Archive for the category “Festivals”

Maxwell Street Market

WHAT: Maxwell Street Market
WHERE: 800 S. Desplaines St.
WHEN: Every Sunday; 7am – 3pm

OUR RATING: Do It!

Dating back to 1900 when it was established by immigrants, today this market bustles in a new location with the life and produce of a new generation. An Aladdin’s Cave of everything from produce to electronics, it’s a quintessential Chicago experience and perfect for a hot day of strolling and bargain hunting.

Alicia: The Maxwell Street neighborhood is one of the city’s oldest residential districts and comes with a wealth of history. The neighborhood’s multicultural open air market is my favorite in the city, and the one I keep going back to when the weather permits. There’s a unique and honest life to this market that you might not find elsewhere in the city, and with produce, antiques, household items, food, and music galore, it isn’t easy to walk away empty-handed.

I love to start my journey through the market by purchasing a piece of fresh fruit from the vendors, usually a juicy plum or a peach. Not only does this provide a refreshing outlet to what is usually a long, hot adventure through the stalls, but it also protects me from buying literally everything as I pass stalls upon stalls serving up authentic Mexican fare, including favorites like Pupusas y Tamales Mama Lula’s pupusas, Xoco-Churro’s churros and a wealth of pambazos, tamales, quesadillas and, of course, tacos.

My main purchases usually include a pair of sunglasses, as there’s a wide variety of choices everywhere you look, and at very decent prices. And while you don’t have to speak Spanish to get things at a good rate, it does help to have a bit of it up your sleeve to assist you in bargain-hunting. But really, I don’t really ever go with the intention of buying anything, but rather just go in hopes of soaking up the ambience and energy of the market, and I’m always so glad that I do.

Adam: With over 500 vendors, the frenzied buzz of the market engulfs you the moment you are swept by the torrent of people at its entrance into the many blocks of stalls beyond. Food sellers hawk their wares, whether it’s an enchilada you’re after, or a piña colada in a hollowed out pineapple (these are a must, as they are substantially cheaper here than elsewhere in the city).

(cityofchicago.org)

(cityofchicago.org)

There’s something about this market that reminds me of a car boot sale – sometimes the things you will discover will take you back to your childhood or a simpler time. A big highlight has to be the many gaming stalls that are selling everything from complete N64s and their cartridges to cartridges even from really old systems like the Super Nintendo (if you had the good sense to keep the system). My great joy here is finding all the old Star Trek games I was too young for at the time.

(wbez.org)

(wbez.org)

Other items on sale include perfumes and colognes, but be wary of these as they tend to water down some varieties with alcohol or sell slightly reformulated types.

Excellently fun for a warm day, the market is so long that is will take you a good hour to walk up and down both sides. Make the most of it and take your time – you’ll find something awesome.

Final Thoughts: An abundance of deals and good food is not all that awaits you at Maxwell Street Market. Fitness Sundays are every third Sunday from 9am-1pm, Dance Sundays also occur about once a month, and there’s a variety of other special events that happen each week. So get your Chicago on and enjoy the outdoors, and don’t forget that fresh piña colada or maybe just a glass of yummy horchata.

P.S. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Maxwell Street Market this Sunday, May 5 from 9am-3pm with performances by Linda’s Dance Studio, Mariachi Mexico Viva, Los Hot Baneros, and more!

Chicago French Market

WHAT: Chicago French Market
WHERE: 131 N. Clinton St.

OUR RATING: Do It!

This huge, indoor, year round marketplace beneath the train terminal next to the Ogilvie Transportation Center has just celebrated its third anniversary. Thirty one different vendors offer a variety of delicious fare, from meats, to cheese, to wines, to flowers, the list is endless. With real markets being so few and far between in the city, a visit to the French Market will be an eye-opening day of fun.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

Alicia: Supporting local farmers and artisans, the Chicago French Market brings the European-inspired marketplace to Chicago, allowing year-round, permanent access to some of the freshest goods in the city. Your obvious first stop should be City Fresh Market, selling anything from fresh produce to meats, to cheese and other grocery items. After you’ve shopped for the necessities, it’s the boutiques you must hit up next, and everything is eye/nose candy. And you’ll get hungry, trust me.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

If you’re in the mood for food and a little France, take a gander at Le Cafe du Marche, specializing in French-inspired sandwiches. And then there’s Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer, with fries, fries, fries galore. Here you can experience Amsterdam’s traditional Frietkoten ‘fry shack’ with a paper cone filled to the brim with hand cut Belgian fries, along with your choice of sauce from a selection of 20 different sauces each day. Finally, you can get in on the latest Lillie’s Q barbeque craze without having to travel to their Bucktown location.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

But what really gets my mouth watering is not the savory options at CFM, but rather the desserts. Pastries, doughnuts, fresh baked bread…what’s not to love? You can grab authentic European pastries from Delightful Pastries or Vanille Patisserie, with choices including macarons, tarts, fine chocolates, and even fresh pierogies. Or get your American doughnut on at Beavers Coffee + Donuts, whose food truck is often seen exploring the city emitting the most fantastic smells of fried dough. And just wait – in May, famed chef Stephanie Izard will be bringing a satellite location of Little Goat Bread to the market, which will be sure to provide you with your carb fix.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

Adam: Artisan foods, fine wines and a big open space to enjoy it all in? Well, that’s the Chicago French Market for you! Strangely, multi-vendor markets aren’t really a feature of US life as in many other countries. Obviously, the Middle East is replete with such examples of communal selling, and even the larger town next to my village in England has a monthly farmers’ market, with intermittent French markets from the produces of our sister town in Normandy. Yet, America has only recently been blessed with this phenomenon, allowing you to savour the smells of cooking and preparation, while samples flow freely, assailing the taste-buds with delicious contrasts.

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

Standing out as one of the most interesting venues is Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, along the west wall. With artisan cheese, bread and wine, quality wines are often given freely in tastings, while their available cheeses are diverse and well-rounded. Another highlight is Saigon Sisters, adding a little Asian to the mix, and they are known for their banh mi. Of course, the French connection sings through here also, Saigon being the colonial name for modern Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (then French Indochina).

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

(frenchmarketchicago.com)

And then there are the small vendors, producing lots of unique sweet treats, spices, soups and other goodies that can be enjoyed in the food court or at home. Delicious, simple and good, make sure you at least get a baguette, some wine and a lump of cheese, while filling up on all the samples you can.

Final Thoughts: Chicago French Market is fun, free and full of life. Excitingly, tomorrow (Saturday, April 27th) marks the 3rd Annual Pastoral Artisan Producers Fest from 11am – 3pm. Featuring over 80 vendors and numerous samples, it’s a great way of getting acquainted with the market and trying some really special delights.

29th Chicago Latino Film Festival

clff_2WHAT: 29th Chicago Latino Film Festival
WHEN: April 11 – 25, 2013
WHERE: AMC Loews Theatres 600 (600 N. Michigan Ave.)

FILM: Dictado (Childish Games)
RATING: Not Rated
DIRECTOR: Antonio Chavarrias
LANGUAGE: Spanish with English Subtitles
RUN TIME: 95 minutes

OUR RATING: Do It!

From humble beginnings in 1985 to the international recognized mega-festival we now celebrate, the Chicago Latino Film Festival (CLFF) organized by the International Latino Cultural Center is an explosion of creativity that brings the best of Latino filmic arts to the Chicago screens. With over 100 feature length films and shorts from the length and breadth of Latin America, there is literally a film for every taste, whether you’re interested in gritty social commentary, light-hearted comedy, or darkly fascinating thrillers.

Perhaps what makes the CLFF most innovative is that it highlights Chicago as a center of Latino culture within the United States, a distinction that might not be the first thing to come to mind. This internationalization has only positive effects, allowing for cross-cultural pollination and diverse understanding that transforms Chicago into a truly global city.

clff_1

While the festival is two weeks long, we only managed to secure tickets to one show at this highly popular event, where tickets go for $11 per film. Dictado, a thriller in the style of Hitchcock, seemed to be absolutely up our street, and we even got the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with the director. Sit back, grab a popcorn and enjoy!

clff_4Adam: Dictado, known in English as Childish Games, creates a psychological tapestry with deep, dark undertones that play on our deepest emotions. Above all, what would happen if an event from our childhood came back to haunt us with full force?

In an intriguing story, childless couple Daniel (Juan Diego Botto) and Laura (Barbara Lennie) take in the orphaned Julia (Magica Perez), who is not everything that she seems, as she holds the key to unlock a repressed moment in Daniel’s childhood. Directed by Antonio Chavarrias, we see produced a beautifully compact piece that seems akin to a play in its intimacy and a high calibre film in its cinematography (Guillermo Granillo) – a melding that we do not often experience. Chavarrias makes us question the validity of our protagonists’ actions and memories, thus presenting a mysterious world that is both riveting and reflective.

As the truth about Daniel’s past is slowly revealed (is it a descent into madness, or the opening of emotional floodgates, the waters of which he is unable to stem?), I was enthralled to see the unexpected and twistful realizations that make this film worthy of being included beside the likes of the great English Ghost authors such as M.R. James.

Drawing heavily from Greek tragedy, although perhaps not exploring it in the way you would expect, almost no violence occurs “on stage”, while the psychologies of the characters are fully untangled to explore the plot’s core horror. A much needed antidote to the regular blood and guts of the genre.

clff_6Alicia: During our Q&A session with Chavarrias, he mentioned one of his influences being the infamous Frankenstein and the question of what makes one a monster and what factors influence an individual in thinking that they themselves are monsters, which *hint hint* is something that is beautifully explored here.

The psychological exploration of violence through fear, rather than through malice, is another incredibly intriguing aspect of this film, and the filming of any violence in this movie is done with the intentions of beauty and sadness, rather than shock or grotesqueness.

How are monsters forged: by the monsters themselves, or by others? Rather than just thrusting us into a solution, Chavarrias lets us think about this in a more adult way. How responsible are children for their actions and do adults sometimes make things worse? One of the best Spanish-language films out this year, Dictado is a must-see.

clff_3

Final Thoughts: The Chicago Latino Film Festival allows audiences across cultures to experience the enormous diversity of Latin America in this unique creative outlet, merging art with education, especially through discussions with local and visiting filmmakers which accompany a majority of the screenings. The festival’s wide array of programming allows moviegoers of all types to enjoy this multicultural exploration.

P.S.: Dictado is now available on DVD, but only as a non-US import. If you can play international DVDs, pick it up here and enjoy.

The 12th Annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival

WHAT: The 12th Annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (SketchFest) (Comedy)
WHEN: January 3-13, 2013 (see schedule here for specific start times)
WHERE: Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave.)
HOST: Stage 773

OUR RATING: Do It!

(chicagosketchfest.com)

(chicagosketchfest.com)

Chicago is famous for its comedy, and especially its sketch comedy. Since the birth of Second City, the nation’s second city has become a magnet for all comedic types, from the guy performing at the bar right down to Jeff Garlin of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. However, rarely does all this great talent coalesce in one place. The (12th Annual) Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (aka SketchFest) at Stage 773 is one such rare place where troupes from around the country (and globe) perform to audience after audience in an excited, electric atmosphere that only a theatre of Stage 773’s calibre could muster. Over just two weeks of performances, Stage 773 will probably be visited by over 10,000 patrons watching 169 performances featuring over 1000 artists. The nation’s largest sketch comedy festival. Astounding.

Stage 773 Lobby (stupidtimemachine.wordpress.com)

Stage 773 (stupidtimemachine.wordpress.com)

When you enter SketchFest, you might be a little confused. There are people everywhere you look, some dressed as lobsters, another as a very demonic looking Winnie the Pooh. Beer is flowing from the bar, a woman stands atop an ice chest selling $4 PBR Tall Boys, as laughter is escaping from the theatres into the lobby. The awesomely-decorated space is pulsing with energy.

But don’t be fooled. This is organized chaos. After you pick up your ticket from the desk to the left of where you enter, you can mill around and have fun until your show is called. There is a really fun raffle going on, where you can win anything from some fun trinkets to a Guinness, and even free tickets, for only a buck. And once the hour comes around, every single theater in the space opens, and guests are ushered into their respective shows.

Once your show is done, you are led out of the theatre via an alternative route than those coming in, providing a constant flow of comedy-goers that prevents traffic jams and speeds transitions. And if you’re up for the challenge, you can go right back into the throng of enthusiastic lobby-dwellers and await the next show.

Stage 773 has four distinct theatres (proscenium, thrust, black box and cabaret), each featuring different comedians and troupes every hour. We didn’t manage to get into all four spaces last weekend, but we’re going to try to this weekend when the Fest continues.

 (cupidplayers.com)

The Cupid Players (cupidplayers.com)

Our night started off with The Cupid Players, who actually perform outside of SketchFest every Saturday night at Stage 773. If you’ve never seen Chicago sketch comedy before, this is where you should start. It’s better than any Second City show we’ve seen. Ensemble-driven, The Cupid Players create original and intelligent musical sketch comedies, rooted in social and political satire. They sing, they dance (well, sorta), they play musical instruments and, more importantly, boy do they entertain. It’s a wild and hysterical roller coaster, and when you get off the ride you’ll be high on laughter and your cheeks will hurt from smiling so hard.

Boat (boatcomedy.com)

Boat (boatcomedy.com)

Next up was Boat, a Brooklyn (NY) based trio with a hyper-satirical and rather surreal go at sketch comedy. These three boys are not afraid of the dark-side of comedy. If you aren’t into jokes about pedophilia, death and homosexuality, this may not be for you. But if you’re a little more open, Boat is definitely a unique and risk-taking bunch.

Missing Earl (missingearl.com)

Missing Earl (missingearl.com)

As with any comedy festival, each show you will see is different, and has a chance of being excellent or not to your liking. Such is the nature of comedy, after all. One show that we would not recommend was by Missing Earl from New York City. While a wide array of themes and ideas were put forward, none made these reviewers laugh in the way one would want. Overwhelmingly dark themes that didn’t seem to be derived from much more than grotesque or toilet humor (fancy eating a pilot’s privates after a serious plane crash?), we believe this group needs to focus on more accessible laugh, rather than fringe material whose goal is to shock rather than entertain.

Uncalled For (weareuncalledfor.com)

Uncalled For (weareuncalledfor.com)

However, apart from this slight blemish, the other shows we saw were timely and amazing. Canadian group Uncalled For produced a work reminiscent of the Monty Python good old days, complete with BBC news reports, time travel, CERN, the theory of evolution and free birthday cake. We would describe it as stream of consciousness humor that is hilarious in its absurdity, yet thoughtful in its content and delivery. A sensitive, side-splitting experience!

(chicagosketchfest.com)

(chicagosketchfest.com)

We suggest the best way to experience SketchFest is to go with a few friends and purchase a one-night pass this Saturday, and go from show-to-show (and make sure to see Cupid Players at 8PM on The Pro Stage). Buy a few raffle tickets and you’re practically guaranteed a lovely Guinness or two to accompany you throughout the night (a drink tends to make everything funnier, obviously). If this review isn’t quite enough to convince you to take part in this amazing experience, we think the promo image does the rest of the talking for us.

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