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Weekender with Alison Cuddy: Leroy Bach, 'Margaret' and dancing librarians

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Fans of Bill Murray (count me among them) may recall one of his most popular personas – Nick the Lounge Singer. Nick was a bit of a chameleon, customizing his last name, lyrics and between-song chatter to suit the situation he was in, whether singing on a train headed to Florida (check out the sweet Cicely Tyson cameo) or in a Nevada bar made out of cinder blocks.

I love Murray’s performance because even though it’s a parody, his total commitment to the character makes it equally an homage to musicians who perform in non-concert venues like restaurants or hotel lounges. Many are hard-working professionals who have to roll with a lot of punches, from surly, sour drunks to the clashes and clangs of a chef run amok in the kitchen.

Leroy Bach is no lounge act but he’s committed to playing in situations where his music is neither “background music nor deliberate reach out, but something in between.” Bach is a prolific performer and collaborator, most notably with Wilco from the late ‘90s through 2004.

But he tends to collect diverse talents around his own person. He was a founding member of Five Style, which included members like John Herndon of Tortoise and Euphone’s Ryan Rapsys. That trend lives on with Low Tide Trio, his long-standing, righteous rhythm section ‘for hire.’ The group gathers to put on shows with a revolving line-up of Chicago singers and poets.

Lately, Bach’s been playing at local bar The Whistler, which has evolved from a regular Friday night to a more “erratic” gig. Over his two-hour performance, the space slowly fills up with bodies and banter. But Bach says even if his music doesn’t “get people through their ears [he’ll] get ‘em through their spine.”

He credits the “physicality” of his music, which doesn’t involve thrashing away on his guitar but using “repetition or harmonic sculpting.” The few times I’ve caught Bach in action I’ve found him mesmerizing – which may explain why he believes that “rather than playing a song for someone [I’m] giving them a massage or slapping them on the ass.”

See what Bach does for you this Friday, from 6-8 pm. Other picks are below – enjoy!

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1. Stacks! Soul Librarian Dance Party

Friday 10pm

DJs MLE & Lady J (Our Ladies of Soul) and JJ (Windy City Soul Club) put some rhythm in the 3 R’s - and benefit the Read/Write Library.

Hear Lynette Kalsnes’ interview with the library here.

Late Bar 3534 W Belmont

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2. Daedelus

Friday 10pm

Daedelus brings his early-Victorian era garb and ultra-modern visual presentation to The Mid.

The Mid

306 N Halsted

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3. Chicago Restaurant Week

Feb 17th-26th

Nosh your way through Chicago! For 10 days, over 200 restaurants will offer special prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner.

Participating Restaurants throughout Chicago

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4. Margaret

Friday - Sunday

A 17-year-old girl’s traumatic coming of age becomes a lens onto the broader landscape of post 9/11 Manhattan.

Gene Siskel Film Center

164 N State Street

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5. Charles Bradley

Saturday 9pm

Charles Bradley spent much of his life dreaming for a better one. Now he’s making up for lost time with a whole lotta singing, dancing and loving!

Metro

3730 N Clark Street

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6. The Film That Changed My Life: Harlan County U.S.A. with Steve James and Robert K Elder

Sunday 1:30pm Music Box Theatre 3733 N Southport

Author Elder and filmmaker James discuss the 1976 documentary about striking coal miners in Kentucky, Harlan County USA.

Hear Alison Cuddy’s full interview with Robert K Elder here.

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7. Guns N’ Roses

Sunday 10pm

See the larger-than-life, enigmatic Axl Rose up close and personal.

House of Blues Chicago

329 N Dearborn

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