Sunday, July 19, 2009

THE PHOTOGRAPHY OFRAY METZKER
















Ray Metzker's Chicago photos,taken during the mid-20th Century, capture a grey, dusty city, haunting in its geometry. Metzker's Chicago is place of secret loneliness, dreary urbanity and action. His black and white images are odes to post-war Chicago, before the city got fancy.


See Ray Metzker's work at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.




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CHICAGO HOUSE BREAK



These tracks are a slice of Chicago house music from 1980-1995. House music was born in Chicago and these early tracks by artists like Larry Heard, Ron Trent, Fast Eddie, and Farley "Jack Master Funk" gave birth to a music phenomenon that took the world by storm. These early tracks are raw, experimental, and funky. Check the way artists combine the James Brown sample-crazy breaks of late 80s hip hop with the beats of house music to create something called 'hip house'. Hip house was the life-blood of Chicago house parties and school dances in the late 80s and early 90s. House music was also a staple of Chicago top 40 radio, and every night the music's jacking rhythm could be heard pouring out of apartment windows and car stereos. This music is the foundation for all modern dance music, and like it or hate it, it all began in Chicago.


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CHICAGO FOOD

SOUTHSIDE CANDY DILL PICKLES

Food in Chicago is specific - There is a correct way to eat a hot dog, a special kind of dough for deep dish pizza, and hundreds of ethnic food traditions that slam into each other like an elegant wrestling match. Food in Chicago is a crazy quilt, a hodge-podge of style and substance. And in some cases, Chicago food offers up ideas so radical in their awkwardness, so unique in their flavors that they must be illuminated.

It’s time to discuss the Southside pickle phenomenon.

Chicago is the most segregated city in the country. Unlike New York City and LA where cultures seem to jump into a blender and coagulate, Chicago is tribal in the purest sense of the word. Immigrants have been migrating to the Midwestern hub for a few hundred years. Dozens of ethnic groups from Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, have all carved out little hamlets within the city walls. Before the 1960s, Chicago was essentially a black and white city with a strong working class immigrant aesthetic. Most middle class immigrants sought work in Chicago’s stockyards or hundreds of factories that created everything from cookies to football helmets. Chicago now contains immigrants from every country on the planet, and this diversity is what makes Chicago so interesting. That being said, Chicago is still segregated on racial lines, with the Northside remaining a bastion of whiteness and the Southside an enclave of blackness. These lines, while invisible, are very real when talking about culture, lifestyle and snack food.

Enter the pickle and its friends Kool-Aid, Now and Later, Jolly Rancher, and peppermint stick. The pickle, while nothing more than a small cucumber soaked in vinegar brine, has achieved legendary status within the invisible boundary of Chicago’s Southside African American community.In Chicago, a pickle is not just something eaten with a pastrami sandwich; it is a briny vehicle for youthful experimentation and hilarious creativity. For decades young people on Chicago’s Southside have been combining pickles with candy, Kool-Aid, and other snack foods to create tastes and flavors that are uniquely Chicago. This pickle experimentation can be traced to the great migration of southern black workers in the middle of the 20th Century. Pickling in the South has long been an easy and delicious way to preserve perishable food items. People in the Southern United States pickle everything from peaches to pigs-feet. What differentiates Chicago pickle enthusiasts from their southern brethren is the youthful insanity of the flavor combinations.

One such combination is the peppermint-pickle. One of the longest standing pickle experiments, this delicacy has its roots in Chicago, and continues to be a popular treat for kids and adults on Chicago’s Southside.The peppermint pickle is made by removing the top off of a large kosher dill pickle and inserting a candy-cane sized peppermint stick into the pickle's cavity. The result is a salty, sweet, mint flavored, crunchy treat that is both funky and delicious. The acid from the vinegar in the pickle brine melts the peppermint stick, and allows the astringent peppermint flavor to soak deep into the pickle.There are variations of this treat that include placing a Jolly Rancher hard candy, or Now and Later taffy within a large pickle. These candy pickles reached fever pitch during the mid-1990s when Kool-Aid pickles began making the scene on Chicago’s Southside. These pickles, again having roots in the deep-south, combine kosher dill pickles with packets of strawberry, cherry, or fruit punch Kool-Aid. The pickles are placed in a large jar filled with extra sweet Kool-Aid and left to soak for up to a week. The candied pickles were invented by African American school kids in southern states like Georgia and Mississippi, and as their popularity grew, they made their way to Chicago. In Chicago, these candy colored, sweet-tart pickles can be found in candy houses, corner stores and neighborhood shops all over the Southside. This childhood delicacy has now become so popular that Kool-Aid pickles have been used in gourmet BBQ joints from Los Angeles to New York City, and were even featured in the food section of the New York Times.

Chicago is still a town where childhood experimentation and cultural gastronomy can slow dance together and concoct something as wonderfully tasty as the candy pickle.


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Thursday, July 9, 2009

CHICAGO MUSIC

STATIC DISCOS - ESTADO FUTURO

On August 27-29, 2009, get a taste of the future at the Festival of Latin Electronic Music in Chicago. The festival will feature live music, DJ sets, workshops and speakers focused on the Latin electronic music scene. The three day event celebrates a diverse range of electronic music and showcases modern Latin culture in all of its eccentric glory.

Artists from Mexico’s Static Discos label will be featured at this annual Chicago music fest. Static Discos is a contemporary Mexican music label committed to melting headphones and minds with its wide spectrum of electronic music. When discussing electronic music and its multitude of sub-genres, Mexico rarely comes up in conversation. Contrary to popular belief, Mexico is not just awash in chicken dances, cowboy suit Norteno and nostalgic Mariachi. Mexico has long been an exporter of progressive pop and indie-music, and it should be no surprise that Static Discos’ catalog is deep with sonically adventurous concoctions. The music on the label ranges from improvisational electronic jazz, glitch pop, minimal Detroit style techno, and deep house. The artists on the Static Discos label have a deep understanding of music history, and they are brazen in their desire to take Latin music into the 21st Century.

The Festival of Latin Electronic Music will be a wonderful opportunity to hear what Latin musicians think the future will sound like. Judging from the work on Static Discos, the future will be delicious, like an elotes plugged into a modular synth.

For more information on Static Discos or the Festival of Latin Electronic Music, visit staticdiscos.com.or www.myspace.com/fmelchicago.


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Sunday, July 5, 2009

CHICAGO JAZZ BREAKS




Here are some tasty Chicago jazz flavored breaks from a time when music still had soul.

Chicago soul-jazz, recorded in the 1960s and 1970s, sounds undeniably Midwestern, but it also has a global perspective where its rhythm and feel are concerned. The musicians who were laying down these tracks respected Chicago's blue collar, blues roots, but they also aspired towards the melting pot of the great metropolis.

These are the sounds of the city.


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Saturday, July 4, 2009

DESIGN IN CHICAGO

CODY HUDSON& Struggle Inc.

In the early 1990s, every teenager in Chicago was skateboarding and writing graffiti. High schools all across the stinking onion were filled with young hearts of every economic strata and race, all scrawling color and pushing boards across the gray city streets. Urban culture connected kids to their environment, and for these Chicago dwellers, graffiti and skating was a way of celebrating the city. Curbs, run down parks, and parking garages were skateboard arenas, and old rusted milk trucks and subway tunnel walls were galleries to be painted. The skateboarding graffiti kids were not destroyers of the city, they were some of its greatest advocates.

Chicago's urban culture figures prominently in the work of artist and designer Cody Hudson. For years Hudson has created groundbreaking post modern designs for companies such as Burton, Chocolate Industries, Gravis, and Stussy. His design work combines his love for graffiti and skate aesthetics, with a ravenous understanding of late 20th Century pop culture ephemera. Hudson also celebrates Chicago in his work, with architectural iconography and Midwest themes cropping up in many of his pieces. As owner and art director for Struggle IncHudson continues to develop a design language of unquestionable originality and style. Cody Hudson’s work is a tasteful eyegasm.



















Flipping through the Struggle Inc. design website is the graphic equivalent of shaking candy out of a Christmas stocking. The work flows, postures, and shimmers on both the screen and the page. Hudson’s typography is narrative, his palate is mack truck bold, and his text is filled with in-jokes and obtuse humor. He comes from the post modern school of design, where irony fondles earnestness, and mixtape graphics are as aesthetically relevant as Bauhaus design principles. In Hudson's world, skateboard decks are meant to hang on gallery walls, and paintings are things to be displayed on city street corners.


When not working on pieces for worldwide solo exhibitions, group shows, clothing graphics, or print design, the artist can be found enjoying the occasional can of Old Style. By no means a recluse, Hudson is an avid collaborator, and has worked with like minded artists such as Juan Angel Chavez, Evan Hecox , and Mike Genovese.

Chicago is not a town famous for its graphic design, or its graffiti, but artists like Cody Hudson, with Old Style in hand, are helping to change perceptions.


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Friday, July 3, 2009

CHICAGO MUSIC

THE SUBTLE LION : JEFF PARKER



Jazz in Chicago was at one time a life blood, a force of unrepentant innovation and creative spirit. Louis Armstrong cut Chicagoan’s domes in half with blazing solos, Miles Davis plugged the nickel with post bop madness, and Maurice White slapped the tubs in the Ramsey Louis Trio before going on to form Earth Wind and Fire. Chicago is a town of improvisation. One has to improvise in a city so diverse, yet so culturally segregated. In 2009, there is a new breed of young lions firmly placing Chicago jazz on the map.

Jeff Parker, a Berkley School of Music graduate, and one time record store clerk, has been slugging through the Chicago jazz and improvised music scene for well over a decade. The guitarist has worked as a sideman in countless jazz groups, and in the late 90s he helped introduced a generation of indie-rockers to jazz via his tenure in the super-group Tortoise. Parker is a guitarist of incredible tone, skill and feel. He sites A Tribe Called Quest, Charlie Parker, Harold Land, Sun-Ra, Sonny Clark, and Hank Williams as some of his favorite artists. Parker’s guitar playing is not filled with the pompous solos, or smooth jazz goo found in many jazz guitarist’s play books. To watch Jeff Parker solo is to watch a process of organic self discovery. Each note is new, exciting, frightening and unexpected. Parker remains one of the least virtuosic virtuosos in Chicago jazz. Chicago's Thrill Jockey Records has released a handful of Parker's recordings, including The Relatives and Like Coping. When not playing jazz or improvising, Parker often experiments with beat making and instrumental hip hop. His beats are playful, jazzy and childlike in their funkiness. There is a definite nod to modern beat masters like Madlib and J-Dilla in his unique instrumental pastiche.

Parker continues to perform with artists such as Scott Amendola, Charlie Hunter, Chad Taylor, Rob Mazurek, and Tortoise. Those unfamiliar with Parker's playing will have the opportunity to see him at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, where he will join Tortoise for a rare live performance. Parker and Tortoise perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival on July 17 at 8pm.

For information on Jeff Parker and his music, visit
http://www.myspace.com/peffjarker.



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Thursday, July 2, 2009

PUNK ROCK DIVES

Ronny's Bar






















Chicago has its share of music venues. Some are grand, palatial theaters, with sconces and chandeliers, and some are back alley dives with Pabst Blue Ribbon and sweaty walls. The rock and punk scene in Chicago is as vibrant and colorful as ever, with a host of young, angry, punk rockers ready to blow you right out of your stove-pipe Levis. These youngsters, looking for venues to showcase their latent hormonal compunctions, thrive in the underworld of house parties, art school lofts, and seedy dive joints.

One such dive joint is Ronny’s Bar on California Ave. in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. For a few years now, Ronny’s Bar has been hosting local talent in its backroom, which is really nothing more than a transmogrified garage with drywall and a concrete floor. If you find yourself engaging in a little pre-show inebriation, Ronny’s Bar is easy to miss. If it wasn’t for the handful of young gents with Conan the Barbarian haircuts smoking outside, Ronny’s would be completely hidden among the weeds and car repair shops that line the dank street.

Upon entering Ronny’s you're struck with the sense that something is terribly wrong. The local patrons, if not fixated by the blurry TV screen or a deadly game of pool, will often give the rock and roll punks a good once over upon entering. The dim, yellow-green lighting gives everyone in the bar a sickly glow, reminiscent of a George A. Romero film. There is also the pungent odor of cigarette smoke, whisky, and hot dogs that permeates everything in the bar. That being said, the bar at Ronny’s is merely a gauntlet to the backroom’s musical delights. Ronny’s ‘music room’ consists of drywall, a carpet, a recycled tiki-bar, a few stools, a card table and a junior high school PA system. The room has a real Lost Highway meets the Olsen Twins vibe that some music lovers might find appealing. There is no sound system at Ronny’s. All the bands play through their amps and vocals are played through the PA system. The crowd is a mixed bag of hipster kids, frightening locals, drunken suburban girls, and a smattering of music lovers. The men’s room is reminiscent of Satan’s arm pit, and the walls of the cramped room are lined with urine stains and flattened Pabst cans. The men's room has very little running water and there is often a roach floating in the sink, as if it had killed itself rather than listen to another handkerchief sporting gutter punk band blather on about ‘corporate America’. The bar tenders are of the bastard variety, and even though they post adorable pictures of their moon faced kids behind the bar, they would just as soon shank you and leave you bleeding in the alley as they would serve you a Heineken.

If angst filled punk, roaches, maladjusted bartenders, and pissing on the floor are what you crave, maybe it's time to visit the musical Hieronymus Bosch painting that is Ronny’s Bar and Center for the Performing Arts.

Welcome to Hell.

Ronny's Bar
2101 N. California Ave
Chicago


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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

CHICAGO SUBURBAN : Park Ridge, Illinois

City dwellers hate the suburbs. It’s in the DNA of the city dweller to look down upon the sprawling subdivisions, ranch homes, and materialistic gluttony that is much of suburbia. Thanks to real-estate developers with no aesthetic design sense, and multi-national corporations with homogenizing malls, most of America’s suburbs look and act the same. Chicago suburbs might as well be Houston suburbs, or Baltimore suburbs-the people might have different accents, but the song remains the same.

In the post war years of the early 1950s, suburbs were a place where young service men and women could afford homes and raise young families. Many of these home owners were the sons and daughters of immigrant families, and grew up in a rural agrarian environment or in the tenements of the major American cities. The suburbs represented a new America, an America based around upward mobility, conservative values, safety, and economic prosperity. It’s doubtful that these veterans of the great war would recognize the alienation and mass-consumerism that has engulfed much of suburban America. The City of Chicago is surrounded by suburbs on the north, south, and west sides of the city. The only thing preventing suburban sprawl to the east of the city of big shoulders is Lake Michigan. The Chicago suburbs, some of which were founded in the 1860s, represent the struggle of the suburban identity. It’s the struggle between segregation, history, intimacy, and corporate homogenization. One suburb that is reclaiming its identity is Park Ridge, Illinois.The small town, 15 miles north of Chicago, is a unique hamlet that is fighting for the ability to remain independent in the face of ever encroaching big-business influence. The town is meticulously cared for, and while not culturally diverse, it remains true to its history and small business aesthetic.

The town is intimate without being corny, and friendly while maintaining a fair amount of Chicago cynicism and paranoia. The suburb is only about a 20 minute drive from the heart of Chicago, and it is also easily accessible by train via the Northwest Metra line. The train drops visitors off in the heart of sleepy small town America, and the streets and people couldn’t be any more different from the hustle of Chicago. In the summer, the town is overrun with teenagers and families with sun soaked smiles, covered in ice cream. Everyone walks in Park Ridge. The town center is an easy stroll from any of the residential areas, and people take advantage of the local shops and restaurants. The focus on local business is evident, and some local shops even place signs in their windows encouraging sustainable commerce.

The breadth and history of local businesses in the town is staggering. Family run butcher shops, men’s clothing stores dating back to the 1960s, Card shops, bakeries, and a grand theater still thrive in this town. The Pickwick Theater and Restaurant has been entertaining movie goers and patrons in Park Ridge since its debut in 1928. The theater was recently given historical monument status and it is not hard to see why this bold, art deco masterpiece is considered a local treasure. The Theater’s fa├žade remains a symbol of roaring twenties era-America, and on a dusky evening, you can picture a sea of fedoras and mink stoles waiting to get in to the grand movie house. The Pickwick Restaurant also continues to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to regulars and new comers. The Pickwick offers a no-nonsense diner-style menu that is perfect for an evening bite or a cup of coffee on a cold night.


Park Ridge is also host to a crop of new businesses. These businesses are owned by people with a love of the American culture and the desire to keep mom and pop on main street. On Fairview Ave., across from the town train station, there is an interesting bundle of shops. The Shaker Furniture Store has been on Fairview since 1991, and sells its handcrafted, traditional furniture to collectors and those wanting a unique piece for their home. The shop makes traditional Shaker reproductions as well as custom design pieces. The shop uses reclaimed, old growth forest timer, when it is available, and the shop's owners believe strongly in sustainable craftsmanship.


The street also is home to Tea Lula, a charming tea based shop, with outdoor seating and a tea sampling bar inside. The owner, Shelia Duda, is a tea fanatic and is more than happy to help with any tea related questions. The shop also stocks tea books, pots, cups and other brewing accessories.

On Main Street resides All on the Road Catering. This gourmet food shop serves up some of the best sandwiches and salads in the area, and its expansive to-go menu has made it a favorite with locals in the town. Some fairly insane sandwiches come out of this vintage store front shop. On any given day, customers order up selections like, London Broil with Crab and Avocado, Crab Cake with Corn Relish, Poached Salmon with Wasabi Orange Mustard, or Portobello Mushroom Wrap with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Peppers. The shop also has an extensive catering menu and bakery, and the owners always try and use locally grown, fresh ingredients in every dish they make.

Suburbs get a bad rap most of the time, and some of the time the rap is justified. Nobody living in a major city like Chicago needs to drive 20 minutes to get a burrito, or a pair of trainers, or take their bed and bath to the great beyond. Chicago is a metropolis of possibilities, but sometimes it's nice to venture into the suburbs and support businesses that continue the traditions of mom and pop shopping. Park Ridge, with its shop local aesthetic, is on the right path towards economic sustainability. In the era of corporate malfeasance, it's good to know mom and pop are still making it happen in middle America.

There are more than a few national chain stores in Park Ridge, with thier bright lights, big deals, and huge parking lots - but in this suburb, with such a vibrant local economy, they are easy to ignore.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

LET'S MAKE IT RIGHT CHICAGO

As Chicago swirls slowly around the drain, many of us sit idly by feeling helpless. We are overwhelmed by reports of ever increasing gang violence in our schools, drug abuse, political corruption, rampant racism, classism, and crippling poverty that only leads to more and more crime. We look helplessly out on the encroaching chaos, all the while asking “Won’t someone please do something?”

While the rest of us hide in our apartments, acting the victim, wishing these ever worsening social problems would just go away, an ever increasing number of Chicagoans are saying “I’m not going to take it anymore!” A new breed of vigilantism is on the rise in Chicago, and it should give pause to those of us who feel content simply sitting on our couches complaining about the woeful state of our society. In the tradition of New York’s Guardian Angels, a local group of Chicago heroes recently harnessed their righteous anger and empowered themselves to take on the numerous problems facing Chicago. These brave men and women, armed with pails of gravel and tiny shovels, patrol our vulnerable neighborhood streets- often for up to an hour at a time. With unwavering vigilance, they seek out their foe: Potholes. When a pothole is finally located, they spring into action. Not content to twiddle their thumbs and wait for the wheels of Streets and Sanitation to turn, they pour gravel from their pails into to the pothole. Once the pothole is filled with gravel, they pack it down with their tiny shovels and smooth it out as much as they can. In a world of ever increasing apathy, it is inspiring to see a group of individuals stand up and take responsibility for one of our most pressing social dilemmas.

Perhaps this is the new normal. Maybe a trend of grass-roots social change will finally take root. Maybe, one day, our children will be able to go to school without fear of gang violence or drugs. If everything goes as planned, our shining stars of tomorrow will not have to pass metal detectors on the way to class, or be hobbled by an ineffective educational paradigm-because thanks to a select group of hometown heroes, the streets of Chicago are once again somewhat less bumpy.

Way to get your priorities straight douchebags.

-Gabriel Stutz


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Sunday, April 19, 2009

ART IN CHICAGO

Mayumi Lake

Japan: Home of the Whopper, and home to Chicago based photographer Mayumi Lake. Lake is an ex-patriot of sorts, teaching at Chicago's School of the Art Institute and finding love with a Midwestern pedal steel guitar player, she is hung-up on the windy city. The photographer currently resides in Chicago’s Northwest side, but the magical realism of her photos place her somewhere between an island of sexy unicorns, and a lunar landscape filled with nationalist history and candy coated autobiography.

In 1995, Lake unleashed her MFA thesis project entitled Poo-Chi onto an unsuspecting public. The mildly erotic, microcosmic photos appear to be a series of youthful genitalia encased in lacy, childlike clothing. Those ‘art-lovers’ who felt a tingle as they peered at Lake’s project were rudely awakened by the reality that the ‘genitals’ in question were actually male armpits encased in lacy, childlike clothing. Suffice it to say, the controversially subversive, yet elegantly cynical photographs were turned into a book, also entitled Poo-Chi. The book received some publicity in 2005 when it was confiscated from the home of Michael Jackson and used as evidence in his trial for child abuse. The book, according to the police record, was found in the king of pop’s bathroom along with other photography and art literature.
Lake continues to be a prolific photographer, and her impressive body of work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions all across the globe. Lake’s sexually subversive, personal work stays with the viewer like a pleasant nightmare. Her visions of sexuality, cultural history and biography etch themselves into the viewer’s memory, and her personal essays become living critiques that go on into the infinite.

Mayumi Lake currently teaches Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and her cat Jeff. Visit www.mayumilake.com for exhibition updates, traditional Japanese clothing, cats, sex, innocence, loss of innocence, dreamscapes, and armpits.


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Saturday, April 18, 2009

CHICAGO MUSIC

Jim O'Rourke

For a modestly proportioned man, Jim O’Rourke casts a mighty big shadow. A musical ninja of sorts, O’Rourke has influenced ideologies, mixed countless indie-recordings, played with ensembles the world over, and recorded music for both film and dance. He is superhuman in his ability to colorfully slide between the radar.

Chicago in the early 1990s was a musically rich place. It was a place of purpose and home to a thriving music community. There was not a dominant sound, but rather a collection of divergent sounds all happening at once. Free jazz saxophone players were playing in soul bands, punks were discovering George Jones, indie-rockers were forming Jamaican dub projects, and Jim O’Rourke was in the thick of it all. Already an accomplished improviser and guitarist, O’Rourke first came to the public’s attention as a member of the avant-pop group Gastr Del Sol. The Chicago based band was comprised of O’Rourke, multi-instrumentalist David Grubbs, and a host of talented Chicago area musicians. The band borrowed from a cornucopia of influences and developed a sound that was concise, challenging and expressive. Releasing the majority of their albums on noted Chicago label Drag City, the band separated in 1998. O’Rourke continued to release music under his own name, including the albums Bad Timing, Eureka, and Insignificance. These recordings, capturing O'Rourke's penchant for finger picked guitar lines, atmosphere, and absurdest lyrics, would be an influence on countless musicians.

In 2002, Chicago area super-group Wilco released their critically acclaimed album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The release was an unusual blend of roots country, pop candy, musique concrete, and surreal ambiance. The recording was named Album of the Year by Rolling Stone Magazine. O’Rourke, known throughout Chicago as an accomplished guitarist and producer, was credited with helping mix the final version of the recording. His blend of warped pop and rainbow colored playfulness can be felt throughout the entire album. O'Rourke also joined Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Glen Kotche for a side project entitled Loose Fur. According to Tweedy, the group was going to be named Lucifer after everyone’s favorite anti-Christ, but the name had already been taken by countless metal bands. Loose Fur released the albums Loose Fur in 2003 and Born Again in the USA in 2006. O’Rourke also produced Wilco’s second foray into experimental pop, A Ghost is Born. In 2004, this adventurous, sprawling effort was awarded a Grammy for Alternative Album of the Year.
From 2000 to 2005, O’Rourke joined the band Sonic Youth as a multi-instrumentalist. Shortly after joining the group, O’Rourke left Chicago and planted roots in New York City. In 2005, he departed from the group to pursue a diverse set of film and theater work. Currently, O'Rourke lives in Japan and continues to create soundtrack compositions and short film projects.

An under-appreciated hero of both the avant garde and pop music, Jim O’Rourke continues to create sound for those who are lucky enough to listen.




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Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter in Pilsen

NAIL EM' UP CABALLEROS




It’s Easter in Chicago, and it's time to break out the hammers and nails. What better way to celebrate the sacrifice and the suffering of Jesus Christ than to painfully reenact the whole crazy day of crucifixion with your cousin Juan starring in the lead role.

I love Mexican-Americans. Their culture is rich, their food is delicious, their women wear very tight pants, their men have moustaches, and their children cry like the sound of an accordion in a romantic ranchero ballad. Their unique take on Easter, however, is a little out to lunch. On Good Friday, Mexican-Americans from Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood gather together to celebrate Easter with a reenactment of Christ’s brutal crucifixion. Like Mel Gibson’s much overwrought film Passion of the Christ, the crucifixion features prepubescent boys dressed up as Roman soldiers, girls in blue eye shadow as weeping mourners, and various mustachioed men as the unforgiving populace tossing aspersions at Jesus. There is blood, crying, religiosity and I am guessing, cases of Tecate. One would have to be drunk to watch a guy in a fake beard get faux nailed to a precariously built cross. Even on a slow day, I’d rather organize my socks.

If you find yourself on the Southside of Chicago and want to know what Catholicism is all about, go check out the crucifixion reenactment in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. I recommend brining a six pack of Modelo Negro. If Jesus really is everywhere, he is going to need a few beers in order to sit through this crap.



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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chicago Print Maker/Musician Jay Ryan



Chicago screen print artist and musician Jay Ryan is a man of many talents and a true Chicago treasure. Back in 1995, when every indie rock band was screen printing posters and album sleeves on uncoated chip-board, Jay Ryan changed the game up. His youthful images for bands like Andrew Bird, Shellac, June of 44, Tortoise, and Modest Mouse are still jubilant and beautiful today. If you need silkscreen work done for your band's design project, peep him out. Jay's company is known as The Bird Machine. Brilliant!


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Comedy Slip Ups 101: The Man Who Filmed Too Much


Comedy in Chicago is like cheese steak in Philadelphia, or crime in Detroit. Chicagoans have perfected the art of self loathing and comic timing into to a profound stew of improv and stand-up. On any given night, drunken patrons can go out and watch people flinch, murmur, and dick joke their way through an endless cavalcade of sets.

Stand up comedy in Chicago, while not as prolific as improv, still has a grand comedic foothold in the stinking onion. The deal with stand up is there are very few stand up comedians, there are however, thousands of Def Comedy Jam copy-cats, retail employees, jilted lovers, and men with under-rated genitalia. These folks are the foot soldiers who populate the world of stand-up in Chicago.

A great place to catch an angry twenty something prattle on about his 'hot' but 'crazy' ex-girlfriend is The Edge Comedy Club, located in the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts in Chicago's River North area. The club is housed within an impressive theater space and the organization hosts sets all week long. On a cold Saturday evening, I was lucky enough to catch The Handsome Bastards stand up review. The review was a mixed bag of horrendous amateurs, weirdly over seasoned vets, conceptual drunks and frat boy idiots.

One particular comic caught my attention and brought to light something no young comedian should ever do: Bring your own Sony handi-cam with an accompanying tri-pod and film your own set. I watched helplessly as the young acerbically awkward comedian finished his set about masturbating and slowly began dismantling his own handi-cam - like an Italian grandmother at a first communion . It instantly made him unfunny and it made me sad. After this event, I could not keep my eyes off of this ego-centric nut bag, and I watched him pack up his handi-cam and text message his friends as he pretended to watch the other comics. I felt sorry for this youthful moron in all of his self centred glory. When the ancient Israelites escaped the tyranny of the Egyptians and invented comedy, I doubt they pictured it would all come down to this.

A Lesson for Young Comics:

If you want to know how good your set is, have a friend film you. If you don't have any friends, you're going to be a great stand-up comedian.

The Edge Comedy Club
http://www.theedgecomedyclub.com/


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

A FLIPPITY FLOPPITY F#CK YOU TO THE WORLD


Soon the warm summer breeze will be floating into Chicago and caressing bare midriffs, clear bra straps, and uncovered knees. The warm weather brings with it a host of interesting fashion possibilities. The flip flop, or the ‘foot fuck you’, will once again make its presence known as the days draw longer and the sun’s rays cascade across the Midwestern landscape.

I enjoy footwear. I appreciate the Nike high-top, the Frye boot, a high heel, or even an occasional wingtip. The flip flop, on the other hand, is by far the most pugnacious of the foot covering devices. It’s an arrogant little piece of compressed rubber and plastic. I must be honest and state I have a profound dislike for this piece of footwear when worn by bros rather than hoes. The flip flop's purpose as a functional beach sandal, or shower accessory has recently been over shadowed by its ever increasing popularity among those involved with high minded douchebaggery. Maybe it’s my aversion to the sight of another man’s toes. Maybe it’s because the flip flop’s casual fippity floppity sound reminds me that I live in a city filled with idiots. Maybe I don’t think the world needs casual, semi-nude, foot wear on men. I know there are quite a few flip flop enthusiasts out there, flipping and flopping into dank night clubs, punk shows, IKEA, and the local Trader Joes. It pains me that I can’t really defend my opinions about a shoe that is so comfortable and so easy going, but for some reason, makes me feel like I’m receiving a ‘foot fuck you’ every time I see one flopping down the street. It’s quite a conundrum for sure, and yet another reason to look forward to Christmas.


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Saturday, March 28, 2009

FANTASY MODEL CHICKS AND MUSIC VIDEOS / WHY MUST IT CONTINUE ? THE CATFISH HAVEN BONER


Catfish Haven is a good Chicago band. They play a nice concoction of gritty rock and dork-soul, all rubbed with a southern fried hipster grease. It's a nice party. The band created a simple music video for their track "Tell Me" from a recent release on indie label Secretly Canadian Records. It's not a bad video, but notice if you will the model looking co-ed chatting it up with Catfish Haven's vocalist. He is a drunk, chubby, disheveled, apostle looking dude, making breakfast cereal at what seems to be three o'clock in the afternoon. I'm not one to cast aspersions on the validity of a fictional relationship, but Jesus, am I supposed to believe that this John Belushi looking dude is lousy with Malibu Barbie action? I mean the chick looks like she lives on Virginia Slims and coconut milk.


Catfish Haven in their video, pretending to bone models.


I would bet dollars to doughnuts that models aren't rushing out to a Catfish Haven show. I know a thing or two about all the sexpot girls involved with indie-rock in Chicago. Don't get me wrong, there are quite a few bespectacled cuties out there, bobbing their side swept bangs, and rubbing their alabaster hams together on the dance floor. It just gets my blood boiling that an indie rock band like Catfish Haven, when pushed to make a music video, pulls a Brian McKnight boner and gets some 'model' to play the lead singer's love interest. It's corny, and it makes me mad for all the short, stocky, indie rock loving girls out there who can't get work in music videos. Let's all raise a Pabst to music video realism and stop this charade of Hollywood craptaculation.

Next up: Who the fuck makes music videos anymore? Unless your name is Peter Gabriel and it's 1985, it's a fucking waste of time. Go write a song!


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Tony Fitzpatrick : Fat, Pissed, Beautiful


Chicago artist, Tony Fitzpatrick, is a bit of a controversial fellow. He is a large stomached genius to some, a scene hogging, Nelson Algren suckling jerk to others. Whatever side of the fence you are on, there is no doubt that Mr. Fitzpatrick is a formidable Chicago artist, and his work serves as a weird window into Chicago’s rather stark nooks and crannies.

Word on the street is Fitzpatrick was a boxer, a bouncer, and a hard living, gut punching dude who made easy enemies and loyal friends. Whether part of a folkloric identity marketing scheme, or the personal history of an artist living in blue collar Camelot, Fitzpatrick’s wacky past lives on in his impressive body of work. The artist’s work is quilt like in its ability to combine multiple images and narratives. Fitzpatrick slams old-school pop culture imagery alongside images about love and loss, urban blight, religion, and personal memories. His colorful images are intimate without being nostalgic and detailed without being overwrought. The artist recently exhibited a series of paintings based on New Orleans entitled, Prospect New Orleans.The project gave Fitzpatrick the chance to spend time in the Big Easy and delve into the city's eccentric culture and history.

New Orleans is a wonderful place for great jazz, fast women and strong coffee, but Chicago is Fitzpatrick's hometown. Chicago's lard rich, beer drunken craziness, and rust-filled, transient sensuality is ingrained into much of Tony Fitzpatrick’s work. For non-Chicagoans, Fitzpatrick’s images may be a bit confounding. What does a skull, a dead butterfly, a whiskey bottle and a Catholic priest have to do with Chicago? With Fitzpatrick's creations, sometimes the joy is in the finding out.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CHICAGO BREAK BREAK




Chicago breakbeats from the city of big shoulders. Put some Midwestern swag in your bag. Enjoy!


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Honky Tonk Happy Hour


Country music in Chicago has a long standing tradition. Back in the 50s and 60s ‘honky tonks’ were found up and down Clark Street on Chicago’s Northwest side. Like the southern blacks that migrated to Chicago for factory work during the World War Two, southern whites also migrated north for work and stability. With this migration came an influx of southern blues music, as well as country and western influences. Although not known for its country music legacy, Chicago was once a hot bed of redneck bars and two step night spots. A bar like Carol’s on Clark street, in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, harkens back to the days when Old Style was Lone Star, and black eyes flowed like the Chicago River’s dirty water.

Those wanting to live it up honky tonk style need look no further than Chicago’s hipster haunt, the Empty Bottle. Patrons have been dancing the afternoon away for years at the venue’s weekly ‘Honky Tonk Happy Hour.’ The Friday afternoon ritual features the music of Chicago’s own Hoyle Brothers, and for those wanting a little dance in their pants, the band never disappoints. The vibe at the bar is laid back and drunk with a focus on the music and the traditional country dancing. The event is free of charge, and with beer on the low end clocking in at $2, it’s easy to live out some Hank Williams fantasies while politely scoping out a little southern style action.

Country music enthusiasts will be floored with the Hoyle’s covers of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck, and George Jones tunes. For those extreme country fetishists, check out the pedal steel mastery of Mr. Brian Wilke. The man sits with more power than a hundred mules, and with a slide bar in his hand on a double neck steel, happy hour is happy indeed.

The Hoyle Brothers
Every Friday, 5:00 pm until 7:30 pm
The Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, Illinois


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