’re connecting the dots right now, yes, I was named after a prostitute. My parents didn't share that detail with me until I was older. 

At the time, Bree wasn't in the realm of normal names. Nothing had my name on it. As a child, I longed to buy one of those cheesy personalized bike license plates when we vacationed in Florida. Or a key chain with my name on it even though I had no keys. Thank God for a custom nameplate necklace my Godmother gave me as a gift. I still cherish it to this day. 

As I grew up, I encountered a few other Brees but never another Bree McKenna. Mine was a truly original name . . . or so I thought.

Then one day, I Googled myself and discovered another Bree McKenna.

If you've ever Googled yourself, perhaps you understand how it feels to stumble upon your doppelganger and be hit with the feeling that, well, your doppelganger is way cooler than you. Maybe it's because I've always loved music and am quite the rock star in my own mind, even though I’ve always lacked any real musical talent. In the artists I've always appreciated most—the Breeders and Juliana Hatfield when I was younger, and more recent favorites such as Waxahatchee, Courtney Barnett and Bully—I could always see my alter ego: the badass chick who doesn't give a fuck.

In reality, though, I always have given way too many fucks. In high school, I toed the line between arty and mainstream, balancing my Doc Martens and Kool-Aid dyed hair with good grades and lots of sports. Even now, I'm pretty much the same. So when I looked at the Google images of the other Bree McKenna, I saw a rock star. So she had reddish hair and bangs, like me. But she had an edge.


STANDING AT THE SHOW, MY INTRODUCTION HUNG IN THE AIR. Then her eyes widened with excitement and she yelled out to her bandmates: "Hey, guys! It's the other, more successful, Bree McKenna!"

I was in shock.

"What? No! You're the cooler Bree McKenna!" I protested.

She admitted she had gotten my emails but didn't write back. She had “so many feelings” about it, she said. Then she told me to wait while she ran back on stage with the rest of the band for the encore. There, she grabbed the mic and shouted, "This goes out to the other Bree McKenna that's here tonight.” Beaming, I cheered and woo-hoo’d. I did not expect that reaction. At all.

After the show officially ended, we chatted some more. She told me that she, too, had been Googling me for years. She thought some of her former art school classmates might have mistaken the two of us. I introduced her to my friends and we snapped a picture together. Then the night was over.


SINCE THEN, I'VE PLAYED THE NIGHT OVER IN MY HEAD. I think that's because the whole idea of another “me” out there in the world is weird. We spend so much time—our whole lives really—being in the bubble of our own minds. We know our own hang-ups, worries, strengths and desires, and we measure ourselves in certain terms, eager to be a little more one way and little less another. We believe that if we were just a bit more “fill-in-the-blank,” we would be more interesting and appealing.

And then there she is, a twin in name, filling in those gaps. As I write this in a Starbucks, I even consider how the other Bree McKenna would probably have chosen an independent coffee shop to work. Here I am again: mainstream, pedestrian.

THEN RECENTLY, I RECEIVED AN IPHONE ALERT FROM VENMO, one of those payment apps where you can easily send money to people. Someone was sending me money. The note attached simply said, “Christmas Trip.”

The name attached to it wasn’t familiar, so I wrote the sender, telling her she'd sent money to the wrong person. She messaged me back, explaining that she was trying to send money to her daughter. Her daughter shared my name and even resembled me in her small profile picture.

I asked: “Your daughter isn’t from Seattle and in a rock band, is she?”

The answer: “Yes, she’s in a band called Tacocat. How did you know?”

I told her to say "hi" to Bree for me.

I’ve come to accept that there are two Bree McKennas in the world. She’s the rock star, traveling the world playing music, going to bed late, living out of a tour van—and borrowing money from her parents to visit for the holidays. I’m the responsible one living here in the Midwest, working a day job as a designer, practicing yoga a couple times a week and generally going to bed by 10:30 p.m. My only connection to music is getting concert alert e-mails and being in the crowd.

For rock star Bree, maybe there will be a day when she settles down to a more quiet life.

For me, well, there’s always karaoke.



23 Signs of the Midwest Resistance

Bree McKenna

Protest paraphernalia has long occupied its own special little corner in the realm of art—occasionally elevated, sometimes celebrated, most often ignored. But while we were walking among the 200,000-plus crowd in late January for the Women’s March on Chicago, we kept being struck by how resistance seemed to draw out cleverness and creativity in so many. Too bad, we thought, that signs and actions are mostly ephemeral: here today, in the trash can tomorrow.

So we decided to capture a few of our favorites and preserve them for you. A few counties in the Midwest might have tipped the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor, but, judging from the fact that Chicago’s march was one of the largest outside of D.C., our people promise to be powerful—and vocal—watchdogs moving forward.

Want to add to our image bank? Add #middleouest to your Instagram photos from the march.


Cartoon-inspired signs.

The Newberry Library is archiving some of the signs from the protest. Many were very personal pleas.

Star Wars  inspired its own language and imagery of the resistance.

Star Wars inspired its own language and imagery of the resistance.

Sometimes the facts are pretty compelling sign fodder.


Mini "Cheetos" and Cheetolini: There was no shortage of cheese puff iconography.

Some of the more popular phrases we saw.

Pink hats and abundant usage of the word "nasty"

Kids and dudes showed up in support.

Lots of these powerful Shepard Fairey posters—that were printed in the NY Times and the Washington Post papers on Inauguration Day—were peppered throughout the crowd. 

Simple, yet powerful messages.




Two Art Nomads Take Off in a Bus Named Towanda

Bree McKenna

As told to Middleouest


Instead of sinking their meager monthly earnings into rent or a mortgage, the multimedia artists Troy Chebs and Austin LeMoine bought a 35-foot-long bus. Where other people might have seen the scrap of metal as junkyard bound, they imagined a home and art studio with warm, wood-worked interiors and state-of-the-art solar paneling. “The bus would eliminate our big monthly costs and be a huge challenge, and we’d actually own the space as opposed to an apartment—so it would be an investment,” says LeMoine, who studied business economics and public policy at Indiana University. “Once we started daydreaming and sketching interiors, we were hooked.”

Deciding to create a solar-powered art bus is one thing; cruising the open road without a breakdown is another. A few months ago, the pair—who’ve known each other since high school in the Chicago suburbs and now create multimedia and sculpture under the moniker Noblesavage—decided their experimental ride was ready to make a journey out West. They chronicled their first big adventure, and a few misadventures, for Middleouest.

From Illinois to Idaho with a few stops (and hiccups) in between.

DAY 1:


Being on the road does not feel real after so much planning and construction. Two plus years of work have finally come to fruition, and we are headed towards Paonia, Colorado, where we will turn a 35-foot bus into a photovoltaic-powered workspace and home.

Spirits are at an all time high as we roll away from Chicago. And then . . . at an all time low when the bus unexpectedly dies and coasts to the shoulder near Towanda, Illinois. We have made it a whopping 128 miles from our starting point.

We will spend the next four hours on the shoulder trying to diagnose the problem and avoid a tow with state troopers lurking nearby. After considering, and disproving, many mechanical theories, we manage to limp the bus up the nearest exit ramp, park behind a gas station and buy beer just as the sun sets. The quote, "Adventure begins when everything goes wrong” floats in the back of our minds.

We sleep uneasily.

Left: Diesel Joe working by lantern light to change all six of the bus' injector lines. Right: Austin on his way back from the nearest gas station with six quarts of transmission fluid.

Day 2:

Bikes are essential for bus living in many ways, especially when you break down. The next morning, Austin takes his to find six quarts of transmission fluid.

We decide to make a go at a repair shop seven miles away. We can only get the bus to move at idle speeds; any load on the engine shuts it down immediately. We make it three miles down a country blacktop road before the vehicle croaks and will not start.

Our biggest fear of calling a tow truck become a reality, as we watch the tires slowly sink deeper into the thin, hot road between two cornfields.

Ed also lives on a bus that is outfitted with solar, and he has a soft spot for helping ‘young hippies do weird shit.’

Day 7:

Five days later, we are equipped with a new Electronic Control Module and back on the road. Repairs have been costly, and we’ve lost a significant chunk of time. But after stagnating, the forward progress feels great.

We pull out of Bloomington, Illinois, grinning, with the bus running like a champ. We make it another 120 miles before smelling diesel and pulling into a rest area near Galesburg, Illinois. Fuel is gushing out of the back like an open hydrant, and we both damn near cry.

Illinois does not want us to leave.

We have broken an injector line, and, upon closer inspection, on the cusp of breaking three more. We cannot afford a tow and have no way to get into town. We also do not have the specialty wrenches needed for swapping injector lines. But, luckily for us, we have incredible friends. "Diesel Joe” volunteers to drive the parts out Friday after work and help us make the line swap.


Day 10:

We waste the next three days getting poison ivy and falling into rivers. Finally, Joe arrives, and we work by lantern light in a parking lot from 10:30 p.m. until 4:30 a.m., changing all six injector lines and polishing off a case of mechanic fuel in the process. We are slaphappy, buzzed and riding an endorphin high as the sun starts coming up Saturday morning. In a way, the experience feels like a weird, road life initiation ceremony. After four hours of sleep, we sign our souls over to Joe and continue heading West for Paonia.

Day 12:

Having paid our dues, the bus runs perfectly as we head west. We link up with friends a few days later in Denver who swiftly escort us via bike to a bus parking spot they’d scoped out on the southwest side of the city. Now more than a week behind schedule, we scrap all plans of seeing family and make a break for the mountains the following afternoon.

Waiting for nighttime temps to cool down the radiator in Evergreen, Colorado.

Day 13:

It’s 95 degrees, our radiator is on the back corner of the bus and we’re climbing up one of the most consistently steep portions of I-70. Watching our water temp closely, we pass a handful of hot trucks and even see a radiator cap explode before joining the overheated engine club three quarters of the way up the grade.

Having limited options, we decide to go to bed early and wait for the cool mountain air before making another go at it. At 3 a.m., the air temp sits around 53 degrees, and the bus—we’ve now named it Towanda—cruises beautifully towards Western Colorado.

A cool mountain morning on I-70 in Colorado.

Day 14:

We touch down in Paonia late in the afternoon. The repair-free driving has given us much needed peace of mind, and we are thrilled to finally be on the cusp of bus completion. We park up on a hill—not far from downtown but still somehow secluded—in a lot that slightly resembles a junkyard in Mexico. On one side of the bus is a workshop topped with solar panels and filled with batteries, and on the other is a railroad, used by the local mine to ship coal down the valley. An energy face-off. We will be enlisting in the renewable camp.

Uncle Ed’s solar emporium in Paonia, Colorado

Day 15:

The next morning we finally meet Uncle Ed: a sun drenched, upbeat social butterfly who has been on the front lines of photovoltaic advocacy and solar cooking more or less since its creation.

Ed also lives on a bus that is outfitted with solar, and he has a soft spot for helping “young hippies do weird shit.” We hit it off immediately, and start planning out our now crunched work week from the comfort of his swamp cooled bus.

We decide on the following setup:
    •    (5) 100 watt solar panels
    •    (6) 6V deep cycle batteries (we already had these)
    •    (1) charge controller
    •    (1) 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter

Left: Panel install day at the shop with Ed, Kristen and Troy. Inset: Ed/Sensei and his most recent bus from an excerpt from “The Sustainable Underground."

Our basic plan: build tiltable aluminum racks for our solar panels, and mount them to the roof of the bus. These solar panels will charge batteries stowed below the bus, which will then provide electricity in the form of 12V DC directly to appliances like our chest freezer, and 110V AC, via the inverter, to wall outlets installed inside.

Thanks to Ed, the next week and a half in Paonia is a blend of work and play. Days in the shop are sprinkled with stories, lessons, shit talking, beers, jokes, solar wisdom and the occasional "field trip." Despite being faced by a  large amount of work in the short period of time, stress is almost nonexistent. Viva la Ed.

On weekends, or when the sun makes it too hot to work, we spend time swimming in culverts, picking cherries, drinking at a church-turned-brewery, hiking the Black Canyon and even spinning a few soul 45’s late night at the local radio station.

Ed and Austin splitting wires, tug-of-war style.

Day 27:

With the help of some new solar-skilled friends, we finish installing and wiring the complete 12V DC and 120V AC photovoltaic system at 10:30PM, only four hours before we need to leave town and drive I-70 back to Snowmass.  As a celebration of our new power source, we sit back and soak in Del Ray Wilson’s LP “Feel Good All Over.” Ask any audiophile: Solar powered turntables just sound better.

We are a bit emotionally torn as we pull out of town around 3 a.m. Feeling incredible about our two-year project being complete, we feel, at the same time, a bit of separation anxiety as we part ways with a town and group of humans we’ve become deeply attached to. See you soon, Paonia.

Bus, meet Ranch. Finally, we're parked outside of Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

Day 28:

No time for showers. One long drive and three bus transfers later, we make it to the ranch. We’ve both been awarded sculpture scholarships and given the opportunity to work under two artists we really admire—Andy Buck and Tom Loeser—at the gorgeous Anderson Ranch Art Center, a mountain art mecca.

ARAC truly lives up to its reputation. It is run by a kind and passionate staff who inherently see through the dirt, grime and stench we’ve accumulated during the solar install sprint.

Nestled in the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley, the ranch is surrounded by a conifer covered range and bordered by a small stream that runs along the west side of the property. The shops and studios are constructed from sections of old homestead-style cabins, gathered from the surrounding range, and outfitted with electricity, plumbing, and bay doors.

Day 33:

Wildlife rumors ring true. A black bear smashes a window on campus our second night.

Day 34:

After saying our goodbyes and making future bus plans with new friends, we are ready to decompress. We spend our last night 12,000 ft up, camping with a small group of friends and family near the top of Independence Pass.

Now that we have a battery bank to take care of, our next road objective needs to be food. A freezer full of frozen food requires much less energy to stay cool than an empty one, so we reach out to Cody, a friend-turned-fishing guide and start heading northwest towards Idaho in search of trout.

Perfectly parked: We're five miles outside of Ketchum, Idaho.

Day 36:

Neither of us has ever set foot in Idaho, and after being in Colorado, we are fascinated by the smooth, dune-esque shape of the mountains in the southeastern part of the state. After a few reunion beers at Lefty's, Cody leads us out to a perfect cliffside spot overlooking Trail Creek. The sun is down when we parked, so we don’t notice the treehouse feel of our vantage point until the next morning. Choice.

Left: Troy in the Ketchum Kitchen, looking down on our fishing spot while prepping dinner. Right: Enjoying roof tacos in Stanley, Idaho.

Day 37:

The next morning, we scramble down the cliff and fish the creek. Apparently our spot is a wild one—deer, elk, coyote, wolf and moose tracks are everywhere. We catch two rainbow trout and only fall in the river once. It is a complete success, and it feels great to not to have any pressing time obligations.

We spend the night having an impromptu bus party and meeting friends of friends, many of whom work for a local startup called First Lite. Beer-fueled negotiations lead to coffee-for-game swaps the next morning, and before noon, we have a freezer full of duck, venison steaks, elk sausage, wahoo and ahi tuna.

Cooking duck in Wallowa Whitman National Forest, Oregon.

Day 39:

We head out on I-75 and spend a night along the Salmon River soaking in the Sawtooth range. The bus climbs the pass without incident and our newly-mounted solar roof racks feel solid despite the high winds. Thanks to the sun, our new food cache is thoroughly frozen by morning, and we break camp after an egg breakfast.

From Idaho, we continue to camp our way towards the northwest, heading towards a wedding in Olympic National Forest. Post ceremony and celebration we will have a completely open schedule for the first time since leaving Chicago, which means it’s finally time to put that mobile studio to use.

Although it’s been the topic of many brainstorm sessions, creating art and finding work on the road is still an untested theory. But that income adventure excites us. As they say, “variety is the spice of life,” and we feel the same way about work. More variety, more learning, more challenge, and more fun. It’s time to get busy.


Austin LeMoine and Troy Chebs are multimedia artists who do projects for hire. Drop them a line at


Moving Back to My Big Dumb Hometown

Bree McKenna

by Claire Zulkey


I had a great childhood. But like most kids, I didn’t know it at the time. I knew, of course, that I had it better than the proverbial starving children in China, than the kids in war or natural-disaster-torn places I saw on the 10 o’clock news. But it wasn’t until I became an adult, and then a parent, that I understood the actual cost—money, time, planning, emotion—as well as the extraordinary good luck that goes into making a happy childhood.

Until I reached the stage of understanding and gratitude that marked the end of my adolescence, I took a flippant, even resentful, attitude toward the place where I grew up. And toward the parents who gave me everything I needed and held back just enough to teach me how to work for the rest. When I graduated high school and moved away to college, I thought bitterly, I’m blowing this pop stand. The pop stand in question is Evanston, Illinois.

I conflated the drama and angst of being a teenager with my hometown—blaming my location, not my age, with the growing pains that accompany a growing frontal lobe. I was ready to move on and start a new, exciting adult chapter in my life. I would forge a new identity outside the walls of my dumb high school, where I felt wronged for not receiving the awards (literal and otherwise) I secretly craved. I proudly wore a Georgetown t-shirt under my graduation gown to advertise the fact that I was noisily leaving (nobody noticed because it was under my gown.)

It took only a few weeks to realize that maybe Evanston wasn’t so bad. Georgetown has very nice qualities, but it wasn’t until I went there that I met true snobbery. I grew up in a place that’s home to thousands of privileged children, but it was not cool to brag about it, even if you lived in a legitimate mansion. But at Georgetown I met young adults who carried Louis Vuitton bags and laughed about crashing their parents’ luxury cars. Also at Georgetown, the black students and the white students didn’t mix very much, whereas Evanston has “Portlandia” levels of self-congratulations, deserved or not, about its own diversity.

What’s strange is coming home and reliving the childhood I originally wanted to escape.

After graduation, I moved back home because I received precisely one job offer, one that didn’t pay very much. I butted heads with my parents and squabbled with my high school best friend because while living back home felt familiar, it wasn’t the same. It was like trying to suck your thumb again after quitting.

I eventually escaped a few miles south to Chicago. I allowed myself to come home to Evanston to do my laundry at my folks’ place and to get my hair cut, but that was it. I was a city girl.

But gradually, I became a city woman and then a city mom. Over a span of 13 years and three Chicago addresses, I acquired a husband, two cats, a mortgage, a dog, a baby, and then the due date for a second one. I wanted a back yard. I wanted schools that would be good, yet not tremendously challenging to get into. I wanted the lake. I wanted to be close to my parents. I wanted diversity and community.

I wanted to go home.

For a lot of people, moving back home is something you do with your tail between your legs, or with a hands-thrown-up, minivan commercial embarrassed grin—what are ya gonna do? But the fact was, I suspected I’d move back home pretty much since we had our first child. My husband and I went through the motions of discussing raising a city family, but it was fated—in part because of the schools, since Evanston’s system is drama-free compared to Chicago’s, and because of all my former classmates whom I saw living back home and loving it. They made no apologies. They didn’t seem like they had given in. If I could sacrifice nothing and make life easier by moving to a place where I could enjoy an active suburban life—with the built-in knowledge of where to go for beach tokens, pancakes or Fourth of July fireworks—and still stay adjacent to the city, why wouldn’t I?

And now here we are, and I love it. The city teems with well-organized events and opportunities for community-building. There are beautiful houses and the lake and a lake path featuring conveniently-placed recycling bins. It feels like a community, which is a funny thing to care about all of a sudden.

Even though 25-year-old-me would never give a crap about this, I appreciate knowing my neighbors and that there are free events at the nearby park on the Fourth of July. The 25-year-old-me still is alive inside, just a little bit. Sometimes I read the community newspaper or peruse the catalogue of senior computer classes and think OK, we get it, you're a suburb

What’s strange is coming home and reliving the childhood I originally wanted to escape. I take my son to swimming classes at the same Y where I learned to swim. There I see women who I once attended preschool with; now they’re with children. Newly postpartum, I saw them at the very same beach where I so self-consciously used to try to suck in my belly. When we put our dog down, I cried on the breast of a high school friend who now works at the vet’s office. I still feel 18 sometimes, and yet I relish the fact that I am not.

I graduated college in 2001. My friends and I were the cool older sisters and brothers of millennials. We invented moving home after school. Then, we moved away. And now a lot of us are coming back. We’re putting our children through the very same pipeline we went through, and we feel good about it, too.

The key will be trying not to feel hurt when they turn 18 and get the hell out of here.



Claire Zulkey is a writer from Evanston, IL.


98 Concerts That Make Us Love Summer in the Midwest

Bree McKenna

The bands are coming, the bands are coming! From left: Waxahatchee, Fitz and the Tantrums, Lollapalooza, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Julie Ruin. Photos by Matt Lief Anderson (Waxahatchee), Will Rice (Lolla), Matt Lief Anderson (Tweedy) and Kristina Pedersen (Julie Ruin).

by Cassie Walker Burke and Bree McKenna


The Midwest is the best place in America to see music in the summer. Period. We're home to two of the world's biggest festivals—Summerfest and Lollapalooza—that lure bands of all stripes. Our ticket prices aren't sky high, our throngs of partygoers tend toward the mellow and, disparage our cruel winters all you want, the breezy summer weather makes for an abundance of festivals and concerts under the stars. Granted, not every event on the list happens al fresco; some are special, one-of-kind happenings worth a road trip, others are Midwestern acts (Whitney, Har Mar Superstar) who deserve your serious consideration. 

The list below starts with Illinois and runs by state, with concerts listed chronologically. Like our list? Share it. Think we overlooked someone? Tell us on Facebook. And hey, if you end up in the crowd somewhere, tell 'em this cool new mag called Middleouest sent you. 



1 / Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson
June 25
RiverEdge Park, Aurora
Two American songwriters, each without parallel, in one night.

2 / Blitzen Trapper at Logan Square Arts Festival
June 26
Logan Square, Chicago

3 / Lower Dens
June 30
Millennium Park, Chicago

4 / Wild Belle at Mamby on the Beach
July 2­-3
Oakwood Beach, Chicago
The local pop-reggae band shares a bill with Animal Collective, Lupe Fiasco and Kaytranada.

5 / Chris Cornell
July 3
Ravinia, Highland Park


6 / The Roots and Donnie Trumpet at Taste of Chicago
July 6
Petrillo Music Shell, Chicago

7 / Sheila E. at Taste of Chicago
July 10
Petrillo Music Shell, Chicago
The percussionist’s new album is inspired by Prince, naturally.

8 / Femi Kuti
July 11
Millennium Park, Chicago

9 / Rachel Barton Pine plays Bruch at the Grant Park Music Festival
July 13
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago
One of the Midwest’s best-known classical music stars.

10 / Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds at Pitchfork Music Festival
July 15-­17
Union Park, Chicago
Pet Sounds under the stars at one of the best of the big summer fests.

Pitchfork Music Festival is in Chicago's Union Park on July 15-17. Photo by Erez Avissar.

11 / Whitney
July 15
Empty Bottle, Chicago
Chicago band on the rise.

12 / Erykah Badu
July 15
FirstMerit Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago

13 / Emmylou Harris
July 18
Ravinia, Highland Park

14 / Philip Glass tribute at
Grant Park Music Festival
July 20
Jay Pritkzer Pavilion, Chicago
A multimedia tribute concert to the great composer, complete with projected images by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting.

15 / Hall & Oates
July 22
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Tinley Park


16 / Kenny Rogers
July 24
Ravinia, Highland Park

17 / On an On
July 28
Empty Bottle, Chicago
The Minneapolis band spins its magic in a favorite Chicago setting.

18 / Oh Pep!
July 11
Schubas, Chicago

19 / Swans
July 15
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

20 / The 15-piece Amy Winehouse Orchestra plays Back to Black
July 19
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

Swans play Chicago's Lincoln Hall on July 15.

Swans play Chicago's Lincoln Hall on July 15.

21 / Wolf Alice (Lollapalooza aftershow)
July 29
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

22 / Jose Gonzalez and Tall Heights
Aug. 1
Millennium Park, Chicago

23 / Esme Patterson  
Aug. 3
Empty Bottle, Chicago
The Colorado-raised singer-songwriter knows how to turn a phrase.

24 / Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds
Aug. 4
Schubas, Chicago

25 / Dolly Parton
Aug. 7
Ravinia, Highland Park


26 / Mbongwana Star + Dos Santos Antibeat Orchestra
Aug. 11
Millennium Park, Chicago

27 / Yo-Yo Ma
Aug. 18
Ravinia, Highland Park

28 / The Go-Go’s with Best Coast 
Aug. 19
Ravinia, Highland Park


The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to David Bowie on June 24-25. Photo: Creative Commons 


29 / Tribute to David Bowie at Marsh Symphony on the Prairie featuring the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
June 24-25
Conner Prairie Amphitheatre, Noblesville

30 / Tribute to Cream featuring Kofi Baker
Aug. 5
Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis
Ginger Baker's son in dad's band in Indiana's oldest bar

31 / Melvins
Aug. 19
The Vogue, Indianapolis


32 / Chris Stapleton
Aug. 26
Klipsch Music Center, Nobleville

33 / Tri-State Bluegrass Festival
Sept. 1-4
Noble County 4-H Fairgrounds, Kendallville
This may be the best deal of the summer: $30 for a 4-day camping festival that features dozens of touring bluegrass acts. If you like bluegrass, that is.

34 / The Flaming Lips at Middle Waves Festival
Sept. 16-17
Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne
The progressive two-day festival also features Best Coast and locals Metavari.


Tallest Man on Earth plays Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa on July 17. Photo by Cameron Wittig.


35 / Peter Bjorn and John
June 22
Englert Theatre, Iowa City

36 / Loretta Lynn
June 25
Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, University of Northern Iowa

37 / Tallest Man on Earth 
July 17
Codfish Hollow, Maquoketa

38 / Bear Hands and Atlas Genius
July 20
Wooly's, Des Moines


39 / Shakey Graves
July 22
Wooly's, Des Moines

40 / Carrie Underwood at the Great Jones County Fair
Jul 22
County Fairgrounds, Dubuque

41 / Wavves
July 30
Wooly's, Des Moines


Clear Soul Forces play Majestic Cafe in Detroit on June 21. 


42 / Clear Soul Forces
June 21
Majestic Café, Detroit

43 / Violent Femmes
July 10
Saint Andrew’s, Detroit

44 / Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Ryan Adams
July 12
Meadow Brook Amphitheater, Rochester Hills

45 / The Decemberists
July 12
Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor

46 / Hurray for the Riff Raff
July 12
The Ark, Ann Arbor
New Orleans eclecticism at its finest.


47 / Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show
July 15
Interlochen Arts Festival/Kresge Auditorium, Interlochen
Because The Firewatcher’s Daughter is one of our favorite albums of 2015.

48 / Garbage
July 16
The Fillmore, Detroit

49 / Daughter with Julien Baker
July 26
Majestic Theatre, Detroit

50 / Lucius
July 28
Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit

51 / Ghostface Killah & Raekwon RAGU Tour
July 31
Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit


Har Mar Superstar plays the Minneapolis Zoo on Aug. 20.


52 / Ellis Marsalis at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest
June 24
Mears Park, Minneapolis

53 / Violinist Joshua Bell at Minnesota Beethoven Festival
July 5
Harriet Johnson Auditorium, Somsen Hall Winona State University, Winona
He’s been a classical music star since he was 18 and has 40 albums to his name.

54 / Death Cab for Cutie and Gary Clark Jr. at Basilica Block Party
July 8
Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

55 / Case/lang/veirs
Aug. 10
Minneapolis Zoo
Neko Case, KD Lang and Laura Veirs—three independent female musicians team up for a tour.


56 / Har Mar Superstar
Aug. 20
Minneapolis Zoo
The soulful Minnesotan plays a hometown show—at the zoo.

57 / Kurt Vile + the Violators 
Aug. 20
Historic Hall's Island, Minneapolis. Wilco headlines.

58 / Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Sept. 6
State Theatre, Minneapolis

59 / Sigur Ros
Sep 29
Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis


Flight of the Conchords land in Kansas City on July 7.


60 / Live and Let Die: A Symphonic Tribute to Paul McCartney by the St. Louis Symphony
June 24
Powell Hall, St. Louis

61 / Flight of the Conchords Tour
July 7
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City

62 / Alunageorge
July 19
Ready Room, St. Louis
This British act is inspired by PJ Harvey.


63 / Dolly Parton
July 30
Scottrade Center, St. Louis

64 / Joan Jett, Heart and Cheap Trick
Aug. 15
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City
Because Heart.

65 / Lucinda Williams
Aug. 21
Crossroads KC at Grinders, Kansas City
There’s that voice, then there’s her touring guitarist, Stuart Mathis, a talent in his own right.


Grimes appears at Maha Music Festival in Omaha on August 20. 


66 / Bernanza Music Festival
June 30-July 2
Sokol Park, Omaha
These festival organizers are clearly still feeling the "Bern," with a lineup heavy on local bans and bonfires every night.

67 / Black Lips
July 11
The Waiting Room Lounge, Omaha

68 / Woods
July 18
Slowdown, Omaha


69 / King Yellowman at the Omaha Solstice Reggae and World Music Festival
July 23
Lewis & Clark Landing, Omaha

70 / Grimes at the Maha Music Festival
Aug. 20
Stinson Park, Omaha


Waxahatchee at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2015. She plays Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on June 21. Photo by Matt Lief Anderson.


71 / Waxahatchee
Jun 21
Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland

72 / Guided by Voices
June 23
Oddbody's, Dayton

73 / Passion Pit
June 24
Bogarts, Cincinnati

74 / We Were Promised Jetpacks
June 25
Grog Shop, Cleveland

75 / Bob Dylan
June 28
Fraze Pavilion, Kettering


76 / Ray LaMontagne
June 30
Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland

77 / Guns N' Roses
July 6
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

78 / The Avett Brothers
July 9
Toledo Zoo Amphitheater

79 / Paul McCartney
July 10
U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati

80 / Maxwell
July 11
Palace Theatre, Columbus

The Avett Brothers are playing July 9 at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater.


81 / The Julie Ruin with Speedy Ortiz
July 16
Mahall's, Lakewood

82 / Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings
July 23
The Rose Music Center at The Heights, Dayton

83 / Jane's Addiction with Living Colour
July 23
Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland

84 / Miranda Lambert with Kip Moore
July 28
Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls

85 / Justin Townes Earle
July 29
Musica, Akron


86 / Diana Ross
July 31
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, Northfield

87 / Snoop Dogg with Wiz Khalifa and Kevin Gates
Aug. 14
Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls

88 / Explosions In The Sky
Sept. 13
Newport Music Hall, Columbus

89 / Nada Surf
Sept. 22
A&R Music Bar, Columbus


Car Seat Headrest play Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee on July 17.


90 / Fitz and the Tantrums at Summerfest
June 26  
Harley Davidson Roadhouse, Milwaukee
Everyone from Willie Nelson to Pitbull show up at Summerfest, which runs through July 10.

91 / Bully
July 7
Meyer Theatre, Green Bay

92 / Chris Thile and Bela Fleck
July 13
Door County Auditorium, Fish Creek

93 / The Madison Early Music Festival
Finale performance July 16
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The multi-day fest gets into the spirit of the international Shakespeare 400 celebration.



94 / Car Seat Headrest
July 17
Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

95 / Wye Oak 
Aug. 2
Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

96 / Grace Potter 
Aug. 5
The Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

97 / Sturgill Simpson
Aug. 9
Meyer Theatre, Green Bay

98 / Summerset Festival with Grimes and Chance the Rapper
Aug. 12-14
Somerset, WI


Fitz and the Tantrums perform at Summerfest in Milwaukee on June 26.

It's not summer without a playlist. Hope you enjoy our first such endeavor. Tell us how you like it on our Facebook page. 




The Road to Love is Paved with Cat Shit

Cassie Burke

By Meribah Knight


When my partner came to me with the notion that moving out of Chicago might be the only prudent move for his career, I supported him because that is what loving and committed partners do. We say things like, “I’m totally fine with you being Facebook friends with your ex.” or “Apply for that job in Des Moines. Why not? There’s nothing to lose.” 

Truthfully, though, we rarely mean any of it. 

But I knew something eventually had to change. It was becoming harder to convince ourselves that the walls weren’t closing in our careers. Not because we aren’t hard working, but because we chose the most unsustainable career path ever. We are journalists. Print journalists. I am a writer and Andrew, my partner, is a photographer. And these days, with our industry’s current state, a two-journalist household is either doomed or staring down compromise. In theory, I was prepared to accept the latter. And so, for the next eight months our conversations went as such: 

Him: There is a job opening at the Dallas Morning News. 
Me: Hmm. No. Absolutely not. I am from Massachusetts. I will never live in Texas unless it’s Austin. 
Him: There is an opening at the Indianapolis Star. 
Me: My mother is from Indianapolis, and she says she escaped from the Prairie. I can’t disappoint her by going back. Don’t be ridiculous.   
Him: There is an opening at the Des Moines Register. It sounds perfect. It’s such a great paper. 
Me: Fine, you should apply. (Dying inside, wishing I’d said yes to Dallas now.) 
Him: I got an interview. 
Me: What??? I can’t go to Des Moines? There is only corn and white people there. And Donald Trump said he wanted to buy a farm there. NO!

A few months later, in late October, he came to me with yet another possibility: a job opening in Nashville. This time I had no witty retort. “I guess that could be cool,” I said. Yes, it was the most practical of all the ridiculous options he’d presented. As in, I had a mild curiosity about the place rather than utter disgust. 

Plus, Nashville was a city on the rise. I had read the New York Times’ “36 Hours in Nashville” and, for the last three years, had been begging Andrew to go with me for a weekend visit. Something like 80 people a day were moving to Nashville. Chicago lost 3,000 last year. Also, I have a strong affinity for country music—anything recorded before 1972. This could be a good city if I got my head right. 

“Go for it,” I said with only a mild cringe. 

Much to my horror, he was offered the job three weeks later. And when he sat me down and told me he wanted to accept it, I did what any sane girlfriend with her back against the wall does: I started sobbing and promptly gave him an ultimatum: “If we’re going to do this,” I said, clutching Abner, our three-legged cat, “I need a ring on my finger, a king size bed and I want to adopt a dog.” Andrew gave me a quizzical look, nodded, and replied that he was working on the ring, was fine with a larger bed and thought the cats should get situated before we adopted a dog. 

“I want a dog,” I said flatly. 

“Ok, fine,” he whispered in a small voice. 

“Alright, let’s do this,” I said, tears streaming down my face.

TWO MONTHS LATER, ANDREW WAS IN NASHVILLE STARTING HIS NEW JOB. I was in Chicago getting my own work in order and figuring out our move: It was up to me to get the bulk of our stuff to Nashville, a load that included our three cats: Abner, Maybelle and Ellie. By this time, he’d proposed. (Demand No. 1=check.) 

So I asked Andrew’s mom, Terri, to accompany me, and the cats, in my 2007 Honda Civic on the drive down South. Our friend Nik would drive the 12-foot rental truck, which, after a Tetris-like feat of packing, fit all of our remaining stuff, including my ad-hoc collection of thrifted mid-century chairs. 

I figured a seven-hour road trip with my future mother-in-law on the most stressful day of my adult life would provide us with a good chance to bond. Plus, Terri is cool. Like, let’s do tequila shots and watch that concert DVD of Morrissey, cool. I knew she’d be a good travel partner. 

And so, on a unseasonably spring-like day in early March, we packed up the car. We drugged the most dramatic of all my cats, a hairless sphinx named Ellie, and set off for Nashville. I collapsed into the front seat, watching my apartment recede out of view. 

I thought I would get emotional, leaving the first home I’d ever owned for a new life south of the Mason Dixon Line. I’d spent the last two months coming to terms with leaving the city where I jumpstarted my career and had satiated all of my reporting curiosities, despite Chicago’s shrinking collection of media outlets. But really, as we set off, all I thought about was wrangling the cats, getting them into their carriers, and hitting the road so we could get to Nashville before dark. We were going to drive nonstop, eat fast food and occupy ourselves with an array of podcasts I’d downloaded for the occasion. 

We made it as far as Gary, Indiana. And what happened next was like the plot of some sad Thelma and Louise remake for Animal Planet.  

“Do you smell something?” Terri asked. 

I turned around and I saw Maybelle, the coolest tempered, had puked in her carrier. But the smell was far too noxious for a just cat vomit. 

“Let’s pull over,” Terri said. “I think someone pooped.” 

“But we’re in Gary. Where are we going to pull over? I am pretty sure it’s just puke. We can make it until we need gas.” 

At this point Maybelle was clawing at the door of her carrier. She wanted out. So I opened it. That’s when I saw her sad state: She had it coming out from both ends. I conceded. “OK, we’re pulling over.”

Amid the post-apocalyptic landscape that is Gary, Indiana, we found what was the saddest Days Inn Motel I’d ever seen, with faded siding and a marquis sign missing more than a few letters from its advertisement “FREE WIFI.” It did, however, have a large dumpster in the back, the perfect receptacle for terribly soiled cat blankets. 

We pulled in just as the smell was peaking. For good measure, I looked in Abner’s carrier. Terrific. It was like a symphony of shit. So I let him out. Now Abner and Maybelle were both wandering around the car, climbing on and under the seats. Surely this was against some rule of the road, I thought.

“I need to throw out the blankets,” I told Terri. “And we need to drug all of them.” Right then, a maid walked by, dropping a bag of trash into the dumpster and leaving us with a long hard stare. 

Back on the road, I made a mental note to stow this drive away for future relationship leverage. This was quality stuff.

THREE HOURS IN, THINGS WERE SOMEWHAT OK. Terri and I were listening to a Patti Smith interview on Fresh Air. Abner was sleeping in the makeshift litter box behind the driver’s seat. Maybelle looked blissed out. Her drugs seemed to be working. Ellie, though, was a different story. She was still growling and meowing. The double dose of tranquilizers was not working. I needed to call my parents to let them know how the trip was going, which, so far, was pretty terrible. 

“Oh no, how awful,” my mother said through an explosion of laughter, after I recounted the gruesome details thus far. 

“This reminds me of something,” my father chimed in. I knew what was coming next.

“Remember our drive to visit Nana Rusty and Grumpa in Cleveland,” he asked. “You were two, and we put you in your car seat. You kept demanding bottles of apple juice. Ten hours later we arrived in Cleveland, and you’d filled your car seat with pee.” 

Thanks, dad. 

Then, somewhere in Kentucky, Abner decided it was prime time to cough up a hairball the size of his missing arm. And his aim was good, managing to get it all over my new Uniqlo jacket. “Let’s pull over,” I said. “I’ll wash this in the gas station bathroom and take over driving.” 

“Sounds good,” Terri said. 

I took the jacket into the bathroom, and washed it in the sink. Fucking Andrew, I thought to myself. How did I get stuck with this tornado of shit and puke? I missed him dearly. Our two months apart had been nothing short of unbearable. Just knowing we were in limbo and that there was an inevitable move put my anxiety on high alert. “You’ve never been good with transitions,” was my mother’s refrain. She was right. I’ve never been good with change. I like knowing what to expect at all times. 

Plus, leaving Chicago was going to be traumatic, whether it hit me now or later. I knew at some point an emotional reckoning would come. Would it happen right now, as I washed cat bile off my jacket in this sad Kentucky truck stop bathroom? Possibly. 

Chicago was the only city I had ever made a life in. I’d lived in New York and Boston; neither had felt like a proper adult home. In New York, I’d always felt abused by the city, forced daily to feel like I couldn’t handle its grind. And Boston was too erudite, too studious, too intellectual, too old, too cloistered. 

Chicago, though, had taken me as I was and had grown with me—neighborhood-by-neighborhood, block-by-block: Lincoln Park, Englewood, Uptown, Little Village. It was all Chicago. Hiding in plain sight. The city left it up to you to decide if you could handle its truth, for better or worse. And I had embraced that. 

And despite all of its professional frustrations, Chicago fascinated me. Its gritty politics and social strife—whether it was race, violence or education—offered fertile ground for reporting. As a city, it had so many faults. But its soul was honest, even if its politicians weren’t. And I loved that about Chicago. There was no pretense. 

At that moment, it hit me. What was I getting myself into? The South was like a foreign land. A place where people drank sweet tea on porches and still believed the Confederate flag had a sacred place in history. As anxious people tend to do—or what my therapist likes to call my “ingrained negative-thinking pathways,”—my anxiety quickly snowballed. Would I ever make new friends? Would I ever write another word? Get another client? Find another great story? What about the eight years I’d spent in Chicago working to develop my sources? What would it mean outside of that city? Would I be the same reporter in Nashville as I was in Chicago? Doomsday, blah, blah, blah, doomsday.   

I snapped out of it when a woman walked in on someone else in a bathroom stall. “Soooory,” she hollered, the word rolling off her tongue like molasses. 

Just get to Nashville, I thought. Then unpack. Then figure out your life. 

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles

BACK ON THE ROAD, WE WERE ABOUT 30 MILES SHY OF LOUISVILLE. It would definitely be dark by the time we arrived.

“What time is it?” Terri asked. 

“Nearly 5,” I replied. 

A smile spread across her face. 

She bent down, rifled through her purse and pulled out a pint of Tito’s vodka shrouded in a small paper bag. 

“I need a shot,” she quipped before opening the bottle and taking a slug. I love this woman. I am proud to call her my family. Seriously. Life gives you shit, literally, and she just rolls with it. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Let’s get buzzed. That was her thinking. 

I looked at the bottle. I wanted it. I wanted it so bad. But I knew better. Drinking with your future-mother-in-law is bonding. Drinking while driving is just illegal. Plus, I had a bottle of tequila in the back that was waiting for me on the other end of this drive. Just 180 more miles.  

That’s when a giant billboard came into view: HELL IS REAL.

“We must be in the South,” I moaned. I looked in my rearview mirror. The sign’s other side read JESUS IS REAL. “Yup, we’re definitely in the South.” 

But soon the Tennessee hills came into view, blanketed with birch, maple and hickory, and I realized just how beautiful this part of the country was. I glanced behind me. The cats were all sleeping. 

When we finally arrived at the house, it was dark. The cats were exhausted. Terri was slightly buzzed. But Andrew was outside, waiting for us on the porch with a huge smile across his face. 

I wanted to yell at him and tell him how dare he leave me alone with such a task. But when I got out of the car all I could do was laugh. “That fucking drive was insanity,” I yelled. 

“I’m sorry,” he said, giving me a kiss. “I am so glad you’re finally here.” 

“I am, too,” I replied, my frustration evaporating. The prize guilt trip material I’d planned to use on him suddenly seemed meaningless. I was here, with the man I loved and our cats. Chicago had brought us all together. And now, in Nashville, we would begin our married lives together. I had no regrets. Even if the journey was paved with shit and Jesus billboards.  

When I got into bed that night, the cats gathered at my feet, I looked around. I am in Tennessee, I thought to myself. And this room is way too small for a king size bed. 


Meribah Knight is a writer based in Nashville.