Last September when I interviewed Don Share about the legacy of Poetry, then celebrating 100 years in print, the magazine's senior editor acknowledged its big-deal history: publishing T.S. Eliot's groundbreaking "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," being the oldest monthly devoted to poetry in the English-speaking world—that kinda thing.
"We’re aware of [the history] because we have to live up to it," he said, showing me framed poet portraits adorning the walls of his office and around the Poetry Foundation building. "That’s why I have Ezra Pound staring at me, giving me a funny look.”
The ghost of Pound will continue scrutinizing Share, as will readers and writers around the globe, as the 56-year-old steps into the role of Poetry's new editor, effective July 1. He's only the 12th person to helm the mag in 101 years and replaces outgoing editor Christian Wiman, who's leaving to join the faculty of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and the Yale Divinity School.
As I learned last fall, besides being a prolific tweeter, Share is a thoughtful, approachable guy with a goal of making Poetry more approachable. Winds of change are already sweeping through the Foundation: On July 8, Robert Polito replaces John Barr as president. It remains to be seen whether such changes will ruffle only pages, or readers too. (Sometimes readers of 101-year-old mags aren't the most adaptable.) I was encouraged by what Share told me last week about his plans going forward. Hint: "forward" is key to his vision.
Bellwether This city can't get enough shopping-and-food-and-booze bashes, and the newest of the bunch seems poised to be a big hit. Produced by the same folks who put on Vintage Bazaar and Renegade Craft Fair, Bellwether promises furniture, home goods, artwork, vintage finds and records, along with beer from Revolution Brewing, wine from Oliver Winery, cocktails from Death's Door, and fare from food trucks and artisanal producers. Learn how to make a terrarium with Logan Square flower shop Fleur, and catch live performances from Tortoise’s Jeff Parker, the Paulina Hollers, Abraham Levitan, Ami Saraiya and the Outcome, Black Bear Combo and the Low Down Brass Band, plus DJ sets by Damon Locks, Tony Sarabia, Peter Margasak, Reckless Records and more. On Saturday, stick around for the after-hours party from 8–10pm featuring sketch-comedy show NED Talks. On Sunday, there's Adventure Sandwich for the kids and a "drunken spelling bee" for the adults. Tickets go on sale May 21 for Sunday's $50 Bellwether-hosted beer brunch at Ada St, with Revolution beer pairings. Hideout. Jun 8, noon–10pm; Jun 9, noon–8pm. Suggested donation $10, kids under 12 free; after-hours party $10.
Chicago Blues Festival 2013 Shemekia Copeland kicks off the 30th iteration of Blues Fest, expanded back to four days with a theme, "Rollin' Up the River." The body of water, of course, is the Mississippi, and the lineup traces the music migration from the delta to Chicago. Which is a roundabout way of saying "the blues." After Copeland's Thursday evening set in Millennium Park, the groove moves to its regular "joint," Grant Park. Scene regulars Bobby Rush (Friday); Otis Clay and the Bar-Kays (Saturday); and James Cotton (Sunday) headline in the Music Shell. Other locals like Big Time Sarah, Linsey Alexander, Eddie Shaw and John Primer fill up four other stages. Millennium Park, Pritzker Pavilion: Jun 6, 6:30pm; Grant Park: Jun 7–9, 11am–9:30pm.
!!! + Sinkane We know the complaint: Nobody dances at indie gigs. Warp Records' quirky funk band !!! gets bodies moving with syncopated cuts from its sweaty latest, Thr!!!er. Sinkane, the solo endeavor of Yeasayer multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Gallab, supports behind strong 2012 LP Mars, which melds his Sudanese heritage with funky grooves, soulful flourishes and vocals that range from minimal to Auto-Tuned robot. Bottom Lounge. Jun 8 at 7pm. $18.
The Lincoln Trio, Bharat Chandra, Arianna Zukerman and the Chicago Children's Choir: Annelies The United States Holocaust Museum is commemorating its 20th anniversary with a Chicago performance of James Whitbourn's choral setting of the Anne Frank diaries, Annelies, and local chamber music exemplars the Lincoln Trio are on deck. We caught up with Whitbourn in the U.K. via e-mail, and he had this to say about the Chicago Children's Chorus, featured in the piece: "Some are as young as Anne Frank was when she started writing her diary, others the age when her life was taken from her. These young musicians are responding to the work with astonishing commitment and with an ability way beyond their years." Harris Theater. Jun 9 at 6pm. Free.
Frequency series presents: Experimental Minifest NY:Chicago Color us impressed with Peter Margasak's brand-new Frequency series at Constellation. In its brief existence, the weekly Sunday series has pulled in serious talent such as Ensemble Dal Niente, percussionist Doug Perkins, Coppice and bassoonist Katie Young. Things are about to go a little further afield for Experimental Minifest NY:Chicago. Clarinetist/composer Alejandro Acierto and composer Alex Temple are highly regarded Chicago new-music raconteurs, and matched on a bill with Nomi Epstein's a.pe.ri.od.ic series and NbN trio alongside composer collective thingNY, they're a must-see. Constellation. Jun 9 at 8:30pm. $10.
Festival season continued its slow crawl into summer over the weekend with the Do Division Street Fest. As with the prior weekend's Electric Daisy Carnival, it was rather chilly (thanks, weather). Ariel Pink, Gaslamp Killer, JEFF the Brotherhood and more headlined the music stages programmed by the Empty Bottle and House Call/Subterranean. But with street fests, it's not just about the music. There's grilled meat and, naturally, great people watching: Girls in trucker caps playing the trombone. Little kids with green mohawks breakdancing. See for yourself above.
1. The Field Taking cues from Brian Eno and My Bloody Valentine, Swedish electronic artist Axel Willner pushed his hushed techno into new territories of computerized shoegaze. (Laptopgaze?) Currently in Berlin, his adopted home, crafting his fourth album, Willner takes a break in Chicago to play a solo set, leaving behind a live band that has expanded his sound in recent tours. But the ambience should still dazzle, with the aid of a visual component designed by photographer Sonia Alvarez. M83 may have carried this digital-daydream formula into the mainstream, but the Field has mastered it. Come to think of it, who better to score the next Joseph Kosinski sci-fi flick? Empty Bottle. Jun 5 at 9pm. $12.
2. NGUZUNGUZU L.A. duo NGUZUNGUZU turns digital equipment into tribal instruments, blending modern R&B, island rhythms and general eeriness. The two manned M.I.A.'s Vicki Leekx mixtape and are not afraid to drop a little Brandy into global bass explosions. Their latest for Hippos in Tanks, Warm Pulse, slows down the pace and mean mugs, but the low end is still unfathomable. Local footwork guru Chrissy Murderbot gets busy beforehand. Primary. Jun 7 at 10pm. $10–$12.
3. Mount Kimbie If you must, call it post-dubstep, but like fellow genre defiers Darkstar and James Blake, Mount Kimbie is on quite a divergent path from the brash club phenomenon. Introspective, spacey, glitchy and awash in atmospherics and ambience, the U.K. duo moved out of the bedroom and into a studio for its mesmerizing downtempo sophomore album, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, out now on Warp. Lincoln Hall. Jun 8 at 8pm. $17.
4. Swindle London pop-dubstep craftsman Swindle melds R&B with rumbling, bubbly bass. His official debut, Long Live the Jazz, as the title suggests, aims to meld bop with grime. Has dubstep found its Guru or A Tribe Called Quest? Smart Bar. Jun 6 at 10pm. $10, advance $8, before 11pm with Facebook R.S.V.P. $5.
5. Keys N Krates Dance music has always been anchored in the studio. That is, until Keys n Krates came along. The Toronto-based trio mixes live drums, synths, and a DJ's cuts and scratches for a blend of hip-hop, electronic and jam. The Mid. Jun 7 at 10pm. $10.
RECOMMENDED: 5 concerts to see this week.
Blues Fest is this weekend. It's free and in the park and you know what you're going to get: lots of local icons playing the blues. As it's a packed week of gigs, here are five indoor concerts to see, starting with a different twist on the blues.
1. Bombino Kids can deejay from their smartphones. There are more major EDM festivals in Chicago than rock festivals. Justin Timberlake can sell out Soldier Field in a flash. Could U2 and the Stones? What I'm getting at is rock would appear to be dead. But not quite. It lives on…in the Sahara. If you're looking for the next Hendrix, odds are he's wearing a tagelmust. Tuareg groups are revitalizing trad-blues tropes with scorching, snaking guitar. Terakaft, Tinariwen and Omara “Bombino” Moctar simply smoke. The latter, a Niger native, teamed with Dan Auerbach for his latest record, Nomad. The garage fuzz, hot solos and soulful singing should tickle more adventurous Black Keys fans. Martyrs'. Jun 9 at 8pm. $16.
2. !!! + Sinkane We know the complaint: Nobody dances at indie gigs. Warp Records' quirky funk band !!! gets bodies moving with syncopated cuts from its sweaty latest, Thr!!!er. Sinkane, the solo endeavor of Yeasayer multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Gallab, supports behind strong 2012 LP Mars, which melds his Sudanese heritage with funky grooves, soulful flourishes and vocals that range from minimal to Auto-Tuned robot. Bottom Lounge. Jun 8 at 7pm. $18.
3. Peace The baggy boys from Birmingham look to ignite the third wave of Britpop. The band's world-wanting, singles-stuffed debut, In Love, sees the early '90s as the salad days, when the Charlatans, Blur and thick bowl-cuts ruled music rags. They'll be dominating festival stages in the U.K. this summer. Here? They're in a 200-capacity room. This career could go only one of two ways: Oasis or Viva Brother. Schubas. Jun 6 at 9pm. $12.
4. Eleanor Friedberger The Oak Park native and Fiery Furnace hits town a few days after her sweet new LP, Personal Record, sees release. Always able to twist the most verbose prose into swift melodies, Friedberger is at her most direct and garage-rockingest on the upbeat and love-struck sophomore release. Far less convoluted than her work in Fiery Furnaces, this wonderful record (a contender for album of the week) comes off as Joan Didion fronting the Modern Lovers. Empty Bottle. Jun 7 at 9:30pm. $15.
5. Baths + Houses The bill reads like a home & garden magazine, and indeed both Baths and Houses craft ambient indie suitable for kitchens and loft spaces. Frail vocals float atop delicate and inoffensive snaps, crackles and blips of laptop-pop, à la the Postal Service. Baths works material from his second album, Obsidian, a bit like a downbeat Passion Pit for a rainy Sunday. Metro. Jun 7 at 9pm. $16.
Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival
The second annual performance art festival, presented by Defibrillator Gallery and taking place in different venues throughout the city, showcases an impressive range of talent, style and method. It features international artists hailing from Turkey, Mexico, Iraq and elsewhere, and is the most provocative performance series you’ll see this month—maybe even this year. Visit rapidpulse.org for a complete schedule of performances, panel discussions and more. Defibrillator Gallery, Electrodes, HUB, the Nightingale Theater and public spaces. Jun 1–10. Times vary. $10 for gallery performances, free for panel discussions and public performances.
2013 Dance Improvisation Fest
Columbia College assistant professor Lisa Gonzales curates this five-day improvisation fest in collaboration with Links Hall. It’s one of the more comprehensive improv festivals you’ll see this summer—a combo of showcases, classes, workshops and guest appearances from improv virtuosos. Dance enthusiasts can take in a panel discussion from the likes of former Bill Young dancer Amy Chavasse and Columbia’s everywoman Suzy Grant. The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago; Links Hall at Constellation. Jun 3–8. Times vary. $5–$60.
A decade ago, Devendra Banhart kicked off the freak-folk movement, paving the way for Joanna Newsom and perhaps eventually Mumford & Sons and others of their ilk. But his music was always closer to T. Rex than Pete Seeger. It seemed inevitable that he'd move on from hippiedom. With relatively little hype, the 32-year-old released his best album earlier this year, Mala, a subtle South American pop album that recalls the playful Tropicalia of the late '60s, though it was recorded on vintage '80s hip-hop equipment. With Fabrizio Moretti of the Strokes and producer Noah Georgeson backing him, Banhart played Park West in Lincoln Park on Friday, May 31, drawing songs from his Warner Bros. and XL albums.
Mud Queens Be careful how widely you open your mouth when cheering on these female mud wrestlers—El Baño, Harlot O'Scara, Lady Danger and the rest of the campy lot—you never know what might fly in. Before the competition, rock out to Meat Wave and Caveat Empire. Reggie's Rock Club. 8pm. $12, advance $10.
ART & DESIGN
"Animal Kingdom." Popular Chicago artists including Kathleen Judge, Dan Grzeca, the Bird Machine, Diana Sudyka and Delicious Design League put a bird (and other animals) on their prints and gig posters. City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower. 10am–6:30pm.
Queen! Smart Bar maintains its hold on Sunday-night polysexual dancing with Queen! Gathering residents Michael Serafini, Donovan DJ and Garrett David, Queen! also spices things up with guest DJs from a spectrum of sounds and scenes weekly. Smart Bar. 10pm. $5.
Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape 15th Anniversary Performance Japanese native Ayako Kato and dancers celebrate their 15th anniversary with an improvised set in the grand setting of the Cultural Center, featuring designs by video artist Edyta Stepien and music by Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Hamid Drake (drums) and Jason Roebke (double bass). Be ready for a strong Butoh influence, which means lots of subtleties and engaging (that’s right) stillness. RSVP recommended at letbeayakoauh.eventbrite.com. Chicago Cultural Center, Dance Studio. 2pm.