Monthly Archives: February 2015

Out of Character at The Playground Theatre (February 6, 2015)

Tonight’s show is at The Playground Theatre.  What?  You thought it was closed?  The wall on the side says celebrating 15 years, 1997 – 2012.  Surely if it was still open in 2015, they would have updated that.  Nope!  When you look in the front door, you can’t see anything, it’s just dark.  The lights that should be lighting the sign saying The Playground are either burned out or not on.  Thus, it is no surprise that the only people in the audience tonight are performers.

The theatre itself is quite small with 4 rows of about 20 seats each.  It’s BYOB, so don’t forget to bring drinks, perhaps from Paired Wine, which had a complimentary wine tasting with appetizers just before the show.

Despite the small crowd, the host comes out with enthusiasm.  He introduces the first act, in which he is a member.  The suggestion for their scenes is Fight Club.  Each of the four members tells a story about a fight they experienced followed by an improvised scene inspired by the story.  The stories were interesting, but the scenes didn’t add much. The second group’s suggestion is sleeping in.  A scene takes place with a man hitting the snooze button.  It was a snooze worthy performance.

The final group is Out of Character.  One of the members addresses the audience in character as Gooch.  He’s a jock running for student council speaking to the school.  This initial monologue was prepared and then the following scene about a school shooting is improvised.  The crowd laughs as the characters react nonchalantly to the occurrence of gunfire in the building.

Overall, it’s about what you would expect from a small theatre.  When there isn’t much of an audience to feed energy from, it’s hard to keep up the intensity.  Hopefully they’ll spruce up their outer appearance to attract a bigger crowd.

Tropical Reggae Rock! – The Green with Through the Roots at Lincoln Hall (February 7, 2015)

On a cold winter night in Chicago, locals are looking for an escape.  Through the Roots is here to bring a little Southern California to warm the crowd up.  Listening to their set transports you to a warm and sunny beach in San Diego.  You can feel the sand between the toes as you admire the backdrop of palm trees in front of a sunset.  As they play “Dancing in the Rain” and “Higher”, the audience happily dances along.  Later on, the lead singer asks, “Who loves the 90s?”  He then starts an excellent reggae version of a hit by Ginuwine – Pony, to the delight of all the R&B fans.  They close their set with “Bear with Me”, their newest song produced by a member of The Green.  Their entire set kept a fantastic vibe going the entire time, and perfectly set up the next band.

To continue with the warm vibes, The Green bring a taste of Hawaii to the stage.  As they play through their best songs, such as “Always and Forever”, we are transported 4000 miles away to the middle of the Pacific.  As people dance around a packed Lincoln Hall, the temperature rises.  Every once in a while, the fans turn on, and it feels like an ocean breeze.  The lead guitarist tells us they aren’t used to this frigid weather and that Through the Root’s trailer is stuck in the snow.  He then invites us all to come back to Hawaii with them!  They close out their set with “Love and Affection”, a fantastic reggae groove.  Nobody heads towards the door after they leave the stage as an encore is requested.  They return and play an extended intro to the namesake of this tour, “Chocolates and Roses”.  The lead singer invites a lady on stage halfway through the song and proceeds to serenade her with this jazzy, romantic tune.  She loves it, and so does the entire place.  Through this  90+ minute performance, enough warmth has been shared to get these fans through the rest of this wintry week with smiles on their faces.

Finely Tuned Rock and Roll: The Whigs with Ballroom Boxer at The Beat Kitchen (January 30, 2015)

The Beat Kitchen is packed tonight. A shoulder-to-shoulder crowd fills up the small venue, their faces taking on a reddish tint from the pink lights that snake across the ceiling. As they enter, they shed their coats on hooks along the wall, one piled on another, and then head to one of the two bars.

Ballroom Boxer, a five-piece indie rock band, takes the stage. They perform a solid set including an excellent cover — King of Leon’s “Molly’s Chambers.”

After a short break, the theme song of the Atlanta Braves (The Whigs hometown team) plays over the speakers.  The crowd does the chopping motion as the band takes the stage.  They get into position and it’s straight to the business at hand, rock.  They play through their set with barely a break. Toward the end of the night, the lead singer pays homage to the Beat Kitchen — the location of the band’s first Chicago gig, 11 years ago. Surveying the packed crowd, he says the turn-out is quite an improvement from the mere 15 fans that had first showed up over a decade ago. Now, their time on the road has allowed them to hone their skills and produce a finely tuned rock and roll show — which definitely deserves a full house.


(David Bowie cover)

Quinn Delaney