Too many street fairs, Congress rules the world, moon music and more | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

Linksomania: Too many street fairs; the Congress rules the world; moon music and more

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Market Days street fest on North Halsted (Flickr/Creative Commons, Tony B)

Has Chicago reached Street Fest glut? “Heck yeah!” is my response, as well as the chronic complaint from owners of our beloved music venues whose business drops dramatically every summer as they compete with events ranging from Lollapalooza and Pitchfork to Ribfest and Rock Around the Block. Now a well-reported piece by Paul Wilson on the Roscoe View Journal reaches the same conclusion.

Despite the new challenges the city is placing in the way of street fairs, which were protested loud and clear at the festival-organizers’ “ground-truthing” meeting for the cultural plan, they continue to proliferate. Though they’re no longer nearly as profitable as they once were, the Roscoe View Journal puts the increase in these boisterous parties at 67 percent since 2005.

“Several years ago, it was much easier to net $50,000 to $100,000 in income from a street fest”— and that money was crucial to many neighborhood groups, one organizer says. Now, “$100,000 is almost unheard of,” thanks to the increase in competition and the fact that many of these gatherings, which prompt street closings that hurt some local businesses, are indistinguishable from one another.

Not to the mention that, from the point of view of the music lover, 95 percent of the sounds featured on these stages are mediocre to painfully awful.

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Though the Huffington Post in general is notoriously and blithely unconcerned with original reporting, the website recently made an error that is egregious even by its own sloppy standards. Lifting unchecked a piece from something called Party Earth, it trumpets the miserable Congress Theater as one of the five best music venues in the world.

Never mind that even the most ardent fans of the electronic dance and underground hip-hop shows the venue books while others in town ignore these genres wouldn’t list the 1920s-era theater among the five best in Chicago, let alone the universe. Yet this piece of silliness ranks it beside the Paradisco in Amsterdam, Columbia Halle in Berlin, Le Grand Rex in Paris and — get this — the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

“If you're looking to see a great live show in a completely unique environment, catch a concert at one of Party Earth’s favorite music venues from around the world,” the piece concludes in what amounts to (presumably unpaid) advertising. Of course, enjoying the Congress helps if you’re experiencing what Rimbaud called “the systematic derangement of the senses.”

And speaking of which, last week’s hearing to revoke the controversial theater’s liquor license was postponed until Jan. 15. Calls to the liquor commission on the specifics of the complaints against the Congress have gone unreturned, and WBEZ is awaiting a response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

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Astronaut Edgar Mitchell

Here’s a fun submission from a follower: A website called is taking bids on a 60-minute cassette that astronaut Edgar Mitchell carried to the moon in 1971 aboard Apollo 14, the third NASA flight to land on the moon. No word on the quality of the lunar module’s sound system, which Mitchell piloted, but Texas-born Navy vet had didn’t have half-bad taste. (That is to say, the half without Blood Sweat & Tears, James Taylor or the 5th Dimension wasn’t bad.)

The full play list:

Side A: 1. “Sweet Blindess,” the 5th Dimension; 2. “Spinning Wheels,” Blood, Sweat & Tears”; 3. “Looking Out My Back Door,” Creedence Clearwater Revival; 4. “Fire & Rain,” James Taylor; 5. “Lucretia Macevil,” Blood, Sweat & Tears; 6. “Commotion,” CCR; 7. “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye; 8. “And When I Die,” Blood, Sweat & Tears; 9. “Got the Fever,” Blood Sweat & Tears.

Side B: 1. “Something,” the Beatles; 2. “Cloudy,” Simon & Garfunkel; 3. “Aquarius (Let the Sunshine In),” the 5th Dimension; 4. “Here Comes the Sun,” the Beatles; 5. “Sometimes in Winter,” Blood, Sweat & Tears; 6. “Sweet Baby James,” James Taylor; 7. “Who’ll Stop the Rain?,” CCR; 8. “God Bless the Child,” Blood, Sweat & Tears; 9. “Homeward Bound,” Simon & Garfunkel.

Looking for a unique Christmas present? Bidding ends on Nov. 29, and starts at only $200 — though it’s sure to shoot skyward quickly (ouch!).

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Finally, if you’ve ever wondered why MTV is so unconcerned with playing, you know, actual music anymore, here’s a brief clip submitted by a follower in which a network head answers that question as posed by a young viewer.

(This is a spoof, by the way. . .  I think.)

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