Written by Emma Atkinson
Serendipitous has always been one of my favorite words. Merriam-Webster defines it as “luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.” In other words, a happy occurrence that is stumbled upon by chance. And on a Sunday morning in July, in the most serendipitous of ways, chance is exactly what I got as I was one of the fortunate few who was able to snag tickets to Chance the Rapper’s secret show at Metro Chicago. I recently thought back to that fateful Sunday in light of Chance’s recent Magnificent Coloring Book Day at US Cellular Field.
Scrolling through Twitter, sweating in the July heat in the living room of a friend’s Lakeview apartment, something caught my eye.
Lil Chano From 79th: “SURPRISE!!! SECRET SHOW AT METRO TONIGHT 18+ TIX ON SALE NOW AT [sic] NO ONLINE TIX @MetroChicago GET IN THE CAR”.
I stared at it for a moment, and then my brain kicked into high gear. I glanced at the tweet’s timestamp; it had been posted twelve minutes ago. If I wanted to see Chance live for the first and possibly only time in my life, I knew that I had to act quickly. The next several minutes were a blur. Luckily, my friend’s parents were visiting and agreed to give us a lift to Metro, which was only five minutes from her apartment by car. Serendipitous, no?
We arrived at the theater, hopped out of the car, and ran to join the growing queue of people. It was obvious that many had left Lollapalooza in order to score tickets – we were met with a sea of girls in crop tops and guys in basketball jerseys. (Side note: can anyone explain the jersey thing to me? Do guys wear them just to seem athletic and appealing, or do they actually wick sweat or something? Anyways…) My friend and I ended up in two different lines due to our different forms of payment – thank goodness for cash – and endured a somewhat stressful twenty minutes of uncertainty about whether or not she would be able to get a ticket. However, our streak of good luck prevailed, and soon we were walking past Wrigley Field in the sunshine, wiping our brows and clutching our tickets in triumph.
Actual, physical tickets. To see Chance the Rapper. For forty dollars. I was no longer envious of every person I passed whose wrist was adorned with a Lollapalooza wristband because I knew that I’d be seeing Chance the Rapper that night, up close, personal, and live. And for me, at least, that was – dare I say it? – better than Lolla. I spent the rest of the day in a daze, knowing that in six, five, four, three, two, one hour(s), I’d be at the concert and in the presence of Chance the Rapper, hero of Chicago and golden boy of the South Side. I’m a Cubs fan by birth, but this was one Sox fan that I didn’t mind supporting.
My friend and I donned our concert garb and did our makeup, brimming with nervous excitement. We didn’t quite know what to expect, as we’d never been inside the venue and certainly hadn’t seen Chance the Rapper in concert before. To tell the truth, the Chance show was only the third concert I’d ever had the pleasure of attending – preceded only by Ed Sheeran at Tinley Park and T-Pain’s awkward appearance at DePaul University’s Fest 2016. Needless to say, I could feel my nerves prickling along my skin as I approached Metro for the second time that day. The atmosphere outside the venue was like none other. I waited in line with hundreds of other people, brought together by a common love of…what? The music itself? The artist? The adrenaline of the noise and vibrations and crush of people? It was jovial and expectant and even sexy, in a way.
After about an hour’s wait in line and a friendly pat-down by a female security guard with a sense of humor, we were in. Although the then-sold-out Metro has a capacity of 1100, the space seemed reassuringly intimate that night. The DJ played a mix of current hip hop/rap hits and some very well-received throwbacks, and the crowd undulated with dancing and drinking. Following several chants of “CHANCE. THE. RAP. PER. CHANCE. THE. RAP. PER,” in a flash of light and a boom of bass, he appeared. Lil Chano was right there in front of me, barely twenty feet away. I felt as if I could reach out and touch him, a necessary cliché.
Chance started the show with cuts from “Acid Rap,” the mixtape heard ‘round the world., followed by some guest verses from other artists’ songs: Action Bronson’s “Baby Blue” and Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam” were among them. The lights flashed and Chance and his crowd – his adoring, adoring crowd – exchanged call-and-response whoops and hollers. We fed off of each other, an intoxicating symbiotic energy. The love for this rapper, this artist, this Chicago man was palpable. Here he was, ready to embark on a worldwide tour, coming back to pay homage to where it all began. Chance segued into more recent tracks toward the end of the show and saved “Coloring Book” hits for the encore, after the crowd beckoned loudly for him to return.
“CHANCE. THE. RAP. PER. CHANCE. THE. RAP. PER.”
“GO CHANO, GO CHANO, GO. GO CHANO, GO CHANO, GO.”
He reappeared, to the roar of a triumphant crowd. We had succeeded. The rest of the concert was spent in a state of combined exhaustion and elation. I had been standing for close to five hours and was covered in a sheen of sweat, but as I watched Chance’s final few songs, my hands remained permanently clasped below my chin: a position of reverence.
Humbled and dazed, I left Metro with a newfound love for Chance the Rapper and his dedication to his art and city. “Thank you, I love you,” Chance said as he prepared to exit the stage. “I won’t stop until everyone in Chicago can see my shows for cheap.” As I sat in the back of an Uber, headed back to the Lakeview apartment where that hectic, wonderful day began, I realized that I owed Chance some reciprocal gratitude. Now, I look back on that night with a full heart; I realize that I was unbelievably lucky to experience his music in such an intimate, up-close way. To all those who were lucky enough to see Magnificent Coloring Book Day: count your blessings, kids. Serendipity follows Lil Chano wherever he goes.
All photos courtesy of Emma Atkinson.
Contact Emma via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.