Monthly Archives: July 2017

Incredible! Passion Pit at the Taste of Chicago (July 8, 2017)

Over the course of my life, I’ve been to Chicago dozens of times, but I’ve never been able to attend Taste of Chicago. I’d heard stories from my mom, a Chicago native, about how expansive the festival was decades ago, so naturally I became curious as to what the festival looked like today. When I finally showed up on Saturday, I was not disappointed.

Though it seemed as if every person in the city took off work to attend the festival, it never felt too crowded. The setup was spacious and wide, giving breathing room and allowing attendees to take their time and browse all of the vendors. There was an overwhelming variety of food available, reflecting Chicago’s wonderful ethnic diversity. As an incredibly impatient person, I was very thankful that the line for the ticket booth went by quickly. Hungry and eager to expand our suburban midwestern palettes, my friends and I set off to eat. First, we bee-lined to the Ricobene’s stand to try their fried steak sandwich, named by USA Today writer Ted Berg as the best sandwich in the world. Coming topped with oozing mozzarella cheese and spicy giardiniera (an Italian relish comprised of vegetables pickled in oil or vinegar), the piping hot sandwich was a delicious way to start things off. The crunchy texture of the steak juxtaposed itself perfectly with the warm, intense flavor of the giardiniera. While I’m not nearly qualified to say if it’s the best sandwich in the world, it’s certainly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Next, we tried something we were all a little more unfamiliar with: Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant. We ordered the jerk chicken with red beans and rice. The chicken was tender, seasoned well, and most importantly, spicy. As someone who LOVES spicy food, the chicken hit that spicy sweet spot of being subtle enough to have complex flavor, but bold enough to be exciting. The red beans and rice complimented the chicken well, being not too wet, not too dry, and evenly seasoned. Lastly, we searched the festival for some tried and true Chicago barbeque. We ended up getting barbeque ribs from the humble but exquisite Ben’s Bar-Be-Cue. Barbecue is a delicate art, and it is extremely difficult to hit that perfect blend of spice, smokiness, fat, cut, and bone. Many barbecue dishes that have been going viral on cooking blogs lately have featured overzealous slatherings of sugary sweet sauces to disguise low quality meat. Ben’s does away with all of that superfluous nonsense and instead focuses on a more subtle, smoky flavor. The sauce uses peaches and apricots, which combined with her vinegar hot sauce, lead to a unique and bold taste. Food wise, my first Taste of Chicago experience lived up to my expectations, and I’m excited to return next year.

After eating our hearts out, we headed to the ticket booth to see Passion Pit. To our surprise, the attendants were literally GIVING the tickets away. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, my friends and I went into the viewing area to enjoy the show.

When Passion Pit (@passionpit) first started getting Top 40 radio play back in 2008 with their hit single “Sleepyhead,” the mainstream pop scene was being flooded by indie music. Apparently, the public was starting to become sick of the ringtone rap spearheaded by Soulja Boy and Flo Rida, as the “indie sound” quickly became the newest trend in music. Quirky vocals and crystalline synths soon became the norm. Many of these bands produced only one hit wonders, fading quickly into obscurity. However, Passion Pit’s nostalgic, uplifting sound and respectable work ethic made them stand out amongst their peers. The band is revered within the scene for combining sparkling, upbeat electronic melodies with intimate songwriting and booming kick drums. If you listen closely, the lyrics are often not as uplifting as the instrumentation suggests, the soulful and vulnerable falsetto of frontman Michael Angelakos nonetheless serve to lift up and inspire. Their set at Taste was incredible; Angelakos brought humble charm and striking stage presence. I was surprised that he was actually able to hit all of the band’s famous falsettos live. Angelakos threw beach balls into the crowd that everybody smacked as they were screaming along. They performed all of their hit singles, ending off the night with “Sleepyhead.” The crowd was electrified, and I’m happy to say that Passion Pit’s performance exceeded my expectations.

Justin Cabrera

Great Opening Night! Alessia Cara at the Taste of Chicago (July 5, 2017)

“Is anyone here a fan of Disney?” asks Alessia Cara. The crowd responds with the loudest screams of the night as she is hinting that the next song will be “How Far I’ll Go” from the Moana soundtrack. It’s a fantastically uplifting song and everyone joyfully sings along. “See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows, how far it goes”.

After singing this hit, it’s clear the night is close to ending. Cara says “how I wish I could stay.” Once again the crowd erupts as the music begins for “Stay”, her collaboration with Zedd, a German record producer, DJ, and musician who primarily makes EDM. “Stay” is a great club anthem and it gets everyone up and dancing.

When Alessia returns for an encore, she is carrying an acoustic guitar. “This is a cover by Fleetwood Mac called ‘Dreams’”. This song was released in 1977, 19 years before she was born. None of her younger fans knew the song, but all of their parents did! Her great voice shined on this song. As an interesting note, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie just performed two days ago only two miles away at Northerly Island (See that review here!).

This was a fantastic opening night to the Taste of Chicago. Catch the rest of the festival through the weekend!

Quinn Delaney

Pick of the Week! Passion Pit and The Kickback at Taste of Chicago (July 8, 2017)

Indietronica legends Passion Pit (@passionpit) and Chicago indie rock staple The Kickback (@thekickback) will be among the bands performing at this year’s Taste of Chicago festival (@TasteofChi).

The iconic Taste of Chicago festival is the largest food festival in the world, and will host over 60 food vendors, five dinners planned by professional chefs, cooking demonstrations, and a brand-new arts installation, which will feature art galleries and live performances. Admission is free but tickets must be purchased to enjoy the food and drink ($10 for 14 tickets).

Cambridge-based indietronica act Passion Pit exploded onto the scene with their singles “Sleepyhead” and “Take A Walk”. Today’s popular electronic music usually falls within one of two camps: sparse, minimalistic post-punk or bombastic, drop-focused bubblegum pop-trap. Passion Pit forgoes both of those styles and combines sparkling, upbeat electronic melodies with intimate songwriting and booming kick drums. While the lyrics are often not as uplifting as the instrumentation suggests, the soulful and vulnerable falsetto of front man Michael Angelakos nonetheless serve to lift up and inspire.

Supporting act The Kickback will also perform at the festival. Based in Chicago, this local favorite indie rock band brings energy, wit, and bravado to the scene. Their music often features dichotomous composition that alternates between bursting Smashing Pumpkins-esque ballads and extended, complex instrumental breaks. The band is also famous for its podcast Disas-tour, in which the band humorously documents its tours on a daily basis. The series highlights the bizarre and unconventional things that influence the band’s music, such as The Muppets or Michael Keaton movies.

Justin Cabrera

They Still Got It! Buckingham McVie at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (July 3, 2017)

When you go to see musicians who first gained fame back in the 70s, there is always a chance they are just doing a victory lap and they aren’t really excited about the music anymore. This is definitely not the case with Buckingham McVie. Their live show is full of energy and excitement. Also, the crowd is singing along to the new songs! “In my world, everybody stays! Nobody wishes for words they couldn’t say!” This song, “In My World”, is incredibly catchy and shows they still have the ability to write great songs.

Along with the new songs, they mix in some great Fleetwood Mac songs including “Never Going Back Again”, “Little Lies”, and “Go Your Own Way”. Buckingham’s enthusiasm was strong for the entire show. He got into a really great groove on “I’m So Afraid” as he shredded the solo. Afterwards, he raised the guitar over his head in triumph. He’s one of the greatest performers of our time and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch him in action, especially on a beautiful Chicago night at the Huntington Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island.

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney