ARTS

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September 22, 2008

A Second City summer in review

Whether you were busy anticipating your first year of college, interning at a less glamorous locale, or simply sleeping off the heat in your Hyde Park apartment, you may have missed some of what Chicago had to offer this summer. So here's a little recap of the sights and sounds of the past season, from Lollapalooza to Bill Murray falling from the sky. If you start to yearn, not to worry—you can catch most of these events if you find an excuse to stick around next summer.

June

Old Town Art Fair

Chicago has several outdoor art fairs during the fall and summer in a variety of neighborhoods. My favorite is the Old Town Art Fair, for which artists come from across the country to display their work. The fair is always a good place to spot new trends in art, even if they are out of a college student's price range. The fair displays not only art, but also the gardens and houses of the remarkable north side Old Town neighborhood. Much of the fair takes place in the well preserved, historic Old Town Triangle area, giving a feeling of antiquity even among the pieces of new art. —Kate Shepherd

July

4th on 53rd Street Parade

At an ungodly hour of the morning on the Fourth of July, I dragged my friends to see what I had convinced myself would be a fantastic parade on East 53rd Street—maybe even one with elephants. We did see moms representing La Leche League and churchgoers distributing free otter pops, but the animals were few and far between. Some police officers bringing up the rear did ride horses, though, and I did catch a glimpse of a miniature pony. And of course, from our perch on a lawn at East 53rd Street and South Blackstone Avenue, all the marching bands that passed were pausing between numbers. I had a good time clapping for every seven-year-old and his decorated bike, but my friends may have felt their reluctance to attend legitimated. —Liz Goetz

August

Air and Water Show

Every summer, Chicago is invaded from above the skyline and from the shores of Lake Michigan. And every summer, there is a moment when my room is shaking from a low-flying plane overhead and I wonder if the city is under attack. Then I remember that it is just the harmless and fun Chicago Air and Water Show. Crowds fill Navy Pier, North Avenue Beach, and numerous other beaches across the city to see the spectacular show. People even gather on the street to watch the planes. In an interesting publicity stunt this year, Bill Murray parachuted from a plane to land on North Avenue Beach in front of the thousands of spectators gathered there. The incredible and acrobatic Blue Angels also flew between the skyscrapers of downtown and over the gray stone rooftops in Lincoln Park for three days, not including the day or two of practice flights. —Kate Shepherd

Printer's Ball

You know those days when all you want is to read interviews with friends of Hunter S. Thompson and Harold Ross in front of artist Jeff Koons's floating basketballs? And then, after that, you know how badly you always want to gorge on free hot dogs with scene-carousing hipsters of all ages, while ogling the Gold Coast

from the Museum of Contemporary Art's terrace? Chicago's under-appreciated Poetry Foundation is out to fix the deficit of such opportunities in your life. In August, it threw its fourth annual Printer's Ball, where artsy types could take home reams of free, local lit mags piled along gallery walls. There were radio plays and DJs, but my favorite part was the Librarians' Boudoir, a basement room converted into a swanky reading room—dimmed lights, faux satin couches, and all. —Liz Goetz

Lollapalooza

A wonderful part of music festivals is feeling immersed in a microcosm of music. Lollapalooza populates Chicago's Grant Park with enough bands (over 130) and fans (around 75,000) to qualify as a small city. This August, Lolla was able to headline Radiohead, Wilco, Broken Social Scene, Kanye West, and Rage Against the Machine. And those were just the main stages. On smaller stages peppered throughout the park, lesser-known but equally talented bands drew smaller, more devoted crowds. Devotchka, CSS, Okkervil River, and Chicago's own The Cool Kids offered memorable, tightly packed performances. Honestly though, Lolla is a lot to handle in three days. The program is the size of a small book, and there are often equally good sounds happening at opposite ends of a huge park at the same time. It feels a little overwhelming. Then again, seeing some of the finest musicians perform in front of a sparkling Chicago skyline should feel overwhelming. If you can manage to peek through the sea of waving iPhones, there are unforgettable performances in a beautiful setting. —Sierra Sterling

Joanna Newsom with the CSO

I had never been to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra before their performance with Joanna Newsom, but I'm sure the crowd of young college students and older hipsters there was an unusual sight. I expected the crowd to be sparse and low on older folks, but it turns out that there are plenty of classical music aficionados who dig Joanna Newsom. And what's not to dig? Well, her voice could resemble nails on a chalkboard to the untrained ear, but like greats Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix always remind us, preconceived notions of good voices can never hide good melodies. On top of that, Newsom's orchestral arrangements are phenomenally matched with her whimsical folk song lyrics, and her harp was a lovely addition to the stage. She is a stellar performer who never lost focus the entire night—and her voice actually did sound better live. —Yusuf Siddiquee

Glamorama

It's hard to imagine the cultural mindset of the 1980s, with its melodrama and excess, as today's skyrocketing gas prices and a mild recession temper our tendencies toward indulgence. But for one night in August, the attendees of Glamorama, the annual fundraiser for the Art Institute of Chicago, were immersed in an '80s-style world of excess and glam. Performances from pop culture favorites MC Hammer (surprisingly good) and Cyndi Lauper (who approximated a Madonna-like comeback) were punctuated by runway shows from top line designers. Show-goers also had a chance to walk over to Macy's for an after party, which was packed with wealthy Chicagoans tossing back Nerds, sipping free drinks from the open bar, and playfully slapping each other with slap bracelets. Next summer, if you have money to spend and want to rub shoulders with Chicago's big names from the worlds of art, fashion, and philanthropy, Glamorama is your ideal event. —Sierra Sterling

September

Andrew Bird at Millennium Park

The city's Department of Cultural Affairs kicked off its Chicago Blockbuster Week in Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavillion with a free concert by native son Andrew Bird and his Minneapolis band. Bird's frequent opener, Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, faithfully stoked up the crowd with swinging afro-funk beats that render Vampire Weekend unnecessary. Bird followed, playing favorites from his most recent albums such as "The Mysterious Production of Eggs" and "Armchair Apocrypha" under LEDs showing old-fashioned spinning gramophones. Everyone picnicked, some people drank, security turned their heads, and the lake breeze cooled us while we haphazardly danced to "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left." Frank Gehry's amphitheater may resemble potato chips much like the ones the crowd's picnickers were munching, but it was far kinder to Bird's delicate acoustic needs than other local outdoor appearances—for example, his 2006 Lollapalooza gig at the Petrillo Bandshell, or, to a lesser extent, last spring's Summer Breeze in Hutch Courtyard. —Liz Goetz