Intense! Hail the Sun and Eidola at Beat Kitchen (6/14)

As I stormed through the door of the Beat Kitchen to avoid the pouring rain outside I was greeted by a stern looking bouncer with a long blue beard. He eyed me puzzledly, as my boyish good looks clearly betray my legal drinking age. He sighed and asked me to have a good time, clearly relieved he wasn’t letting a 15-year-old into the bar. The lighting was dim throughout the venue, with a warm red glow produced by strings of Christmas lights above the bar. I was handed a menu made out of old record sleeves. The spicy catfish sandwich I got was fantastic, and as I finished, the soundcheck in the other main room got louder and louder.

This band turned out to be Eidola (@eidola), an experimental post-hardcore band from Salt Lake City, Utah. The band’s music replaces the cartoony aesthetic of their post-hardcore labelmate band, Dance Gavin Dance, with a more spiritual, crystalline aesthetic. The composition of their songs shines with polish and technical proficiency. Their tightly packed, frantically paced song structure lends the band a sparkling, futuristic sound.

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The vocals, performed by Andrew Michael Wells, show an impressive range that is able to hit shrieking highs as well as full-bodied lows, and display a type of confidence that is charming without being overpowering.  The crowd was incredibly energetic, and a pit opened up almost immediately. The friendliness of the people in the crowd was equally juxtaposed by their intensity in the pit, with people throwing each other in the air and knocking each other over only to immediately extend a hand to pick them up. There was none of that tryhard hardcore dancing or crowdkilling nonsense, just a mosh pit in its purest form.

Later that night, after much anticipation from anxious fans, headlining band Hail the Sun (@hailthesun) finally took the stage. Based out of Chico, California, Hail the Sun is a post-hardcore band that, like Eidola and Dance Gavin Dance, is signed by Blue Swan Records. Their sound is technically advanced, with math-rock influenced guitars and drums, but their time signatures are conventional and their song structure is intentionally concise and simple. This unusual combination lends their music a sense of fanatic energy, allowing them to stand among the giants of the genre while still allowing room for more free-form experimentation. Front man Donovan Melero’s voice is sweet and vulnerable, but it is no way soft. His voice can carry passionate anger just as well as quiet introspection. Interestingly, Melero also serves as the band’s drummer, which was odd but mesmerizing to see up on stage. Melero repeatedly thanked his fans and the other bands on the tour for their support, and the atmosphere of the show was warm and inviting, but also hectic and energetic. Complete strangers in the pit were throwing their arms around each other and screaming at the top of their lungs. It was definitely one of the most intense shows I’ve ever been to, and I would happily see them again.

Hail the Sun Photo credit: IG @smashed_into_pieces_

Justin Cabrera

Powerful! Pass Over at Steppenwolf (June 15, 2017)

Moses and Kitch are a pair of young black men dreaming about escaping to the promised land. They are hanging out on the street corner talking trash when a white southerner approaches them. He says he has lost his way heading to his mother’s house and just wants to share the food he has brought instead of letting it go to waste. Moses is skeptical and doesn’t want to take any charity. Kitch is willing to give the stranger a chance. The intentions of the southerner are mysterious and the audience is left guessing what the real story is.

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The set is very impressive. A full street is recreated, with asphalt, sidewalk, and streetlamp included. Surrounding the street is sand, representing the desert the children of Israel wandered in for 40 years seeking their promised land (hence, the title).

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This is not an easy play to watch. It addresses some strong important issues in an intense and shocking fashion. However, it is important to watch. As the program states, the time of this play is “now. right now”.

Get tickets now for Pass Over through July 9th!

Quinn Delaney

Dramatic and Hilarious! Native Gardens at Victory Gardens Theatre (June 9, 2017)

Pablo and his pregnant wife Tania have just moved into a fixer upper. They plan on upgrading the ugly chain link fence in their backyard, and their neighbors, Virginia and Frank, couldn’t be happier. Before installing the fence, Pablo goes to measure their backyard. The audience gasps as he extends the measuring the tape past the fence and across their neighbors flower bed! Will they insist the new fence goes where is it meant to be? Will the Virginia and Frank invoke adverse possession, aka, squatters rights? The drama rises and the laughs just keep coming!

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The set is incredibly impressive. On the right is the two story fixer upper with a tree taller than the house. The ground is mostly dirt and rocks. On the left is another two story house with a pristine green lawn filled with flowers. Frank says there used to a large tree in their backyard, but they had it removed because it was ugly and posed a risk to their house.

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The acting in this production is superb. In one scene, Pablo (played by Gabriel Ruiz) takes a folding lawn chair out into his backyard. He tries to act cool and unfolds it with only one hand by whipping it about. He then sits in the chair and then sinks down into it unexpectedly. He can’t help but smile. Patrick Clear as Frank is absolutely hilarious. Every time he rants about the neighborhood competition, everyone is laughing. Janet Ulrich Brooks as Virginia is solid. Watching her support Frank no matter what he says is so funny. Lastly, Paloma Nozicka as Tania is fantastic. When she gets really upset, she swears in Spanish in a burst of emotion to the audience’s delight.

Get tickets now for Native Gardens through July 2nd for Native Gardens!

Quinn Delaney

Dazzling! Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series at Harris Theatre (June 8, 2017)

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Summer Series is a collection of eight very different dances. It’s a large dazzling variety of styles showcasing the wide range of the company. The following describes the best pieces of the night.

The 40s : Lou Conte, Choreography

The 40s displays the joy in America after World War II ended.  “Opus Number One” as performed by Ralph Burns starts and the full company dances happily out on to the stage with jazz hands waving. The song has that big band feel and swing is incorporated into the piece with a lot of twirls. Alicia Delgadillo stands out displaying a big ball of energy and enthusiasm. Lou Conte, the founder of Hubbard Street Dance, has remounted this piece expertly and exhibits the best of this troupe. What a joyful way to end the night.

A Picture of You Falling : Crystal Pite, Choreography

This piece features one dancer repeatedly falling. Over electronic music, a voice narrates the fall: knees, hip, elbow, shoulder, head. It’s a very unique piece that is truly a work of art.

The Golden Section : Choreographed by Twyla Tharp

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This piece features music by David Byrne (of the Talking Heads). The dancers emerge joyfully in yellow 80s style workout clothes.

One Thousand Pieces (Water Section) : Choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo

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The dance floor is completely covered in water. The dancers swoop in and dance with water flying off their feet and hands. They glide around like they are on a slip and slide.

Georgia : Lou Conte, Choreography

This beautiful dance features Jacqueline Burnett and Jason Hortin dancing to “Georgia on My Mind” as performed by Willie Nelson. It’s a slow romantic dance that perfectly accompanies the music. It’s short and sweet (about 5 minutes), just like the song.

 

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Get tickets now for the final two shows tonight and tomorrow!

Quinn

 

Infectiously Fun! Lucky Boys Confusion and Black Marble at Do Division (June 2, 2017)

I had never been to a street festival by myself before, so I didn’t know what to expect going into Do Division 2017. The entire street was lined with dozens of DIY tents, showcasing everything from candles, to metal sculptures, to paintings and homemade dresses. I came so close to buying many of these trinkets not only to fuel Chicago’s thriving DIY scene, but to decorate my room next year and flex my interior decorating skills to my friends.

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The armada of food trucks filled the air with the smell of heart-stopping greasy bliss. Unfortunately for my aching stomach, the line for the taco truck proved insurmountable. To address this, I purchased a deep-fried pickle, the consumption of which probably took a year off my life. The crowd was quite diverse, and the friendliness in the air was contagious. I was surprised to have multiple complete strangers approach me to discuss the festival, the food, or their dog, my favorite of which was a stout French bulldog named Hippo.

As the night progressed and more people started showing up, I started to hear slow, droning guitars played over distant speakers. As I approached the sound, I saw two men anxiously fiddling with pedals and synthesizers. “We’re not much of a daytime act,” one of them spoke softly into the mic, his voice warped by a subtle tremolo effect, “so maybe we should wait till it’s dark out.” This was Black Marble (@blackmarblenyc), the dark yet endearing synthwave/post-punk project of Chris Stewart. The paradoxical combination of the upbeat 808 kickdrum with the slow, dreamy textures of the guitars resembled a cynical yet respectful take on 80’s bands like The Cure and New Order. While the tones of the synthesizers and guitars were undoubtedly dark, Stewart’s charming stage presence and the energetic kicks of the drum machine kept the mood light, with many in the crowd dancing hazily. The shadowy yet optimistic atmosphere of the show was incredibly unique and fun, and I would happily see Black Marble again.

Later on, the crowd swelled considerably as I approached the western stage. The band that was set to play, Lucky Boys Confusion (@luckyboysmusic), was not one that I had heard of before, despite them being based out of Downer’s Grove, which is close to where I grew up. The crowd was incredibly hyped even before the band took the stage, with many of them discussing how they’d been following the band for years. Once the band started playing, it immediately became apparent why the crowd had been so electrified. The band, led by the incredibly charismatic lead vocalist Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav, played song after song of energetic ska-infused pop-punk ballads.

The crowd would perfectly scream every lyric whenever Stuhby would point the mic at them. The lyrics perfectly encapsulated the early 90’s to mid-2000’s era of pop punk music, with themes of alienation, heartbreak, aimlessness, rebellion, and friendship. Ska punk has always had a special place in my heart, as the genre rose and fell within my lifetime. The genre’s focus on relatable lyrics, energetic ballads, and catchy power cords make listening to it both uplifting and nostalgic. Lucky Boys Confusion was clearly very happy to be performing in their native Chicago, and their passion was clearly felt by the crowd, who moshed and danced frantically, hardly taking a breather between songs. Stuhby spoke proudly of the band releasing their first LP in years, Stormchasers, with the crowd shouting congratulations at him. That show had one of the strongest connections between crowd and artists that I’d ever seen, which made for a fantastic and infectiously fun performance.

Justin Cabrera

 

Review: The Library at The Great Escape Room Chicago (May 28, 2017)

You have 60 minutes to prove yourself worthy and escape the room. There are four color coded stations. Each station lists the number of clues available in the room (from 6 to 21) and each clue has a colored sticker on it. This makes it easy to determine what is a clue and what is not. The clues involve blacklights, an old board game, combination locks, tools, and more.

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Tonight’s team consisted of 3 groups totaling 10 people. All the groups worked together well solving the puzzles. It seemed like we had a very slow start, but then all the pieces started to fall into place. We used the magnifying glass on the green puzzle to learn that an item in the room probably should have also had a green sticker on it to identify it as a clue. This freed up the group to focus and complete the other three puzzles and lead to a new record time of 49:22!

Book your escape now!

Quinn Delaney

Must See! Remy Bumppo and Silk Road Rising Present Great Expectations at the historic Chicago Temple (May 26, 2017)

Pip is a boy in India being raised to be a cobbler. An anonymous benefactor gives him the opportunity to move to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and become one of the upper class. However, he soon discovers it’s not that easy and he questions if he will ever be accepted as more than just a common Indian boy among the British ruling party.

The story combines a classic English novel and an Asian country.  Thus, it naturally follows that two theatre companies would come together, one that specializes in each of the two parts. Remy Bumppo and Silk Road Rising have done just that and they have done it wonderfully. It’s incredible how well this story fits when transferred to the setting in India with their caste system. Tanika Gupta uses 90% of the original dialog and yet it still feels completely fresh and new.

Anand Bhatt performance is especially impressive. He is on stage for the majority of the three hour show. Also of note, Lane Anthony Flores is hilarious as Herbert Pocket. He brings a great comedic element to the play. In fact, the entire cast does an excellent job bringing this piece to life and making it a must see show of the summer.

Get tickets now for Great Expectations through July 2nd!

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Quinn Delaney