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Winter Block Party for Chicago's Hip-Hop Arts
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater; free during the day, $10-$15 evening
This second-annual event features a free daytime session with visual art and graffiti from emerging local artists, a B-Boy/B-Girl breakdancing battle, an open-mic showcase, DJs and a lot more. In the evening, check out "The New Style: Hip-Hop Aesthetics Across Genres," an exhibition of "style, mash-ups, collage, and conversation" hosted by Kevin Coval and featuring Waka (of the Brickheadz crew), WBEZ South Side Bureau reporter Natalie Moore, South Side Community Arts Center executive director/curator Faheem Majeedis and others.

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We have to give you credit, CTA. After all the ways you’ve screwed us over in 2009 (full buses passing us by, trains running express when we least expect it, the persistent odor of bodily fluids), you think you can make us forget all of it by offering penny rides on New Year’s Eve. And you know what? It just might work. Because instead of writing up a list of grievances, we’ve been busy brainstorming how to spend those cents between 8 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday. Here’s what we’ve come up with (not including all the New Year’s Eve events on the slate):

  • Hop on the Red Line and spend some time at the Jackson stop, where you’ll surely find a music performance in progress, whether it’s classical violin or jazz on electric guitar. Increase your enjoyment by stopping by Ceres Café for a drink with the traders first.
  • Take a ride over to the Chicago Blue Line stop to view the new installation from local artist Peter N. Gray. While you’re there, head above ground for a cocktail at the Matchbox and maybe a heart attack (the Three Little Piggies Sandwich) at the nearby Silver Palm.
  • Plan a Pink Line journey to 18th St, where the decorated station will have you in awe. Not only that, but perennial favorite Nuevo Leon is just a short walk away (and if you’re taking a ride on the tail end of the deal, Panaderia Nuevo Leon opens at 5:30 a.m.)
  • Pre-party with the Wildcat faithful at Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Evanston, off the Purple Line’s Dempster stop – the diehards have plenty to prepare for, as Northwestern plays its biggest football game in several years on New Year’s Day, against Auburn in the Outback Bowl at 11 a.m. (if you can’t bear to leave the city, try Lion Head Pub – by the Fullerton stop – or the brand-new Purple Haze, steps away from Belmont).
  • Ride the Brown Line out to Francisco, just so you can confirm it exists (seriously, it’s gotta be the least referenced stop on the North Side). The welcoming Montrose Saloon is a short jaunt south.
  • Go for a late, late dinner (or an early breakfast) at the 24-hour Huck Finn Donuts near the Pulaski stop on the Orange Line. We recommend the Donut Delight (topped with whipped cream and ice cream).
  • Brave the cold and take a walk to Promontory Point, near the Garfield Green Line stop in Hyde Park. It’s the perfect place to toast to 2010 (with non-alcoholic beverages, of course).


Got better ideas for how to take advantage of cheap public transit on New Year’s Eve? Let everyone know in the comments. And remember to check out Centerstage’s Virtual L to find the best spots near train stops year-round.

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Johnny Drummer's one of many famous musicians you can catch on Saturday.

Can't wait for the Blues Fest to get a super-size fix of Chicago's most famous music? You don't have to. The Chicago Blues Tour returns on Saturday, offering admission to and transportation between seven clubs around the city from 8:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.

The $40 tour includes stops at Lee's Unleaded Blues, Rosa's Lounge, Checkerboard Lounge, Rooster's Palace and Catcher's Inn, as well as the tour "hub," Wabash Tap.

In addition to artists like Linsey Alexander, Fantastic L-Roy and Vance Kelly, the tour includes three special events:


  • "Southside Showcase / Chicago Blues Festival Preview Jam Session", which includes a sneak peek at upcoming artists from this year's fest (including Johnny Drummer and the Starliters)

  • "Harmonica Showdown!" with five harmonica players going at it throughout the night

  • "Guitar Duel" between slide guitar master Li'l Ed (with his band the Blues Imperials) and young turk Pete Galanis (from Howard & the White Boys).

You're free to stay at each club for as long or as little as you like, as shuttle buses will be running regularly all night long. You'll start at the venue from which you purchase your tickets - or at Wabash Tap, if you buy 'em online.

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