This weekend I went to Chicago even though I didn’t have any gigs. I just went up to hang out with my pals. It was the first time I’ve done that in YEARS, and it was really fun.

As luck would have it, the Threadless Christmas party was Friday night and my friend Harper invited me to come. Since I am often in Chicago in the middle of the day with some time to kill before or after gigs, I have spent a fair amount of time hanging out at Threadless. Mostly I hang out with Harper, but I know a few of the other folks there a little, so going to the Christmas party wasn’t the awkward I-don’t-know-anybody experience that usually happens when you go to someone else’s work party. The other thing that made it good was that Threadless really knows how to let it all hang out. Where most work places have one or two wild and crazy characters, at Threadless it’s the opposite, almost everyone is wild and crazy. There is never any shortage of wacky stuff going on with those cats.

Harper and Crystal

In case you don’t already know, is an online t-shirt company that prints shirts designed by the members of its online community in an ongoing design contest. It’s really cool, and they have some of the best shirts around.

The Threadless party was fun. It was held at a swanky bowling alley called 10 Pin, and there was a ton of catered food, unlimited drinks, and free bowling. As one would expect, there were zany antics like backwards granny throws, bowling without using the finger holes, and three bowlers using the same lane at the same time. I’m not exactly sure why, but everyone at this party was beautiful, crazy-lookin’, or both. Even the girl who had to keep coming over to yell at us for throwing too many balls down the lanes at once was beautiful.

Santa LOVES the Jager Bombs!

The party got going quickly, and Harper did his best to help it along by ordering lots and lots of drinks for everyone. His personal rule for the night was that he could never order fewer than ten shots at once… and he did that ten times. Ten times! I think it’s safe to say that the party was not cheap.

We stayed a little while after the party ended at midnight, and then it was off to another club with Harper’s buddy Tag.

I should point out that I am not really the going-out-to-clubs kind of guy. I’m not much of a drinker, I have never really enjoyed the bar scene, and I have rarely lived in an area with a club scene. Harper, on the other hand, is a major presence in the Chicago club scene and goes out regularly. I don’t go along often, but it’s a lot of fun to go out with Harper on occasion since he’s already all the way in the scene, and I can just tag along for the ride.

The first place we went was called Debonair. I don’t think there was a line out front, but I do know that we didn’t have to pay to get in, and the guy at the door knew Harper by name. It was a cool club, the music was loud, there were people dancing, it was a nice atmosphere. We went downstairs and it was like it was a totally different club. It was much darker, the music was different and much louder, and I recognized a bunch of people I have met over the years of hanging out with Harper. It’s funny to me how well Harper and his pals communicate on where to meet. I’ve seen some of these people several times, but never at the same place twice. It’s also funny how wherever we go Harper knows all the bartenders.

We hung out for a while at Debonair, and then it was off to the next spot. I had steeled myself for a long night of cabbing around town hitting a bunch of spots. Even though this would turn out to be a fairly low-travel night, it also turned out to be the quintessential Goin’ Out With Harper experience.

The next spot was around the corner, across the street, and down the alley to an unmarked door. I found out later that the place was called Ohm, and there wasn’t just one line at the door, there were two. One going in each direction down the alley, and each one had at least a hundred people in it. We had picked up a small group at the last bar, and after almost no negotiation Tag got all eight of us in… for free. Basically we just walked right up, past the two massive lines, the velvet ropes parted, and we were in. I felt like I was going to get busted any moment for not really being a member of the Cool Kids Club. It was very MTV, and very strange. Then to top it all off, we got to the top of the stairs, and as soon as the big, mean, and scary-lookin’ bouncer saw Harper, he smiled and gave him a big hug. Clearly I was with the right people.

The party was rockin’ at Ohm. This was the place to be. There were lots of people, lots of dancing, and many of the partiers, both men and women, were in various stages of undress. Some were clearly professional dancers (the ladies in lingerie), and some were just enthusiastic (the sweaty dudes). Following the same pattern as at Debonair, we went right upstairs to what was basically another club within a club. This is where the REAL party was, and it was PACKED. I followed Harper as he pushed right into the middle of the dancing throng, broke into the circle of hot girls, who he (of course) already knew, and said, “Hey. This is my friend Mark.” Of course I knew that it was odd to have two married guys in the middle of the dancing circle of hot girls in one of the hottest clubs in Chicago on a Friday night, but no one else knew that. Since neither of us was trying to hook up, it didn’t matter anyway.

It was at this point that Harper pointed out to me that part of the reason it was so hopping in there was that the DJ that night was James Iha, the former guitarist from Smashing Pumpkins. If that means nothing to you then just trust me that he is famous. It was strange to be unexpectedly within four feet of someone that famous.

I always forget how easy it is to spend all your money when you go out like this. Between coat checks, cabs, food and drinks (for you and for your friends) you can spend a LOT of money in no time. Since I wasn’t drinking and we didn’t get in any cabs, this night was fairly cheap, but I suspect that it was the exception and not the rule.

We enjoyed the scene at Ohm for a little while, and finally headed back to Harper’s place around 2:30 am (3:30 my time). It was much earlier than I had expected, and I was grateful.