Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 19, 2014 Summer Nights at Brookfield Zoo with Kevin Presbrey (Concert #29)

I went to Brookfield Zoo with Kimmy and Kristian for the Summer Nights event that featured Kevin Presbrey and the Midwest on the music stage. But first I got into a staring contest with a grizzly bear....

...then a Mexican Gray wolf. I blinked first both times.

Then went to see less intimidating animals.

I finally got backstage after 34 years of going to concerts and I did not have to blow anyone or show my boobs.

The zoo had performers traveling around entertaining everyone. Besides the very long lines for food, the zoo did a really good job with the Summer Nights event.

Kevin Presbrey and his band, The Midwest, played a great mix of cover songs from Ray Lamontagne to Led Zeppelin. Since they could not sell merchandise at the zoo, they were giving away their Dust To Dust CD in exchange for your e-mail address.

The band had a bunch of little kids jumping around and dancing on the dance floor in front of the stage. There were mostly young parents with their kids throughout the zoo. I really enjoyed seeing kids under the age of five enjoying live music. My hope is they continue to want to see bands playing live for the rest of their lives.

After the band played two sets, the zoo started the laser light show. My first thought was this would be much cooler if music was playing...after five minutes they announced the show would start again because they forgot to start the music. OK, it was much cooler with music which included popular songs from kid's movies like 'Frozen' from the little I know about that stuff. The lasers flashed messages and lights across the sky and most of the little kids had glow sticks of various types. When the dancing kids started singing the songs, my second thought was this is like a rave for five year olds. The music was playing much louder than when the band played. I swear I heard some toddlers asking for ecstasy as they danced staring at the laser lights. I know it sounds like I'm goofing on the whole night but I'm not. It was a beautiful summer night and I had a great time.
Several types of drugs would greatly enhance the laser light show experience...

....but just acting like a kid worked for me tonight.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 13, 2014 Taste Of Chicago with Aloe Blacc and The Wailers (Concert #28)

I had planned on seeing Wilco and Lucinda Williams on Saturday at Taste of Chicago and if I was feeling up to it, return on Sunday to see Aloe Blacc and The Wailers. Since Mother Nature dumped 5 inches of rain on Grant Park Saturday morning, the city of big shoulders decided to cancel Taste of Chicago about noon on Saturday. When I found out about 2:30pm, I decided to definitely see Aloe Blacc on Sunday. I got a last minute ride to the Hegewisch South Shore station from my sister-in-law. Thanks Kimmy. I got a new pocket camera so I tested it out waiting for the train.

The Taste of Chicago started out as a good idea but over the years the city fucked it up. Some of the restaurants sell food at the Taste that is not even on their menu. It became a money grab not a food event. Big shock to those of us that pay attention to what happens in this city. I haven't been to Taste of Chicago for the food in many years because the whole event sucks. The city finally agreed with me because a few years ago they shrunk the amount of vendors and the number of days for this crappy festival. That said, the music at this Festival always features great bands. So I settled into my seat to relax on a warm summer day and listen to Bob Marley's backing band, The Wailers. 

Once the band began playing fantastic versions of Bob Marley's biggest hits, the relaxing part was easy due to the great reggae music, the beers and ganja smoke all around me.

They had everyone singing along to "Is This Love", "Jamming", "One Love"....

"Could You Be Loved", "Stir It Up" and "Buffalo Soldier".

They sounded great. This was just what I needed after a long work week. Sunshine, reggae music, singing and dancing all around me..."Positive Vibrations" indeed. The band had uplifting messages in between songs and musically with the songs. A theme that continued with the very talented Aloe Blacc.

Mr. Blacc has mastered being a performer as well as a talented musician and songwriter. I can not say enough about his performance today. He told stories about his life, he explained how he wrote several of the songs, he had everyone dancing down the aisles like they used to on Soul Train and he continued the positive vibes left on the stage by The Wailers. His band, The Grand Scheme, were just as talented. They sounded note perfect all evening. The mix of old school soul mixed with an updated R&B sound that included inspirational messages from Aloe Blacc about life and how to find the good in the world was a perfect way for me to spend a Sunday.

A little side story about my day. After taking the train to the city. I walked up Michigan Avenue which was packed with tourists. It was fun to see people excited about Chicago and the beautiful weather at least for today. So I'm feeling pretty good while I stroll around Grant Park. I grab a beer and a grilled shrimp po'boy from Savoy at Taste of Chicago and sit down at one of the picnic tables on Jackson Blvd. A few minutes later an older lady that I thought might be homeless sat with me. She had BBQ rib tips from one of the vendors. We talked while eating about the weather, the food and the city. When I told her I was heading to the Petrillo Bandshell for the concert, she said she heard if the seats don't sell out that they would let people in for free. I told her that she should try to see Aloe Blacc because he is really good. Then I wished her luck with getting into the seating area. About half way through Aloe Blacc's set, he begins to talk about about the old soul music...his band played a snippet of Hall & Oates' "Maneater" while Aloe sang along...then they stopped at the chorus and the crowd sang aloud "Oh Oh Here She Comes She's a Maneater"...Aloe started laughing and said "There's a lot of old people here today". Then he asked if everyone remembered Soul Train and how they danced down the aisles. He asked everyone to dance down the aisles while the band played a funky jam...lots of people did including the lady I ate lunch with earlier today... she obviously got in for free. I saw her after the show and she had a huge smile on her did I...she told me she loved that young man and asked me his name again...she walked saying "He was damn good". I agreed.

I love a good horn section.

For the encores he played a sultry, dirty Mississippi blues version of "Billie Jean" and followed it up with a slow burning soul version of California Dreamin' for the first verse that turning into a gospel rave up version for the rest of the song.

Peace brother and thanks for a great show. Keep fighting the good fight with your music.
Here's a new song from Aloe Blacc

here's a version of Billie Jean by Aloe Blacc

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 4, 2014 The American Music Festival at Fitzgerald's (Concert #27)

My cousin Michelle has been staying with us for the past three weeks and I have only seen her about 3 times. Since we both had the Fourth of July off, I was hoping to spend the day with her. She agreed to go to the American Music Festival at Fitgerald's with me...even though she did not know any of the bands playing.
The Switchback Band was playing when we arrived. They mixed Celtic Soul with Americana Music and sounded pretty good.

We both loved this guy...Cory Branan. He combined stories &  entertaining stage banter with great songs, powerful stage presence and a punk ethos while playing solo on an acoustic guitar. I thought he was great and got a chance to say hello to him. He has a new album coming out on Bloodshot Records, look for it in August.

This sign was on the table next to the soundboard.

This was another Bloodshot Records 20th Anniversary Show. I highly recommend this Chicago based record label. They have great bands.

I liked the flag backdrop on the stage inside the club. It seemed appropriate for the music and the day.

Michelle in food tent on the side street. We had a tasty cochon de lait sandwich and an andouille sausage po' boy.

This guy jumped into my picture and I liked how it turned out.

Earlier I told Michelle there was a good Italian Ice place down the street, she decided she wanted an ice so we walked to Gina's. She got a watermelon ice and I had a lemon ice. They hit the spot on a beautiful summer day.

We ended up seeing Jarekus Singleton Band (modern blues with old school mixed in), Billy Jo Shaver (country legend still sings strong), the Bottle Rockets (one of my favorite country rock bands), Robbie Fulks (another favorite of mine, great songwriter and a fantastic and very talented band, loved his cover of Billie Jean) and Shemekia Copeland (powerful blues singer). All the bands sounded great. 

Michelle, who is currently in college taking stage managing as her major, explained the operation of the soundboard to me.

Fitzgerald's did a great job putting on the festival. This place is definitely one of Chicago's best bars to see live music. So once again, I ask you to support places like this. And thanks to Michelle for spending her day off with me. I really enjoyed it and we both discovered new music that we liked.

June 14 & 15, 2014 Mountain Biking in Indianapolis

I spent the weekend mountain biking with my sister-in-law Kimmy and her cousin Mark at Southwestway Park and Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. I just found these pictures on a SD card and realized that I haven't been mountain biking off road in a month. It's not because I am lazy...okay that might be one is because it rains every other day in Chicago this summer. So here are a few pictures from our rides. I had a great time riding here. It is definitely worth a day trip to Indy to ride these trails. 

The downhill flow trails were lots of fun at Southwestway Park.

Resting probably because I needed to stop, but at least I got a few pictures.

After riding all afternoon at Southwestway Park, we rode the mostly paved trails at Eagle Creek Park.

A California Redwood brought here to the Nature Center.

Back at Southwestway Park early Sunday morning.

A big thanks to Mark for giving us a place to stay and for taking us out on the trails. This was an enjoyable weekend with family. Hope to do it again real soon.