A 57-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce unearthed from South Holland had the honor of giving its life to be the Daley Plaza Christmas tree during the 100th annual tree lighting ceremony yesterday. (Fun fact: The city's first Christmas tree was lit in Grant Park in 1913 by Mayor Carter H. Harrison.) Check out our photos, and keep your eye out for the black cat dressed in a sweater.
RECOMMENDED: Christmas activities in Chicago
Frequency Series: Dokuro + Guillermo Gregorio Since the release of the duo’s bracing 2008 album, The Black Room, I’ve been itching to see Dokuro in a live setting. Thanks to Peter Margasak’s aurally adventurous Frequency Series, December is cracked open with the heady and darkly immersive compositions of electronic shamans Agnes Szelag and the Norman Conquest. Sharing the marquee with Dokuro is Argentine-born composer, clarinetist and visual artist Guillermo Gregorio. If Gregorio’s past Fluxus events are any tangential indication of what we might expect from his quintet on Sunday, we’ll be more on the Bad Santa side of the holidays. Constellation. Dec 1 at 8:30pm. $10.
Chanticleer “How do I get into the Christmas spirit if all the Slayer Christmas sweaters are sold out,” you ask? Listening to carols sung with sterling intonation and luxuriant phrasing is a good start, and a cappella choir Chanticleer offers both for its CSO-produced Christmas concert at Fourth Presbyterian Church. The group does a particularly moving rendition of “Silent Night,” so if it is left off the program, demand a refund. Fourth Presbyterian Church. Dec 4, 5 at 7:30pm. $39–$56.
Tiga + Justin Martin Between his high profile covers (Nelly, Corey Heart), his killer remixes (Scissor Sisters, Felix Da Housecat) and, of course, his own sexy, techy and electro-leaning productions, very few in the dance music world aren't aware of Tiga. Years later, the disco epic "Love Don't Dance Here Anymore" can still give anything Daft Punk has done lately a run for its money. The Mid. 10pm. $10, free before 11pm with R.S.V.P.
Pre-Code, Pre-Thanksgiving Double Feature The Northwest Chicago Film Society features two film from before the censors grabbed the horns of Hollywood: Million Dollar Legs (1932) is a goofy, surreal W.C. Fields flick and George Cukor's raunchy farce Girls About Town (1931). Patio Theater. 7:30pm. $5.
1. Miracle on Wells St. It's officially the holidays. Don't fight it. Why not pregame your Black(out) Wednesday with Second City's new collection of seasonal sketches. UP Comedy Club. Nov 27 at 8pm. $23.
2. The Shit Show Shit show, indeed. Friday crowds can be tough ones, so Ever Mainard and Rasa Gierstikas turn this monthly showcase into a rowdy happy hour of sorts, complete with booze giveaways and all sorts of comic tomfoolery. This Black Friday edition is the last Shit Show of 2013, featuring Kelsie Huff, Bill Cruz, Chelsea Devantez, Jeff Steinbrunner and guest co-host Candy Lawrence filling in for Mainard. The Shambles. Nov 29 at 8pm. Free.
3. Funny Ha-Ha Claire Zulkey's humorous reading series returns, with pieces by Claire Mulaney, Samantha Irby, Shannon Cason, Robbie Telfer and Amy Sumpter and film shorts from Steve Delahoyde. Hideout. Nov 29 at 6:30pm. $5.
4. The Blackout Diaries Sean Flannery hosts this show in which boozehound comics and regular people spend an evening sharing drinking stories—some of which might well be fresh from Wednesday night—followed by an audience Q&A. The Lincoln Lodge. Nov 30 at 8pm. $10.
5. Let Them Eat Chaos Director Mick Napier and a cast that's reported to include Tawny Newsome, Mike Kosinski, Chelsea Devantez, John Hartman, Emily Walker and Steve Waltien are gearing up to start work on Second City's as-yet-unnamed 102nd mainstage revue. So make your visiting parents pony up to catch the waning days of the very good 101st; at the time of this posting, only two performances this week have tickets remaining. Second City. Nov 30 at 11pm; Dec 1 at 4pm. $23–$28.
December 2 is pretty much the highlight of the food year—Eataly is opening, plus Nico Osteria, an Italian seafood restaurant from Paul Kahan’s One Off Hospitality Group, opens that day in the Thompson Hotel (1015 N Rush St). The food menu focuses on pastas and seafood from chef Erling Wu-Bower, formerly of Avec, another One Off establishment. The nine-drink cocktail list is centered on low-alcohol cocktails from bartender Matty Eggleston (formerly of Tenzing Wine & Spirits) and also includes a few full-strength concoctions. The wine list, from wine director Bret Heiar (formerly of Cru Café and Wine Bar), focuses on wines from small producers and older vintages.
We caught up with Eggleston and Heiar to talk more about the booze element.
We’re seeing a lot of aperitifs and low-alcohol cocktails on menus now—why is that?
Eggleston Cocktail trends go in waves and everyone’s trying to understand the classics. As opposed to making 50-ingredient drinks, bartenders have started going with something a little simpler and flavorful.
Low alcohol has the connotation of being watered down, but when you make lower-alcohol cocktails with Campari or Aperol, there’s a lot of flavor without blowing out people’s palates or running the risk of over-intoxication before you get to a bottle of wine with dinner or an after-dinner drink. Aperitifs are refreshing.
What spirits can we expect to see?
Eggleston I’m getting really excited about the domestic productions of vermouth. I have a few to start and I’m championing the idea of using those in drinks and turning people onto them. There are a couple that are relatively new to me that I’m pretty excited to work with, like Hammer & Tongs. These are domestically produced vermouths in an Old World style.
What kinds of ingredients will you be using in the drinks?
Eggleston We’re taking cues from the kitchen and using things like saba [cooked grape juice] and pistachio.
Let’s move to wine—what will the wine list look like?
Heiar The menu is Italian with a touch of Greece and Champagne. We’re using smaller producers focused on sustainable farming. One thing that’s lacking on American wine menus is older vintages. I think the exhausting 70-page wine menu is a thing of the past—less is more. We’re using indigenous grapes, not international styles, and the wines are definitely food-friendly.
What’s the most exciting thing about the wine list?
Heiar We’re using Coravin, a new preservation system that allows you to open a bottle of wine just for a glass. [It extracts wine through the cork and then reseals it.] So we can offer some older wines and you can try a wine without committing to a whole bottle.
Wicked will have a new Glinda and Madame Morrible for the final week of its current Chicago stint. Beginning December 16, Gina Beck and Alison Fraser will join the first North American touring company, replacing Jenn Gambatese and Kim Zimmer, respectively.
Beck, who will be making her U.S. debut, comes directly from the West End production of Wicked. Fraser is a two-time Tony Award nominee, for The Secret Garden and Romance/Romance. Wicked continues at the Oriental Theatre through December 21; read my November 4 review of the current cast.
Six theater companies from Edgewater to Grand Crossing have announced they're teaming up to offer a Holiday Theater Passport, incentivizing attendance at their alternative takes on traditional holiday fare.
The participating shows include About Face Theatre's We Three Lizas, eta Creative Arts Foundation's If Scrooge Was a Brother, Hell in a Handbag Productions' Christmas Dearest, the House Theatre of Chicago's The Nutcracker, Commedia Beauregard's A Klingon Christmas Carol and the Harambee Pre-Kwanzaa Festival at the Logan Center for the Performing Arts.
Theatergoers can pick up a passport at any of the six shows; those who get stamps or ticket stubs from four different productions will earn a free ticket to a 2014 show at each theater. Attend all six shows and you'll be entered into a drawing for one of five season subscriptions. Check aboutfacetheatre.com for more information on the Holiday Theater Passport.
Mac & Cheese Competition Get your stomach ready for Thanksgiving by eating comfort food tonight. Max's Deli is hosting a mac & cheese competition to benefit Stand Up for Kids, a non-profit committed to ending youth homelessness. Participating restaurants include Tap House Grill, Real Urban BBQ, Smoke Daddy and more. Max's Deli. 191 Skokie Valley Rd, Highland Park. Nov 26 at 7pm. Suggested Donation $20.
Thanksgiving Of course the food event you should be most excited for this week is Thanksgiving. Whether you're eating at home, celebrating Thanksgivukkah, getting takeout, heading to the parade and doing other family activities, or wondering where you should get pie, we've got you covered.
It's hard to believe tickets for Riot Fest 2014, to be help September 12–14 next year, are going on sale. It's hard to believe Riot Fest is going to be celebrating its tenth anniversary. The festival has come a long way since its early, indoor days at the Congress. Nostalgic ex-skaters and next-gen punks have gathered over the last decade to catch legends like the Descendents, Elvis Costello, Bad Religion, etc. Rain could not dampen the spirits at this year's installment, its biggest year ever, which brought a reunited Replacements to Humboldt Park.
So, who will they dig up for 2014? Who knows. (Suggestion: Jawbreaker.) What is certain is that limited tickets will be available for $69.98 at noon on Wednesday, November 27. The three-day passes will be available at riotfest.org.
Michael Milosh's voice is a mesmerizing instrument. It has the timbre of a reeded woodwind and can remove clothing faster than an EMT's scissors. Imagine leaning into someone's ear and delivering this line: "Our bodies colide and come alive." You or I couldn't do it. You and I would sound ridiculous. (I am presuming Trey Songz is not reading this.) Milosh, an androgynous Canadian R&B crooner, cannot only pull off this blunt foreplay with ease, he makes it haunting. His vocals materialize and melt in the mix, a cross of Sade and some eerie cooing a Ghost Hunter would pick up on recording in an empty warehouse at 2am. Multitracked, his singing can sound played in reverse. It is why he is married to a Mad Men actress.
UL Santa House Visit with Santa Claus, enjoy interactive activities and have pictures taken at this imagining of Santa’s workshop. Daley Plaza. 6:30pm–8pm.
Relax Attack Jazz Series Every Tuesday, the art-inspired lounge hosts a Jazz artist to come soothe guests who may be suffering from the beginning of the week blues. The Whistler. 9:30pm. Free.
When the Music Box Theatre opened for business in Lakeview in 1929, it was a little sister to Chicago's ornate movie palaces. A film would typically open downtown, then have a second run in the neighborhoods. The beloved Southport Avenue movie house turned 84 in August, but the people currently invested in the theater are celebrating a more critical turning point: the 30th anniversary of its reopening as a repertory theater. In 1983, more than a half century after its inaugural screening, the Music Box began showing classic films following years of shifting programming and neglect that put the future of the theater in jeopardy. The theater is marking the occasion, now through December 5, with a series of themed double features that nod to the format of its early repertory lineups.
"It’s sort of a lost chapter," says Music Box GM Dave Jennings about the half decade when the theater's fate was uncertain. "Not many people know about this time." The details of its dark period are scant, but what is known is that on Thanksgiving eve 1977, the Music Box's longtime manager, who was known by the nickname Whitey, died while closing up the theater. (It's a whispered urban legend that Whitey's ghost haunts the building.) Under new management, the Music Box was plunged into a state of programming flux. "And this was during a time when the theaters as we knew them were being demolished, during the birth of the megaplex," Jennings says. "Single screens were disappearing." The Music Box went through a number of incarnations. It hosted Spanish and Arabic films and even had a stint as a porno theater.
The holiday spirit is about even the coldest hearts melting, Ebenezer Scrooge–style, and hearts growing three sizes, the Grinch–style, and lending a hand to those in need, like how Ernest bails Santa out of jail in Ernest Saves Christmas. It's in the spirit of that spirit that we've run stories in the past about holiday volunteering opportunities. Readers routinely ask where and how to pitch in on Thanksgiving and through the end of the year, and we've pointed them in the direction of food pantries, shelters, crisis intervention centers and more. But recently, when we circled back around to some of these organizations and asked what they currently need, volunteer–wise, one thing became clear: not much.
"We're inundated," said a representative at Rogers Park's A Just Harvest, the highest capacity community kitchen in the metropolitan Chicago area. "Our needs aren't confined to Thanksgiving. The fact is, people need to eat 365 days per year." A call to Interfaith House in Garfield Park, a facility that helps ill and injured homeless adults regain their health, led me to this voice message: "If you are calling to volunteer for Thanksgiving Day, please know that we are totally filled up. We cannot take one more volunteer. But thank you for your concern."
Appropriate Reuniting to sort through the family home in Arkansas following the patriarch's death, squabbling siblings make a disturbing discovery among Dad's possessions. Victory Gardens' production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins's new work is a co-premiere with Actors Theatre of Louisville, where it was seen at last spring's Humana Festival; director Gary Griffin returns with a new Chicago cast. Read Kris Vire's five-star review. Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. $20–$60.
Christkindlmarket opens Designed to mimic Germany's annual market celebration, the Loop replica returns for another year. Live entertainment, dozens of vendors selling miscellaneous handmade ornaments and classic food and drink—mulled spice wine, marzipan, schnitzel, stollen and strudel—are yours for the taking. Nov 26 at 11am. Through Dec 24.
Daley Plaza Christmas Tree Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the city's first municipal Christmas tree on November 29. At 6pm, Mayor Emanuel flips the switch. Show up at 5pm to watch live performances by Darlene Love and the Joffrey Academy of Dance. As usual, the UL Santa House is open in conjunction. Visit the replica Santa's workshop for kid-friendly amusements and photo ops. Daley Plaza. Nov 26 at 6pm.
The last time that Brendan Canning performed in Chicago, he played with Broken Social Scene atop a two-story stage erected in front of a Heineken billboard adjacent to Wrigley Field. The show came on the heels of the Canadian collective's final LP, Forgiveness Rock Record, produced by John McEntire at Soma Studios in Wicker Park. Since then, Broken Social Scene has gone on an indefinite hiatus and the group's core members have gone their separate ways.
Canning has been keeping busy with a variety of projects, from reactivating his long dormant band Cookie Duster to composing a score for Lindsay Lohan's latest cinematic debacle, The Canyons. He also recorded a new solo album, entitled You Gots 2 Chill, and released it on his newly-formed independent label, Draper Street Records, earlier this fall. Canning's return to Chicago on November 21 echoed this back-to-basics approach as he took the stage for an intimate Thursday night gig at the Beat Kitchen.
Dee Snider, the Twisted Sister frontman turned reality-TV staple, wants to make your (next) season bright. Dee Snider's Rock and Roll Christmas Tale is is an actual thing that is happening next holiday season at the Broadway Playhouse, as part of Broadway in Chicago's fall season.
Apparently taking comic-rock inspiration from his stint in Broadway's Rock of Ages, Snider's Tale—which he will write and star in—is the story of a born-too-late heavy metal band called Däisy Cütter, whose members sell their souls to the devil in exchange for success but then find their headbangers all come out sounding like cozy Christmas carols. And Snider is reportedly set to release one of the numbers from the show this holiday season, as a duet sung with E! personality Giuliana Rancic, so go ahead and add this to your list of things to give thanks for this week.
Hunters "Hey, I've got a new idea for a band!" "Oh, word?" "You're a boy, I'm a girl." "Okay…" "Let's play raw blues-punk." "Um…" "Did I mention my hair will be pink?" "Let me grab my guitar." Or at least that's how we imagined the formation of Hunters. Sure, the formula is, well, formulaic, but the Nylon-spread-ready duo adds more than enough cool vintage Sonic Youth screech on scuzz-blasters like "Street Trash" and "Nosebleed" to give Butch Vig a big '90s boner. Empty Bottle. Nov 25 at 9pm. $10.
Jagwar Ma Miss the awesome Cut Copy show at the Riv earlier this month? Here's some remedy. Australia's likeminded Jagwar Ma will just as readily name both the Beach Boys and 808 State as key influences—and get your ass moving. Howlin', the trio's 2013 debut, is a harmony rich pop album with endless house grooves, the sound of standing in a field, popping pills and shaking your bowl cut in baggy bliss. Lincoln Hall. Nov 27 at 9pm. $14.
Black Wednesday What kind of sides do you like with your turkey? Hip-hop, house, burlesque, techno, disco or goth? This year's annual pre-Thanksgiving bash brings all flavors. Juicy J turns UIC Pavilion into a strip club; Chance the Rapper rocks the Riv; Shogun spins the Vic into a trance; Mr. Best gets bottles popping at Studio Paris. Check the link for the full slate of shows. Nov 27. Various venues and prices.
Marco Carola Dance off that four course dinner. A frontrunner on Italy's techno scene, Napoli's Marco Carola has spent the past 20 years broadcasting his vision of music to the world, most notably through his involved, three-turntable style of mixing and his lauded marathon sets. It's been a while since he touched down in Chicago, so here's your opportunity to catch the stuff of legend, up close and personal. Spy Bar's Dino G warms up the night. Spy Bar. Nov 28 at 10pm. $20, free before midnight with R.S.V.P. at clubtix.com.