Thursday, September 22, 2011

Concert Preview - The Hideout Block Party

Of all Chicago's varied and wonderful concert venues, none can quite match the ramshackle charm of The Hideout. From its amazing artist in residence, to its impromptu Black Eyed Peas cover shows to its Wednesday night soup for the hungry, this is a venue that does nothing the usual way but always gives you a unique experience. When I consulted a neighborhood map to determine its exact location, I found it listed in an area called "industrial corridor" and I couldn't think of a more accurate desctpiton if I tried. The bar itself is a tiny thing, tucked away on an industrial strip of Wabansia just east of the river, located near a series of loading docks, a Home Depot and, of course, a garbage truck marshaling area for The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

It is in this parking lot, where the trash-haulers usually sit, that The Hideout hosts its (mostly) annual Block Party. My first visits to the Block Party have been for label celebrations, namely the legendary Chicago punk/noise providers Touch and Go in 2006 and alt-country (and beyond) Bloodshot Records in 2009. After a hiatus last September, Hideout is back running their own show this year and have settled on a lineup not only packed with the cream of local talent but, tellingly, filled with regulars who've played the bar more than their fair share over the years. The party is this Saturday and I've been looking forward to it for over month now, here's a quick look at what you can expect if you decide to end your outdoor concert season with a bang in a garbage truck lot this weekend.

I never knew the identity of the author of The Reader's fantastic Secret History of Chicago Music until recently when I discovered its author was artist, writer and general gadabout Steve Krakow. One of his pet projects is a massive gathering of electric strummers known as his Guitarkestra. This massive gathering of guitarists has opened the Block Party before and it will be again this year. I've never seen them before but good or bad, I expect this to be memorable.
I don't know if there's a club, bar, festival, street fair, record store, birthday party, bar mitzvah or street corner in Chicago that White Mystery hasn't played in the course of the last few years. Fresh off their "White Mystery Shreds The Nation" tour, they're back in action in their hometown and are sure to bring their usual sweaty, gleeful, ball of noise and feedback to the stage for the first full-band performance of the festival.

Power Glove - White Mystery  Buy White Mystery.
Kickin' My Ball - White Mystery  Buy Blood and Venon.

After White Mystery is a fast-rising local band who you're sure to see lighting up the blogs and at one of the big festivals next summer, Kids These Days. They're a group of UIC and DePaul students who combine pop, soul, hip-hop, jazz and rock in a fun, lighthearted stew that sounds like a soundtrack to summer. They released their Hard Times [EP] this summer which I've enjoyed in small doses, but haven't been able to fully commit to yet. I'm excited to see them live and get a sense of the meddle of this band. I sense that they have the talent to go far, I'm hoping they have the heart as well.

Hard Times - Kids These Days  Buy Hard Times [EP].

God bless the Eternals. You may remember them from the Fireside Bowl or the Milwaukee Ave. Arts Festival, but if you've missed them somehow, make up for that on Saturday. Their dark mix of funky off-kilter bass, dubby drums, static-y keyboards and dystopian lyrics meld wonderfully live to create an mesmerizing live experience. On top of that, they've made perhaps the local album of the year, Approaching The Energy Field. Miss them at your own peril.

War's Blazing Disciples - The Eternals  Buy Approaching The Energy Field.
Symmetric Children - The Eternals

After the Eternals we get our first bona fide legend of the day - Booker T! Yeah, that Booker T. Far from being a stuffy icon of yesteryear, Booker has remained vital over recent years touring, collaborating with bands like the Drive-By Truckers and working to expand his trademark guitar and organ R&B sound. The weather prevented me from seeing his 4th of July set at Taste of Chicago last year, but hopefully the weather will be better and the setting will certainly be more intimate when I do get to see this great virtuoso perform.

Pound It Out - Booker T.  Buy Potato Hole.
Hey Ya [OutKast] - Booker T.

Jon Langford is a founding member of British punk pioneers the Mekons, alt-country shitkickers the Waco Brothers as well as an accomplished solo artist and collaborator. He'll be performing his own as well as traditional songs with the Burlington Welsh Male Choir in tow. Langford is Welsh himself and while co-hosting an episode of WBEZ's Radio M recently, he talked about returning to his roots and being able to breathe new life into both his own music as well as the folk he grew up with by adding a Welsh chorus. You never quite know what Langford will have up his sleeves, but you always know there'll be something.

Sentimental Marching Song - Jon Langford  Buy Skull Orchard.

After Langford comes another living legend, Chicago's own Mavis Staples. She's been a longtime friend of The Hideout as seen by her album Live: Hope At The Hideout which showcased her and a surprisingly lively Monday night audience. She got a lot of buzz for collaborating with Jeff Tweedy as songwriter and producer for her last album, You Are Not Alone which seemed ill-fitting given that her style of gospel, soul and R&B is timeless, earnest and terminally unhip. For those underwhelmed by her studio albums, word on the street is that she has great rapport with her current band and puts on an impressive live show. If you needed another reason to see a living civil rights pioneer and musical icon, let nothing now stop you.

I'll Take You There - Mavis Staples  Buy Live: Hope At The Hideout.
I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah - Mavis Staples  Buy You Are Not Alone.

Andrew Bird earned a reputation for a magical and inspired live show by gigging many times at Hideout over the yeas so his headlining slot should come as no surprise. Bird uses elegant violin playing (and picking), expert whistling, tape loops and percussion to create a dazzling swirl of sound when performing live. He mixes thoughtful, humorous lyrics with this oddly classical sound for a unique experience.  On a side note, I've been using a live take on "Skin Is, My" all week to get me excited for the concert which I got from the fantastic weekly Chicago Mixtape project which sends you mp3s of all the local bands playing this week. I include this below in hopes that you too will join, what's the most you could lose, zero dollars?

Imitosis - Andrew Bird  Buy Armchair Apocrypha.
Skin Is, My [Live] - Andrew Bird  Subscribe to Chicago Mixtape.

I heard fantastically disturbing and deabuched reports about New Orleans "sissy bounce" queen, Big Freedia's performance at the Do-Divsion Fest in June, so I was sad to hear that she was forced to drop out at the last minute due to health reasons. Replacing her, fortunately will be the Chances Dances DJs to close things down. Named after a common gay bar name, the dances are held down the street in Wicker Park and have gained a reputation as fun, catchy and infectious LGBT dance party not to be missed, and after 90 minutes of Birdian introspection and many beers I anticipate being ready to dance. Why not stick around and shake your ass a little bit?

I've never been disappointed going to The Hideout before and this year's lineup with its mixture of new and established local acts from across genres is sure to please. But a big part of The Hideout experience is the caliber of fan it attracts - smart, cynical, knowledgeable, fun, funny, willing to dance, willing to drink until being willing to dance, I always feel at home when I'm there, able to revel in a place that mixes just the right amount of discernment, playful pretentiousness, enthusiasm and lack of tolerance for bullshit. If you think you're any of those things, come say hi on Saturday.


  1. Great preview. Here's a nicely done piece in today's Trib that spotlights the bar's beginnings and ethos:

  2. Though I wasn't on this event, I enjoyed every description you've said here about the hideout block party. The songs they played were fun and even strangers became friends. If you have a free time, you can visit this essay on A with and see the best written paper works here!