15 years of music and block parties at The Hideout

September 22, 2011

By Althea Legaspi

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(Phto courtesy of Althea Legaspi)
Jim Hinchsliff, Katie Tuten, Mike Hinchsliff, Tim Tuten outside of The Hideout

The Hideout may hide in the midst of an industrial park, but it's teeming with Chicago music history. On Saturday, Sept. 24, the music venue and bar celebrates its 15th anniversary under its current owners. Once again they’ll be holding their popular Block Party. Eight Forty-Eight music reporter Althea Legaspi met up with co-owners Tim and Katie Tuten, who shared their memories and why they thought their little bar is a giant gem for Chicago.

Hideout’s 15th Block Party runs Saturday just outside the venue at 1354 West Wabansia in Chicago.

Music Button: Andrew Bird, "Two Way Action" from the album The Swimming Hour (Rykodisc/Rhino)

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy hilariously covered The Black Eyed Peas, “I Got a Feeling,” at a recent book release party at the Hideout. It was for Dan Sinker, the man behind the fake Rahm Emanuel Twitter feed that was made into a book: Not your standard event; not your standard venue. Whether a wedding or an unexpected music performance like Tweedy’s, patrons get it at the Hideout.

The club sits off the beaten path. It’s easy to miss, tucked between factories and a fleet of city trucks. You won’t find a sign outside, either. That’s part of its charm. Inside you might stumble on an intimate, surprising performance: a Sun Ra tribute featuring Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Jon Brion in a rare Chicago club performance and The New Pornographers first Chicago show. Legends like Honeyboy Edwards and Fred Anderson celebrated their final birthdays there. It’s also where artists have booked their very first show.

Jon Langford plays with various bands like Mekons and Waco Brothers. He said he gets excited seeing it through other artists’ eyes.

“I took Robin Hitchcock in there one night and he just stood. He just stood. Stood in the front bar and looked into the room with the fairy lights and he was kinda visibly moved by what a crazy little environment the Hideout is,” Langford said.

And that inclusive, casual “everybody’s welcome” feeling had roots at Hideout long before husband and wife Tim and Katie Tuten, with brothers Mike and Jim Hinchsliff, bought the place in October of 1996.

“My father was a regular here and he did business with a company across the street, International Steele and he would never tell me where the bar was located,” Katie explained. “And it was great when I walked into the bar and there was eight guys and sitting here and two of which were my fathers friends and they were like, ‘Oh no! She found us,’” she remembered.

The Hideout stayed on their radar.

“We’d come to the bar to Hideout probably a couple times a year and we would say to the owners, ‘You should do this or you should do that.’ And then the husband passed away and the wife approached us and said, ‘Well do you want to buy the bar? If so you know it’s available,” Katie said. “And we thought, ‘Gosh, we don’t know anything about this.’ But we loved the place and we wanted it to remain a local watering hole for the factories and the workers in the area,” she continued.

The building itself holds a lot of history. The front part of the balloon-frame house was built in 1890 and was once called a squatter’s house. The back part of the Hideout was built in the ‘50s. When Katie and Tim began working on it, Katie said they unearthed great relics from Chicago’s past.

“There was a phone, a secret phone behind the bar. Supposedly there was $500 hidden somewhere in the Hideout. So they had gone to the track one day, and had a good winning and they stashed it somewhere, we never did find the money,” Katie said.

“We found a lot of old sheet music and old photographs.” Tim added, “The 26 raffle cards.”

“Oh yeah, there used to be something in city of Chicago called the 26 Girls,” Katie explained.

“And basically in those days women didn’t go to taverns, so you’d have one or two foxy looking women who would roll dice and the men would I guess bet against them…” “single women,” Tim said.

“Yes, single women,” Katie said. “And so you’d roll dice against them and if you won you’d win drink tickets, so we found all those old drink tickets, so that was pretty cool.”

Hideout was not known for live music before Katie and Tim took over. But they were music fans and initially they brought bands in to play the front of the bar. Tim said the current performance space, in the back, evolved in time.

“There was no stage, it was a flat floor. Robbie Fulks played that summer of 1997 at three in the afternoon and he did a benefit for a girl that was riding to MN for an AIDS ride. And then he told other people too, then Honeyboy played that fall, we still didn’t have a stage,” Tim said. “We built an 8 x8 foot riser that we just had floating back there. We didn’t have a sound system, bands had to bring their own equipment. And then basically musicians would come, they’d play on our floor and say, ‘You should make a stage, I can show you how to do that,’” he remembered.

And from there it was a community affair. Artists and club friends from Fitzgeralds in Berwyn and the former Lounge Ax in Chicago’s Lincoln Park pitched in with advice and helped get the space ready for music. After a couple of years, the room was complete. Word of mouth among bands helped bolster the booking in the early days.

Nat Ward’s been working at Hideout for 13 years and said the environment is what attracts loyalty from staff, bands and patrons alike.
“It’s kinda home, after a while the Hideout – it’s about bar, it’s about rock and it’s about drinking, but it’s really about these are my weird, screwed-up bar family,” Ward said.

Katie and Tim work full-time jobs outside Hideout. Katie works in the non-profit sector, and Tim is in D.C. working with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Often their day jobs intersect with events at Hideout, including this weekend’s annual Block Party.

This year’s Block Party benefits Rock for Kids, Literacy Works, and Drummond and Oscar Mayer Elementary schools. And of course you can catch some of the acts that made Hideout what it is today. Artists like Mavis Staples, Andrew Bird, Jon Langford, Booker T. Jones,  The Eternals, Chances Dances and many more.

In recent times, the city saw an explosion of new venues and bars. And the Tuten’s admitted the competition has affected business. But Katie said, though they have evolved organically, the Hideout transcends trends and that’s what makes them vital.

“It is defined by the people who come here. As my father always reminded me, ‘You don’t own the bar, we do. One beer at a time.’ And I think we’re very cognizant of that,” Katie said. “And I think that we’re just kind of the keepers of the house, and the community itself will define who we are and what we’ll become.”

Hideout Block Party takes place on Saturday, September 24.

Music featured (in order of appearance)

Jeff Tweedy live during Dan Sinker’s fake @mayoremanuel book release party, cover of Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
Jon Langford, “Last Count” featuring Burlington Welsh Male Chorus, from the release Skull Orchard Revisited (Bloodshot)

Booker T. Jones, “Walking Papers” from the release The Road From Memphis (Anti-/Epitaph)

Mavis Staples “Eyes on the Prize” from the release Live: Hope at the Hideout (Anti-)

The Eternals “Can You See The Fires” from the release Approaching the Energy Field (Addenda/Submarine)

Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire “Two Way Action” from the release The Swimming Hour (Rykodisc)