The Days Inn on Diversey
Is a very nice place to stay
When you're stuck in Chicago
With nothing to do all day
So sang the Mekons' Tom Greenhalgh on a recent album, and so might agree the countless other rockers who've done time in Chicago's mid-priced venue of choice for troubadours. Big-ticket stars crash at the Ritz or the Four Seasons, of course, and most industry weasels curl up at night amid the black leather and chrome of Le Meridien. But for alternative rockers wandering the country in a van, genre acts blasting across the midwest by bus, or Brits trying to make it in America, the Days Inn is home more often than any other hotel in Chicago.
The hotel, owned for two generations by the Beider family, is a 121-room affair overlooking the intersection at Diversey, Clark, and Broadway. The lobby's decor is a riot of pastels; curtains, art, and painted wainscoting cover the walls. Comfy sofas are provided for pre-load-out lounging. Just off the lobby is a tiny laundry room (an important amenity for the touring musician) and an alcove where free continental breakfasts are served till the reasonable hour of noon.
For the past two years the Days Inn's manager has been the efficient and enthusiastic Cat (short for Courtney) Tries. Her operation's edge in the market was the product of direct marketing, plain and simple. "When I started here three and a half years ago," she recalls, "me and another woman who began at the same time asked what kind of clientele we had. A desk clerk said she thought that some bands stayed here. With so many venues around, we just faxed out something to all the clubs, offering special rates. Over time we've kind of got to know the people at Metro, and they'd recommend us. Pretty soon travel agents started calling."
On a recent weekend the Days Inn saw a typical panoply: heavy-metallers L.A. Guns, the funksters of Fishbone, quintessential alternative slackers Sebadoh, and a few members of the Veruca Salt road crew, among others.
For Tries the job isn't as chaotic as it might seem. Her biggest headache is parking. It's hard to park a tour bus anywhere, much less three or four of them at one of the busiest intersections in Lincoln Park. (She's looking for a lot in the area.) The Days Inn doesn't see much in the way of rock-star excess: such behavior is considered uncool in the alternative era, and even if they wanted to act up, the bands who stay at the Days Inn wouldn't have the money to cover the damage.
Tries's most recent nightmare--a destructive visit by the triple-platinum punk band Offspring--reflects how the rock 'n' roll world has changed. "The rooms were just trashed," reports Tries. "There were obscenities on the wall,
and the carpets were burned." The band members managed to get on the roof
and amuse themselves by urinating onto the Diversey sidewalk in the early morning hours.
Here's the twist. "The only reason we didn't throw them out was the bus driver," says Tries. Over time hotel workers develop bonds with drivers and road managers, she explains, and "he told them that the bus wasn't leaving until the damage was paid for." The driver ordered the band to spend the rest of the night on the bus, while he slept in the hotel.
Since the hotel attracts thrifty bands, few megastars drop in, though any number of outfits in their preplatinum days--Soul Asylum, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spin Doctors--have laid their weary heads at the Days Inn. Most recently a flamboyant Courtney Love swept into the lobby, only to announce that the memories of Kurt Cobain were too overpowering; she left for the less stressful Ritz.
The staff unabashedly has its favorites. Tries champions the large soul ensemble Sounds of Blackness, which stays at the Days Inn even when playing miles away at the New Regal Theater. That group's courtesy stands in stark contrast to that of another act, an alternative singer recently accorded major industry honors (hint hint). The usually effervescent Tries hardens at the mention of her name: "Now she was a real bitch."
"With the people who aren't nice," she reflects, "you don't like their music even if you might have otherwise."
A few weeks ago Hitsville wrote about an on-line music-info service that, through a not-entirely-malignant chain of events, ended up using a big chunk of jazz criticism without permission. Artists concerned about their rights in the new frontier of cyberspace might want to check out a daylong seminar on just that subject May 20 at Columbia College. It's put on by the Chicago chapter of Lawyers for the Creative Arts; the price and precise lineup of guests have yet to be decided. Call 944-2787 for details.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Jim Alexander Newberry.