Monday, September 26, 2011

Concert Recap/Pictures - The Hideout Block Party

Another year, another Hideout Block Party come and gone. This year's iteration, in celebration of the venue's 15th anniversary, garnered more media attention than usual as people used to the opportunity to take stock of how a former dive bar became the physical and spiritual home for Chicago artists of all music stripes.

After attending the sold-out festival, I can tell you it felt like a coming-out party for the Hideout, with thousands packing an old parking lot to hear music curated by a bar that looks like your parents' basement and doesn't even hold 200. It was a resounding success, highlighted by Mavis Staple's triumphant sunset performance in front of a rapturous audience. But this was still the kind of festival where you could catch Jon Langford hanging around in the crowd during White Mystery's set or go say hi to the Eternals' Damon Lock or Alex White after they got off stage. 

First, a quick recap of the early highlights (ie. those before my girlfriend arrived with camera). White Mystery opened to a sparse crowd, which didn't stop them from flailing and pogoing like psychotic muppets. Alex White's showmanship was particularly impressive, throwing herself into her trademark upside down guitar solo with impressive energy. The Eternals didn't garner the audience that their playing demanded but they put on another powerful show of dark, danceable funk that sounds unlike anything else you'll hear around town.

It was Kids These Days the made the biggest early impression though. In my concert preview I noted that their first EP was technically impressive but I needed to see them live to get a full sense of the band. Well, let me just say right now that Kids These Days is the real deal. Their accomplished but fun fusion of pop, rock, jazz, salsa and hip-hop went down like tonic. Lead singer Liam Cunningham's flow was heavily in the conscious, Mos Def/Common tradition while Macie Stewart's gorgeously sultry croon provided weight and counterbalance. The horns burned like classic Sly and Greg Landfair's hyperkinetic drumming put me in mind of Glen Kotche. Combine all this with their clean-scrubbed, multi-racial visual appeal and you know that there's no stopping them. I predict iPod commercials and SNL appearences for these kids and wouldn't begrudge them any of it.

Now, on the the photos!

Booker T.'s set was full of peppy classics and good times, but perhaps the best part was his radiant smile which he flashed at every opportunity. He looked exactly the way his music sounded.

Old standards like "Green Onions" were spiced up with inventive, fiery guitar breaks.

In one of those moments of concert serendipity, Booker busted out "Time Is Tight", my favorite song of his, sending me off happy.

He also showed off his unique up-strumming guitar playing a few times. Including covers of OutKast's "Hey Ya!" and Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything".

Given that the Hideout is 15 years old, it's no wonder that a lot of fans were toting kids on Saturday. But kids seemed less out of place than at say, a Pitchfork type festival and this picture proves that they can pretty much adapt to whatever.

Jon Langford brought a full band plus Ontario's Burlington Male Welsh Chorus for his set. And yes, that is Sally Timms wearing a viking helmet and pigtails.

I wasn't sure about Langford's shiny black suit, but halfway through the set, my girlfriend suggested I get one. I guess that answers that question.

I can't which I enjoyed more, the mournful violin playing or the Pepto-Bismol pink Fender.

God knows I'm a sucker for old mining songs and the Burlington Male Welsh Chorus didn't fail to provide.

The jamming on "Sentimental Marching Song" was a highlight of the set.

Remember how I said that Mavis Staples was the standout of the evening? Well if you don't believe me, check out the throne they made her. Well-deserved, too.

Andrew Bird stopped by for a rousing singalong version of Band classic "The Weight" can you believe that she was in The Last Waltz and is still going strong?

When I say going strong, I mean going strong. Mavis was clearly enjoying the hell out of her hometown coronation more than anyone else.

It's hard to capture with a camera, but Staples' had headliner power over the crowd which was happy, loud and engaged from the first song to the last.

After a long delay, Andrew Bird's set started with the slow progression of a mesh and wire whale throughout the festival grounds and past the stage. About the amount of whimsy you would expect.

Bird was talented and enjoyable but it was hard to compete with the energy let down after Staples. Still, his closing set was a nice gentle goodbye to another year of music at the Hideout.

Couldn't have said it better myself.


  1. A great vibe and a great way to close out the outdoor concert season in Chicago!

  2. Thanks for the shout-out ;)

    Also, perhaps a testament to the popularity of the Hideout or the talent of the line-up, but the lack of food at this block party was maddening.