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Friday, August 29, 2014

Sweaty, Messy, and Friendly at Logan Square's Boulevard Fest

“It sure is hot out,” my body tells me aquatically as I approach the entryway for Logan Square's Boulevard Fest. I do a double take as I get close enough to read.

“A $10 suggested donation?” I say incredulously in a way that only I can hear so as not to offend the young boy taking my money in exchange for my entrance. But, being the appreciator of the arts that I am, I fork over half of my allotted budget for the night.

Things don't look good for me, financially speaking. Even the Bud Light Lime costs $6. Citrus is the new upscale juice, people. Get on it.

I decide to go conservative and avoid the food options in favor of one nice beer.

“I'll eat when I get home,” I say, reasonably. Then I scan the menu options printed on the beer tent.

“Oh, I've never had that one, and it's a big can,” I say, being adventurous.

I acknowledge the nice lady at the tent and indicate that I'm ready to order my beer.

“I'll have the Halcyon Wheat, please,” I say.

“The what?” she asks, like I'm speaking gibberish.

“Halcyon?” I repeat, unsure this time. “You guys have that one here, right? I saw it on the other side.”

“I'm sorry, the what?”

We're getting nowhere. I point and grunt, say something about “the bigger cans.”

“Oh, the wheat? Hal-shon,” she says as my world caves in.

“Yes, please, thank you so much,” I say, red rising in my face. Some writer I am, not knowing how to pronounce big words. Existential angst floods my system. I worry. I call myself an idiot a few times in my head. I give her $8 and scurry away.

A Dictionary.com search a few minutes later reveals that I was indeed correct in my pronunciation, thank you very much. So ha!

Vindicated and cooled by my Halcyon [hal-see-uh n]Wheat beer, I am now prepared to take a gander of my surroundings.

The Boulevard Fest is an intimate thing. It feels like it's only a couple blocks long. It makes sense, given the density of the neighborhood. Where would you put a street festival in that booming neighborhood? They pack in a lot of stuff, though, from taco stands to obscene t-shirt shops to the obligatory street fest spinal health screening tent – there is at least one at every fest I've ever attended.

Given the space constraints, I half expect the bands on opposite stages to create a hideous drone in the middle, a problem I notice the festival tries to solve by staggering their start times. One goes on at 7 o'clock, the other 7:30, and so on. It helps that nobody playing the fest is a sonic boom of thrash or anything. Tonight, Friday, the first of the weekend-long event, features a steady stream of folksy, Mumford & Sons-meets-bluegrass bands doing ironic Eminem covers on the West Stage and Salsa- and other Latino-influenced music on the East.

After seeing a girl in moon boots and a hula hoop just standing there drinking – a poseur in the most literal sense (see part 2.2 here) – I gravitate toward the Latino side.

A nice college age girl walks around holding a chalkboard with “Vote!” written on it. She's cheerful in that desperate way of someone who would rather not be volunteering in 90-degree heat, a way of saying, “Please make this go by faster for me.” Not many people are being very helpful to her cause, whether because they don't want to vote, aren't citizens, or they're interlopers like me who are registered in a different ward. I smile and apologize with my eyes in that way you do to wait staff when your family member says something atrocious. My eye charity probably doesn't actually make any sense to her, despite all my perceived subtlety. But I feel better, which is all that matters, of course.

I sit on a curb to jot my notes, while a couple dances to the Salsa being played onstage. They're sweet. They look like that couple in their mid-thirties who still love each other. I like them, so I watch them with a smile on my face, probably creeping them and anyone else who sees me out.

While writing I get a tap on my shoulder.

“What are you doing?” asks a middle-aged Latino guy. “Forget to do your homework?” he says with a laugh.

I laugh with him. We talk for a little while. I tell him I'm here doing a story on the festival for a website and he tells me about his plans for the weekend, which are as follows: Drink a lot of beer and make friends at the festival while his wife's out of town for the weekend. I say I can cheers to that.

We clink beer cans as a toast.

“You're dry!” he says, dismayed.

“Here, take this,” he says as he grabs a fresh can of Oberon from his cooler – apparently the same security guard who was dismayed that I brought a water bottle did not feel the same way about him. I say I can't possibly, but of course I do. We cheers again, properly this time, and he introduces himself as Andreas.

My new friend Andreas starts telling me the deeper reasons why he's here. Turns out the band currently doing their tuning, Angel Melendez & The 911 Mambo Orchestra, have been around for three decades or more. Andreas says he remembers the days when he first moved to Chicago from Mexico when these guys, and others like them, would play clubs.

“It's really rare to see live Salsa music now,” he says, lamenting the club music of late.

He used to go out “Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and be up at 5 a.m. [for work].” But when asked if he'd be able to do that just once a week now, he whistles in the negative.

Once Angel and his Orchestra get going, Andreas gets up and starts dancing with everyone. He's having a blast. I really enjoy his cold Oberon. I stick around for a while with my notebook, but I pack up once I decide I have enough for my piece and get going to check out the other, more populated side of the fest.

Of course, on my way out is Moon Boots the Non-Hula Hooping Hula Hooper. Guess what, she's not hula hooping. She is surrounded by a cloud of pot smoke, though. Mr. Dubious of Water Bottles at the entrance doesn't seem to mind, as he keeps angling his head in such a way as to induce maybe, hopefully, just a tiny bit of contact high.

I smile and scoot through the crowd, full of a couple really nice beers and content in the fact that I made a new friend.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Halfstack Highlights: Artist Robert Mango Shares His Journey in "100 Paintings: An Artist's Life in New York"

Years ago, artist Robert Mango suffered a devastating event. He responded by “doing the unthinkable” he says: he cut up the paintings. This act of destruction became 30 pieces that flourish in his work today. From destruction comes creation. The event opens Robert Mango’s upcoming book, 100 Paintings: An Artist’s Life in New York.

While he’s called the “Renaissance Artist of Tribeca”, Mango is a Chicago native and attributes growing up in the Midwest to his success. “You cannot separate growing up from the strength of being a Midwesterner,” shares artist, sculptor, and gallery owner Robert Mango. “We don’t like that brand, but it is invaluable to sustaining art in New York.”

Listen to the full interview on the most recent episode of Halfstack Highlights below!

Listen and subscribe via iTunes.

Artist Robert Mango Another Midwestern trait that has helped his success is never putting himself or his work above the viewer. He likes to keep the audience involved in his work. Mango is also grateful to have called the Art Institute of Chicago his second home. He started classes at the recommendation of his father, going from high school art classes to the Art Institute, where the teachers were great artists themselves. He responded to the program’s discipline and high expectations. It was very demanding, exercises including drawing with the opposite hand, with one eye closed. The rules of drawing were enforced; if you didn’t learn or perform well, you didn’t proceed. Art started at a young age for Mango. He started by copying the French Impressionists. Picasso’s work “mentally exploded” for him. At 15 or 16, Mango discovered Duchamp, whose work was also a doorway to philosophy and the great thinkers. Reading Freud and Nietzsche, he was on a quest to understand man.

The Strong Jester Mango began as a sculptor and grew into a painter. He combines materials and paints to create 3D art. Mango wanted to put together a book on his paintings. He started writing it when his son, Joseph, suggested he write at least the bio section. Once he started he started writing 6-8 major works. One of the biggest challenges Mango faced was how to incorporate a manuscript with 200 images of his work, including sketches and photographs? Eventually, his editor created an outline involving great suspense and he adapted the story to the outline.

No Room for Doubt What emerged was a storybook and a picture book. Readers get to experience what his mind was thinking as he creates, privy to details only the artist knows. They will see New York evolve over 3 decades through the eyes of an artist who has fallen in love with the city and finds great inspiration from it. Mango’s work has been collected in the private and corporate spheres, but also has captured the eyes of some Hollywood heavyweights. Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Bob Dylan own his work. 

While he has cultivated these and other VIP friendships by respecting their privacy, he does share some encounters. The book starts in Chicago and goes up to events of 9/11, which Mango was very involved in. For more information about Robert Mango, his work, and the upcoming book, visit http://robertmango.com

Trombone Shorty and StubHub's Next Stage Concert Series

A Jazz funk band with a hip hop/rock edge is a description that exemplifies Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave. If you are a jazz lover and truly enjoy eclectic music that fuse different genres, then take some time to check out this great group. The group's band leader - Trombone Shorty hails from New Orleans and that southern groove is definitely felt in the many of the tunes the group plays. It's almost as if Lenny Kravitz created a jam band. You can download and listen to their latest album here.

It just so happens that Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave will be visiting the Windy city for a concert supporting a great cause! They will be performing at Lincoln Hall for StubHubs Next Stage Concert Series benefiting music programs in Chicago's schools on Sept. 8, 2015 - show starts at 7pm and Trombone Shorty is set to hit the stage at 8:15pm. This is a great opportunity to enjoy great music and do some good in the process! Tickets are $59.50 and can be purchased online here.

100% of proceeds from this event will benefit The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the Trombone Shorty Foundation in StubHub’s first self-produced, self-ticketed live concert series! StubHub is taking music to the next stage in its biggest music initiative yet to support emerging artists while giving access to the true music fan. Chicago schools benefiting from full ticket proceeds of the benefit concert as well as a portion of an initial $250,000 provided to MHOF by StubHub include Kelly High School (grades 9-12), George Westinghouse College Prep (grades 9-12) and Alexander Graham Elementary (grades K-8).

Halfstack is excited to share that we teamed up with StubHub! for a giveaway! We will be giving away a pair of tickets courtesy of StubHub! to one lucky winner to see Trombone Shorty live at the Next Stage Concert at Lincoln Hall on Sept. 8, 2014! To enter all you have to do is follow halfstack on twitter HERE and StubHub! HERE and tweet us the following @halfstackmag @StubHub I want to see @tromboneshorty at Lincoln Hall #HSMHubstubjazzgiveaway for your chance to win. 1 winner will be selected at random on Thursday Sept. 4th at 10AM. Sorry only open to Illinois/Chicago and surrounding suburban residents who can make it to the show on Sept. 8th in Chicago!! This prize retails at $119.00. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Experience the Annual Chicago Turkish Festival

Ah, fall is steadily drawing closer Chicagoans. Although it is sad to say goodbye to summer, I personally enjoy the cooler days of fall. It makes outdoor markets and events not as harsh. Chicago has so many opportunities to get out and enjoy the city coming up this September. One event in particular I am excited about is the Turkish Festival. Chicago is such a diverse city, I love all of our local neighborhoods and all the different people we can experience in each.

The Turkish Festival will be one way to celebrate the diversity in our city this fall. You can indulge in Turkish flavors for two days in the heart of the city. Chicago will, once again, go Turkish for two days on September 5-6 at Pioneer Court for the 12th Annual Chicago Turkish Festival. Following the gala dinner on the night of Thursday, September 4, the festivities will kick off at Pioneer Court (Michigan Ave. and Chicago River Bridge) with tents including, calligraphy, ceramics, gift tents, crystal, information, books, clothing, restaurants/caf├ęs and many more.

Courtesy of Turkish American Cultural Alliance

From the world-famous Kahramanmaras ice cream and fresh flavors from local Turkish restaurants to Turkish beer garden by Efes and Turkish wine, the festival promises a journey through Turkey without ever leaving downtown Chicago. It is going to be a great time for all that head out. The Gala tickets for Thursdays private event can be purchased HERE. The Festival is free and open to the public Sept. 5-6 at Pioneer park. To learn more about the event visit: www.chicagoturkishfestival.org.
Jen Lezan - Editor in Chief

It is Never Easy Being Superman

John Ondrasik had a late break in his music career. Before he got used to the idea of having his song play on the radio, he was being asked to sing at the New York City Benefit of 9/11 victims. Music mattered to him on that night. John stated in our interview, “Music rarely means anything.” He recalls watching his heroes from the side of stage and getting chills. These heroes or influences if you really break it down are Elton John, Billy Joel, and The Who.

Ondrasik is much more than music. He has a wonderful mind for sports. Naming his band, “Five for Fighting,” after a rule established in NHL. John has written several Sports Illustrated articles in fact. A great voice and a great writer, is there anything Superman can’t do?

Well here is the sorted human experience. We all start to age and look for other avenues that will bring us happiness.

This Superman will be playing post 9/11 once again on the last official day of the Ravinia Festival Summer Schedule. On 9-14-14 the gates open to the North Shore gem once last time on a Summer Eve. I think it was a brilliant scheduling maneuver to have John sing us all off to autumn.

Five for Fighting

With Ravinia Festival Orchestra


Sunday, September 14, 2014

4:00 PM

Gates Open

7:00 PM

Concert Start

Reserved seats - BUY NOW

Lawn Tickets - BUY NOW

Tickets: $80/65
Lawn: $33**

**Lawn ticket prices are increased by $5 on the day of the show

I saw Five for Fighting last year at Ravinia, it was a great show. This year they will be playing with the hometown Ravinia orchestra. “We have been touring with different orchestras this year around the country,” John explained.

I asked John if he had ‘100 years’ (referring to his hit song) to write, what would he want to write about: An accomplished writer and singer, he is looking towards the future of getting into the movie and dramatic play industry. He is seeing his kids move out of the house as teenagers.

We closed the interview by complementing each other’s Hockey teams. Who do you think this Los Angeles native roots for? I will give you a hint, it is not the Hawks.

John said, “We are hoping for good weather on the 14th.” I second that, and if you can’t get into Riot Fest, head north to Ravinia (Highland Park)!

It is never easy being superman because even security in front of the White House will give you the boot if you are John Ondrasik. Maybe he should have voted for Obama instead of Romney. Long story.

Jason Shimberg - Music & Entertainment Blogger
Visit my music site: sumlucid.blogspot.com

Fall Trends for Him

Hey Halfstackers! We have the hottest fall trends just for you! Check out these trendy looks all for the guys at an affordable price! Distressed jeans, button downs, and collared t-shirts, are great for that fall weather. They give a comfy yet classy look to any day outfits, whether its work or running errands.

Image Credit

Check out these items from brands like, Perry Ellis, All Saints, and more!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Where the Bunny Tail Leads: The Retired Rabbit Sanctuary

Many people in America look upon the rabbit as a fluffy, undemanding pet who makes for a great gift, but contrary to popular belief, rabbits are among the most high maintenance animals one can own. After the initial excitement of adopting a bunny dissipates, the animal quickly loses its appeal, and the owners tend to either neglect or give it away. This phenomenon has grown to be such a problem that in 1998, a rescue, just for rabbits, opened in Southern Texas called the Retired Rabbit Sanctuary.

The idea started when the Hendricks family adopted an abandoned rabbit. They thought it'd be nice to get a friend for the bunny; hence, they went to a breeder to buy another one. When they saw the squalor the animals lived in and inhumane treatment they endured, Kay and Kyle Hendricks knew they couldn't sit idly by knowing the animals were suffering. Thus, the Retired Rabbit Sanctuary, a place dedicated solely to the rescuing rabbits, was launched!

Starting a nonprofit organization was no easy task for the family. At first, they could only afford to build pens from recycled materials and feed the rabbits pellets bought at local pet shops. However, today they have thirteen acres, ten full length pens, ten hand made hutches, and a large chain link enclosure housing the animals. The food served to the rabbit is top of the line, fresh vegetables are distributed weekly, and they have bales of hay spread throughout the pens monthly.

The rabbits come from all types of backgrounds such as neglectful homes, 4H/FFA clubs, dog fights, snake farms, and abandonment. Many of the animals have had traumatic experiences leaving them wounded or ill. The Sanctuary has a local vet which works with them to treat the animals, and the Sanctuary conducts an in house clinic bi-weekly.

They have worked closely with the Humane Society since 2003, teaching seminars about the proper rabbit care. Their work became widely recognized when featured on Animal Planet, leading many other media outlets to headline the RRS for their outstanding humanitarian achievements. This publicity allowed several volunteers, including the Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, to see what they could do to help the RRS. The organization operates on the income of Kay Hendricks, a nurse, and former Marine, Kyle Hendricks. Both are deeply grateful to every volunteer for their hard work and to anyone willing to donate money to the Sanctuary.

Hunter Merchant

For several years, the RRS has worked tirelessly to ensure that every rabbit in need has a forever home available to them. Each rabbit is given the best possible care and becomes a part of the Hendricks family. In sixteen years, the RRS has evolved from one pen rigged out of chicken wire to a thriving, family owned rescue spanning three states with seven affiliate branches, and a central location housing over 115 rabbits!

I am the youngest in the Hendricks family, and I am proud to work for such a worthy cause. It is my pleasure to work with these animals and help our community learn how to treat them. If you'd like to get involved, too, click HERE or visit their Facebook page! Every donation counts.

Photos by Cassandria Alvarado

Cheyenne Hendricks 
Cause & Lifestyle Blogger

Chicago Writers Association Helps Writers with Self-Promotion

I’m a weird writer in that I love marketing, or at least thinking up ideas on how to market my work. Some writers would rather clean the house, the garage, and mow the lawn instead of promote their work. A piece of advice I received years ago changed the way I feel about marketing: “Build it and they will come, but only if they know it exists.” You could have written a book that will change lives, be exactly what someone is looking for. Readers won’t be able to benefit from your work if they don’t know you exist. After you finish a project, the next step can be intimidating and confusing if you don’t know what to do or where to start. Luckily, there’s the Chicago Writers Association, who held a panel discussion at their 3rd Annual Writers’ Block Party at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin to answer writers’ burning questions about self-promotion. What are some ways to do it? How do you harness social media? Is there a thing as too much promotion?

Moderated by president Tori Collins, the five panelists included book publicist Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity, Chicago Writers Conference founder Mare Swallow, authors Dan Burns and Libby Fischer Hellman, and blogger and social media expert Marcie Hill. Each shared practical and easy to implement advice that worked for them and clients. Success as an author is in the author’s control if they are willing to consistently put themselves out there online and off line.

(r-l) Marice Hill, Libby Fischer Hellman, Dan Burns, Mare Swallow, and Dana Kaye at Writers' Block
Party. Writers will want to get involved with their audience. Go where they are and use the social media they use. Younger readers are on Twitter and Tumblr while older readers are on Facebook. Writers will want to have a website, an “online business card” as Dana Kaye put it, with basic information, but also to capture emails to create an email list. The panel stressed writers need to be professional when promoting. There is a healthy balance of supporting and promoting others writers as well as your own work. Don’t thrust your book cover under someone’s nose (or plaster it on their Facebook page). You don’t know if they’re interested. Never discount anyone you meet because you never know who they are or will become.

Most importantly, writers of all genres and levels saw they were not alone in pursuit of their goals. Writing can be a lonely profession. The Chicago Writers Association was created to nurture a community for writers while providing resources and feedback. While the discussion established an overview of self-promotion, the event also created a safe space for you to dream about the possibilities. For more information about The Chicago Writers Association and upcoming events, like the Chicago Writers Conference, visit www.chicagowrites.org.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Educational TV on Pay Cable: Years of Living Dangerously Screening at OFA

When someone can explain and show you how something works, you tend to believe them. The basics of climate change are thus: humans burn fossil fuels – coal, oil, etc. – and the carbon they emit stays in the atmosphere, acting as a shield, an added layer of insulation, so sunlight cannot properly bounce off the planet's surface and return to space naturally. This warms the planet. Ice caps melt. Sea levels rise. Storms worsen. Droughts go on for years. People get displaced from the homes of their ancestors. Wars for resources, like water, commence. On and on until, if season five of Fringe is to be believed, our bald, time traveling descendants come back to enslave us and take our resources. Do you want to be owned by this guy?!

That hysteria at the end of the preceding paragraph is fairly common in discussions of climate change. Many who believe in it, as the science indicates they should, go overboard in their rhetoric – with people like NASA's James Hansen calling the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline “game over for the climate,” calls for a radical return to a small agrarian society, etc. – that can backfire badly if proven to be anything less than the apocalypse, regardless of any real pain inflicted on the world. Those who are naturally skeptical, those who have skin in the fossil fuel game, people who believe a benevolent deity would never harm them the way the science indicates, they are then invited to say, “See? There's nothing wrong,” or, “It's not as bad as you said,” and point to the climate advocates as sanctimonious fear mongers rather than people who are unable to properly frame their arguments. An impasse happens. Each side calls the other idiots, partisanship reigns, and television news, with its penchant to highlight the loudest rather than wisest bits of discourse, takes advantage of both by turning possibly today's most serious global issue into a petty “he said, she said” disagreement not unlike an episode of Judge Judy.

Former 60 Minutes producer David Gelber saw these arguments and thought this subject deserved better. He felt, after working on a climate story for his former employer, that this is indeed a grave issue, but it does not need to mean the end times are upon us. Nor does he give much credence to those who deny the science for personal or political gain. He thinks there is a vast middle ground for communication, education, and decision making about what to actually do about the problem, rather than inane arguments about its existence.

So he co-created a documentary series on Showtime and called it Yearsof Living Dangerously. He's traveled the country and the world to showcase his work. This week he stopped by President Obama's former campaign headquarters, since rebranded Organizing for Action, located in Chicago's River North neighborhood, to screen an episode and have a robust discussion with gathered climate activists, members of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and advocates for various forms of renewable energy.

Originally published on GreenPeace.org

The episode Gelber screened, the series' third, features liberal MSNBC host Chris Hayes following conservative congressman Michael Grimm as he struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in his home district, Staten Island, New York. Grimm begins the episode a climate change denier, saying familiar things like, “The science isn't settled yet.” But months of struggling to secure disaster relief from the federal government, a conversation with former Republican congressman and climate change believer, Bob Inglis, and the constant bevy of evidence before him change Grimm's mind about the existence of global warming.

But, in a frustrating moment of weak-willed self-preservation – the House of Representatives is filled with Republicans who don't publicly believe the science, but they do believe plenty of their constituents will punish them if they break with the “global warming is a hoax” orthodoxy – Grimm says that, while he believes the climate has changed and human beings are part of the cause, he does not believe his generation, Gen X, or mine, the Millennials, have the will to do anything about it. As may be expected, this boiled the blood of the activists and assorted members of those generations who surrounded me at the screening.

Gelber says these personal stories – characters, arcs, themes, open-ended resolutions – help an audience better swallow the pill of such a monumental problem.

I think we've figured out ways to tell stories about climate,” he says, suggesting that the classic shrill denier on the right, shrill activist on the left cable news interview dichotomy is thankfully ending.

It's terribly upsetting” we don't have better climate coverage in the media, Gelber says before paraphrasing a common climate change saying that if 98 doctors told you to do something (a reference to the 97 or 98 percent of climate scientists who say the environment is changing and at risk), then why would you unwaveringly believe the two who tell you the opposite?

"This is a transcendently important story," he says, because of the way it has been covered in the past and its real stakes.

Gelber says he thinks messaging on the side of science is a big reason for the boomerang effect on skeptics. He mentions the charts and graphs of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and Leonardo Di Caprio's awards show preaching by name.

Nobody wants to hear from a Hollywood 'expert' on climate change,” he says.

This gave Gelber and his collaborators, including filmmaker James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the idea to show famous non-experts to go on learning expeditions to discover the changing climate's economic impact on drying towns in Texas, how deforestation works as a way of “burning the candle at both ends,” and other things related to climate science. They act as the audience's guide. People like Don Cheadle, Jessica Alba, Harrison Ford, and more appeared in season one, with more planned for a second season that will air during the run-up to the 2016 election.

Gelber says the timing for season two is no accident. He points out that there was not a single question asked about climate change during any of the three 2012 presidential debates. He calls it a failure on the media's part. He says he sees it as the show's responsibility to elevate the conversation and make the climate change debate a momentous one as the United States determines its next leader in two years' time, because sea level rise and storms put entire American regions on the line.

“At this point, I don't think South Florida's salvageable,” he says.

But there are things Americans, and the rest of the world, can do to improve conditions after they educate themselves through things like this show.

“If we don't get down to business on this, we're going to be in terrible shape,” he says with an evenhandedness that belies calmness, without a hint of shrillness. That sober accounting of the stakes, after years of talking to people who have spent their entire adult lives researching the subject, should give people pause when they think about denying the results of their data.

The first episode of Years of Living Dangerously is available to watch for free on YouTube, courtesy of parent network Showtime.  The first season will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD next month.

Weekend Fun: The Boulevard Festival in Logan Square

Right on time for kids going back to school, real summer weather has finally arrived, and with it the Boulevard Festival in Logan Square this weekend.  

Food and music, including a show from members of the now defunct experimental rock band, Ween, form the backbone of the festival.  Saturday, those former Ween members, the Dean Ween Group -- easy to remember -- will take the stage.  

Otherwise, expect some world music, with a pinch of mariachi thrown in for danceability.

Sunday, take a stroll through the regular Logan Square Farmers' Market, which takes up the early hours of the West stage, to pick up some locally grown produce and, fingers crossed, jars of apple jam.  Your toast will never be the same again.

I'll be at the festival for a report, so expect specifics from Halfstack's sweaty man on the ground next week.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Earley and Often: Music Interview with Ballroom Thieves

There is so much happening in the Midwest this summer; that it is often hard to pinpoint who to follow. I look for a band with unlimited potential and talent. Eight bands made my list of enjoyable concerts that may come to a town near you during the festival season that you want to check out since I already had the pleasure. Check them out below along with an interview with the lead singer of Ballroom Thieves.

1. Last Second Drop
2. Robby Krieger’s Jam Kitchen
3. American Authors
4. The Script
5. One Republic
6. Hall & Oates
7. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
8. Matisyahu

Summerfest is the world’s largest music festival. There were so many good bands to choose from it felt overwhelming at times to settle into just one. Ballroom Thieves is a band I chose to interview during the 12 day event. Lead singer Martin Earley of Ballroom Thieves answered a series of questions before performing at Summerfest 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

HSM: How did you come up with the name of your band?
MARTIN: I was enjoying a splendid afternoon at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, sipping on more than a few tasty beverages, and lathering myself with that festival's awesome-sauce when inspiration struck. We had previously been touring as 'Martin Earley & Devin Mauch,' so that needed to change, and I really liked the idea of a sly pack of pickpockets wreaking havoc on a fancy ball, so the name kind of stuck.

HSM: Who writes the music?
MARTIN: I write all of the lyrics, as well as the initial guitar parts and melodies. Once those parts are at a point where I feel comfortable sharing them with the outside world, the whole band sits down to work on vocal harmonies, other instrumental parts, different arrangements, and everything else that eventually makes the song sound complete. It's a fairly democratic process, and we're lucky enough to have a manager who likes to get involved in the creative decisions as well. It's always nice to have an outside perspective while writing, and he fills that role more than adequately.

HSM: Is this your first time playing at Summerfest?
MARTIN: We're fortunate enough to be able to say that this is not the first time we've played Summerfest. We supported Dispatch on the BMO stage last year, and we had a great time doing so. The festival is so enormous in scale that there is never a boring moment, so we're excited to come back, not only to play again, but also to celebrate America's birthday with thousands of Wisconsinites.

HSM: What is your favorite part of being a musician?
MARTIN: My favorite part is that we not only get to do what we love to do, we also get to share our art with such a wide variety of different people all across the country. The places we see and the people we meet make this job amazing, and they make all the driving worth it. The hours are a bit tricky on the road sometimes, mostly because the days are made for driving, and the nights for playing, so there's not much time in between to do anything else. It makes things like apartment hunting and setting aside time for friends, family, and loved ones a bit of a challenge at times, but we're starting to settle into a system that seems to be working for everyone, so we can't complain.

HSM: Who are ‘Ballroom Thieves,’ musical influences?
MARTIN: Devin was really into the hardcore scene in his native New York as a youth, Callie is a classically trained cellist, and I was brought up on classic rock and country, but went through a pretty intense hip-hop phase in my adolescence. We're all over the place. At the moment, the people who influence us most from a musical perspective are our contemporaries; our friends in other bands. A lot of the bands we listen to on the road are ones we've recently played with, though you'll always find traces of Frightened Rabbit, Bob Dylan, and Eminem on any of our playlists.

Jason Shimberg - Music & Entertainment Blogger

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Soho House Chicago - Grand Opening

As a writer, a photographer, an artist, I often find myself in need of a good dose of inspiration. Sometimes a new coffee shop will do the trick, or even a brief break from my window-absent desk. Either way, I find a change of scenery can make all the difference.

With the long-awaited grand opening of Soho House Chicago, on Monday, August 11th, I am sure that Chicagoans will have no lack of inspiration. Just walking through the doors of the first floor of this six-story, hotel meets private club, gave me goose bumps! Large vintage chandeliers adorn the ceiling, an eclectic collection of over-sized armchairs and couches fill the lobby, shelves stocked with books line the walls; it’s the perfect combination of luxury and home comfort. While most floors are reserved only for members, this first floor offers two restaurants, Chicken Shop and Pizza East, as well as The Allis, a full bar, and a spa, all open to the public!

It is no surprise that my favorite level of the house is the rooftop. Not only does it offer an amazing view of the city, but it also includes a 60-foot swimming pool and al fresco restaurant. Down one level on the fifth floor, members can enjoy the swanky vibe of the Club floor, complete with a restaurant, bar and soundproof library, perfect for an intimate showcase of live music.

photo courtesy of Soho House

The fourth and third floor are reserved for room accommodations. You don’t need to be a member to stay a night at Soho House, but with your very own room, decorated with custom wallpaper and carpeting, you’ll feel just like one. Room size ranges from 300 square feet to 600 square feet, each one including a king size bed.

photo courtesy of Soho House

photo courtesy of Soho House

Finally, the second floor is where guests and members can sweat it out. More than the typical hotel, this gym features a professional boxing ring, state of the art cardio equipment, two fitness studios, launderette, and steam rooms. With a set up like this, you’ll have the best excuse to workout!
Now with Chicago added to the roster, there are 12 houses, 5 in North America alone, each one unique to their individual communities. Created with the creative in mind, Soho House's mission is to provide a place for like-minded individuals to come together and to be inspired. After seeing the space for myself, all I can say is bravo Soho! Mission accomplished. 

Soho House Chicago is located at 113-125 North Green Street Chicago, IL 60607. For more information about memberships visit sohohousechicago.com/membership
Perry Fish, Event/Entertainment/Lifestyle Blogger

Fall Trends For Her

Hey Halfstackers! As Fall is approaching we have some of the hottest trends for the ladies. Pair scarfs with a fun pair of pants. Sweaters are always a go to on those more chilly days! Fall is a great season to show off your trendy side! So have some fun shopping with these great fashion trends!

Image Credit

Check out these trendy items from brands like, vince, nordstrom, citizens of humanity, and more!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nick Waterhouse Private Concert Gallery

On Friday, July 25th Halfstack Magazine was invited to attend a private concert featuring Nick Waterhouse! Nick and his band performed a soulful set of jazz and blues songs at the appropriate setting of the modern speakeasy, Untitled, 111 W Kinzie St. Sponsored by Schlitz, the evening also featured drink specials and a whole lot of dancing!