I wrote a travel guide for my buddy who had never been to Chicago. Here are my favorite things to do and places to visit in the Windy City:
Kokorokoko vintage store (1112 N Ashland)
Hip 80s/90s vintage store. Here I bought my “Joe Knows Super Bowls” t-shirt and a large pin that reads “Book It!” with a moving picture of a book.
Alcala’s Western Wear (1733 W Chicago Ave)
A very legitimate western wear shop. It sells Yoda belt buckles, hip hip flasks, and Frida K portraits.
Revolution Books (1103 N Ashland Ave)
An anarchist bookstore. When I told the proprietor I was from San Francisco, she exploded with joy. This shop is pretty hardcore. She bent my ear on recent San Quentin happenings.
Dusty Groove America (1120 N Ashland)
Specializing in latin, foreign, jazz, and random vinyl reissues. The selection in the store is pretty good, but their online selection is massive.
Awesome 90s bar with a Tetris machine that is still calling my name.
Rainbo Club [sic]
Another sic dive bar with cool art on the walls. When I was there, the walls were decorated with photos of trashcans. They sell cheap stiff ones here. Drinks, I mean.
The Wormhole Coffee (1462 N Milwaukee Ave, Wicker Park)
Here they make a truly great cappuccino. And the pastries are good too. I had a donut hole inside of a donut. I think they call that a flying saucer? The interior is cool – the shop has old furniture, cool Star Wars/sci-fi décor, and a real Delorean by the front door.
Reckless Records (1532 N Milwaukee)
This shop has a large, eclectic selection of vinyl at good prices. I bought a Justice 12” and an album of German kindermusik here. The dudes who work here are chill. One bro used to do shipping for a punk/hardcore record label, and he helped me wrap my vinyl for my suitcase. And they carry a 69 Love Songs 6x10 LP that I will one day get.
The Boring Store (1331 N Milwaukee)
A fun gadget store run by SF author Dave Eggers.
Myopic Books (1564 N Milwaukee)
Cool art and film books here, and the front of the store is all occult material. The way that the shop’s collection spirals around the store is pretty cool. I bought a photography book published by the small Florentine publishing house Alinari, a photography foundation, which is a pretty rare find.
Kuma’s Corner (2900 W Belmont Ave)
Tasty gourmet burgers and really good beer. And the waitstaff is hot broads with dragony tats. I had a great burger filled with jalapenos. I believe it was named after an 80s metal band… Slayer maybe? I couldn’t find the exact burger I had on their menu online. Maybe I was kinda wastey. I’d had a couple beers while I was there and it was only noon. GO to Kuma’s.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s House/Studio/Neighborhood (Oak Park hood)
**Not to be confused with the hip band Frank Roidz Lite
On the el to Oak Park some dude was yelling, “Daaamn! PYT!” at random women. Once you get to the posh OP neighborhood, Frank’s house and studio are half a mile away. It’s worth touring his house and studio because you get a solid history lesson on early twentieth century architecture. After the house/studio tour, take a walk around the neighborhood. You’ll enjoy it. Frank designed many of the houses, but not all of them! Other local architects copycatted Frank’s style so all the houses look like Frank’s houses. It’s a fun walk. Lots of tourists though. Wear a fanny pack. And there’s an ice cream truck here too.
Bars at Logan Square
Pretty fun bars here. One bar had the best dj I’d heard in Chi.
A popcorn store (where there are movie shows… downtown.)
There is a popcorn store downtown that makes famous popcorn that is simultaneously salty and sweet? I hear it’s the tits.
^ Chicago (N Ashland Ave)
In a Chicago radio interview Krugman discusses his thoughts on music. I think he’s a brilliant economist (I used his depression economics book as a textbook in college (I had some liberal econ professors)). He explains seemingly complicated issues in a simple manner for people who don’t study economics. He has some interesting thoughts on music production as well:
Pauly K: “Any sense that it’s not a personal statement, that it’s a marketing ploy is immediately. . . I run screaming out of the room.”
By the way, as I’ve mentioned before, he bears a strong resemblance to children’s songwriter Raffi:
Here’s Krugman’s NY Times blog:
(Atlantic article found by Red)
Lollapalooza. A smorgasbord of singers and bands whose talent ranges from immense to nothing. A humid mass of tens of thousands of concertgoers, 37% of which donned basketball jerseys. Kids as tall as my belly button mixed with AARP members to form a group as diverse as any downtown Chicago street.
Lollapalooza is a circus. Cartoons walk around in two-piece swimsuits that don’t fit, backwards baseball caps, and neon Wayfarers. The yells of fraternity bros broke the roar of guitars emanating from the far ends of Grant Park. Did you need marijuana? That high school freshman was selling “dank ass purple” at the Smith Westerns show. I don’t think his voice had cracked yet.
It was well after 3:30 in the afternoon when Illinois’ Smith Westerns took the Playstation Stage. With beers in hand my friends and I shot the breeze as we waited for what was my first show of 2011’s Lollapalooza. It would be nice to have VIP tickets, said my friend. We envied the very important people who reclined in chairs on the side of the stage. They relaxed in the shade with cocktails in hand. My friend and I are only twenty-three years young, but it sure would be nice to watch a three day music festival in the shade with endless gin and tonics, exchanging hot air with music critics and their girlfriends. I’d been at the festival for twenty minutes and my t-shirt was already soaked with sweat from the humid Chicago summer.
Five people took the stage. They wore dark, tight clothing. I wasn’t sure if the singer was a male or female. They began playing. Their sound was a jangly one, poppy and danceable music that girls like. They played a few more similar sounding songs with limited banter in between. I still wasn’t sure if the singer was a dude or a lady.
The crowd’s enthusiasm let the singer breathe a bit. Turns out he was a dude. He gained confidence as the set went on. The crowd liked the show.
"Wow they’re pretty good," said my friend’s friend. In her defense, the Smith Westerns were proficient. The band played, for the most part, in time and in key.
Towards the end of the hour-long set, each song sounded like the last. The girls in the crowd liked the singer’s newfound smug attitude. He made a few jokes that were put-downs to people or bands from past events. I wouldn’t call that good music etiquette when you’re a band just starting out, whose confidence comes out only when the crowd permits it.
The Smith Westerns were entertaining for a bit, but their novelty wore off quickly. The rhythms and melodies repeated themselves, and my mind wandered during most of the set. But I realized that there was an important lesson to be learned from this show.
To play Lollapalooza, a band needs to play in time and on key. A band needs some notoriety to draw a crowd, possibly from the recent release of an album or e.p. Maybe some Pitchfork buzz. And having some good-looking band members certainly helps.
The Smith Westerns fulfilled these requirements. They’re an inspiration for any band with hopes to play Lollapalooza because the Smith Westerns aren’t anything spectacular. They play run-of-the-mill guitar pop, and they have a guitarist and singer whom the ladies like. Is it disheartening that acts like these are performing at America’s biggest music festivals?
A critic’s response: Completely.
A musician’s response. Yes and no. I want to play on stages of this magnitude. And if these boys from Illinois can do it, then I sure as hell can do it too.
The set was over and I trotted to the adjacent stage, excited to see The Kills.
Notable acts include Cut Copy, HEALTH, and Battles
Here’s the website for San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival which takes place August 12-14:
Notable acts include The Old 97’s, Ty Segall, Best Coast, Big Boi, Muse, The Decemberists, Beirut, Girl Talk, and MGMT
Chicago’s Lollapalooza lineup will be announced April 26