A first-person account from off the beaten track,
as told to Anne Ford.
“I was in a band when I was growing up in Highland Park, the same band from when I was 12 to the time I was 24. It was called Left Undone. We did some tours, opening for that band that did that horrible song about ‘do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.’ We thought at the time we were so old, and that if we were going to make it, we would have made it by then, so we broke up.
“There was a guy who told me if I wanted to pursue being a musician full-time, I had to get out to LA. Of course when I got there, that same guy, who said he’d hook me up, didn’t return any of my calls. Being out there, it’s not like Chicago. You have to do a lot more hustling.
“I played with O.A.R. for a while, I played with Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing, I played with Beyonce’s sister, Solange, I played with Jem. Then I was with a band called the Southland. It was founded by Jed Whedon, whose brother is Joss Whedon, and I played on some of the songs for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I also got signed for my own stuff and put out my record as Danny Chaimson & the 11th Hour in 2009.
“I was doing well out there, but my girlfriend and I saw that if we wanted to have a family and buy a house, we’d want to move back to Chicago. We got married in Los Angeles, and I set up a wedding band out of my touring friends. I had a guy who was the singer for Slash’s Snakepit. I had Crosby, Stills and Nash’s drummer. Mix Master Wolf came in. All the people at that wedding who were from Chicago said that if I came home and started a wedding band, they’d freak out.
“So now I have the Gold Coast All-Stars, a 12-piece event band. I spent about a year scouting talent for it. I wanted to pull guys from the original music scene, guys who otherwise might not want to be in an event band. Most of the people that hire us aren’t looking to hear ‘Celebration’ and ‘YMCA,’ and to be honest, we don’t even know those songs. We’ve yet to play ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ which is an impressive feat. Lately we’ve done really cool versions of ‘Can’t Hold Us’ by Macklemore and ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
“This summer, we had a bride and groom who wanted us to learn the version of the Beach Boys’ ‘Forever’ that Uncle Jesse sang on Full House. We watched it on YouTube and painstakingly learned all the parts. It was actually a strangely great call by them.
“Walking offstage after a wedding is not that much different a feeling than it was at the Fillmore in San Francisco. You still get the same rush, and it’s still a lot of fun, and I can actually have a somewhat normal real life as a musician. My friends who are doing what I used to do, they’re all kind of jealous. But when they roll through town and I’m backstage, I kind of get jealous of what they’re doing. Life is about trade-offs, and you just have to like the trade-off you’re getting more than the one you’re not.”