Dead-right: Jack White’s Dead Weather

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Filed under Featured, Music

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Tuesday and Wednesday at the Vic will bring the debut of Jack White’s third active band, the Dead Weather, to Chicago. Jack White, superhuman, also currently plays in the Raconteurs and the White Stripes.

White, in a rare turn on drums (he did play drums for his first mainstream band, Goober and the Peas), Alison Mosshart on vocals (of Kills fame), Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs on bass and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age on keyboards and guitar all form this grunge-tinged blues collection–whose first album, Horehound, is available.

The band formed out of an impromptu “end-of-tour”  jam session in Nashville during the Raconteurs last tour, with the Kills opening, respectively. The band members say the birth of their new project doesn’t signify the death of the Kills, the Raconteurs or the White Stripes. Mosshart explains that the Kills are writing their fourth release.

White recently opened a Nashville music complex (Third Man Records) that recalls the setup of old-school labels like Stax: recording studio in back, record store in front, office and performance space on the premises. For the time being, White will be Third Man’s only producer, so his sensibilities will rule–lucky for us.

Horehound, is an electric experience. Mosshart sounds scary and screamy and sexy, while the blues-grunge aesthetic White is famous for, lives and breathes.

Catch the Dead Weather at the Vic, July 28 and 29.

New Food: Tapas Valencia

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Named for Valencia, Spain; this Spanish-style tapas spot is new to the South Loop/new Southside neighborhood (although a couple other restaurants have existed in the location) and is another addition to the growing dining scene in the are. The space is modern and on the edge of trendy: big, open loft-like accommodations with some industrial touches. It’s bright orange and yellow touches of color on the walls and chair and there was some cool looking Mosaic tiles on the walls, but other than that, the place is pretty minimal on decor. The converted warehouse feel is left in tact with huge cement pillars in the dining room.

The menu is a little more sparse than other tapas places in the city (Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, Emilio’s) but filled with many of the classics, such as Serrano ham and cheese (great!) and paella. I tried a rock shrimp dish that was very good, as well skirt steak with blue cheese that was only so-so. The chorizo and black bean soup needed more chorizo to complete it, but my ‘Spanish garlic potato salad’ was incredible, not shy with the garlic. My biggest disappointment came in the squid in ink sauce. Where’s the flavor!? This dish was painfully bland and tasted unfinished. However, Tapas Valencia redeemed themselves with the bacon wrapped dates. These delicious little morsels were both sweet and salty, despite initially appearing a little iffy. I had glass of sparkling rose that was very nice…not at all sweet, surprisingly and a nice glass of sauvignon blanc. I felt the prices were fair and on par with other tapas places in the city. The portions seemed a little small however.

One of the best things about Tapas Valencia was the service. We were greeted by several staff upon walking in and out server never skipped a beat. She was helpful, knowledgeable ans very sincerely asked that we fill out a comment card if we felt anything could be improved. (I chimed in my two cents on the squid.) She knew a lot about the wine list, and seemed excited to describe the food. Service can really make or break a place for me, and in this case I think it gives Tapas Valencia that extra push it needed.

[mappress]

Fashion Treasures of Chicago

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Filed under Arts and Theater, Events

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Normally high-fashion design conjures up images of Parisian catwalks, the streets of New York City, and the station of the Harajuku district of Tokyo. But a current exhibit at the Chicago History Museum wants to expose yet another side of Chicago: fashion capital. Chic Chicago: Couture Treasures from the Chicago History Museum is currently running through July 26, 2009.

The exhibit is a highlight of fashion specific to Chicago from the 1860’s through 2004. Cool fact: The Chicago History Museum has one of the largest and oldest costume and garment collections in the world. Each article on display not only is intended to present as an example of truest fashion, but also to represent historical significance within each piece. Curator of Costumes Timothy Long stresses the Windy City’s presence in the collection. “It is the connection to Chicago–that is the number one importance to the costume collection [and] to the museum as a whole,” he says. Every article featured is also part of the museums permanent collection.

A collection of Chicago fashion since the 1860’s made me wonder if there would be butcher’s attire or mob boss suits included, given Chicago’s notorious reputation as Hog Butcher to the World, Gangland, and the Second City. These ideas about Chicago not being a ‘major’ fashion city still exist today. But the ladies of the last 150 years are not too different from the ladies of today in our love of glamour and garments as self expression and luxury. And the high-society women of Chicago have always had the money and taste for couture–sometimes choosing to let these pieces speak for the sophistication of Chicago when Midwestern reputation precedes it.

OMG: Smiths Cover Band

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Filed under Music

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Next Friday at Reggies Rock Club the Handsome Devilz will be paying tribute to The Smiths. The 80’s English band originally consisting to Johnny Marr (guitars) Morrissey (vocals), Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums). Critics have hailed their importance in the alternative rock scene of the 80’s and England and countless other acts have gone on to cite The Smiths as influential. The Smith’s are probably best known for Morrissey’s mopey love tales (and rhetorical questions for lyrics) and Marr’s catchy guitar hooks. The group split in 1987  and no longer plays together citing a variety of reasons, such as “we are not friends.” Ouch! Johnny Marr was the first to leave the group, Morrissey has never really forgiven him for that.

Despite numerous efforts to get the group back together, including efforts by Coachella promoters and VH1 television series, have all been flops.  So, I guess seeing Handsome Devilz will have to do. I guess now would be a good time to explain why I care.

The Smiths were my first “favorite” band when I was about 16. In my small town, The Smiths were not something blasting from the all the Chevy Cavaliers. I think the other kids were listening to “The Thong Song,” seriously. I am not claiming superiority over the other 16 year old’s of the day, but I just loved that music and lyrics. It seemed so real, so personal, so true. (“Burn down the disco–Hang the blessed DJ–Because the music that they constantly play–Its says nothing to me about my life.”) And it was old. And no one knew it. It wasn’t until I went to college that I could really let my Smiths hang loose. I once left a note on someones car because it was covered in Smiths bumper stickers. And not Morrissey solo. No, no, no. The magic, for me, was in that combo. Morrissey and Marr were totally my Lennon and McCartney!

I talked to a few other friends about a Smith’s cover band, and we all agreed on one thing: the bar is high. Almost any band with any loyal following has a cover band or tribute band, whatever. (Or if you are the Grateful Dead, you have 170.) But it seems as though the Smiths fans might be a little more weary and cautious. Or maybe we all just wanted the ship to go down with The Smiths. As for me, I can always listen to Johnny Marr play and Morrissey sing. “I like it here, can I stay?”

Swine Flu in Chicago?

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Filed under Life and News

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A probable case of swine flu has caused the closing of a North Side elementary school for at least two days. So naturally, people are freaking out over swine flu. How serious is it?

The potential case involves a 12 year old student at Kilmer Elementary School, 6700 N. Greenview Ave., in the Rogers Park neighborhood, Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman said at a morning press conference at the school. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Terry Mason said the student “is recovered at home.”

Huberman said tests on the student have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he expects results back in 24 to 36 hours.

The decision to close the school was made Tuesday after the state reported the probable case to CPS and the system noticed an unusually high absentee rate at the school.

Attendance at the school is normally 94 to 96 percent, but it was 87 percent on Tuesday, Huberman said. That was “clearly enough of a differential” to warrant the closing. He said the school would be closed “indefinitely,” but at least for two days.

The Kilmer student population of 850 is 60 percent Hispanic. It has a teaching staff of 46. The school is also in a heavily Hispanic populated area of the Rogers Park neighborhood. The swine flu has taken its heaviest toll in Mexico.

A few parents tried to bring their children to Kilmer this morning but were turned away by teachers handing out a flyer, in English and Spanish, from Huberman, saying there had been a “confirmed” case of swine flu at the school. CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond, however, said the case remained probable and had not yet been confirmed.

Huberman said school officials will be checking attendance rates at all its other schools today, and should know by this afternoon whether there are any other troubling drops in attendance.

The first United States death from swine flu was confirmed today — a 23-month-old in Texas.

Officials in Chicago recommended people take cautionary measures: lots of hand washing, eating healthy, plenty of sleep.

Do we need to worry? It seems as though this happens about everyother year, and always has a strange animal name. Remember Asian bird flu? We were all supposed to die from that too.

Flu deaths around the world are common. In the U.S. alone, 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. This just seems like another virus that could harm already unhealthy people, but yet everyone gets panicky about.

Green Roof Leaders

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Filed under Life and News

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I have to say, occaisonally I am surprised by good news about Chicago. Maybe because it is Earth Day I was mulling around on “green” websites or because the weather is getting warmer; but I was digging into how “green” Chicago is and was surprised to find out we are the nations leaders three years in a row on green roofs.

A green roof system is, according to greenroofs.org, “an extension of the existing roof which involves a high quality water proofing and root repellant system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants.”  Green roof systems may be modular, with drainage layers, filter cloth, growing media and plants already prepared in movable, interlocking grids, or, each component of the system may be installed separately.Green roof development involves the creation of “contained” green space on top of a human-made structure. This green space could be below, at or above grade, but in all cases the plants are not planted in the “ground’.

Green roofs absorb rainwater, alleviating the strain on urban sewer and stormwater systems. And they help cool cities, where light-absorbent asphalt and other dark surfaces can increase summer temperatures as much as 10 degrees. A cooler local climate means less strain on the power supply from air conditioners, and more importantly, fewer deaths from heat stress.

Chicago requires green roofs on certain new construction, including any that uses city money, it encourages building them on all projects, and it has offered grants to homeowners and small business owners who want to install green roofs on their own buildings. “Chicago is definitely the leader and inspiration for others,” said Steven Peck, the founding president of Green Roofs for Health Cities, an industry group. Peck credits the city with inspiring a 25 percent increase in green roof installation across the country last year, as more cities set similar incentives for building gardens.

Something else you might not know: even City Hall has a green roof. Huh. I say, “Way to go, Chicago!” On this one!

Chicago Latino Film Festival

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The Chicago Latino Film Festival celebrates its Silver Anniversary, as the “largest, oldest and best Latino film festival in the country,” notes Hispanic magazine. It represents over 100 films in an array of genres –fiction, animation, documentary, and shorts that demonstrate the vast diversity of Latino culture from the United States, Latin America, Portugal, and Spain.

For two weeks each year, over 35,000 audience members from all walks of life enjoy the cultural and enlightening programming including screenings, workshops, and special events held in various venues, colleges, universities and community base organizations around the area.

Presented by the International Latino Cultural Center, the 25th Chicago Latino Film Festival runs Friday, April 17, through Wednesday, April 29, at Beverly Arts Center, Facets Cinematheque, Landmark’s Century Centre, River East 21, and smaller venues throughout the city and suburbs. Tickets for most events are $10, $9 for students, and $8 for ILCC members. For more information call 312-409-1757 or see latinoculturalcenter.org.

Showing this week: The Ballroom, Sat 4/18, 7:30 PM, and Tue 4/21, 6 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre; Empty Nest, Sat 4/18, 9:15 PM, and Sun 4/19, 8:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre; A Forgotten Injustice, Sat 4/18, 9 PM, Facets Cinematheque; The Gift, Fri 4/17, 6 PM, River East 21; Pindorama, Sat 4/18 and Mon 4/20, 6:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre; The Watercolorist, Fri 4/17, 7 PM; Sun 4/19, 8 PM; and Mon 4/20, 8:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre.

Chicago , the 2016 Olympics, and the other “O”

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Filed under Events, Life and News

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Although it seems forever away, Chicago recently hosted 13 inspectors from the International Olympic Committee to make assessments of the proposed Olympic plans. The Olympic bid comes at a time when Chicago has had some positive strides: beating out San Fran and LA for the bid (among others), President Obama’s big win; but also some bad press in state government (Blogo), debt. President Obama sent a special taped message to the inspectors and Oprah Winfrey even dined with them.

It has been suggested that Oprah has powers that run on par with super heroes. Mind control, etc., and now that we know what side Oprah is on and all the power players are in motion and fanfare on display, Chicago might seem to really have a shot at this.

1. But is it all enough? 2. And do we really know what we are asking for?

Question 1: No, it isn’t enough. Although the review was positive, “We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one,” said the evaluation commission’s chairwoman, Nawal el-Moutawakel, an Olympic gold medalist for Morocco. Chicago is still placed in last, Tokyo at number 1, according to independent Canada based website GamesBids.com. The biggest obstacle in Chicago’s way is…(drum roll)…finances. Chicago is the only city that is unable to give 100% financial guarantees.

Question 2: No, we don’t know what we are asking for. Chicago simply cannot afford this event. And with the crippled CTA serving the broke city, I don’t see how we can handle it. Selling off public assets (Midway, parking meters) hasn’t helped the situation either. Chicago has a rich history of coming in over budget and late. The city keeps talking about all the jobs this opportunity could create, but those jobs will go away after the games, obviously. And has anyone ever been to the shell of an old Olympic village? Quickly constructed, low cost buildings don’t age well. Chicago certainly has experience in that department.

There is such romanticism surrounding the Olympics that it is hard to look beyond the flaming torches to see the flaming tax dollars. My bottom line is this: we can’t compete financially with the other cities, and even if we could, we are too broke to go throwing a big party for everyone when we really don’t have anything to celebrate.

I am Not Going: Free Champagne and Fancy Doughnuts at Barney’s

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I am on some pretty weird email lists as a by-product for essentially spending too much time on the internet. I get recipes for meatless black bean burgers, Pakistani chain mail, and 5% off coupons on suede jackets ALL the time. But certain email lists really are fruitful; one such details where all the city’s free and cheap booze is at. You can imagine my shock to read the free booze was at Barney’s tomorrow from 10 am – 7pm.

A little background on my relationship with the high-end goods dealer: the only thing I actually own from Barney’s is a $600 dress I got at a thrift store; The White Elephant in Lincoln Park. And I know it was $600 because the tag was still on it. The dress fits like a $600 red satin blend dress should–it hugs every curve– and my friend once told me I looked “like sin in that dress.” That’s how good this dress is. It is immaculate. More on looking sinful next time…

Despite loving my red dress, I have only been in Barney’s once. I have this bizarre fear that the staff has a sixth sense that enables them to know there is only $17 in my purse. Armed with this information, they will radio the other staff and security, who will then rally the richest patrons around me as they form a circle and throw spiked Manolo Blahniks at me for daring to enter their den of luxury.

I know I really can’t shop there. I want to–badly, but the old budget won’t budge on this one. Designer goods in my world are hand-me downs from rich friends and scores at thrift stores (see above) but never ‘paid full price in fancy store place’ items. And I just feel like more of a piece of shit broke ass when I can’t buy the cotton socks, yep, cotton, because they are $40 and I’m half short of funds.

So here is the quandary: Can one reasonably get loaded on champagne and desserts without ever having the intention of buying the goods?

James Beard award nominated pastry chef Mindy Segal will serving up the brioche doughnuts and no word on how many glasses of bubbly one can tip back before aforementioned mob encircles.

If  Barney’s wants to us to help celebrate the reopening of the Chicago store, then maybe we should. I was ‘technically’ invited…

Barney’s New York, 15 E Oak St.

Art Show: Gallery Cabaret

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Filed under Arts and Theater

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Gallery Cabaret hosted local artists Mikey Rudnicki, Morgan Flahive-Foro, and Adam Mitchell Friday, April 3, with musical guests Mos Scocious and Brighten Up. In addition to Gallery Cabaret’s already full walls, each artist exhibited new pieces (traditional and mixed media) and older works.

This cozy and charming Bucktown tavern/gallery has the look and feel of the coolest basement bar you could dream up.

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