Summer Swan Songs

Roostersocks by V'ron

Roostersocks, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
We missed it last year, but this year the kids and I once again packed up the car and headed to Chicago to hit a museum and then see the old man play with Dr Chow at the Third Annual FDR American Legion Booster Block Party. It's a great event; one that reminds me that the Chicago music scene should absolutely not be judged by Billy Blowhard and his Smashing Wintersquash or any of the lame-ass crap that came out of the Windy city in the 90s. (No, I'm not a fan of Liz Phair or Urge Overkill either. Give me the old Chicago hardcore that came before that anyday.).Last time I went, I was exposed to the mighty Cooler By the Lake, and became a fan. There's something fun going on in Chicago, a city whose underground mashes up genres as wonderfully as it mashes up neighborhoods. So, settled into Bucktown, the Riverwest of Chicago, is this funky little street fest that brings out these odd little bands (a Guided by Voices tribute band was the headliner) that was like lifting up a rock and seeing all the bugs scurry about.

Admittedly, I only caught one band, besides Dr Chow. The kids hit the one museum on the museum campus that we hadn't seen yet -- the Planetarium. We saw a couple of shows. One explained how the sun, moon and earth worked together to deal with the phases of the moon and such, and the other was this kind of weird deep space thing that showed a few simulated supernovas and such, but was strung together by this odd "seeker" character voiced by Billy Crudup that, while all neat-o and 3D and IMAX-y, wasn't really all that planetarium-specific. Really, the best show we saw-- in my opinion -- was getting in the old globe (the "Historic Atwood Experience"), built in the early 20th century and seeing a sky show, narrated by the museum guide in the globe with the three of us and another family of four (there wasn't room for any more in a 15 foot diameter globe!). It allowed for true interaction -- between real people-- questions and answers about the positions of the stars in the sky, which really haven't changed all that much since the the 1913s. It was also fun to see the museum-ish part: seeing Jim Lovell's flight journal, pieces of moon rocks, and the actual Gemini space craft on loan from the Smithsonian.

We arrived in Bucktown to see the second half of a Dr Chow set, chatted a bit with Rory Lake, and settled in for Roostersocks -- a four piece instrumental combo that featured an organ (set, alternatively between Hammond and Wurlitzer) and apparently featured Men Without Hats' Bruce Murphy, but there was no 80s new wave to be heard. No, they started out with some whacked out bluesy thing, then ripped into that organ intro to Boston's "Long Time", and then before you know it, there was a organ-frosted (but bass/guitar-led) version of "Holiday in Cambodia" that was just made for the local roller rink. This is why I proudly claim Chicago roots! Their self-penned history from their Facebook page proudly claims: "It's an instrumental organ combo that plays the hell out of anything and everything. It's an excuse for some monster players to get together and stretch their chops. It's a show. It's a party. It's a dessert topping....Roostersocks were Chicago's premiere jazz R&B Hammond organ combo of the early 60's, but as rock and roll caught on they found themselves with fewer gigs. In desperation they bought the sheet music for the Kinks, the Stones, the Who, etc. Assuming that these bands were jazz groups, they failed to listen to the actual recordings."

But after a long day of museum hopping (preceded with dinner and drinks the night before with my girlfriends), I knew I had just about enough energy to drive home without killing us all from falling asleep at the wheel, and I moved out. Brian reports that Cooler by the Lake were on top as usual, and the GBV tribute band wasn't bad at all.

So, we got caught up on sleep and trudged out to this summer's Chill on the Hill swan song, Tristan Royalty Squad, despite the rain that threatened to wreck things. I'd seen Tristan Royalty Squad before -- in Club Garibaldi with Esh the Singer sitting in. She wasn't around this evening, but really, Tristan Royalty Squad works better outdoors-- this kind of mesh of world music somehow works better in a quasi-festival atmosphere and they weren't as dependent on Esh to keep themselves interesting. Maybe it's because they're such a huge conglomerate of a band that they needed the physical and musical space that the large Humboldt Park band sheel stage provided. Either way, the only reason we didn't stay till the bitter end was that we were tired of the rain.

We escaped the rain three days later when, on a whim, we decided to road trip out to Jefferson for the last weekend of the Drive In season at the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre. The kids have never been to a drive-in, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the absolute correct movie to see there. It was charming to see the old "Show begins in 8 minutes" trailers between sets (complete with hot dog jumping into the bun). A triple feature for $9 a head, (less with kids, but it wasn't a carload fee).

Ach, the school year begins. Enough with summer festivals; I'm gonna have to pay cover for a bit.


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