Band Called Catch at Martyrs – Record Release and 10 Year Anniversary!

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Band Called Catch played our first show? Man-o-man how time flys… This calls for a party and we’re excited to also be releasing a new record! We’re so honored to share this night with such a great lineup! The night kicks off with an acoustic set from Laura Glyda, followed by our friends Buffalo Rose, then the one and only Todd Kessler. Things keep going with the talented Friends of the Bog, followed by an hour set from Band Called Catch! THEN – STICK AROUND as many of the performers throughout the evening join forces for a closing night sing-along tribute set we’re calling the “kaleidoscope jam!”

ALSO! Past members from BCC will also be joining us on stage like Eli Plasencia, Ian Kelly Davis, Darcy Wood and more TBA! It’s gonna be some crazy good fun.

Tickets are $10 at the door.

High Hat Second Line at Simon’s

The resurrection of the High Hat Second Line continues! Strap on those dancing shoes, prepare to be filled with holiday cheer through the miracle that is Glogg, and let us lead you in a night of merriment. The thrill is in your feet as you dance to that beat called the second line.

Four Star Brass Band – Arts in the Dark – Halloween Parade of Artists

Four Star Brass Band participates in the Arts in the Dark Parade for the City of Chicago for the 2nd year. This time with less rain!

Arts in the Dark – Halloween Parade of Artists draws together Chicago‚Äôs vast creative community, from world-renowned cultural institutions to aspiring artists in every field. Lookingglass Theatre will delight the crowd with characters from their Alice production and will partner with performers from The Actor’s Gymnasium, The Art Institute and School of the Art Institute will march in medieval-style armor, Broadway In Chicago will invite their devoted fans to dress up as their favorite Broadway characters, 1871 will have a float modeled after the Chicago Merchandise Mart, and After School Matters will have multiple programs participating including West Town Bikes with decorated cycles and riders, the Mariachi Ensemble, Aztec Dance Chicago and The Art of Drumming.

On Columbus Dr. moving north from Balbo Ave. to Monroe St.

Concert Review: Rusty Gates, Banda Magda

On free nights I’m going to do something that I wish more people would do. See music in Chicago (and everywhere in the world). Bands I know, bands I don’t, I’m going to step out of my house a few nights a week, see music, and then write about it. Not just headliners, not just the band I’m going to see, but all bands on the bill for a night. A big pet peeve of mine in this town is that so few people come for opening bands, or bands other than those that their friends are in. I aim to review all bands on the bill for the night while writing these reviews.

Last night I set out to see a band I knew nothing about until a mass email from Martyrs appeared in my inbox (sometimes those email lists are good things!). Banda Magda had a name that caught my ear, and a few youtube videos later, I knew where I was headed on a Thursday night.

I arrived at the venue to catch the opening band, Rusty Gates, a blues/rock/jam/funk quintet from Chicago. This is a band with no shortage of talent, from the chunky keys, a deep pocket, and tasteful guitar solos there is a solid foundation to groove. Rusty Gates thrives on the intellectual side of their music, playing in odd meters (everyone loves a 4/4 to 5/4 transition), and with interesting chord changes.

Rusty Gates

Rusty Gates

When Rusty Gates started the set I was skeptical that it was going to be anything more than a typical college jam band. Sure, these guys know some more complex chord progressions, but they didn’t sell me on being a band worth watching or listening to for more than a song. Bland blues were the first words I wrote in my notes, however, as the set progressed (aside from their singing, of which I was not a fan) the instrumentals gained steam, and the band settled down from early rhythmic hiccups. Overall, great intricate harmonized guitar lines, solos that were complicated but not over the heads of the audience, and stage energy that was lacking (seriously guys, give me some personality!) lead to a good opening performance. Give them a chance if you see them on a bill.

Banda Magda

The vehicle of Magda Giannikou, Banda Magda uses various world music styles (largely Brazilian and other latin influences at this concert) and languages to infuse an infectious groove of life into the audience. In contrast to Rusty Gates, the presence of personality with Banda Magda drew eyes to the stage. Although Magda herself sat on a stool playing accordion for most of the performance, there was no lack of energy.

Banda Magda

It’s a rare thing to attend a concert where the frontman/woman can talk, tell stories, and have the attention of most of the audience. Most songs were preceded with anecdotes and stories about how the songs were written. The pure musicianship of everyone on stage made the band click like a seasoned touring band that you could see playing the bigger festival stages soon. Each musician was highlighted, able to show their virtuosity, which complimented Magda, showing a band, and not a personality.

Rhythmic complexity, Brazilian influenced chord changes, and not a single song sung in English kept people swaying. At one point each member in the band held up a Spanish word or phrase on a sheet of paper to encourage audience participation and a singalong. I believe what made this such a successful show for Banda Magda was the involvement of the crowd in almost every song. Whether clapping along (dividing the audience to produce more complicated polyrhythms), or singing in a different language, it seemed like everyone in the room was hanging on every note.

Whether you’re a wold music fan or not, this band should be on your short list of must see when they come to your town. An affiliation with Snarky Puppy means they have a supply of amazing musicians to do amazing things. However, this music stands on it’s own, and is something truly unique, different, and great. It’s impossible to see this band without wanting to smile and dance.

“I Hate The Balds”

In a whispered voice behind me I heard “I hate the balds”. I glanced over my shoulder to see who would so boldly declare their disdain for me.

Standing in a park in Can Tho, Vietnam a little boy, who could be no older than 7 had just given me the middle finger with quiet words while I stood watching acrobats rehearse for the upcoming Tet celebration.

Acrobats rehearsing for Tet in Can Tho

Can Tho is the largest city in the Mekong delta in Vietnam. Being removed from the larger cities, there isn’t much English spoken, so it came as a surprise when the English language was heard so clearly from a local.

Despite the little boy’s unbridled hatred for my alopecia (and presumably, westerners), my girlfriend decided to spark a conversation with him where he answered in short sentences, abruptly, seemingly annoyed with us, only to mutter “I talk English” as he walked away.

Despite his attitude towards my lack of hair, he made me laugh.

Prejudice and racism isn’t an American problem, it’s a world problem. We get comfortable in our neighborhoods, cities, countries, and expect things to “look” a certain way. I’ve been fortunate to grow up in the racial majority in my country, and sometimes forget what it’s like to be on the other side.

I grew up in Iowa. West Des Moines, my hometown, was a majority white middle class suburb full of tract housing, extreme mortgages, and a car for every 16 year old. If I look back at my class pictures from Kindergarten through High School I would say that 99% of the faces were white. WASP immigrant descendants. It’s just who we were. Nobody thought differently, and we all looked the same (I’m exaggerating a bit, but it’s not far from the truth).

My first experience with true racial discrimination and prejudice happened when I moved from Chicago to Seoul, South Korea to teach English.

My first class consisted of sweet second graders who were eager to learn, who loved “Tim Teacher” and thought his demonstrations of singular and plural pronouns were hilarious. Towards the end of the day, as the students got older, the respect diminished. Instead of students looking on with respect I was met with cries of “Teacher, you’re ugly”, “Teacher, you’re fat”, “Teacher, you have a big nose”.

The kids were just the start, however. Most United States citizens (especially the caucasian ones) don’t think much of how we’re perceived outside of our own boarders.

While living in Seoul I found myself refused service at restaurants, kicked out of cell phone stores (greeted by shop owners making an “X” out of their arms as I entered… I could point to what I needed!), and stared at by locals. I was a foreigner in a land of xenophobics.

One day in Seoul I was making my way to the Nakwon music arcade to buy some saxophone reeds. On the subway train there, I sat down, when an old man walked up to me and told me in broken English, “I hate you!”. I was alone, sitting on a train, reading a book. No behavior to the contrary of any other passenger on that train, other than being a foreigner. In contrast, just 20 minutes later, another old Korean man shook my hand and told me in broken English, “Thank you!”.

What did these experiences teach me? The kid in that park in Can Tho, Vietnam most likely learned to hate “the balds” due to country history, parental attitudes, or a foreign caring English teacher who demanded more from the students.

I don’t care if someone says “I hate the balds”, or “I hate foreigners”. The more we travel, all of us, the better.

I think it’s a good thing I’ve experienced the prejudice I have. It’s nowhere close to the levels some of my friends and colleagues in Chicago have experienced, but it gives me an understanding of what it’s like when someone stares, or crosses the street to avoid being on the same side as you, or refuses service.

“I hate the balds” is what that Vietnamese kid said. I smiled, and laughed. I am bald, and White, just like he is Vietnamese, just like some of you are Black, Asian, Indian, Latino, or a mix of everything. No need to be anything else but understanding.

Boarder Towns, Boarder Crossings, Bored Towns

A lost post… intermittent wifi, and a reliance on technology. Things on this trip abroad that are so very different than past ones. Typically to be in contact with home you’d pay to sit in an internet cafe with a slow connection to write a quick email or two, maybe upload a photo. But, with changing times, comes changing habits.

Just as I was about to hit submit on this very post my wifi connection at my hotel went down, and my post was lost. Now, as the cool Lao morning turns to a sweltering afternoon heat on the Mekong, I start over, more succinct, as a day of wandering awaits.

When you set out on a travel journey you start by looking at how much time you’ve set aside. On this particular trip I have two months, the longest continuous travel I’ve had aside from living in South Korea. However, as soon as that first day passes, you start to see the time slipping, and the hour glass as half empty, wanting to see more, and more.

10 days was spent in Bangkok, long early morning walks, late nights with Sangsom whiskey (rum) in hand, afternoon beers on ice, musicians met, local Thai friends made, questionable car rides to parts of the city previously unknown. It was starting to feel very comfortable, and it would have been easy to spend the entire two months there, making friends, getting gigs, relaxing. But, the x’ed out days of that calendar made my legs itchy with anticipation of cities to see, places to go.

On Monday my girlfriend and I boarded a night train to Nong Khai from Bangkok. Night trains are great as you don’t “lose” any time to travel, instead setting up camp on a bunk in a train car only to arrive at your destination the next morning.

Nong Khai is a boarder town on the Mekong river, and most often just a stop over for travelers extending their Thai visas, or people traveling on to Laos on their circuit of southeast Asia travel (which I guess is where I fall). We decided to stay a day/night in Nong Khai to see a less traveled Thai town.

A sleepy destination, it looks like it formerly had, or expects more tourism traffic. Bars line the Mekong river, and street carts and night markets dot the side streets, however, upon night wandering we only saw empty restaurants and dark streets. It was, however, a Tuesday night. During the day we walked to Sala Keoku, an interesting nod to the regions religions and concrete sculpture. Aside from that landmark, there was not much more to see in this town.

After an early evening, and cold sleep (believe it or not) we headed to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, got our exit stamps from Thailand, boarded a bus, and paid $35 for a Lao visa on the other side.

A short tuk-tuk ride later, and we were in Vientiane, the Lao capital.

My girlfriend first came here in 1994, when it was more of a provincial colonial town with very few cars on the roads, and full of colonial architecture. Now, sadly, the little wood huts that formerly dotted the riverside (as I’ve been told) and served beer are gone, and in it’s place a new road, big plaza, and a contrived night market. It seems like every corner I turn there are giant modern buildings being built, shopping complexes advertising “Hermes” coming soon, and a feeling like I missed something, or that something is missing here.

Yesterday I borrowed a bike from my hotel and rode through the city for a few hours. Odes to communism, capitalism, vast empty plazas, your standard temples, and a smattering of backpackers were the real highlights.

The real beauty of this city so far, is being able to lounge the day away with a cold beer, watch the slow flow of the Mekong, and let your mind wander.

Tonight is Friday night, however, so I’m not losing hope that I’ll be able to get in some trouble with my saxophone somewhere (other than my hotel, where the young man at the check in desk, and who runs everything here at Villa Manoly will serenade you with his guitar and Beatles tunes).

Tomorrow we’re off from Laos, and Vientiane via plane to Cambodia.

I’m still having difficulties uploading pictures to my website with slow internet speeds, so I’ll add as I can.