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April 2009 Archives

Does 'Wolverine' origin movie have claws?

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Uh-oh. Ebert gives "Wolverine" a mere 2 stars. That review, for those scoring at home, is a thumbs-down ...

You live to eat, now eat out for life

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Eating out tonight? Might we suggest a spot from this list? Those are the 61 area restaurants participating in the 16th annual Dining Out for Life, in which at least 25 percent of all food and liquor sales will be donated to support HIV/AIDS research and support. Last year Chicago raised over $80,000 to benefit AIDSCare. So fighting AIDS is as easy tonight as chowing down.

Kentucky Derby party, suburban Chicago style

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And they're off ... again.

Horse racing season begins this weekend with, of course, the Kentucky Derby, but also new races at Arlington Park. The suburban track, 2200 W. Euclid Ave. in Arlington Heights, is featuring the World's Largest Derby Party (er, can someone verify that claim, please?), which features a simulcast of the famous Louisville race, plus a dozen live races here, with live music and, of course, a mint julep or two or 10. Gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday, and it's $6 to enter.

There's also the Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie on the Stickney/Cicero border, for — uh oh, another size claim — Chicago's biggest Kentucky Derby party, with live music, an outdoor barbecue and beer fest, a charity chili cookoff, and tents with dozens of high-definition TVs for watching Saturday's Run for the Roses. Admission ranges from $4 for the frills-free "infield" experience, up to the $50 VIP pass, which includes refreshments and even a commemorative mint-julep glass. Post time for the big race is about 5 p.m., but the fun goes all day at Hawthorne, which is celebrating 100 years of family-owned racing. Doors open at 8 a.m.; the first Churchill Downs race is at 9:30 and the party starts at 11.

There's more to life than books, but not much more

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Hey, bookworms! Three events for you to get out of the house for this week:

Steve Harvey, who's been sitting pretty atop the best seller lists for a few weeks, signs Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, 6 tonight at Borders, 830 N. Michigan.

Find those great editions you've been hunting at the Northwestern University Library Book Sale. Pick from nearly 8,000 books — including a 1920 edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise — mostly priced from $3 (hardcovers), $2 (paperbacks) and less. It runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at 1970 Campus Drive in Evanston.

Actress Julianne Moore is in town promoting her children's book, Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully. She'll sign copies of the book from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Bloomingdale’s, 900 N. Michigan; and at 4 p.m. Monday at Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville.

New City's breakout artists for 2009

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043009breakout.jpg The list-tastic New City has a round-up of the image-makers who'll make 2009 an interesting year to look at. The Breakout Artists 2009 list finds: "Today’s image makers are less studio artists than opportunists in the expanded field, less gatekeepers of taste than trailblazers in the public sphere — 'social entrepreneurs,' as Mike Bancroft calls it. The timing is just right."

Power to the power-pop supergroups!

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Who's your favorite in the new pop supergroup Tinted Windows?

And are you going tonight?!

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The music group Tinted Windows is Taylor Hanson (from left), Bun E. Carlos, Adam Schlesinger and James Iha.

Read Jim DeRogatis' Q&A with former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha here.

A poem a day keeps the bard at bay

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Today is National Poem in Your Pocket Day, concluding National Poetry Month by encouraging you to carry a poem around today, enjoy the confidence of being able to whip it out whenever life's randomness calls for a poem on hand. Either print one from the many, many (even Chicago-based) sources on the Web, or make up your own ...

Haiku in unseasonal scarf
curséd Chicago:
cold and warm and cold and cruel —
Eliot was right.

"Ode to fluey swine"
I think that I have never seen
hysteria like this has been.
You'd think that all those pigs and me
were six degrees from Kevin B.
But I'll show my face, I will not mask it
lest I be one more case of basket.
Into the world! — haste I'm makin'
to do my part by eatin' bacon.

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Stussy X Stones Throw Tour
Thursday, April 30 at Abbey Pub; $16 in advance, $18 at the door
Stussy sponsors the latest Stones Throw tour, which features Peanut Butter Wolf, James Pants, Dam-Funk and Mayer Hawthorne. Chicago hip-hop fans have been lucky enough to have the Stones Throw crew come to town pretty regularly as part of the Sonotheque Move events, but this tour is quite different and it's 18-plus. Peanut Butter Wolf is doing live video and DJ mixing; James Pants is playing a live set with his band, the Royal Zodiac, and Mayer Hawthorne and Dam-Funk will be playing eclectic records. To top it off, Stussy created limited-edition t-shirts and Stones Throw is coming out with music only sold on the tour. Visit Stussy.com to download an exclusive tour mix.

Cirque du Soleil has set its sights on vaudeville in its newest — and still unnamed — production that will have its world premiere in Chicago in November. Tickets, $23-$150, for the production, written and directed by David Shiner (“Kooza”), with choreography by Betsy Baytos and Jared Grimes, are now on sale exclusively to Cirque Club members and Chicago Theatre Insiders; visit cirquedusoleil.com or thechicagotheatre.com to join either group and get advance purchase rights to show tickets. Tickets for the general public will go on sale this summer.

The proscenium-style production, with its contemporary spin on the vaudeville variety act stage show era, will settle in at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, for a limited holiday engagement, Nov. 19, 2009 - Jan. 3, 2010.

“MSG Entertainment is excited to partner with Cirque du Soleil once again,” said Jonathan Hochwald, executive vice president productions, MSGE, in a statement. “Our latest production will seek to capture the spirit of vaudeville and variety entertainments, mash it up with contemporary music and technology, and introduce a brand new art form — a reinvention of the live experience as only Cirque du Soleil could achieve.”

Ever wanted to meet a porn star? Now's your chance. The Chicago Sexpo (NSFW) returns to Excalibur tonight. In addition to appearances from adult film stars, the 21-plus event will include pole-dancing shows and three floors of exhibitors (toy shops, swingers clubs, dominatrixes, etc.). Tickets are $20, and will only be sold online, so get yours before 4 p.m.

We would include a picture to give you an idea of what you're in for...but, well, you know.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
Rockit Wrigleyville – After about a month of hard work sprucing up the old Tuscany on Clark and Waveland, the new incarnation of Rockit is supposed to open tonight. Not quite in time for the Cubs opener, but indeed still impressive.

Fred’s at Barneys – The outdoor patio at this chic Michigan Avenue café has arguably the best view in town. Too bad you can’t afford it (don’t worry, neither can we).

LaSalle Power Co. – The official opening for this River North rock bar is Friday night, although they’ve had a few pre-opening parties the past week. Playing the opening night party is L.A.-based Chelsea Girls, which features a former Playboy Playmate and the drummer from Hole – which is alternately awesome and scary at the same time.

CLOSED:
Rogers Park Pizzeria – You’ll have to get your New York-style thin-crust slices somewhere else, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Chundy’s – This made-from-scratch diner in Avondale never really got off the ground after opening in November. Too bad, because sandwiches like the basil chicken salad were top notch.

Patty’s Diner – The acclaimed Skokie breakfast spot is no more, apparently a victim of skyrocketing rent. The diner is expected to close the first week in May.

Check back here every Tuesday with more openings and closings (and snarky comments, of course). And be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's list of new restaurants and bars.

3 Things We Love About ... Evanston

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1. McGaw YMCA youth programs
Evanston’s “Y” has shrewdly brought together generations of kids from all corners of this diverse suburb with its youth sports leagues, swimming classes, after-school programs and its crown jewel: Camp Echo, a rural Michigan summer camp. The “Y,” at 1000 Grove St. and open since 1885, is a community hub — and often the answer to why Evanston kids all seem to know each other.

2. Buffalo Joe’s
Everyone’s got their favorite wing joint nowadays, but if you haven’t tried Joe Prudden’s at 812 Clark Street in downtown Evanston, you should stay out of the discussion. God knows it’s not the decor, the ancient video games, the prices or the crowded waiting area that brings people back again and again — it’s the ridiculously good wings and the Cheddar-covered waffle fries. Nothing bad comes off the flaming grill there, but it’s in the deep fryers and the secret Buffalo sauce where the magic happens.

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3. Lighthouse Beach
Each of Evanston’s six public beaches has its own character and draw, but nothing beats the backdrop provided by the 113-foot-tall Grosse Point lighthouse guarding the suburb’s northernmost beach. Completed just north of Central Street in 1873 in the wake of the Lady Elgin disaster (some 400 died when the steamer was rammed by a schooner in the middle of the night), the lighthouse still shines today.

HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about Evanston!

Fantasia Barrino to star here in ‘Color Purple'

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“The Color Purple” is returning to Chicago this fall, with Fantasia Barrino, the “American Idol” Season 3 winner starring as Celie — a role that won her wide acclaim when she stepped into the Broadway production of the musical in 2007.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Fuel Kitchen & Cocktail Lounge
Coffee, cocktails and live music: You can have it all in Ukrainian VIllage.

Off the Beaten Path: Pozoleria San Juan
Pozole soup 24 hours a day in Hermosa.

Weekly Treat: A pair of Prodigy tickets
We're giving away two passes to the UK group's upcoming show. Find out how you can win.

Man We're Crazy About: Tocco
Wood-fired pizza for fashionistas in Wicker Park.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

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If you're like us, you budget for just a few meals out per week, so you want to make sure you choose wisely. We've studied up on this week's options, and present you with your best bets--conveniently sorted in order of cost.

Really Cheap
$2 Tapas
4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday at Tapas Valencia
The recently transplanted restaurant welcomes diners to its new South Loop location with the introduction of its $2 Happy Hour menu. Guests will be able to select from a long list of hot and cold options, including tortilla con salmon (potato and onion omelet wrapped in Atlantic cured salmon) and datiles (bacon-wrapped dates with red bell pepper sauce).

Cheap
$9 lunch
11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday at Bin 36
You've got a couple more days to take advantage of the restaurant/wine bar's latest anniversary promotion, which includes your choice of a sandwich or a salad, plus a soft drink. Options include burgers, grilled cheese and chicken caesar salad. Stay tuned for the $8 promotion coming in May.

Cheap and for a Good Cause
$5 tasting of doughnuts (plus coffee, tea and hot chocolate)
9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at Blue Sky Bakery and Cafe
To celebrate its first birthday, this Albany Park bakery gives us all gifts of sweet and savory fried goodness (rhubarb, rosemary and coconut are on the menu). Be warned: the place, which employs homeless or at-risk youth, offers a wide range of pastries and sandwiches, so you may end up spending a lot more than you planned.

Not Cheap, but for a Good Cause
13th Annual Girl Food Dinner
5:30 p.m. Sunday at West Town Tavern; $150 (call (312) 666-6175 to reserve)
Four female chefs (Nadia Tilkian, Maijean; Jill Barron, Mana Food Bar; Karen Armijo, Gary Comer Youth Center; and Jessica Olorose, Black Dog Gelato) join West Town Tavern chef/co-owner Susan Goss (and her husband, Drew) to prepare a five-course dinner which will raise money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Wine pairings included.


And while we're on the subject of good causes...consider these two fine promotions:
Dining Out for Life
Thursday
Eat at one of many participating restaurants, and you'll be doing your part in the fight against HIV/AIDS, as the eatery will donate some percentage of its proceeds to AIDSCare.

Culinary Crusade: Join the Bite Against ALS
Throughout May
Support the fight against ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) by ordering the "Culinary Crusade Special" at a participating restaurant in May. You'll get a different dish depending on where you go. Venues include Adobo Grill (Wicker Park), Graziano's Brick Oven Pizza, Ina's, Tuscany (Wheeling and Oak Brook), Vinci and Wishbone (West Loop and Lake View).

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What's better than barbecuing on Memorial Day weekend? How about seeing UK electronic group The Prodigy...for free?

Centerstage is giving away a pair of tickets this week for the May 23rd show at Congress Theater. You've got 'til Friday at 3 p.m. to enter, so click here for details.

Gryffindor lives!

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If you know what these are, you need to plan a trip to the museum.


Ever since Daniel Radcliffe went naked in "Equus," we haven't been able to look at Harry Potter in quite the same way. But we're pretty sure we'll fall in love with the young wizard's story all over again once "Harry Potter: The Exhibition" begins at the Museum of Science and Industry on Thursday.

The exhibit, which has caused quite a buzz since it was first announced, will include more than 200 authentic costumes and props from the Potter films, including Harry's original wand and eyeglasses, Gryffindor school uniforms and more, in settings like the Great Hall and Hagrid's hut. There will even be a few scary creatures here and there, but we promise, no gratuitous nudity.

You'll have to buy an additional ticket to get into the exhibition during museum hours (9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday), combined admission will cost $26 for adults and $19 for children 3-11. If you dare to explore after dark, the exhibit will be open until 9 p.m. ($18 adults, $15 for kids).

3 Things We Love About ... Edgewater

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1. Gino's North — The dive bar/pizza joint where we will weather the recession just fine, because the place looks so sketchy from the outside that the Trixies and Chads won't even come in to frown at the cash-only policy and because the place is so affordable — even after recent drink price hikes — that we can wash down the sweet, crackery pies with cheap wine and still feel like Rockefellers.

2. Coffee houses that aren't Metropolis — Skip the attitude and stale pastries of that overrated study-hall on Granville in favor of Edgewater's more comfortable, tastier and less Starbucks-aping indie coffeehouses such as the curiously cozy Kopi Cafe in Andersonville (mmm, tasty veggie-friendly treats!), the airy aesthetic of Pause by the Berwyn L stop (ahh, stained glass and exposed brick!) or, our favorite, the Stella Espresso Co. on the border at Devon & Lakewood (yesss, really well-crafted coffee!).

3. People-watching in Andersonville — When the weather warms, so does this lil' sub-’hood chock full of cafes and clever shops, with just enough licensed patios now to make an afternoon out of an umbrella, a patient waiter and a lot of "Did you see that?" and "Check out the _____ on him!"

Club Hopping, April 24-30

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THROBBING GRISTLE
Arguably the most underground, cultish and heroic of all of rock's underground cult heroes, influential gender-bending British art/industrial noise-rockers Throbbing Gristle will play their first-ever shows in Chicago this weekend as part of a short, select and ultra-rare U.S. tour. The band will perform four sets at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, at 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday (both sold out) and 7 and 10 p.m. Sunday (tickets remain for $20-$50). Call (773) 276-3600; www.emptybottle.com. -- Jim DeRogatis

More club shows after the jump ...

Chicago's Top 20 songs

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Jamie Foxx hits No. 1 this week in Chicago, while the rest of the chart is a shell game. But notice Miss Thing there in the middle, ol' Sasha Fierce and her two back-to-back hits. How high will she go?

Here's the week's top 20 songs on Chicago radio, after the jump ...

What are you listening to?

'Rod Blagojevich Superstar' extends its run

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Due to an unprecedented amount of new material, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Second City are extending the run for the critically acclaimed hit musical "Rod Blagojevich Superstar" through June 14 at CST/Navy Pier.

The extended run kicks off May 7 with a book signing of Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption into a National Slideshow by Elizabeth Brackett, who joins the cast for a 20-minute political improv set following the show.

Catch the show at Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3, 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call (312) 595.5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com.

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No doubt you've been looking forward to the positively summer-like weather we're getting today and tomorrow. But it's been so long since we've seen the thermometer go this high, you might not remember quite how to take advantage. Here are some ideas:

  • Eat/drink outside. Hit a beer garden, plop down on a patio, rock a rooftop or just bring a gourmet picnic to the beach. Can't decide on one place? Join a pub crawl (there are ones for fans of both zombies and baseball). At the very least, make sure you have a cool cocktail to celebrate the season.
  • Catch a ball game. The Sox are playing the division-leading Blue Jays all weekend, and the Cell should be rockin' (as will all the Sox bars in town). If you can't afford the ticket price, consider one of the many minor league ballparks in the area.
  • Do some spring cleaning. If you want the world to give you more days like this, you'd better be good to it. In honor of Earth Day, many of Chicago's parks are sponsoring clean-ups this weekend. Yeah, your apartment could probably use one, too.
  • Take a walk. We hear Pilsen's a nice 'hood for a stroll. For greener scenery, the Botanic Garden will take you through McDonald Woods tomorrow afternoon. Or just head down a street in your area...you never know what you might find.
  • Ride a bike. If you have a need for a little more speed, break out the two-wheeler for a tour of the city (or a trip to Dark Lord Day). It can be guided (Bike Chicago and Bobby's Bike Hike are good choices) or not, tandem or solo--just make sure you wear a helmet.
  • Take a tour. Wendella just started up its river cruises, and the boats are sure to be packed this weekend with architecture buffs, wine enthusiasts and, um, sunset-lovers. Other options include the city's green landmarks, the popular neighborhood tours and, yes, the infamous Segway experience.
  • Plan ahead for festival season. The summer's gonna be full of weekends like this, and you want to be prepared. Scour the calendar and choose your favorites now.

3 Things We Love About ... Friday night

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This week is all about the Hamiltons — three things to do for $10.

1. Make a date with three women
Catch a 9 p.m. screening of “1, 2, y 3 Mujeres” (“1, 2 and 3 Women”), part of the 25th annual Chicago Latino Film Festival. Facets Multimedia Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton; $10.

2. Kick it old school with Benny Goodman
Jazz Showcase (806 S. Plymouth) presents a tribute to Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Lester Young and Chic Webb at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.; $10. Details: (312) 360-0234.

3. Have a “funsplosion”
Comedy duo Kerpatty (Erin Pallesen and Pat Dwyer) present their latest show, “Single Entendre” at 9:30 p.m. in the Sevens cabaret space at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green; $10. (312) 733-6000.


For more Friday night action, visit www.centerstagechicago.com

The Mix: Really cool things to do

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WHAT A DRAG!
The reunion seems to be sticking for Superdrag, an alt-rock band with roots in Knoxville, Tenn. After a five-year hiatus, Superdrag has a new album, "Industry Giants," and a tour that will bring them to the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, for an 18+over show at Saturday at 9 p.m. Van Ghost and the Nicholis Tremulis Orchestra are also on the bill. Tickets are $20. Call (773) 549-0203 or visit www.metrochicago.com.

More events after the jump ...

As if Snuggies and Zombies weren’t enough, along comes the Cover Your Bases Bar Crawl this weekend in Wrigleyville. Brought to you by the Twelve Bars of Christmas folks, this crawl starts and ends at Rebel Bar & Grill on Clark. In between, participants hit up eight other area bars (although it looks like about 15 to us, but we were never that good at math) while collecting stickers for each. Those who get all nine stickers are entered in a raffle for Cubs tickets and other prizes.

Tickets are $12 ($15 on Saturday) and get you $2.50 Bud Lights at each bar, as well as a T-shirt. And no, the Cubs won’t be at home – avoiding a cluster-somethingorother of epic proportions. But they do play in St. Louis at 3, so there may be a TV or two in W’ville where you can catch the game. Go to www.shopfesta.com/coveryourbases to buy tickets.

Schedule of bars after the jump.

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Ever walked by a mural on the side of a building and thought, "hey, that's cool"? (before the Mayor's Graffiti Blasters crew came and ruined it, of course). Chicago artist Revise CMW wants to bring out the graffiti artist inside every one of the people who signs up for his Street Art Class, which starts this Sunday (3-5 p.m.) at The Galaxie. For four weeks (April 26, May 3, May 10 and May 17), students will learn design, lettering, spray-can art, stenciling and more. The class is open to all ages, and costs $125, which includes all supplies except for a sketch pad and marker.

Enrollment is limited to 12 students, so sign up now. If you don't make it in, the next session begins May 31.

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Wale put his all into the show. (photo: Sean Costin, camerainmyhand.com)

You know how much we love lists around these parts, so we thought we'd run down last-night's sold-out concert at the Abbey Pub featuring rapper Wale, top-3 style:

1. Dude's got major D.C. pride. Our nation's capital isn't known for its great musical contributions, but Wale reps his hometown hard, from the Washington Nationals gear (we also saw of these in the crowd) to his backing band, the legendary go-go group UCB. Together they gave us a crash course in go-go music (a style of funk popular in D.C.) history, with renditions of the Junk Yard Band's "Sardines" and Experience Unlimited's "Da Butt." The city also gets a major shoutout in Wale's "Chillin'," his recent single featuring Lady GaGa.

2. Chi-Town represented. Sure, the show was mostly about D.C., but the locally based openers served notice that our city still has plenty to contribute to hip-hop. Bin Laden Blowin' Up closed out its enjoyable set with the infectious "Chi Don't Dance" (the refrain: "Chi don't dance no more/all we do is juke, all we do is juke"). Mic Terror displayed perhaps the most technically gifted flow of the night in a set also featuring Million $ Mano and DJ Willy Joy. We got a taste of Mic and Joy's upcoming collaboration, and the future sounds mighty good. Wale even brought a little bit of Chicago on stage with him, as Naledge, of Kidz in the Hall, made a surprise guest appearance.

3. The crowd came to party. Maybe it was the live band, or Wale's superior stage presence, or the steady string of good music (the upbeat set list included strong performances of "Nike Boots," "Back in the Go-Go" and even part of "Rising Up," the Roots song on which Wale has a cameo). But this was one of the most consistently hyped audiences we've seen in the city in some time. There were even a few people dancing and cheering during the show's biggest misstep: final opener Colin Munroe. It's not that his music was bad, but it just didn't make sense to have the Canadian rocker on a bill filled with hip-hop acts, even if he has recorded a song with Wale and does a decent re-interpretation of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights." You can bet that with this kind of energy on display, Wale will be back soon--although it'll likely be in a bigger club.

Want to know where to catch more shows like this? Centerstage just picked its list of the top hip-hop stops in Chicago.

According to Crain’s, a new bar called Sweetwater Tavern & Grille will open at the old Bennigan’s site, at 225 N. Michigan Ave., in September. Bottleneck Management LLC, which also owns The Boundary in Wicker Park and Trace in Wrigleyville, is leasing the 7,500-square-foot space.

The group cited a soft economy for creating a manageable price for their 10-year lease, and the location should prove rather fruitful for them. Despite Michigan Avenue being arguably the busiest street in the city, there are rather few dining/drinking options along that stretch. Just the foot traffic alone should be enough to keep the place filled.

Incidentally, Bennigan’s 150 S. Michigan location re-opened around the new year and is in the process of unveiling a number of new menu items (the menu will launch April 27).

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Saturday is Dark Lord Day, the one day a year when Three Floyds sells its limited-edition Dark Lord Imperial Stout at its Munster, Indiana brewery. As we told you before, you'll need a "golden ticket" just to get in line (they're sold out). But whether you've got one or not, it's still a fun day full of live music (Pelican, Waco Brothers, Sybris and others), food and beer (guest breweries will be in attendance). So...how do you get to Indiana?

According to MenuPages Blog, you've got some options. Lush Wine & Spirits is offering a party bus there and back for $30 a person, and local blog Being Totally Sweet in Chicago is organizing a bike trip. We're not exactly sold on the prospect of biking a few hours after a day of drinking craft brews, but to each his own.

Here's one more reason to visit the Green City Market during the (fingers-crossed) beautiful weekend: restaurateur and author Alice Waters will be there on Saturday signing copies of her new book, "The Edible Schoolyard," according to the Tribune's food blog, The Stew. The book examines how the "slow food" pioneer and a group of teachers turned a Berkeley middle school's land into a garden.

Waters will be signing from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, then touring the market (open from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.).

Don't miss the mighty IJ Quinn

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Lordy, every now and then a hot, blond — and, c'mon, he's gotta have blue eyes — tenor bops onto the scene and has ... actual ... soul. IJ Quinn sounds like Taylor Hanson circa 1999, but without all the kiddie anti-cred (whew). Hit his MySpace page and give it a coupla minutes — brother can sing. So if you like "Idols" but want something with a little more meat on its bones and a few nods to actual rock and soul traditions, check out Quinn celebrating the release of his debut disc, "When They Want It The Most," by playing it in its entirety at 10 p.m. Saturday at Schubas. Tickets are $8 and include a signed copy of the disc.

3 Things We Love About ... eco-friendly Chicago

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Today is Earth Day, so we decided to look at what Chicago does to make us a greener city.

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The green roof and deck of the Center on Halsted, a pioneering gay community center on Chicago's North Side. (AP file)

1. Rooftop gardens
Folks at Chicago City Hall, Prentice Women’s Hospital, Uncommon Ground restaurant, the Center on Halsted and countless other city dwellers have found the perfect space for urban gardens — their roofs. The rooftop gardens spruce up air quality, reduce storm water runoff, cool the surrounding air and offer a lush refuge from the relentless hustle-and-bustle of big city life.

2. Cycle city
Chicago’s Bike 2015 plan is geared toward increasing safe bicycle riding on city streets. The goals include reducing bicycle injury levels by 50 percent and increasing bicycling so that 5 percent of all trips less than five miles are taken on two wheels. Mayor Daley, an avid cyclist, has said his goal is to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States.

3. Farmers markets
Whether it’s the Green City Market in Lincoln Park or the smaller farmers markets held weekly during warm-weather months in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, buying locally-grown products cuts down on environmental hazards wrought from transportation. The abundance of organic products are healthy for farmers and consumers alike. And they just taste better. www.chicagogreencitymarket.org


HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about eco-friendly Chicago!

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Thursday's Beer Olympics tournament at Joe's Bar has the potential to get out of hand, packed as it's sure to be with area college students playing tons of flip cup and beer pong. That's why the sponsors brought in the security staff of the Jerry Springer Show to officiate the proceedings; stage manager Todd Scholtz will be the emcee for the event, which offers $1,300 in cash and prizes to the victors.

The $20 registration fee ($25 at the door, space permitting) includes two hours of Coors beer, plus $3 you-call-it drinks and a buffet for the entire evening. Sign up here.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
The Ledge – This new Wicker Park neighborhood hang has two things going for it already: $2 Miller drafts all day, every day; and an outdoor patio out back. Not a bad start.

Smash Cakes – Are the Bleeding Heart Bakery folks planning to take over the entire Chicago dessert scene? Sure seems like it. Bake on!

Moon Palace – The popular Chinatown spot is back after temporarily closing for renovations. It doesn’t take much to make us happy. A huge plate of dumplings and a full bar pretty much does the trick. Welcome back!

CLOSED:
Rick’s Café – Looks like it’s the end of the road for this European-themed café that was pretty much the opposite of most anything in Wrigleyville (preppy sports hangouts) or anything else on Sheridan (run-down dive bars). The menu was French, Mediterranean and Spanish influenced, which made it a sort of United Nations of Lakeview dining. And now it appears closed for good. We blame Ban Ki-moon.

Check back here every Tuesday with more openings and closings (and snarky comments, of course). And be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's list of new restaurants and bars.

The Chicago Noise Machine, a collective of nine local rock groups, seems to believe strong in the old "safety in numbers" adage. We're inclined to agree, seeing as it's getting harder and harder to make it as a lone wolf in the musical forest (or wherever it is that wolves roam).

Certainly, it'd be tough for just one band to put together an event like the upcoming Independent Art and Music Festival (I AM for short), which goes down June 13 at the Congress Theater. The all-day event will feature 25 music performances on two stages, art and photography exhibits, short film screenings, and more ($15 in advance, $20 at the door).

Two of those 25 music slots are still up for grabs. Hence: The Battle for Congress. During four shows over the next few weeks, 24 bands will compete for the right to open the fest.

The fun starts tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Elbo Room, where eight bands will compete. The winner from that night will meet the winners of two other prelims (April 29 and May 6), plus a wild card band, in the finals on May 15. Make sense? It will once you read the schedule (after the jump).

As you consider what you're doing for Earth Day (it's tomorrow, by the way), add this to the list: The Museum of Science and Industry is offering free admission all day (9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.).

While you're there, make sure to check out the recently re-opened exhibit, "Smart Home: Green + Wired." Not only will you be able to tour the "Greenest Home in Chicago," but you'll see 40 students from Hyde Park's Bret Harte Elementary School helping to plant a sustainable garden for the home (they'll be there from 10 a.m.-noon). If that doesn't get you in the Earth Day spirit, nothing will. If you get inspired, we've found a list of ways you can do your part throughout the week.

Before Wednesday's through, be sure to take advantage of some Earth Day deals at local bars and restaurants. And make plans for another stop on the Chicago eco-tourism circuit while you're at it.

Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Taxim
Throw-pillow Greek tapas lounge in Wicker Park.

Off the Beaten Path: Lake & Union Grill & Tap
West Loop dive bar livens up at night.

Weekly Treat: Burgers and Beers at Orbit Room
Have a $4 angus burger tonight, and wash it down with $3 Bell’s beer.

Man We're Crazy About: Adesso
Simple, sensational Italian in Boystown.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

After weeks (nay, months) of rumors and guessing games, the official 2009 Lollapalooza lineup has finally been revealed. And, well, there aren't a lot of surprises, at least as far as the headliners go. Depeche Mode, Tool, The Killers, Jane's Addiction, Beastie Boys, Kings of Leon, Lou Reed, Ben Harper...we've heard all this already.

The acts we're most excited about a little further down the list: Heartless Bastards, The Knux, Lykke Li, Santigold, Dan Auerbach, No Age, Blind Pilot, even Asher Roth...and we're sure Snoop Dogg will do his best to make a scene. Also, the DJ lineup at Perry's includes some pretty big names, including MSTRKRFT, Simian Mobile Disco and KiD CuDi.

Chicago's fairly well-represented in the lineup, with local emo-punkers Rise Against leading a pack that also includes Andrew Bird, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, Hey Champ and Joe Pug.

DeRo's got the full list of acts (with comments).

Rockin' Robins

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For rabid Robin Thicke fans (is there any other kind?), Saturday night's concert with Jennifer Hudson at the Arie Crown Theater just won't provide enough access to the R&B crooner. Good thing Rednofive is hosting an intimate after-party, where Thicke will appear to promote his latest album, Something Else (no word on whether he'll be singing). Co-hosting the event will be another Robin popular around these parts, Fox News' Robin Robinson. There will also be a Devious fashion show, if you're into that.

Doors open at 10 p.m., and cover is $20. Want to know if it's worth it? This video (for "The Sweetest Love" should give you some idea...

Enough about parking, let's talk parkour

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Cheers to the local traceurs featured on NBC late Saturday night after "SNL" — it was an LXTV news bit about parkour, the art/sport of, er, jumping onto and over things. Carefully. Gracefully. Just watch, it's a good explanation ...

The local group is Chicago Parkour. They just had a beginners session, but new events are always happening. Or, just follow the guy who just leap-frogged you. If you can ...

And, just so you feel totally behind the times — parkour must be hitting the mainstream if local comedy newbies are already skewering it (via Chicagoist) ...

3 Things We Love About ... playing hooky

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Um, it doesn't look like Dwight is buying your excuse. (File)


Not that we're advocating this, of course. But this spring has been extra-cold, extra-tenacious, extra-annoying, and tonight's forecast calls for — better sit down — snow. Grrrrrrrr. As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, it's time to collect the knives.

This Friday, however, we're supposed to get close to 80 and, well, aren't you due for a mental health day? Or, go ahead, feel young — call it playing hooky! Here are three things we love about that ...

1. Lying on Facebook
Don't let the social networking trip you up! Use your head: If you just called the boss and spun some story about the long night you spent ralphing or the crazy cold that came on you so suddenly, don't update your status an hour later to this: "Jane Doe is on the beach — and on her third margarita!" It's a tangled World Wide Web we weave; someone's bound to see your page or simply snitch on you, and people have been fired for this. Either fudge the tweets and Facebooking ("John Doe is meh.") or take a real holiday and just leave the stupid CrackBerry at home.

2. Being utterly unproductive
Weekend schedules sometimes are their own stern mistress — errands, groceries, family time, the honey-do list — but an unexpected day off is a diem to carpe. Do not contribute to society while playing hooky (but please do that on Earth Day!). It's only a mental health day if you relax, de-stress and get off the train (literally and figuratively). Ride these L's instead: Lounge around. Lay about, lie back. Lurk. Lag. Lollygag. Turn lazy into a verb: to laze. Find a lanai, and be listless.

3. Not working
Times are perilous, layoffs are imminent, money is tight. But one day of R&R and good times can be all you need to remember one very important fact even in the face of adversity: You are not your job. (Go on, finish that quotation — "You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f---ing khakis." Make it your new mantra. Just don't start punching imaginary people late at night ...)


HEY YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your favorite three things about playing hooky!

In times like these, that luxurious lifestyle you always dreamed of can feel even further out of reach. But you don't have to be a millionaire to spend your weekend in the company of fine automobiles, gourmet food and sparkling jewelry--all you need is 20 bucks.

That's the admission fee for the Luxury Living Expo, April 24-26 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. The three-day exhibit offers attendees a chance to get up close and personal with amenities they might never be able to afford (though you will have to pay for any of the sports memorabilia you win in the silent auction). The show runs 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

3 Things We Love About ... Hegewisch

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1. Saving a trip to the North Woods by checking out the Friday Night fish fry at Club 81 Too, 13157 Ave. M. There’s a small lake out back; keep a watchful eye and you might see the occasional deer that come visiting.


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Pam Austin, a field associate with the Field Museum, holds a toad discovered at the William Powers State Recreation Area. (Sun-Times file)

2. Taking in the 580 acres of William W. Powers State Recreation Area, 12949 Ave. O. The marsh area here is full of wildlife and fauna you wouldn’t exactly expect in the city.

3. Enjoying every gut-busting bite of “Bob’s Mistake” pizza — an avalanche of sausage, garlic, fresh tomatoes, and fresh red and green peppers — at Pudgy's Pizza, 13460 S. Baltimore. Would that every “mistake” was so appetizing!


HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about Hegewisch!

Chicago's Top 20 songs

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Here's the week's top 20 songs on Chicago radio.

What are you listening to?

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Phillip Foss: bringing technology and food together since...last year.

Apparently, April is the month of technological firsts: the first bar with alcoholic atmosphere, Oprah's first Tweet, and, coming on Tuesday, the first digital tasting at Lockwood restaurant at the Palmer House Hilton.

Chef Phillip Foss, whose blog is a favorite among local foodies, will connect with Ohio farmer Lee Jones over Internet video during the dinner. The two will discuss sustainable agriculture and farming techniques and explain how the produce used in the meal made its way onto the plate. The menu includes butter-poached black cod, bacon-wrapped shad roe and a sampling of Dietzler Farm's beef, among other things.

The event, which runs from 6-9 p.m., costs $95 per person and benefits Veggie U., a non-profit that helps children make good nutritional choices. Call (312) 917-3404 to make a reservation.

We're back with your regularly scheduled Pitchfork Music Festival lineup update. The new additions: Yeasayer, Blitzen Trapper, Disappears, Plants and Animals, Mew, Japandroids and Women.

Get your tickets and view the full roster of acts here.

Drink up music values at Bin 33rpm

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041709record.jpgYou'll be out picking through bins on Saturday's Record Store Day. So you'll have the fever. You'll be on the hunt. (Someone's gotta have that crazy-obscure EP, or that ridiculously collectible picture disc.) And you might as well keep going.

Here's an event that not a record store per se, but it honors the same spirit of independent business and social interaction: the seventh annual CHIRP Record Fair, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. Admission is $7, but you get $2 off with a receipt from any area record store dated from this Saturday.

WTF is CHIRP? "CHIRP is a non-profit organization formed to bring a new community radio station to Chicago. This station would be independently owned and operated by the group, and would provide a voice for independent music and views."

3 Things We Love About ... Friday night

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If it’s hard to justify eating out, we’ve got just the motivation for you.

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1. Melt with you
Take advantage of the complimentary wine tasting from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Melting Pot, 609 N. Dearborn. You’ll sample two reds and two whites, and get some food pairing recommendations; (312) 573-0011.

2. Dollar days
Le Colonial, 937 N. Rush, now offers a “Tax Relief Menu”: Select appetizers cost $1 each, including Vietnamese spring rolls, shrimp rolls, vegetable rolls, grilled shrimp and crisp beignets. From 5 to 7 p.m.; call (312) 255-0088.

3. Chow down for charity
From 5 to 11 tonight, try Jerry Kleiner’s latest restaurant, Via Ventuno, and a portion of your tab goes to charity. There’s also live music by the Golder College Prep Gu-Zheng and Rauner College Prep Jazz Band, as well as a silent auction and raffle. It’s at 2110 S. Wabash; call (312) 328-1198.

For more Friday night action, visit www.centerstagechicago.com.

GOT THREE MORE?
Tell us your favorite Friday night cheap eats!

Record Store Day: local happenings

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Cory Campbell browses through vinyl at Val's Halla Records, a 40-year-old Oak Park establishment. (Sun-Times file)


For dedicated music lovers, every day is Record Store Day, but in these times of turbulent change in the music industry, Saturday has been singled out by retailers for a special celebration of the sort of independent, Mom-and-Pop shops that not only stock the great stuff you'll never find in the big-box stores but also remain invaluable centers of this city's musical community.

A full list of participating stores can be found at www.recordstoreday.com, and most are planning free in-store performances as well as selling the soon-to-be-collectible special releases issued by many bands to mark the occasion.

Among the local highlights are appearances by Disappears (5 p.m.) and "a long-standing and well-liked Chicago punk band" at Reckless Records at 1532 N. Milwaukee; Azita (noon) at Laurie's Planet of Sound, 4639 N. Lincoln; Company of Thieves (call 708-456-0861 for time) at Rolling Stones Records, 7300 W. Irving in Norridge, and the Luck of Eden Hall (2 p.m.) at Vintage Vinyl, 925 Davis St. in Evanston. -- Jim DeRogatis

Club Hopping, April 17-23

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TINARIWEN
It's impossible to resist being eternally seduced by the edgy, spellbinding Saharan R&B played by these Tuareg tribesmen who make their home on the edge of the vast desert. Their music became the soundtrack for Tuareg independence and reconciliation. At 7 and 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln. Tickets, $18-$22. Call (773) 728-6000; www.oldtownschool.org. -- Mary Houlihan

More club shows after the jump ...

The Mix: Really cool things to do

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STELLAR COMBINATION
Veteran English rocker Robyn Hitchcock teams up with the Venus 3 -- R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Young Fresh Fellows frontman Scott McCaughey and drummer Bill Rieflin of Ministry -- for a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Epiphany, an Episcopal church/music venue at 201 S. Ashland. Dag Juhlin will open. Tickets are $20. Call (773) 276-3600; www.emptybottle.com.

More events after the jump ...

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Ladies, it's time to put away those snow boots and spring into some new looks for the warm(er) season. In town to help you plan your wardrobe is fashion guru Tim Gunn (of "Project Runway" fame, among other things). He'll be at Kate Spade (56 E. Oak) in the Gold Coast from 4-6 p.m. today. In addition to dispensing his wisdom, Gunn will also pose for pictures--for $100 a pop, according to TOC.

Think this weekend's Snuggie Pub Crawl is scary? Wait 'til next weekend, when local improv comedy comedy pH Productions hosts its second annual Zombie Pub Crawl in Andersonville.

Hundreds of made-up zombies will gather on Saturday, April 25 for a few hours of drink specials at area bars including In Fine Spirits, Simon's Tavern, Charlie's Ale House and Hamburger Mary's. It costs $15 in advance ($10 at any pH show) and $20 the day of the event. Registration begins at 2 p.m. in the U.S. Bank parking lot; drinking begins at 3 p.m.

Vote for the opera you want to see

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You, yes you, can pick which opera will be part of Chicago Opera Theater's 2011 spring season. Beginning today, voting is available for the "People's Opera."

General Director Brian Dickie has picked three operas to choose from: "The Magic Flute" (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), "Moscow, Cheryomushki" (Dmitri Shostakovich) and "Capriccio" (Richard Strauss).

Unlike democracy, however (well, sorta), you have to pony up for these votes. One dollar equals one vote — so you're donating to the cause and investing in your cultural experience. Voting lasts until 5 p.m. June 12, and the winning production will be announced this summer.

The first "People's Opera", launched during COT's 2008 Spring Season, raised over $47,000 for the company — and the winner, Rossini's "Mosè in Egitto," will be presented during the 2010 Spring Festival Season.

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Fly By Night 2-Year Anniversary Party
Thursday, April 16 at Debonair Social Club, 9 p.m.
It's hard to believe that it's only been two years since Fly By Night catapulted Willy Joy from obscurity to local DJ stardom (including a mention in the URB Next 100 and a gig at Lollapalooza), but this little party that caters to the young nightlife crowd is still going strong. To celebrate, Joy brings in Craze and Klever, two DJs that have mastered the hip-hop/dance/party-banger sound that made Fly By Night so popular. The party is 18+ and there's a free champagne toast from 9-10 p.m. with RSVP to info@debonairsocialclub.com.

Molecular rap-stronomy

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Yo, check out this "Lazy Sunday"-style tribute to Alinea chef Grant Achatz, from local food blog Third Coast Toast. It's CRAZY DELICIOUS! (via MenuPages Blog)

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
Iyanze – Get your African fix while Bolat deals with the after-effects of a fire. Same owners. Much of the same food. A little further north. You’ll live.

Cafe Wha Who? – The name is an homage to the popular Café Wha? in Greenwich Village. We would make some sort of underhanded insult about those bohemian snobs that made the Village famous, but we feel Chicago as a whole is a much more culturally sophisticated town and we wouldn’t stoop to their level. Plus, it’s in River North, so we’ll bite our tongues. Also, this is a coffee shop that serves booze, so it pretty much speaks for itself.

Jay’s on Taylor – Inexpensive pasta in (where else?) Little Italy.

District Bar – This River North bar/resto plans a grand opening this weekend. They claim to show every sporting event you want, while not being a “sports bar.” And you have to walk through a “secret” bookcase to get into this “speakeasy.” We’ll withhold judgment until we check it out, but we fear this place may just end up being too “kitschy” (our quote marks added).

Phoebe’s Cupcakes – You know, we here at Our Town were just saying, to nobody in particular, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was another bakery around that specialized in cupcakes?” (Note: We were not just saying that)

CLOSED:
Powerhouse Restaurant and Bar – It sounds more like a gym juice bar, but is actually a swanky West Loop spot … er, was. No word on whether it’s closed for good, but we’re not optimistic.

Caliente – This Logan Square Mexican spot has turned out the luces and gone frio. Que triste.

Check back here every Tuesday with more openings and closings (and snarky comments, of course). And be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's list of new restaurants and bars.

Lunch with Art Smith is as easy as click, answer, win

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Want a free lunch with Art Smith, the chef vouched for by the satisfied palettes of both Oprah and Obama? The Table 52 maestro (and future "Top Chef" competitor!) will be whipping up lunch on April 27 for a select few — in a secret location.

Head to NBCChicago.com and answer some local trivia questions. The first 160 people to pass the "test" will get a golden ticket to the lunch event, which consists of a password and the secret locale (not revealed until the day of). Chew on that!

New sports bars butch up River North

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Marcus at NBC5, our new favorite on-the-town guy, explores the new butch bars in River North. Which the site adorably refers to as RiNo.

And, um, who got to sit with Justin Timberlake last week at Bull & Bear? Do tell.

3 Things We Love About ... Dunning

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1. One of the advantages to living in this Northwest Side neighborhood is proximity to the family-owned Eli's Cheesecake World, 6701 W. Forest Preserve Dr. The cheesecake sprang from Eli's The Place For Steak restaurant; the dessert made its official debut on July 4, 1980 at the first Taste of Chicago.

Originally a manufacturing/distribution plant, Cheesecake World was renovated and remodeled, adding a 40-seat cafe, serving up coffee, cakes and of course, cheesecakes. More than 30 types of cheesecakes are manufactured and you can tour ($3 a person, call ahead to arrange, 773-736-3417) the glass-fronted processing/baking area to see just how these delectable treats are made.

The company store features “Sweet Imperfections,” cheesecakes at nearly half-price.

2. Those who have lived in the area for decades affectionately call the Harlem Irving Plaza Mall, 4104 N. Harlem (at Forest Preserve Drive), “the HIP.”

Technically located in Norridge (but literally across the street from the Chicago border) the HIP opened in 1956 (the land was once the site of a livestock farm) and was one of the first “shopping centers” built in the Chicago area. At the time, it was an open-air shopping center with 44 stores including Wieboldt’s, Woolworth and Kroger’s.

4-10_Stewart_Franksville_3.jpg That all went away more than 30 years ago when the mall was renovated, and enclosed, expanding to more than 700,000 square feet of enclosed shopping space. Anchor stores now include Target, Carson Pirie Scott and Best Buy.

3. The familiar “choo-choo train and engineer” neon sign of Franksville, 3550 N. Harlem, has been beckoning diners for decades. This is the home to the footlong hot dog ($3.80), the jumbo dog ($3.80) and the regular Chicago hot dog ($1.97). The cheese fries ($2.24) are a must. Dine-in or drive-through.

HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about Dunning!

Sketches on the South Side

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If this week's Chicago Improv Fest has inspired you to unleash your inner comedian, you're in luck. Next Thursday marks the launch of Chicago's newest improv instruction outlet, the St. Vitus Improv Workshop. Staffed by veterans of Second City and Players Workshop, the Beverly-based class runs for 12 weeks at the Christ the King Parish Center (9240 S. Hoyne), with lessons leading up to a public performance in July.

For more information, contact Tony at (773) 750-3857 or stvitusimprov@gmail.com. Sorry kids, the workshop is 18-plus.

Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Simone’s Bar
Northside and Danny’s owners combine powers in Pilsen.

Off the Beaten Path: Dubliner
Friendly, authentic Irish pub on the South Side.

Weekly Treat: Variety is Key at Cortland’s Garage
Get $3 Bud bottles, $4 imports and $5 Ketel vodka cocktails all week.

Man We're Crazy About: Luscious Layers Bakery
Custom treats and fresh baked goods in Bucktown.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Battle of the Midnight Movies

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The witching hour gets weird at Facets beginning in May.

Watch out, Music Box; you've got a competitor in the midnight-movie market. Facets Cinematheque, the home for serious Chicago film lovers, launches Facets Night School on May 2. The Saturday-night series will feature cinema's "wild side," with each event including a staff-led lecture, screening and discussion.

The first film in the series is Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Holy Mountain." It's a "carnivalesque succession of psychedelic vignettes, shocking iconography, alchemical set pieces, fascistic mass movements, and Brechtian distanciation devices," according to the Facets site (which also has a YouTube trailer). Check out the rest of the schedule after the jump.

Chicagoist reminded us that today's the day local author Sandra Cisneros reads from her coming-of-age classic, The House on Mango Street, at the Harold Washington Library (400 S. State). The 25-year-old novel is the current selection in the Library's "One Book, One Chicago" series.

The free event begins at 6 p.m.

’80s relics still roam the earth

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Martin Fry of ABC, circa 2006. Did he ever find true love? (via ABC)


I didn't wear my pleather pants to the Tributosaurus-as-XTC show last weekend, but there's still hope. In fact, for this one I may need to add shoulder pads and some mousse. It's the Regeneration Tour 2009, an annual bill of ’80s has-beens, coming to Chicago this year and featuring ABC, Berlin, Wang Chung, Heaven 17 and Cutting Crew. Seriously, these were once big acts. OK, shut up, we're going anyway. The show's June 26 at the Rosemont Theatre, and tickets are on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster.

Improv Fest starts tonight

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The boys of Bassprov welcome a special guest this week.

Everyone laughs in the same language. That's the general premise behind the 12th annual Chicago Improv Festival, which starts tonight at the Lakeshore Theater. This year's event is the most diverse ever, with 90 ensembles from six countries (Canada, Israel, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the U.S.) performing on 11 stages over the next week.

But you won't pay $20 per show (less, for some) for a glorified Benetton ad. You'll get lots of comedy, too. Some highlights (check the festival site for the full schedule and ticket info):

  • FACEBOOK, with Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel ("30 Rock"), headlines Tuesday night at the Lakeshore, along with Siblings of Doctors and Mission IMPROVable
  • Boom Chicago alumni, including MAD TV's Ike Barinholtz and Jordan Peele, bring a taste of Amsterdam to the Lakeshore stage on Friday
  • Joe Flaherty, of SCTV fame, will receive a Lifetime Achievement award on Wednesday at Second City ETC, then show why he got it by performing with Impromptu Splendor (Saturday at Second City Skybox) and Bassprov (Sunday at Lakeshore Theater)

One internationally infamous comedian who won't be performing: Andy Dick, whose Saturday-night show was cancelled.

matt-and-kim.jpgMatt and Kim


In case you didn't hear about it, this weekend saw a few more additions to this summer's Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park.

Matt and Kim, Wavves, Charles Hamilton, The Duchess and the Duke and F*cked Up were added to the Saturday lineup, while M83, Black Lips and The Very Best will be playing on Sunday. For the full lineup and tickets, go to the festival site.

3 Things We Love About ... Wrigley Field

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By Dave Hoekstra

To say there are only three things to love about Wrigley Field is like trying to name the best of the Three Tenors.

And no, Placido Domingo did not play shortstop for the Cubs.

1. Section 242
This is where I have had season seats since 1986. Our “Terrace Reserved” seats are along the aisle and near the field boxes in the far right field corner of the ballpark. Section 242 is like sitting in the bleachers without the cost or the hassle. We get a panoramic view of Wrigley and over the years have entertained guests such as the Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich, Hillary Clinton (well she stood near a 242 corner) and former Cub Pete LaCock who watched a meaningless game with us many autumn moons ago.

I became a Cubs season ticket holder in 1985 and landed in the grandstands behind home plate. We sat near late newspaper columnist Mike Royko and porn star Seka, who at the time was hanging out with Cubs pitching coach Billy Connors.

But our section was frigid year-round, due to the lack of sun. Late Chicago singer-songwriter Mike Jordan called them “great hangover seats.” Maybe that’s why Royko was there. In April, most of Wrigley is shrouded in a blanket of gloomy shade. But I noticed the sun shining in the right field corner of the ballpark.

So after the ‘85 season I wrote the Cubs a letter and they let us pick from the litter of 242.
Our section has become a warm family over the years. We have cried, drank together, cried and cried some more. There’s Wise Pete, who has seen it all, optimistic Mike and Hope and Jacques Pryor. Simon the Usher is our maharishi yogi. Rush Street Jim Rittenberg always has a smile from the expensive field box seats a few rows down along the pristine red brick.

My season ticket partner Angelo has been instructed to dump my ashes out of 242 into an eternal spring.

2 .The Wrigley Ivy
On a beautiful midsummer day every visitor to Wrigley Field is embraced by the lush green ivy on the outfield walls. Bill Veeck Jr. planted the original vines in 1937 along with Chinese elms in square boxes that framed the center field bleachers. The tree experiment was abandoned in the early 1940s because too many leaves blew around the ballpark. The poets among us equate the ivy with the curve of the baseball season: we are brown and tattered from a tough winter, we emerge in full glory in June and July and fade away again into a respite of heartbreak.

3. The L’s left turn at Irving Park
The top of the majestic Wrigley Field scoreboard can be seen by all riders as the L swings left at Irving Park. This helps explain the proletarian nature of the Cubs — all walks of life riding by know the score. My friend/Chicago cop and good guy Mike Reischl recalled, “As the L slowly makes the turn, the conductor would announce over the PA system in a gravely sound, ‘Next Stop Addison, Wrigley Field!’ and then he repeated it twice. It just gives me goose bumps and still gets me excited. And I’m 41 years old.” I’ve been to most major league ballparks. There’s nothing that compares with Wrigley Field and the L.
The ride goes on forever.

Dave Hoekstra will attend his 37th consecutive Cubs home opener today.


YOU GOT BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about Wrigley Field!


3 Things We Love About ... Friday night

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No plans for the weekend? Let the Sun-Times be your social planner.

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Start wining
1.
It’s pinot night at the South Loop Wine Cellar, 1442 S. Michigan., which means pinot noir, pinot blanc, pinot gris, and plenty of snacks. The sampling starts at 6:30 p.m. and admission is $5. Call (312) 356-0630.

Musical smorgasbord
2.
The Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, hosts three very different bands: Dr. Dog (vintage-sounding rock), the Cave Singers (Seattle indie folk) and Golden Boots (self-described “crumbly western”). Tickets are $15; call (773) 489-3160.

Economical eats
3.
There’s nothing like Italian for comfort food. At A Mano, 335 N. Dearborn St., pizzas are $5 in the bar and a three-course dinner is $29. Don’t you deserve dessert? Call (312) 629-3500.

'Jersey Boys' cast gets three new lead actors

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The cast of Chicago's long-running production of "Jersey Boys" has gotten a facelift with the insertion of three new performers in lead roles. The new kids on the block include Michael Cunio as Tommy DeVito, Dominic Scaglione Jr. as Frankie Valli and Shonn Wiley as Bob Gaudio. (Wiley and Scaglione have already stepped into their respective roles. Cunio will make his debut on April 24.) Chicagoan Michael Ingersoll continues in his role as Nick Massi.

The hugely popular show (and Tony Award-winning musical) is playing at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. Tickets, $30 - $110, are available by phone at (312) 902-1400 or via ticketmaster.com and all Ticketmaster outlets.

Quintron plays with his organ

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So last week we found ourselves listening to an online radio station's kickin' jazz tracks, especially a great set focusing on the soul-jazz organ artists of the 1960s. And this weekend we're excited to see that Quintron — a guy who plays a custom-built organ and sounds like one of those '60s soul-jazz records after it's been beamed into space and sent back to us by aliens — is coming to the Empty Bottle, along with his puppeteer wife Miss Pussycat. That's right, we said puppeteer wife. Listen here. Tickets here.

Lumen turns into 'Project Runway' for a night

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Go ahead, say it: This sounds fierce! "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano brings his spring and summer collections and his goofy-ass hair to the newly renovated Lumen on Saturday night for the Wicker Park boutique Bonnie & Clyde’s Love Games Fashion Show. Call Alison at (312) 733-2222 for table reservations. Free before 10:30 p.m. if RSVPing here. Cover is $20 thereafter.

Club Hopping, April 10-16

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WES AND EUGENE’S CABINET OF WONDERS
John Wesley Harding (left) and Eugene Mirman’s variety show features a different lineup at each stop. In Chicago, they welcome Dag Juhlin, Mark Bazer and additional guests for an evening of music and spoken word. Harding, who took his stage name from the Bob Dylan album, has a vibrant, offbeat musical style — sometimes moody and low key and other times hilariously dark and biting. Eugene Mirman is a New York City-based comedian, writer, actor and filmmaker. At 7 tonight at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport. Tickets, $20. Call (773) 525-2508; www.schubas.com. — Mary Houlihan

More club shows after the jump ...

The Mix: Really cool things to do

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TIGER LILY
The quintessential cheeky British girl first earned notice in 2006 for her debut album “Alright, Still.” Lily Allen’s latest work, “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” stays true to her sassy Mockney style, but with a more electronic, less retro sound. The singer has true vocal chops and can put on a solid live performance. Aside from having one of the more ridiculous band names out there, Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head offers ironic electropop, providing the perfect warm-up for this concert. 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine. Tickets, $26.50. Call (312) 559-1212 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets purchased for this show originally scheduled at the Vic will be honored.
Centerstagechicago.com

More events this weekend after the jump ...

The best baseball bars in town

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No matter which team you cheer for, there's a place in town to enjoy a beer or two or four. Now that the season has finally opened, Centerstage has a round-up of the best Cubs bars and best White Sox bars. Take your pick, and don't get 'em mixed up.

3 Things We Love About ... The L

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1. Walking past those new money-gouging parking meters (thanks, Mayor Daley and City Council!) and being so relieved we don't have to pay for parking.

2. Experiencing all the diversity the city has to offer, even when riding a mere two stops.

3. Looking down below during a snowstorm -- or heavy rain or any rush hour, really -- and seeing cars snarled in traffic and feeling quite smug we instead can catch up on our reading.


Hey! YOU GOT three BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about the L!

Rave reviews for Andrew Bird shows

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Andrew Bird saws away last month at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. (AP)


Chicago's favorite multi-instrumentalist and whistler, indie-rock fave Andrew Bird, comes home tomorrow night with Thursday and Friday night shows at the grand Civic Opera House. It is, alas, sold out. For those with tickets and full of anticipation, the reviews of the tour have been glowing, like this passage from the Austin American-Statesman ...

"Bird treated a near-capacity crowd at the Austin City Limits studios Wednesday night to a beautiful hour-long set. Looking like the TA in one of your college poetry classes, dressed in shock red pants and a bulky knitted scarf, Bird wasted no time setting his aural landscape, as he plucked and bowed his violin and then set the sounds on a loop while whistling over them and quickly discarding his shoes during a dreamy introduction that gave way to the Russian folksiness of 'Why.' His sultry delivery of the lyrics 'you’ll get your punishments when you show me your crimes,' had Bird sounding like a man lustily talking the ghost of a former lover into a corner of a darkened bedroom. Indeed, part of the beauty of Bird’s live performance comes from hearing the singer jazzily play with his lyrics, reshaping the songs from his albums."

Take a walk. (We do!)

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It's finally warm enough today to take a stroll, for pleasure or for exercise. Or for business, for that matter — we walk to work. Chicago's a great walking city, eh? In fact, we just ranked No. 5 on this nice-but-useless list!

100 essential Chicago restaurants ... in your ’hood

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New City has posted the Resto 100, its annual list of 100 essential Chicago restaurants. The list can be searchable by cuisine or neighborhood, and is not ranked. Some interesting choices, indeed. No Charlie Trotters, for instance. And kudos for including Heartland Cafe, in spite of its recent hiccups.


Chicago Outdoor Film Fest lineup

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Ready for your close-up? "Sunset Boulevard" opens this year's Chicago Outdoor Film Festival, starting in July. (Yes, dream it, Chicago: July, outdoors, hot — it will happen!) Ebert's got the full line-up and low-down. Read it here.


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It’s April in Chicago, which means optimism is high on both sides of town. Both the Sox and Cubs won their season openers, and there are high hopes for each team this year. Head down to Daley Plaza today for Play Ball Chicago, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. to celebrate all things baseball … quickly … before both teams have a chance to blow it.

The second annual event features White Sox trivia with announcer Ed Farmer, as fans test their knowledge for Sox tickets (11:15 a.m.). You can also play Cubs karaoke with Garry Pressy for a chance to win Cubs tickets. Other celebrities on hand include Sox announcer Bill Melton and Cubs great Billy Williams (and, to a lesser extent, Cubs superfan Ronnie “Woo-Woo” Wickers will surely be in attendance).

It’s a beautiful day, so go ahead and take that long lunch and check out the festivities. We won’t tell.

Feets don't flail me now!

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Winter refuses to go away. The economy sucks. Grumble, grumble, grumble — you need a personal day. Treat yourself to a mani-pedi. You deserve it. And, heck, go out on a limb and try something completely different. Here's a video from NBC Chicago about a really fishy kind of pedicure ...


Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
Birchwood Kitchen – This Wicker Park sandwich shop roasts its own meats and offers home-made mozzarella. Um, yes and yes.

The Stretch – A sports bar takes the spot of Tryst in Wrigleyville. While there’s not much new you can say about a sports bar in Wrigleyville, we did like the cleanliness of the place and the mostly bar food menu looks somewhat appealing – which is more than you can say for most of the places along Wrigley Row (Clark Street). They have been open with a limited menu for a few days, with a grand opening this weekend.

In other Wrigleyville news, the Rockit Bar & Grill that’s going in the former Tuscany space on Clark/Waveland is still supposed to be ready in time for opening day (Monday). We’ll believe it when we see it.

CLOSED:
Taylor Street – RIP to this Evanston pizza place that nobody seemed to like, only took cash, and was actually on Central. So it’s probably for the best.

Chaos Theory Cakes and Confections and Suzi’s Tea & Café – The bad news is both of these stores (which were right next to each other on Lincoln Avenue, is anything left on that street?) are no more. The good news is you can get pretty much anything they had at Chaos Theory from Bleeding Heart Bakery, since they were run by the same people. And you can still order from Suzi’s Web site, teavision.com. Ain’t the Internet grand?

Check back here every Tuesday with more openings and closings (and snarky comments, of course). And be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's list of new restaurants and bars.

2016? The comedy olympics are going on now

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If you'd forgotten what a comedy mecca Chicago is, let Amy Poheler remind you ...

Yep, take her word for it (via NBC Chicago). Improv Olympic — OK, iO ... whatever, copyright nazis — is the other place to explore, besides Second City, for top-notch hilarity. Go for the laughs, stay for the eventual bragging rights and being able to one day drop at a party, "Oh yeah, he's hilarious as the megastar of 'SNL,' and you know, we saw him before he was famous back in Chicago ..."

Catch iO's Tuesday night show this very night, "Drained," featuring Brian Wilson and Dina Facklis (a master of instinct, as noted in a Trib review of the show). Shows are at 10 p.m. (oh come on, you'll sleep when you're dead) and cost a whopping $5.

Also tonight, the now-established improv team the Reckoning — aw, the late great Bastion site described them as "a psychotic dreamscape of madcap comedy" — is on every Tuesday (10:30 p.m.) and Thursday (10:15 p.m.) for, again, 5 whole bucks.


Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Taste of Brasil
Exotic snack food rules this Oak Park cafe.

Off the Beaten Path: Zahrat al Madaa'en
Low-key Albany Park spot for Middle Eastern grub and bellydance jams.

Weekly Treat: Stay Classy at Black Beetle
Dewars drinks are just $3 on Tuesday nights.

Man We're Crazy About: Jive Turkey
South Side BBQ joint keeps it healthy – and that’s no jive.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

3 Things We Love About ... U.S. Cellular Field

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Sure, there are the fireworks after Sox homers, Elvis Night and the sensational scoreboard (with replays, races and live images of fun-loving fans).
But here are three cool things you might not know about U.S. Cellular Field:

1. If you didn’t go to a Sox game last year, then you haven’t seen the Championship Moments Monument. Large bronze sculptures of Joe Crede, Paul Konerko, Juan Uribe and Orlando (“El Duque”) Hernandez recall heroic sequences in the 2005 World Series. Bricks on the plaza around the sculpture are inscribed with messages from fans. Some are funny; some romantically recall first dates at a Sox game, and some touchingly remember lost parents who lived long lives without ever seeing a Sox championship.

2. Kids get a chance to play baseball like their favorite team at Fundamentals (near left field). Check out the Wiffle ball diamond, batting and pitching cages and areas for base-running. At a game last year, a tot was attempting to field grounders with her bare hand and throw with her gloved hand. But a Sox Training Academy coach soon got her into All-Star form.

3. Food and beer around the world! Of course, there are ballpark staples such as hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn. But also look for pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches (steak, chicken, roast beef, corned beef, turkey), brats, garden burgers, quesadillas, veggie dogs and funnel cakes. Some stands are just for desserts, and some cater to children (with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other kid favorites).
Beers Around the World has bottled brew from a dozen countries.

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Chef Olegario Soto, of Midlothian, shows the new Grand Slam Italian Meatball Sandwich available on the Club Level at U.S. Cellular Field. (Brett Roseman/SouthtownStar)


HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about U.S. Cellular Field


Gay punk rock? Read all about it

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Pansy Division is Luis Illades (from left), Jon Ginoli, Joel Reader and Chris Freeman. (File)


We loved "Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band," the documentary about America's first openly gay punk band that screened last fall at the 27th annual Reeling Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival. (The film just hit DVD.) "As much as things have changed with human rights, there is still much yet to evolve," singer Jon Ginoli told the Sun-Times in November. "There's still plenty of issues that burn us up and plenty of hypocrisy to keep singing about."

And writing about, apparently — and reading about! Chicagoist reports that Ginoli, a native of Peoria, will be reading from his new memoir, Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North Ave.

Chicagoist says: "Deflowered begins with the band's formation and soars to heights of touring with Green Day, and dips to lows of homophobic fans and the challenges of pursuing success and acceptance in the predominantly hetero world of rock. Ginoli's memoir doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to tales of groupies, label battles, and band brawls either, so this reading is sure to be a fun one."

Chicago's Top 20 songs

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Pretty quiet list this week, kids. The songs pretty much do-si-do in their chart positions.

But, who's this? Hello, Britney!

Here are this week's top 20 songs based on Chicago-area radio airplay ...

Summer fest actually offers a taste of Chicago

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As Jim DeRogatis' blog reported earlier, this year, a smaller stage at the annual stuff-yourself-silly fest, Taste of Chicago, will be highlighting the rosters of several of Chicago's best independent labels. Today the city announced a schedule for that stage, highlighting dozens of homegrown bands and including "A Patriotic Salute to our 44 Presidents" on July 4, with songs for every U.S. president. This may be the most musically interesting stage at the Taste this year.

The full schedule is after the jump ...

Inhale, Exhale...

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The economy, the weather, your significant other, taxes, cholesterol, bad waiters, late buses, Glenn Beck...the list of things that can cause stress is pretty much endless. Which is why Exhale Spa is offering a free stress-relief series on Mondays in April, featuring guided meditation. The practice has been shown to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and generally chill you out. Just ask Sting.

The half-hour sessions begin on April 6 at 6 p.m. (and run each subsequent week); reserve a spot by calling the spa at (312) 753-6500.

If you're really looking to get relaxed, Exhale is also offering a 20-minute express acupuncture session for $20. That's definitely a good deal, though we wonder if you really want someone rushing to stick needles in you.


Man, your old dude 'do has got to go

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Women of Chicago: Tired of running your fingers through your boyfriend's gnarly hair? Do you keep encouraging him to wear hats, even though he still looks like a doofus? Well, Pete Wentz has a solution for you. Take a photo of the guy's ridiculous hair, then log onto Fall Out Boy's Friends or Enemies site and submit it. From there, we'll allow whoever wrote the copy on that Web page to explain: "Homeboy will then be in the running to win a brand new haircut and style at the Clandestine Industries Salon, thanks to our good friends at AXE Hair. Between 40 & 50 dudes will get restyled over 3 days and will then be ready to take on the world looking so fresh and so clean … with girl-approved hair."

Dude! The deadline to enter is April 17.

Madonna's DJ in the house (music)

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Madonna's not having a very good day today. Good thing her DJ's free — and spinning tonight in Chicago. As reports NBCchicago.com: "DJ Enferno comes to Chicago to appear at Fulton Market hot spot Lumen tonight. The D.C.-based DJ is known for his brand of mash-ups and his "Live Remix Project," which he refers to as a 'one-man symphony.' 9PM. RSVP to info@lumen-chicago.com for complimentary admission before 10:30PM; $20 thereafter."

Ramp it up for Chicago's namesake

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It may not feel like spring (grrrrrrrr!), but one of the season's first garden items is rarin' to go. Ramps — the stinky wild onions that gave Chicago its name — are celebrated tonight at RampFest, 7 p.m. at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Enjoy oniony dishes prepared by local celebrity chefs. Tickets are $75-125 and benefit the Land Connection.

Ticket giveaway: Numero Group's Eccentric Soul Revue

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The Numero Group's insanely cool Chicago soul show is this weekend — read all about it — and Chicagoist is giving away a pair of tickets. Click fast, you've got until 3 today.

Wanted: Webslingers who can carry a tune

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Can you climb walls? Do you have spidey sense? Do you look really hot in webbed, red tights? And, really, can you sing through that mask?

Actually, none of these qualities are required for the open casting call May 7 in Chicago for the new Broadway musical “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark,” directed by Julie Taymor (“Across The Universe,” “Frida,” “The Lion King on Broadway”) and featuring music and lyrics by U2's Bono and The Edge.

The production company is looking for principals and understudies for the roles of Peter Parker, Mary Jane and one Female Lead Villian. Rock/pop voices are a plus. Regardless of experience, however, anyone who thinks they might be qualified is encouraged to audition. All interested people should bring a snapshot or photo of themselves and a brief pop/rock or rock song to sing. No accompanist or audio equipment will be provided.

The Chicago location hasn't been set yet. For more information, updated casting call information, or if you can’t attend any of the above casting calls, e-mail here or visit the site.

Time for an all-skate!

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This could be you.

Looking to bring out your board or bike this weekend? In case you didn't hear yet, the long-awaited Logan Boulevard Skate Park, the city's first covered skate park (2430 W. Logan), opened on Wednesday. It's sure to be crowded with eager skaters, bikers and spectators.

If new things don't impress you much, you can always hit up one of the city's other skate spots, like Wilson (700 W. Wilson) and Burnham (3400 S. Lake Shore).

3 Things We Love About ... Friday night

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It’s Friday, and you’re probably exhausted. But that’s no reason not to jump-start your weekend. Here are 3 Things to do tonight that will up your energy.

Yoga and ecstasy
1. Dave Romanelli, Yeah Dave's Guide to Livin' the Moment, leads a class in vinyasa yoga at Exhale Spa, 945 N. State. It’s set to music ranging from Jerry Garcia to Frank Sinatra, with a focus on simple pleasures. Admission is $35 and includes a post-class wine and Vosges chocolate tasting. It starts at 6:30 p.m.; call (312) 753-6500.

Music, man
2.
Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander and his rock band, the Del Crustaceans, headline the “Next Year Day” Cubs fans party at Harry Caray's Tavern Wrigleyville, 3551 N. Sheffield Ave. There’s live music by Lonnie Brooks, too, plus a rousing midnight singing of "Go Cubs Go." The party starts at 8 p.m., and admission is $10. Call (773) 327-7800.


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Guitarist Toronzo Cannon steals a few moments with his daughter, Gayun Ta Cannon, of Bridgeport. (Sun-Times file)

Blues with an edge
3.
Chicago guitarist Toronzo Cannon adds a dash of funk to the blues with the Cannonball Express, who are playing the Harlem Avenue Lounge, 3701 S. Harlem in Berwyn. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and admission is $6. Call (708) 484-3610.


HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things for Friday night!


The Mix: Really cool things to do

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VIVA MORRISSEY!
British singer/songwriter Morrissey, will appear at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence. The Courteeners will open. Tickets are $37.50. Call (773) 561-9500; www.aragon.com.

JAZZ QUINTET EXTRAORDINAIRE
Jazz-fusion greats Chick Corea and John McLaughlin are two-fifths of the Five Peace Band, which will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Other members of the band are Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett and Brian Blade. Tickets are $35-$85. Call (312) 462-6300; www.thechicagotheatre.com.

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More events after the jump ...

Club Hopping, April 3-9

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LADYTRON
Over the course of four albums, from "604" (2001) through "Velocifero" (2008), the Liverpool electronic-pop quartet has shown considerable stylistic range and a consistently unerring ear for great hooks. They remain cult favorites, but favorites popular enough to headline two shows at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, with the Faint, Telepathe and Figo at 8:30 tonight and 6 p.m. Saturday. Tickets, $25. Call (773) 549-0203; www.metrochicago.com. -- Jim DeRogatis

More club shows after the jump ...

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The countdown to a new Brown Line (which has lasted well over 1,000 days, but who’s, um, counting?) is almost complete, as the renovated Paulina stop opens Friday after a year-long closure for repairs. A couple of local spots will celebrate the occasion with specials all weekend. Among them:

Finley Dunne’s will serve $2.50 Bud Light pints on Friday, and half-price sandwiches from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. all weekend
The Shire will offer $3 Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold Lager pints all weekend
Fizz serves up half-price pizzas before 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday
Dinkel’s will have a burglaur (their breakfast sandwich) and coffee for $2.99
Frasca has select bottles of wine for 20 bucks on Friday, $3 glasses of champagne on Saturday and $2 brown cows on Sunday

That leaves only the Wellington stop left for repairs. We're sure that'll open any day (or year) now. But really, who needs to get on an actual train when you can just ride the Virtual L from the comfort of your computer?

Sandwich deals today

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Had your fill of $5 foot-longs and $4 Torpedos? Good, because another cheap sandwich option has just hit town. Latin-American chain Pollo Campero, which has two locations in the city (4830 N. Pulaski and 2730 N. Narragansett), is introducing a new line of fried and grilled chicken sandwiches. To get you hooked, the restaurants are offering free sandwiches (limit one per customer) all day today.

If you've got a little more cash (or your lunch hour isn't long enough for a trip to the Northwest Side), try out Bin 36's April lunch deal, including any sandwich and soft drink for $9. Not as much of a rush for this one, as the deal's available all month long.

The Beatles want your kids to chill out

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When the Beatles sang, "It's all too much for me to take" — shortly after they traveled to India in 1968 to study the Transcendental Meditation technique with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — the "it" they were referring to was love. These days, however, many of us say that, implying that the stresses of our daily lives are bearing down a bit too hard. And that's not just working adults. More and more young folks are showing signs of stress and anxiety. What to do? Beatles to the rescue!

At 11 a.m. Friday, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, along with Russell Simmons (huh?) and David Lynch (double huh?), will conduct a press conference — to be broadcast live via the Web — to launch a global initiative to teach 1 million at-risk kids how to meditate. An hour before, several Chicago teachers, business professionals and others who practice TM will gather at the Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St. in Oak Park, to talk about the techniques and their particular value. Local medical researcher Amparo Castillo will also be there to discuss the implications of recent research along these lines — adolescent health and the effects of stress. All sponsored by the Illinois Committee for Stress-Free Schools.

Saturday night, McCartney and Starr will share the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York for the “Change Begins Within” benefit concert to raise funds for the teaching of TM to young people.

Last month, we told you about Chicago Opera Theater's YouTube contest, which offered free spring season subscriptions (up to a $570 value) to those who most creatively answered the question, "Why Do You Deserve Free Tickets to Chicago Opera Theater?"

The four winners were announced today, and we have to say, we agree with the selections. Check out the top vote-getter below, and view all the entries here.

Jealous? Tickets for the season are still available.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

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Restaurant Wars: March

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It's tough to run a restaurant these days, but not for everyone. Through economic woes and fickle food trends, some eateries remain in high demand--at least on the Internet. Each month, we'll give you a rundown of the ten most-viewed restaurants on CenterstageChicago.com, along with Twitter-friendly commentary on possible reasons for each spot's strength. Will your favorite make the list? Read on to find out.

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1. (2) Sweet Mandy B's
Even the influx of newer, trendier cupcake shops can't topple this top-dog of treats; no need for foie-gras gimmicks here.

The only address you'll ever need

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The bicentennial birthday celebration for Illinois' ol' Abe Lincoln continues this week in Chicago — as a copy of his famed Gettysburg Address goes on display today at the Chicago History Museum. Five copies of the address are known to exist, and Chicagoist has info about this particular one. It'll be at the museum through May 3.


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This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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