Nightclubbing: A dozen ways to avoid Lollapalooza (a.k.a. Walmart on the Lake)
The giant marketing machine that is Lollapalooza dominates the Chicago music scene this weekend, of course. But whether your reasons for avoiding it are aesthetic (do you really want to hang out in an oversized shopping mall and be marketed to for three days?), moral/ethical (given the attorney general's investigation of the destination fest for anti-competitive practices that threaten the city's club scene and other promoters -- see earlier reports 1, 2, and 3), or financial (three-day passes are now up to $215, or $850 for the VIP pass), there are plenty of worthy rock 'n' roll experiences to be had over the next few days that have nothing to do with the scene in Grant Park (and no, I'm not counting the official after shows in this tally, a run-down of which can be found here if you so desire).
Here are a dozen alternative suggestions.
1. The Hideout kicks things off in grand anti-corporate, community-oriented Hideout style tonight with an event called Antecedapalooza 2010 featuring a strong roster of DJ sets by the Hood Internet and DJ Car Stereo (Wars) and live performances by Chicago pop-soul band the Dirty Diamonds, Austin's Neiliyo, and New York's Menya. Tickets are $7 before 11 p.m. and $10 after.
2. The lovable dive on Wabansia off Elston also has a strong lineup starting at 9 p.m. Saturday with Blood Mambas, Humboldt Park noise mavens CAVE (for whom the buzz is building to deafening volume), and Cacaw. The cover is $6.
4. Meanwhile, on the North Side, Martyr's features a considerably less noisy and more melodic early show starting at 7 on Saturday night with sultry New York singer and songwriter Toby Lightman. Aslyn opens, and the cover is $12.
5. Over in Logan Square on Saturday, Ronny's presents Free Moral Agents, the new group lead by Isaiah Ikey Owens, formerly the keyboardist for the Mars Volta. The wildly inventive sextet shares a bill with NoCanDo, Magicks, and Nude Sunrise that starts at 8 p.m.
6. Earlier on Saturday, Metro is hosting this summer's second end-of-camp extravaganza for the Girls Rock! Chicago program, which means that as many as 20 bands comprised of girls ages 9 to 16 will have the chance to take the stage and tear through the song they've been rehearsing all week-- as great a contrast to the downtown mega-fest as I can imagine, and a welcome a reminder of the sheer joy of making an awesome noise for no other reason than it's a heckuva lot of. Tickets are $7 in advance or $8 at the door, and the music starts at 3:30 p.m.
7. Go shopping for vinyl (or CDs, if you must). Take advantage of all the wannabe hipsters being occupied elsewhere to drop in on some of the best record stores in the U.S. -- places that are more than holding their own even in the face of the digital decimating of many music retailers. Some of my favorites include Reckless Records for cool imports and indie releases (3126 N. Broadway; 1532 N. Milwaukee, or 26 E. Madison); the Old School Records for dusty soul classics (7446 W. Madison in Forest Park); Vintage Vinylfor really obscure progressive and psychedelic rock (925 Davis St. in Evanston), and Laurie's Planet of Soundfor the finest overall selection and the most friendly and helpful staff (4693 N. Lincoln).
9. Catch up on your rock 'n' roll reading. Though their numbers are shrinking even faster than brick-and-mortar record stores, Chicago still has some fine mom-and-pop booksellers, whether you're looking for new or used tomes. But if a rock biography, photo book, old magazine, and any other music-related dead-tree relic is the specific Holy Grail you're been searching out, there's no finer destination than Uptown's Shake Rattle & Read (4812 N. Broadway). If he doesn't have it, proprietor Ric Addy likely can find it for you, and he'll also provide an entertaining chat during your visit.
10. Have a Mastodon, Slayer, or Kuma burger. Granted, some of the usual tattooed and pierced culinary geniuses behind the grill at Kuma's Corner (2900 W. Belmont) will no doubt be in Grant Park, since the heavy-metal burger paradise is one of the upstart foodie emporiums temporarily setting up shop there this weekend as part of the Graham Elliot Bowles-curated attempt to elevate things above the usual lukewarm pizza and rubbery hotdogs. But that could mean that you'll finally get into Kuma's proper, which famously does not take reservations, and which has become ridiculously crowded at any time of the day or night thanks to all of the well-earned accolades it's accumulated of late. (I've tried to go three times in the last year, and I've given up in the face of endless lines every time.)
11. Go bowling. As documented in a long and ridiculously fawning piece in the local pages of the New York Times last week, the Fireside Bowl (2648 W. Fullerton) once again is hosting bands. No, it's not the Fireside Bowl of yesteryear, where the way-underground punk rock acts book by MP Shows would find mice scurrying out of the speakers when they hit the first notes at soundcheck (and that's an example of one of the least scuzzy things they might experience); the place has been buffed-up and yuppified, and the music it's booking fits with the facelift. But even if it isn't as cool as it once was, it's still pretty great. (If you're less particular about the rock 'n' roll legacy of your bowling alleys, but still want a decent play list, I'm also fond of Waveland Bowl, 3700 N. Western, and Diversey River Bowl, 2211 W. Diversey).
12. Get some ink. As with rock clubs, record stores, great dive bars, and other indispensable aspects of the real Chicago music community, the city is lucky to be home to a number of world-class tattoo artists, though in my book, none stand taller than Ben Wahhh, whose renowned Deluxe Tattoo continues to hold fast against the encroaching forces of gentrification that threaten to overwhelm the strip of Irving between Ashland and Southport. (R.I.P., El Gato Negro. I'm not saying I ever frequented the place, but it was sad to see it go nonetheless.) Warning: Ben and his equally talented fellow artists don't just go to work on any walk-in, and requests for cute little daisy chains around the ankle or anything of that sort are likely to be met with gales of laughter before the official "no." Bring them a creative challenge and welcome their original input, however, and you'll wind up with some ink you'll be proud to flash for the rest of your life.