Today I played bass for a children’s concert for the Grant Park Music Festival. The weather in Chicago has been ridiculously hot recently, and today was no exception, with highs around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the heat index reaching well over 100. Whenever possible I try to take the train to work. This is always a pain with a bass, but I hate driving so much (and I drive more than anyone I know) that it is worth it to me.
There are two trains in Chicago: the commuter-friendly Metra and the nasty but convenient “L”. I happen to live about three blocks from stops for both of these, so I frequently use them both. The “L” is the only sensible option for Millennium Park, so that was my transportation. Walking around with a bass even in a big city like Chicago generates a lot of looks and (wish… you… played… PICCOLO??) comments from strangers, so I usually wear headphones and sunglasses when walking around with the bass. People tend to not say anything if it looks like you’re bopping to your tunes.
The cars on the “L” are pretty narrow, so getting situated with the bass is a challenge, but if you can find one of the cars with a wheelchair space the ride will usually be OK. Evanston runs an express train downtown during rush hour, so catching that also makes life much easier. If you miss that express ride you are stuck with a train transfer and a much longer ride.
Millennium Park allegedly has an air conditioning system for the stage, but I certainly have never felt any presence of it when I have played there. Today was unbelievably, indescribably hot onstage. Classical bass players are familiar with that happens to bass bows (covered in sticky bass rosin) in these kind of temperatures. It turns into a sheet of glass, making pulling a good sound extremely difficult. This isn’t a good thing to ever have happen, but I happened to be playing Saint-Saens’ “Elephant” from the Carnival of the Animals today, which is just bass and piano. It is an easy solo, but it is still a solo, and I don’t want to sound bad in front of my colleagues or an audience.
I carry a comb around with me and in weather like this repeatedly use it to comb my bow hair and de–glassify it. I had to use it between every single piece today, and it helped to keep it in check. The solo ended up going fine, and I was able to catch an express train (with headphones andsunglasses on, of course) back to Evanston.