F’s Guide to Chicago Summer Entertainment
Illustration: Luke Armitstead
Pitchfork and Lolla aren’t the only places to share your musical experience with hundreds of other drunk, sweaty people.
Here’s F’s top picks for Chicago’s other music festivals.
Last summer, Daniel Smith and Matthew Kimmel held the inaugural Marsh Fest at the Viaduct, bringing together electronic, noise, free jazz, sound artists, and other underground experimental musicians from around the world for over 100 performances in three days. Moving down Western Avenue to the Empty Bottle, this year’s festival will bend your mind with a list of acts that includes Morton Subotnick (composer and innovator of early electronic music) and Los Angeles-based Lucky Dragons, a duo that combines music, video projection and collaborations with the audience in their performances. Screenings from Portland-based public access program Experimental 1/2 Hour and video artists Alice Cohen and Amy Ruhl will also take place. Tickets are $25 per day or $70 for three days. Watch videos of experimental performances and last year’s fest at acid-marshmallow.com
2New Music Mondays | explorechicago.org
May 23 – July 25 : 6:30 pm
Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park
Pack your picnic basket, chill the wine, and come early to claim your territory on the lawn. There’s free music in the park all summer long—from symphony concerts to Chicago jazz to the New Music Monday series—and everyone knows it. Fighting crowds will be worth it this year with a quality lineup, opening with singer/songwriter Bonnie Prince Billy, followed a few weeks later by his softer folk comrade, Iron and Wine. Slowcore favorite Low will end June with their hypnotic harmonies, and Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Omara “Bombino” Moctar will pick up the tempo in July. The dissonant sounds of indie veterans Blonde Redhead will be the best band to watch other people in Millennium park watch. Don’t miss the opening act: Chicago husband and wife duo, My Gold Mask.
3Green Music Festival | greenmusicfestchicago.com
June 25 – 26
On Damen Ave. between North and Schiller
This is the street festival that trumps all others, and its good cause is backed by good music. The third annual festival is supported by the Chicago Center for Green Technology. The festival itself is produced in the most eco-friendly way possible, and features biodegradable plastic cups, recycling options, and biodiesel generators. Two stages will have an impressive lineup of rotating acts, including indie giants Yo La Tengo, pop punkers The Thermals, and art rockers Les Savy Fav. There is only a $5 donation suggested, but you can spend your money on the festival’s selection of green arts and crafts, food and craft beer.
July 15 – 17
“It’s like the promised land. I look forward to this every year,” a friend told me of this music festival that’s under the radar, and wants to stay that way. Bitchpork is held in a South Side warehouse on the same weekend as the local website Pitchfork’s increasingly corporate festival. There’s not a clear picture of who organizes this fest, just that it’s loud, fun, and tons of bands play. The list of performers for 2011 can’t be found anywhere obvious online yet, but years past have shown a range of experimental, punk, psychedelic, noise, rock bands and DJs, of which many are local. 2010’s festival-goers were pleasantly surprised when members of Lightning Bolt performed at Bitchpork under a different name, before playing a main stage at the Pitchfork Festival the next day. One thing’s for sure—this festival is guaranteed to be entertaining and wallet-friendly. Three day passes to Bitchpork run $30, the same cost as one day at Pitchfork!
5Chicago Folk and Roots Festival | chicagofolkandroots.org
July 9 & 10
Welles Park (Lincoln at Montrose)
Chicago has no shortage of established music festivals for lovers of blues, jazz, bluegrass, Latin music, and reggae, but the Chicago Folk and Root Festival reflects the focus of its presenter, Old Town School of Folk Music, on musicianship and songwriting that’s broadly defined as “roots” and “folk.” The main stage hosts the Midwest Fiddle Championships, the rockabilly sounds of Rosie Flores, Eastern European gypsy act the Megitza Quartet, and Baloji, a Belgian MC of Congolese decent that crosses rumba with 1960s soul. There’s a dance tent where you can try clogging, polka, West African dance and mambo if you dare, and a special section of the festival dedicated to Chicago-based Latin music called Nuestra Música. Sing gospel or strum along with the Woodie Guthrie Folk Jam in the park’s communal gazebo. A $10 donation is suggested to help with the costs of the festival, and to support the not-for-profit programs at the Old Town School of Folk Music.
We all know about Pride, Market Days, Taste
of Chicago and Lolla, but there are dozens
more. Chicago summers are a street festival
free-for-all, celebrating everything from books
to Africa to the world’s best wine. Here’s my
list of ten that shouldn’t be missed.
By Amanda Aldinger
1Printers Row Lit Fest—FREE
June 4 – 5
Dearborn Street between Congress Parkway and Polk Street
One of my very favorite summer festivals is the Printers Row Lit Fest—the largest literature festival in the Midwest, with over 200 vendors selling new and antique books, prints, magazines and more. The festival hosts special events that take place at the Harold Washington Library (book signings, author talks, and more), but my favorite part is the huge tents filled with endless stands of vintage prints, advertisements and magazines. Last year I had some great scores, and there are lots of cute bars and cafes in the area if you need a break from perusing so much fabulous literature. To print!
2Chicago Blues Festival—FREE | explorechicago.org
June 10 – 12
Both the largest blues festival in the world, and the largest street music festival in Chicago, the Chicago Blues Festival is an incredible celebration of Chicago’s rich music history—always featuring an amazing line-up of some of the world’s top blues musicians. This year’s schedule includes: Lonnie Brooks, Dave Specter Band, Carl Weathersby’s Blues Band, and Eddie Cotton, amongst dozens of others. Admission is free, and drink and food vendors are available.
3Randolph Street Market Fest | randolphstreetmarket.com
May – September (check website for specific dates)
Prices vary 312.666.1200
I can’t ever get enough of the Randolph Street Market Fests. Housing what seems like the world’s largest collection of vintage and antique treasures, the Randolph Street Market is a gold mine of incredible jewelry, clothing, purses, sunglasses, housewares, vinyl goods and designer duds. There are lots of global food and drink vendors, and in the summer, the festivals spill out from their usual home in Plumber’s Hall to the streets. I’m an addict and will probably be living there every available weekend—and with student tickets priced at only $3, what do you have to lose?
4African-Caribbean International Festival of Life | martinsinterculture.com
July 1 – 4
Prices vary 312.427.0266
Upon moving to Chicago I fell in love with the many varieties of African cuisine (from Ethiopian to West African), and that’s why I’m so excited for the African-Caribbean International Festival of Life. Not only will you get the chance to sample amazing delicacies, but you can also enjoy the enticing music line-up, which features a variety of Reggae, Calypso/Soca, African, R&B, Gospel, and Jazz artists. I dig a little culture in my street fests.
5Bastille Day 5K Run, Walk and Block Party | chicagoevents.com
July 14 : 7:30 pm – 10 pm
$30-$37; $5 block party only 773.868.3010
Who doesn’t love an opportunity to celebrate as the French do? This run/walk/beer and wine fest in Lincoln Park is perfect for all Francophiles (or just the average Chicagoan who loves an excuse to drink outside). And you don’t even have to commit to the exercise. The block party is open to everyone who can pay $5. So get your French wine on, and practice this phrase: bonne fête!
6Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party | worldslargestblockparty.com
July 15 – 6
$40 – $45; $70 for a two-night pass 312.648.1590
So, you’ve figured me out. I love boozy street fests that crudely celebrate other cultures. And who knows boozing in the street better than the Irish? In its 27th year, with over 18,000 participants annually, this is a definite must-see on the Chicago street fest circuit. Your admission fee comes with five drink trinkets, supplemented by food vendors and musical acts galore. Gather your friends, and remember that in Chicago, everyone’s a little bit Irish.
7Street Food Artistry 2011—NEW | streetfoodartistrychicago.com
August 14 : 1 – 7 pm 312.884.1278
I love trying new Chicago things, because I delight in playing tourist in my own city. Thus, I’m very excited about the inaugural Street Food Artistry Festival, which will feature everything from street art, to food demonstrations, to unique food tastings—all celebrating the Chicago foodie spirit. Come and indulge what the Second City does best: really freaking good food.
8Ravenswood Remix—NEW | chicagoevents.com
September 3 – 4 773.868.3010
I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to include a new fest happening in my own neighborhood. More than just a creative alliteration, the Ravenswood Remix will feature art that has been created by over 125 artists from reused and recycled materials. Focusing on inspired sustainability, this first-time street fest will host educational programs and art-centric workshops for people of all ages, as well as standard street fest fair: awesome foodstuffs showcasing local flavors.
9Windy City Wine Festival | windycitywinefestival.com
September 9 – 10
$27 – $35 877.772.5425
Well, this certainly wouldn’t be a must-see festival list curated by yours truly if it didn’t feature some sort of homage to wine. Over 270 different wines will be available from all over the world, featured in various tastings and demonstrations presented by renowned wineries and vinophiles—including some from Chicago’s best loved chefs and restaurants. For those less interested in wine, the festival hasn’t forgotten you: all DD tickets include two non-alcoholic drinks, a souvenir cup, and seminar admission.
10Wells Street Fall Fest | chicagoevents.com
September 10 – 11
For the final entry in this roundup, I’ve chosen an oldie, but a goodie: the Wells Street Fall Fest. Bidding adieu to summer, the Wells Street Fall Fest is a gem for art and culture lovers alike, offering everything from local food and wine tastings to a juried art contest featuring over 60 local artists. A good old classic street fest, in a neighborhood iconic for its culture, the Wells Street Fall Fest is the perfect way to close Chicago’s favorite season.
It’s summer time, and that means: free time! And what better way to spend that free time than watching movies. Forget Netflix and Amazon; assembled here are editor’s picks for the best independent cinemas and video rental shops in Chicago—ones that you can actually visit in the flesh.
The following two pages of reviews were first published in the March 2009 print edition of F Newsmagazine. Here at F, we believe in recycling.
Dating back to 1932, the University of Chicago’s Doc Films claims to be the oldest student-run film society in the country. Doc prides itself on avant-garde programming and an illustrious history of film critics and filmmakers who got their start here. Ticket prices are an unbeatable five bucks (or even cheaper if you buy a membership). At least one night of the week’s programming is dedicated to a particular theme, and the public is encouraged to propose topics and film ideas; the only stipulation is that none of the proposed movies have been screened at Doc in the past four years.
2Block Cinema | blockmuseum.northwestern.edu
40 Arts Circle Drive
For northerners who are loath to travel all the way to Hyde Park, Block Cinema at Northwestern University in Evanston is well-equipped to serve your independent film needs. In the summer, films are occasionally screened on the lawn (for those who like their viewing experience to be punctuated by sounds of overhead planes and attacks from hungry mosquitoes). In addition to publishing a student-authored film criticism magazine, Block also sponsors the Reeltime Film Series, which presents films that incite discussion about current social issues and innovation in alternative media.
3Music Box | musicboxtheatre.com
3733 N. Southport Ave.
The Music Box may not have spotlessly clean (let’s face it: even semi-clean) floors, and its patrons may include the occasional belligerent drunk, but over the past 20 years it has become a staple in Chicago’s alternative cinema scene. Dating back to 1929, this is one of the few historic movie theatres in the country that hasn’t been torn down or converted into something else. After an infamous stint as a seedy porn theatre in the 1970s, a slightly less ribald repertoire was reinstated in the mid ’80s, when the decision was made to show more foreign and art-house type films. A second screening room was opened in the early ’90s. Today, some patrons grumble that the main screening room is too often dedicated to moneymaking mainstream films while the art-house crowd gets stuffed into the small theatre, but the Music Box is still one of the only theatres where you can go and hear live organ on a Sunday morning.
4Facets Multimedia | facets.org
1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
For hard-core cinephiles, Facets is a cinematic paradise. Famous throughout Chicagoland for the regular blow-out sales in its Vidiothèque (a video rental shop), the less cine-savvy amongst us may be surprised to learn that this North Side institution has much more to offer than cheap and obscure videos and DVDs. In fact, this is the closest thing Chicago has to the famed Forum des Images in Paris. Founded in 1975, the two-screen Cinémathèque boasts varied programs of independent, experimental, foreign and art films that are accompanied by a range of events, like director talks and the Cinechat film discussion series. Facets stresses education with its popular Film School, where die-hard film lovers can enroll to view a series of films grouped around a particular topic (like “The Czech New Wave,” or “Transitory Identities in Cinema”) then discuss them under the guidance of a local expert.
5The Nightingale | nightingaletheatre.org
1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The Nightingale is a microcinema founded in 2008 by Christy Lemaster, who has programmed for Chicago Cinema Forum and Onion City, along with her roommate Josh Mabe, The Nightingale screens a range of film, video and new media works. The films and videos are brought in from U.S and international distributors and local filmmakers, and there is a strong emphasis on supporting local curators and programmers, such as White Light Cinema, an independent curatorial project of longtime Chicago Filmmakers programmer Patrick Friel. The programming itself is audience centric—more Amos Vogel (Cinema 16) than Jonas Mekas (Anthology Film Archives). As a result, The Nightingale shows an eclectic mixture of current and vintage works of challenging and more accessible experimental film, video and new media alongside documentaries and independent features.
Special contribution by Beth Capper
By Beth Capper
1Odd Obsession | oddobsession.com
1822 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Any time you ever wanna know more than you could ever possibly want to about a given film, genre of film, era of film, director, etc., etc., stop by Odd Obsession. They have a Godard fanatic, an expert in classic and rare porn, and many other employees with both particular and extensive knowledge about rare, independent, foreign, art-house, cult, experimental, avant-garde and obscure cinema (divided by genre and country of origin). If there’s a film you can’t find elsewhere, you’ll likely be able to excavate it here.
2North Coast Video
2011 W. Division Street
A visit to North Coast is always an experience. To begin with, there’s the video store shelf stacker, always ready to offer nuggets of wisdom as to what you should rent (his comments on titles are encapsulated by either the words “beautiful” or “great” in a fairly difficult to distinguish accent). Then, there’s the awesome music always playing—an eclectic mixture of Slayer, ambient noise, death metal, Albert Ayler, Iraqi pop and M.I.A.—depending on which of the idiosyncratic employees is working. North Coast offers a broad range of art-house and Hollywood, offbeat and mainstream TV, documentaries, classics, and foreign films, arranged “by letter of the alphabet but not alphabetically.” If you can’t find the film you went there for, you’ll find something else you didn’t even know you wanted to see, and at $3.25 a rental, it’s a bargain!
3Brainstorm | myspace.com/brainstormmcg
1648 W. North Ave.
Brainstorm is a video, comic and gaming store for your inner-geek—or perhaps, your outer geek, as the store’s Myspace says: “If you’re a comic geek and you want to debate the long term effects of the DC Crisis or the Marvel Civil War or the Wildstorm relaunch of WildCATS and Gen13…great! If you’re a film buff and you want to talk about the best of the ’60s horror exploitation films, classic foreign films, the best zombie flick or which is better, Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica … awesome! If you’re a gamer and you get off on digging through boxes of loose HeroClix or flipping through Magic Cards looking for that one card that will make your deck unstoppable … welcome!”
4Video Data Bank | vdb.org
112 S. Michigan Ave.
If you don’t know about the rare gems available at the Video Data Bank then you need to start paying more attention. Located on the third floor of the MacLean Building, the Video Data Bank has an extensive archive of experimental videotapes ranging from the ’60s to present. They also interview, document and archive artists visiting Chicago, featuring (among many others) Vito Acconci, Adrian Piper and Joseph Beuys. The archives feature works by Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Peggy Ahwesh, Yvonne Rainer and Sadie Benning, and many more.
Chicago is a mecca for awesome thrifting opportunities, with a vast array of shops dedicated to everything from designer vintage to good old consignment pieces. Located all over our fair city, here are my picks for the best vintage shops in Chicago.
1Dovetail Chicago | dovetailchicago.com
1452 W. Chicago Ave.
Noted as a top new vintage store by T, the New York Times style magazine, this Noble Square vintage spot is a noteworthy addition to the Chicago vintage scene. Building from a modern take on vintage, Dovetail’s selection of women and menswear, jewelry and home goods is beautifully merchandised in its quaint boutique setting. A great place to score rare vintage designer wear.
2The Roo Vintage | theroovintage.com
The Roo Vintage is an awesome (and extremely well-priced) online vintage shop owned by sisters Lisa and Michelle Stuchly, who hail from the Chicago suburbs. Rooting through vintage stores all the city, they’ve culled an amazing selection of women’s wear that they photograph and style themselves. I’ve snagged all sorts of great finds from them (including a navy Burberry blazer for only $30!), and with their constantly rotating stock, there’s always new and fabulous items to pick from.
3Kokorokoko | koko-rokoko.blogspot.com
1112 N. Ashland Ave.
The ever-adjusting time frame for vintage consideration has thrown our birth decade into the mix, and Kokorokoko’s collection of 1980s and ’90s “vintage” will take you back to your childhood. Featured in everything from Lucky Magazine to Playboy, Kokorokoko has garnered widespread attention for their well-styled kitsch and exuberant wares. Fitting in nicely with the contemporary hipster generation, Kokorokoko hearkens back to the brightly-hued/quasi-grunge aesthetic of our childhood—minus the bullshit of high school.
4Lenny and Me | etsy.com/shop/lennyandmevintage
1459 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Having both a massive store in Wicker Park, as well as an Etsy store online, Lenny and Me is a noted Chicago staple for fabulous vintage wares. This shop’s a treat because they have so many fun pieces from the ’60s—an excellent decade for outrageous colors and fun shapes—with lots of exciting designer finds thrown in as well. Amazing styling options abound on their website, so you’ll be prepared when walking into their treasure trove of a boutique.
5Silver Moon | silvermoonvintage.com
1721 W. North Ave.
Silver Moon’s boutique epitomizes the true vintage experience: an enormous collection of fine vintage and designer clothing from the 1890s —1980s. Their selection includes everything from Victorian jewelry to couture millinery, from menswear to an extensive collection of vintage bridal wear—and, you can shop online! A high spot for Chicago vintage.
The librarians at Flaxman and the Ryerson are fantastic, helpful people. But when it comes to space and opening hours, SAIC libraries are sorely lacking. At the end of the day, when a girl is working a 9 to 5 and taking art history classes at night, is she seriously expected to cram all her library time in between 9 and 9:30 pm? Forget the fact that MA students don’t get study carrels, like at pretty much any liberal arts university library; and forget the fact that MA students aren’t even permitted to enter the lottery for studio space, like writing students are. Fine, I will schlep 40 pounds of books, notebooks and my laptop across the city from home to school. All I’m asking for is a full hour of library access on a weekday.
SAIC has more than met my expectations in terms of classes, professors, and interesting peers. But in terms of meeting my needs as a researcher? I’m not sure I can give the school a passing grade. So I’ve had to take my library business elsewhere. If you, too, find yourself longing for a better research space, then check out this handy guide to my top five favorite libraries in Chicago.
By Ania Szremski
1Cudahy Library | libraries.luc.edu
Loyola University, Rogers Park Campus
1032 W. Sheridan Road
The 3-story library is adjacent to an enormous Information Commons with floor to ceiling windows that overlook an azure Lake Michigan. And stuffed armchairs in front of those windows. And plugs for your laptop in front of each of those chairs. It’s like a dream come true! The library has a very decent collection and has a wide variety of study spaces, from the deathly silent study nook to the more boisterous group study rooms and informal seating areas. And the pièce de résistance: the library also houses a café that is open until midnight.
Ease of Access:B
There are “community hours” during weekdays, but if you’re a working stiff, what you really want are those prime night and evening hours. Luckily, if you pay the library $50 to become a member, you get a special guest pass that grants you total access. All it takes is a phone call or visit.
Since most SAIC students don’t live further north than Lakeview, it’s a bit of a hike to get the rest of the way to Loyola.
Open till 2 am almost every night, and 24 hours a day during finals.
2John T. Richardson Library | lib.depaul.edu
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
I rarely go to the DePaul library, but friends of mine who live in the Lincoln Park area find it a useful place to study (if only because you can’t get onto the Wi-Fi network if you’re not a DePaul student, so you have no choice but to hit the books). Capacious, bright, and with a decent location, the DePaul library houses study nooks, group study rooms, computer labs and other such amenities. DePaul also has library locations in the Loop and suburbs.
Ease of Access:A
DePaul libraries are open to the public!!
Both the Lincoln Park and downtown locations are easily accessible for most SAIC students.
The library is open until midnight most days of the week during the regular semester.
3Paul V. Gabin Library | gl.iit.edu
Illinois Institute of Technology
35 W. 33rd Street
Don’t come here for the collection, which will only help you out if you’re researching Mies or the history of technology or something (which, admittedly, are likely topics of interest for most SAIC students). Come for the amazing amenities, including sofas, bean bag chairs and sleeping bags to maximize comfy-ness while studying!
Ease of Access:B
I don’t know of any fundraising program that lets you buy a library pass here at IIT, but during the semester you can walk in without an ID before 6 pm. If you want to take advantage of night owl hours, try getting a letter of introduction from the Flaxman to take with you.
If you don’t live there, taking the train all the way to Bronzeville can be truly onerous. As awesome as the IIT library is, it’s best suited for those who live in the vicinity or have a specific need.
The library is open till midnight Sunday – Thursday during the regular semester, and closes at 5 on Friday and Saturday. Open 24 hours during finals. Not quite the quality of, say, Loyola, but still better than Flaxman.
4Newberry Library | newberry.org
60 W. Walton Street
I love it here. The architecture of the building is gorgeous and the archives are dizzyingly rich. This is a formal research library, so it’s not a place curl up in a sleeping bag with a cup of coffee while you work on your thesis until 2 am; rather, you come here to access rare documents. Do some digging in their online catalogue so that you know exactly what you need when you arrive, to facilitate the task.
Ease of Access:A
You have to apply for a reader’s card, but to do so you just need to be over 16 and have an ID (your school ID will do) and a proof of address, like your driver’s license, a check or utility bill. They process the card for you in a matter of seconds.
Located in the Gold Coast, the Newberry’s easily accessible for most SAIC students.
The library is geared towards people for whom researching is their job, so facilities are only open Tuesday to Friday from 9 am–5 pm, and 9 am–1 pm on Saturdays. The window during which you can actually request items is even narrower. You have to clear your schedule and make a special trip to come here.
5Harold Washington Library | chipublib.org
400 S. State Street
The Harold Washington Library is enveloped in nostalgic memories for me, so not everyone might be as fond if the bizarre pseudo Beaux Arts/Mannerist/neo-Gothic façade as I am. But you can’t deny the power of nine whole floors of books, movies and music. Quiet, secluded reading desks with yellow lamps line the edges of the reading rooms on each floor. The CPL collection is surprisingly good, so check here first before you order a book on Inter Library Loan—why wait a week when you can run across the street and get it right away? The only downside is spotty wireless, and a heightened need for vigilance regarding your personal belongings.
Ease of Access:A
Anyone can walk in, but to check books out, all it takes is an ID and proof of a Chicago address to get a card.
Just a few blocks down from SAIC.
Even worse than Flaxman, alas. Weekdays 9 am–9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 9 am–5 pm, and Sunday 1 pm–5 pm.