The 93XRT Miller Lite Opening Day Broadcast is a celebration with 20+ years of history.
The word “memorable” is used under advisement since there has been a lot of beer under the bridge since we started putting these parties together. Terri Hemmert, Mary Dixon and I host an unprecedented 7 hour live broadcast at Yak-zies on Clark Street. 3 or 4 Live Bands, The Regular Guy, a few special guests and rabid, diehard Cub fans.
The year that Widespread Panic played live was a little out of control. Just getting from their vehicles into the broadcast reminded me of The Beatles in a Hard Day’s Night. This was the year that the owner of a “Gentlemen’s Club” showed up with some of his gentle women insisting that we interview the healthy ladies on the air. We did not. One of the women told me she had a good vocabulary. Yet another reason to admire her.
You always remember your first opening day broadcast. Michael McDermott was one of our musical guests. We told people that we had a computer program called ‘Loki’ that would allow them to choose musical requests that would immediately go on the air. This opening day was on April 1st. Years later, McDermott’s “Unemployed” becomes one of our Cub broadcast anthems in honor of Lee Elia’s rant that “85% of the world is out there working, the other 15% come out here. It’s a f%$@#$ playground for the…”
In 1999 before Wilco ruled the world, Jeff Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett of Wilco show up after a late night gig. They have stomach flu and they have to play live on the air. I just thought it was so cool to have one of my all-time favorite bands joining us on opening day. Some day Jeff will forgive me for that early wake-up call.
2003. The Snow-Out. At 7am, the game is called on account of SNOW! Announcement is merely a speed bump as we carry on with live performances from Warren Haynes (where we allow a fan to introduce him on the air), Luce, Michael McDermott, and Peter Himmelman. Peter performs an impromptu Snow-Out song.
Mid-nineties. They are billed as Double Trouble, the great Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rhythm section, but the line-up that plays on stage is really the incomparable, but short-lived, Storyville.
When Bob Verdi hosted Athletes’ Feats, he would show up and share caustic observations for the upcoming season that were, sadly, accurate. His observations about me were not much milder.
2008. Cub nation is Fukudome crazy. Robert Randolph is in the house. Film Director David Leaf (U.S.A. versus John Lennon) comes to Chicago to start a documentary about the Cubs’ 2008 season in the hopes that he can capture something historic. He wants to film the Regular Guy’s prayer at our live broadcast for his film. In Kosuke Fukudome’s debut, he hits a game tying 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th! Cubs lose in extra innings. We run into David Leaf as we’re leaving the ballpark. The Regular Guy tells him, “You just saw the whole history of The Cubs in one game.” The Cubs go on to not win the World Series.
In 2010 John Hiatt announces that not only is it the Cubs’ year, but it is also “The Year of John.” Then he turns in one of the best Opening Day performances we’ve ever had. When you’re a Cub fan, you lean on faith.
Last year, we introduced the band Everest to the audience at Yak-Zies. Russell Pollard sports the newest Chicago Cubs headgear.
They become our best friends. Last summer they became the XRT “House” band for the month of July.
The Waco Brothers are one of the unshakeable traditions of the opening day broadcast except when Langford spaces out and books a show out of town in April. Their regimen is very strict. Cocktails in a Wrigleyville watering hole before they show up for the gig.
And their first year, they issued the edict that they would not play a second song unless Terri Hemmert and I joined them for a shot of Irish Whiskey. Oh, the things we do for love.