Archive for the category “Music and Concerts”

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

WHAT: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
WHEN: February 2 – March 10, 2013 (see here for schedule)
WHERE:Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave.)
RUNTIME: 90 minutes with no intermission
HOST: Porchlight Music Theatre
PRICE: $32-$41

Alexis J. Rogers (Credit: Kelsey Jorissen)

Rogers (Credit: Kelsey Jorissen)

OUR RATING: Do It!

As the lights come up on Emerson’s Bar & Grill in Philadelphia, 1959, the legendary Billie Holiday takes the stage and lives out one of her final concerts in this sometimes tragic, sometimes uplifting and always powerful performance. Accompanied by a wonderfully talented and expressive jazz trio, Holiday (Alexis J. Rogers) leads us on a musical journey through her life, relationships and struggles in a fascinating and deeply emotional portrait of one of the world’s greatest legendary jazz singers.

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

Adam: One of the strongest productions I’ve seen in the last year, Lady Day is a moving, stirring tribute to this great icon of jazz. With old standards like Easy Livin’, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, and the incomparable God Bless the Child, we learn the true story behind Holiday and begin to better understand the struggles her life, and success, entailed.

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

Rogers’ smooth and sultry voice is a perfect imitation of Holiday’s, and at some points, I thought Rogers was holding back her own voice in order to emulate that of the great singer. But, I didn’t mind. Along with Lanie Robertson’s superb script, including anecdotes that speak to all humanity about the evils of oppression and the horrific struggle to overcome all types of adversity, Rogers fools the audience into believing she really is Holiday, leading one to the tragic realization that any dramatization of her life must end in her death. In this way, a sense of dread builds throughout the production, masterfully executed under the direction of Rob Lindley and Jaret Landon. Nevertheless, I was left feeling elated at such a wonderful portrayal of such an irreplaceable singer. Highly recommended.

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

Alicia: As you walk into Stage 773’s proscenium theater in Lakeview, you can’t help but feel you’ve entered a jazz club from the 50s, and all that is missing are cabaret tables and lamps. And you realize that you and the rest of the audience are dressed all-too-inappropriately. The women should be in glitzy A-line dresses reminiscent of the glitz of the roaring 20s with the sophistication of modern 50s fabrics. And your date definitely forgot his fedora.

Scenic designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec must be applauded for his intimate and simply beautiful set that reels you into a small bar in Philadelphia from this era, with a well placed fog machine imitating the cigarette smoke that was probably pervading the bar back then. The only thing I wished was that the whole play was transplanted next door to Stage 773’s cabaret theater instead, but perhaps that’s too much to ask.

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

The show from start to finish is completely riveting, and the role of Holiday is all too perfect for Rogers, who not only slips into – but owns – the star’s shoes. After first seeing Rogers as Bess in Court Theatre’s production of Porgy and Bess, and being pretty disappointed in the pairing of Rogers and her character, she has completed altered my perception of her as a performer. She transforms and transitions skillfully from song to song with some interrupting discussions with the audience and her band, and you almost forget that you aren’t watching and listening to the real thing. There’s passion, hope, loss, faith, love, and darkness, and they all stalk you for the whole 90 minutes, leaving you quite exhausted by the end of it all. But exhausted in the way you feel after a good workout, or a good cry, and at the end of her performance there’s nothing you can do but give the work a standing applause.

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

(porchlightmusictheatre.org)

Final thoughts: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill stands out as a wonderful production for anyone passionate about jazz, music and theatre. Rogers’ performance is amazing and well worth your evening. So, book a ticket, pull up a chair and drink in the atmosphere…

Off the Record at saki

WHAT: Off the Record (music series)
WHERE: saki (3716 W. Fullerton Ave.)
HOSTS: saki, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

OUR RATING: Do It!

(sakistore.net)

(sakistore.net)

Storefront City ventured to Logan Square for the kickoff to Off the Record, a new monthly music series presented by saki, a record store/art gallery/performance space in Logan Square, and the City of Chicago’s DCASE. The first in the series featured a live performance from Brokeback, hors d’oeuvres from Provenance, beverages from Goose Island, and a DJ set from Thrill Jockey Records.

(sakistore.net)

(sakistore.net)

Founded in 2010, saki is by far one of the cooler venues we’ve visited in the past few months. From the outside it might just look like your average hipster vinyl record store (although, they also sell DVDs, CDs, books and other knick knacks). Inside, the bright and eclectic space beams with energy and attracts discerning clients who know what record they want. The selection is huge and includes modern LPs as well as the more vintage varieties.

Brokeback performs live!

Brokeback performs live!

Anyways, back to the music series. Off the Record’s monthly events celebrate a new record, sometimes in advance of its release. During the 2013 season, there will be live performances and sometimes even interactive portions for each event. For the opening of the series, the instrumental rock band Brokeback performed tracks from their new album “Brokeback & the Black Rock,” which is their first release in ten years, and there was even a Q&A with the band and an aforementioned DJ set.

(sakistore.net) "Yuck" by Delicious Design League

Not good enough for you? How about this: all Off the Record events are free and for all ages. And saki provides a really amazing backdrop with remarkably good acoustics. Right now they have an amazing show going on by Delicious Design League (“Yuck”) with a bunch of their screen-prints hanging up around the store. But this exhibition space is only temporary: Amanda Olbrys’ show “Balance” will be taking its place on the walls on Friday, February 1.

(sakistore.net)

(sakistore.net)

So, can we even really call this a record store? Not really, considering you’ve got a performance space and gallery built in. It’s definitely the new chic when it comes to mixed media spaces–combined art forms are catching on as people realize that using a space in multiple ways has tons of benefits, from cost efficiency to audience sharing.

Definitely head over to their next event. It’s well worth the trek.

The Paper Machete

WHAT: The Paper Machete (Variety Show)
WHEN: Every Saturday from 3pm
WHERE: The Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway Ave.)

OUR RATING:
Do It!–Our experience
Chance It!–Possible future performances

(thepapermacheteshow.com)

(thepapermacheteshow.com)

The Paper Machete is a town crier for the modern age, providing audiences with amusing, serious and diverse entertainment covering pop culture, current events and a good dose of musical interlude. Originally launched in 2010, and created and hosted by writer Christopher Piatt, The Paper Machete tickles nearly every fancy, and allows one to experience the iconic cocktail lounge The Green Mill (of Prohibition fame) in the same manner as generations past: with a complete variety show.

Creator and Host Christopher Priatt (thepapermacheteshow.com)

Christopher Priatt (thepapermacheteshow.com)

Every Saturday afternoon at 3pm, this “live magazine” offers patrons a chance to connect with stars from the likes of iO, The Second City, the Neo-Futurists and beyond. Named best comedy variety show of 2011 by the Chicago Reader, the show encompasses an array of performances that are sure not to disappoint regulars and newcomers alike.

(greenmilljazz.com)

(greenmilljazz.com)

This past Saturday, Storefront City had a chance to visit this historic location and listen along to this rapid-fire magazine of popular thought. Our afternoon began with a rather serious interlude into environmental protection by Rachael Mason of iO. What appeared at first to be a paean for environmental action, soon showed its true colours as an amusing reflection on her childhood poetry for Earth Day, that brought up important and pertinent issues related to the recent Hurricane Sandy and its effects on her family. Masterfully blending humor and reality, Mason kept our attention and made us appreciate the awesome destructive power of nature, and man’s influence on it.

The Green Mill (courtesy of Tom Gill)

The Green Mill (courtesy of Tom Gill)

In keeping with this serious nature, Lisa Buscani of the Neo-Futurists’ investigation into the sordid world of Sandusky, from the perspective of another inmate at the same prison, provided a reflective moment to appreciate the situation of those who are behind bars and the circumstances that lead society to imprison.

Ike Holter

Ike Holter

But, let’s be honest, a magazine is never all about it’s newsworthy material, and we were treated to an inventive series of laughs as well. Ike Holter, popular playwright of Hit the Wall (first performed by The Inconvenience at Steppenwolf last year, and now moving to Off-Broadway), gave us an op-ed monologue musing on this year’s selection for the Academy Awards. Featuring quotes from “that owner of 7 Eleven who shouts at hipsters” to acceptances speeches themselves, Holter was full of ingenuity and verve.

(reformedwhores.com)

NYC’s Reformed Whores (reformedwhores.com)

And what variety show would be complete without music? We giggled with NYC musical comedy duo Reformed Whores, and swung along to the dulcet tones of Bethany Thomas (of Porgy and Bess fame), who created an atmosphere entirely appropriate to such a venerated establishment as The Green Mill.

Chad the Bird (wbez.org)

Chad the Bird (wbez.org)

A well-rounded current events publication needs a sports section, this one provided by resident puppet Chad the Bird (a Josh Zagoren creation). Staging in the venue was divided between the main stage towards the back, and the bar area, where Chad gave us his weekly sports roundup.

Matt Braunger (thepapermachete.com)

Matt Braunger (thepapermacheteshow.com)

Finally, Matt Braunger (love your website!) provided the capstone to the afternoon, also performing from the bar area. With topics covering Chicago staples such as certain kinds of people on the #22 bus, to tripped out nights dressed as clowns downtown, Braunger tapped into the audience and hit all the right notes. We highly recommend you see him if you can in the future.

Bethany Thomas (courtesy of Jeremy Rill)

Bethany Thomas (courtesy of Jeremy Rill)

Busy on Saturday afternoons? Not to worry! Every week The Paper Machete and host WBEZ create a podcast, also known as “The Paper Machete Radio Magazine,” with selections from the latest show.

The Paper Machete comes highly recommended from Storefront City. Best enjoyed with a couple of friends (the space is crowded) and a relaxed attitude, performances may vary week to week, but if the quality remains the same as last time, you will not be disappointed.

Elbo Room

WHAT: Elbo Room (Music Venue)
WHERE: 2871 N. Lincoln Ave

OUR RATING: Do It!

The Elbo Room, located in the up-and-coming Lakeview neighborhood, offers live music and an enormous array of drinks for relatively affordable prices.

(Courtesy of indie-music.com)

(Courtesy of indie-music.com)

On the upper level, the cocktail lounge is composed of a small bar, a very tiny stage and a few booths. Meanwhile, downstairs (where the larger bands play) is accessed by a rickety staircase leading to a basement with a larger (but still rather small) stage, another small bar, and a few booths, tables and hi-boys. The entire downstairs area is decorated in bright neon spray, which lends to an underground music feel, most welcome for those of us who relish the other side of the music industry.

Upstairs stage (courtesy of vocalillusion.com)

Upstairs stage (courtesy of vocalillusion.com)

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect about the downstairs space is a large load-bearing pole practically right in front of the stage in the center of the room, which partially blocks your view from many vantage points. However, this is mitigated by the wide array of original musical styles on offer, whether you fancy rock, experimental or something completely different. Be aware that seating is limited and your ticket does not guarantee you a stool or booth, so arrive early to snag a few chairs if you would rather sit than dance.

Upstairs bar (Courtesy of chicagospaces.org)

Upstairs bar (Courtesy of chicagospaces.org)

Some other fun aspects about the venue are the board games that are around if you need to kill time before or between acts, and even a pacman table at one of the booths! Another cool feature are the delivery menus from local restaurants if you would like to order food or place an order for pickup. As for drink specials, they usually offer a featured drink, a draft beer, a beer of the month and a can special nightly.

For those of you who need to consider accessibility there are several stairs leading up to the cocktail lounge and then down to the venue, which really do hinder those with limited mobility.

By law, all of their shows are 21+ (sorry for this, we’re sure they would prefer to admit anyone, but the law is the law, even if it is a stupid one). They stream all of the performances live from their website at http://www.justin.tv/elboroomchicago so anyone can still see the show from the comfort and safety of home.

Definitely a venue to be recommended if you have a particular band or musical taste in mind and perfect for a group of friends to listen to some beats, play some games and drink some brews.

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