Weekly Adventure: Bear’s Den at Schubas

Julia and I have an idea to start a Tumblr that collects all of our favorite bands that have woodland creatures in their names (no one steal that idea OK, it’s actually something we are going to do) and Bear’s Den will be well represented there I’m sure, especially after their really spectacular show last night at Schubas, which combined a lot of my favorite things: British men, banjos, Chicago landmarks, men belting, folk music, and artsy covers of stupid pop songs (I’ll explain.)

First, they had an opener – The Districts, who were good, but very loud (kind of an odd match with Bear’s Den) – we got there a little late so I didn’t get to see their whole set, but for the length of time I was there one of their members never showed his face:

The District cousin itSeriously – his hair was in front of his face the whole time, it had to be distracting – or at least it distracted me.

Then it was time for Bear’s Den!

Their name is perfectly fitting:

They all have beards and look like they would look right hunting and or hanging out in a den

They all have beards and look like they would look right hunting and or hanging out in a den

Bear's Ben banjo

I knew from their EPs (which are excellent and available on Spotify and YouTube) that they had beautiful songs that tended toward the sad (but as the lead singer last night “there’s hope in the sadness.)

What was I wasn’t expecting was the power of their voices especially in a room as intimate as Schubas it felt like their harmonies were hitting me in the chest, in the best way:

was their amazing musicianship, the banjo player also plays guitar, the lead singer picks classical guitar style, and the drummer plays the drums and the bass (I think it’s a bass) at the same time:

 

(Photo Credit: Julia Davidson)

(Photo Credit: Julia Davidson)

They were also had great stage banter, and again because of the size of the room, it felt like an actual conversation at times. The downside of that kind of venue is that Schubas doesn’t really have a backstage, so when they left for the “encore” they just hid behind a pillar, which was the dorkiest-best solution to that problem:

Bear's Den Hiding

Then the encore itself, was one of the best things that has ever happened to me at a concert. They came down into the crowd, this close to me:

Bear's Den cirle

And sang this song:

And I was shaking it was so beautiful.

(Photo Credit: Julia Davidson)

(Photo Credit: Julia Davidson)

Then they went back on the stage and played this Drake classic, which allowed Maggie to put her Drake Shake app to the best use possible:

Photo (&Genius) Credit: Maggie Crosland

Photo (&Genius) Credit: Maggie Crosland

I feel like these guys have real potential to be huge, and I am so glad I saw them when they’re still playing rooms this small.

Thing I Love: What’s My Line?

 

I’ve been fighting off a terrible cold this week. I’ll spare you all the details, but it meant that I called in sick to work for the first time ever yesterday, and spent a lot of time half asleep trying to find something to put on as background noise. I found the best thing – old episodes of What’s My Line? On YouTube.

For those of you who don’t know (which would have included me until yesterday) What’s My Line? Was a CBS panel game show that ran from 1950 to 1967, and it was amazing. The basic premise was pretty simple, people from all over America with interesting jobs came and with nothing to go on a panel of celebrity intellectuals and comedians tried to guess their “lines” using yes or no questions. And it was amazing.

Obviously the show was from a different time, I mean I just used the term “celebrity intellectuals” to describe the panel, which isn’t really a thing we have in the same way anymore. The head of Random House, Bennett Cerf, was well-known enough to be a permanent member of the panel, I consider myself a book person, I couldn’t tell you the name of the head of Random House.

That’s not say that everything about What’s My Line? Was highbrow – it’s signature round was a celebrity guessing game that elevated actors and other performers above all the other “regular” people on the show, but they did manage to get some amazing people that would never be on another game show like:

The best part of the show, in my opinion, is the formality of it all. I know that social conventions were stifling and often sexist, but there is something really delightful about all these men in tuxedos and women in cocktail dresses calling each other Mr. and Mrs.

Many episodes are available on YouTube and you should check them out.

Sorry I’ve Been Missing, Have Some Music…

My actual job (the one that allows me to pay for rent and theater tickets) has gotten a little crazier than usual lately, so I haven’t been able to post this playlist I’ve had sitting on my desk for over a week. Sorry about that! Enjoy the songs they are mostly folkie, because I always fall back in love with folk music in the spring and I’m willing spring into existence. (Chicago is not yet listening to me…)

Worried Man Blues – Peter Seeger (& Johnny Cash)

Skin & Bones – The Avett Brothers

On My Way – The Melodic

I saw these guys (and awesome girl) open for Johnny Flynn at SPACE in Evanston a few months ago. They are so much fun.

All My Little Words – The Magnetic Fields

The poet in me is obsessed with the line “Now that you’ve made me want to die, you tell me you’re unboyfriendable” for some reason.

The Way We Move – Langhorne Slim & the Law

The Water – Johnny Flynn & Laura Marling

Hard Enough – Brandon Flowers (& Jenny Lewis)

I have always loved this song, I didn’t know until right now that Jenny Lewis sang on it. The world is a wonderful place sometimes.

Housewife’s Prayer – Pistol Annies

Angel That Flies From Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt

The Voice is back, which means that I get to hear people sing mediocre to good covers of songs I love and then I remember that I love them. Who said reality TV can’t serve a good purpose in my life? Also look at baby-Bonnie in this video!

Tradition – The Belle Game

Because I love this band so much I have a poster of them in my pantry…

bgposter

I hope to be back to regular updates soon!!

 

 

 

 

Weekly Adventure: Assistance at from LiveWire the Storefront Theater

Chicago is known for its storefront theaters, and I spend a good deal of my time in them, above stores, in the backrooms of cafés and bars, but until yesterday I had never heard of the Storefront Theater, which is located right next to the HotTix storefront in the loop. (For out-of-towners, this is strange because Chicago theater is generally categorized into on/off Loop, so to have a little black box so close to the big marquees is unique.) The theater is supported somehow by the Chicago Cultural Center, which I think is awesome.

If it seems like I’m rambling on a bit about the building, that’s because I don’t have a ton to say about the play. Assistance is Leslye Headland follow-up (in Chicago at least) to Bachelorette, which was of course made into that movie where Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher do coke and ruin Rebel Wilson’s wedding dress. From the moment I walked in and heard the Howard Stern show playing in place of lobby music I could tell that this play was going for the same level of crass, which isn’t something I’m usually very interested in, but this production does have some great things going for it.

Set in an office of a high-powered executive, for some reason I have the idea that he works in entertainment, but I’m not sure if that’s ever actually stated, the play follows the all-consuming work lives of his rotating stable of assistants, there to cater to his every whim and make sure that he’s never on hold, in hopes that he might one day promote them “across the hall.” The exec is never seen, but his will dictates the character’s lives and as the stress level builds, he takes on a mythic status, almost like he’s the devil leading each new assistant astray. That may sound hyperbolic, but the whole point of the play seems to be that when people are near people who have money (and therefore power) they quickly lose all sense of perspective on what is important. (At one point a character skips her uncle’s funeral, another blames himself for his boss’s car crushing his foot.)

Overall I found the questions this play raised more interesting than the experience of watching it, but I think that my issues were with the script. The cast was great, and the chemistry between Lauren Fisher as the overly enthusiastic newcomer turned cynic Nora and Brian E. Crawford as the slacker Nick was so sweet that it broke my heart a little when it soured. But the structure, the monotonous scenes of “rolling calls” broken up by strangely dire sounding monologues, confused me more than anything else.

The show runs through March 16th at the Storefront Theatre at 66 E. Randolph

Bonus Adventure: Burning Rubber & Some Things Stick from Vivarium Theatre Company

Sometimes the internet is a wonderful place and can this blog can connect me with people who are doing really interesting things that I would have had no way of hearing about otherwise. Which is how I ended up last night at the inaugural show of a new theater company, devoted to presenting new works by Chicago playwrights. The show, which is actually two linked plays by different playwrights Niki Dreistadt (who also directs) and Matt Beard, that are both set in Phil’s Bar, out on the edge of an unnamed industrial Midwestern town.

I knew nothing about the play going in, and I had never been to the first show of a theater company before, but from the second I saw the set, designed by actual bar designer, I had a feeling that I was in for something interesting at least. The bar felt real, and the actors seemed like the kind of people who would hang out there, except of course when they were supposed to look really out-of-place. This tone of authenticity is set beautifully from the opening sequence where we watch Phil clean up his bar as he sings along to “Stand By Your Man” carrying on a dialogue with Tammy Wynette on the cassette deck on the bar. Although there were a few speeches in the dialogue heavy night that felt a little too scripted to me, this feeling of being a fly on the wall of this at once recognizable and unique bar carried throughout the two halves of the show. It’s a bleak place to spend an evening, but it has a wonderful soundtrack and there is a core of humanity (my favorite buzzword lately) to all the characters on the stage.

Angelica Roque & Daniel McEvilly

It’s exciting to be present at the birth of something like a new play or a new theater company and I suggest that those of you in Chicago who like new work should check these guys out.

(Thanks to Graham Emmons for reaching out on Twitter to invite me to the show!)

The show runs through March 23rd at the Den Theater at 1333 N Milwaukee Ave

Weekly Adventure: Cock at Profiles Theatre

I was almost going to use a different headline for this blog post, but then I read in the program that the New York Times changed the title to “The Cock-Fight Play” (a pretty accurate depiction of this production) and the playwright Mike Bartlett thought that was absurd, and that only puritanical Americans made a fuss about the “playful” title. So I refuse to give in to my puritanical American impulse and I will (sheepishly I admit) use the real title of the play here on the blog. (Hi Mom!)

All this hand wringing about the word ‘cock’ is actually a pretty good starting place to jump into this show. The play, set in a cock-fight ring, complete with wood chips and unforgiving bleachers (the ushers hand out seat cushions on your way into the theater), centers around a man, John, played with big eyed vulnerability by Christopher Sheard, who after breaking up with his long-term boyfriend (referred to only as M or him)  finds himself suddenly attracted to a woman (Eleni Pappageorge) for the first time. His surprise and confusion leads him back to his ex (the delightfully over the top Jake Szczepaniak) and then back to the girl and then back to boy, etc. etc. After a couple of frank sex scenes that establish that John truly is attracted to both of his partners the plot quickly becomes a series of conversations in which first the girlfriend and then the boyfriend, and then improbably (but delightfully) the boyfriend’s father (Larry Neumann, Jr.) demand that John, decide what he is.

The emphasis on what rather than who was fascinating to me, the characters, and by extension the audience, and even John really, are constantly trying to pin a label onto his sexuality, but after a while it starts to feel irrelevant. As John says at some point with a hint of desperation, honestly his whole performance is essentially delivered from a defensive crouch, that it shouldn’t matter what he sleeps with but who he sleeps with, and it seems to me that most of his conflict isn’t sexual at all, but that he has absolutely no sense of who he is as a person separate from either of these partners.

Obviously the play raises a lot of questions, and it’s one of those that I really wish I had gone to with a group, because I really wanted to turn to someone at the end and say, “wait, what just happened?”

The show runs through April 6th at Profile’s Theater Main Stage at 4139 N. Broadway Ave

Award Show Round Up: Oscars 2014

Another awards season has come to close, and I really enjoyed last night’s show. Ellen DeGeneres is basically the anti-Seth MacFarlane, which I of course loved. Even though the vast majority of her comedy last night was literally just narrating what was happening around her, this happened:

Side note: Kevin Spacey kept popping up in the background of everything last night…not complaining but seriously what was he doing?

So that makes the world a better place (especially the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is sitting on Meryl Streep’s lap.)

Kerry Washington’s response to the pizza bit was awesome, she’s super pregnant and she wanted pizza.

In other adorable, and definitely more over looked moments, we should all learn a lesson from the man who won for Best Animated Short Film, don’t hold on to a paper if you are nervous:

I tried to find a video of the best musical moment of the night, when one of the backup singers from 20 Feet From Stardom sang her acceptance speech, but there are no YouTube clips of that that I can find yet, which is ridiculous internet, get on that, if only for Bill Murray’s wonderful reaction at the end…

So anyway here’s my second favorite, did anyone other than me and my friends want Idina to drop the mic at the end of this performance, or at least correct the pronunciation of her name? (Come on John Travolta what’s wrong with you?)

Speaking of Frozen, we have a new EGOT! And he and his wife are adorable!

Yay empowerment, speaking of which, Cate Blanchett schooled some execs/distributors in her acceptance speech:

And Luptia Nyon’go schooled every one on how to give an acceptance speech (and how generally to be perfect):

 

And now…dresses! The unofficial theme of the night was glitter and sleeves, but I actually didn’t choose many gowns that fit that theme as my favorites…anyway

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior (Photo Credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Sandra Bullock in Alexander McQueen (Photo Credit: Getty / Steve Granitz)

Jennifer Garner in Oscar de la Renta (Photo Credit: Getty / Lester Cohen)

Meryl Streep in Lanvin (Photo Credit: Reuters)

Kerry Washington in Jason Wu (Photo Credit: Getty / Steve Granitz)

Naomi Watts in Calvin Klein

Lupita Nyon’go in Prada

Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis both in Valentino (Photo Credit: Source: Getty / Jason Merritt)

Kelly Osbourne in Badgley Mischka (Photo Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images )

Jared Leto (Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)