Marvin Tate, wearing a black hat, white shirt, and untied bowtie, poses with an empty birdcage in a black-and-white promo image for Laughing Song: A Walking Dream
Marvin Tate in a press photo for Laughing Song: A Walking Dream Credit: Justin T. Jones

Even in a city full of talented artists with their fingers in a half dozen projects at once, Marvin Tate stands out as a Renaissance man. The west-side native is extraordinarily industrious as a singer-songwriter, poet, visual artist, playwright, and activist, with a richly diverse body of work, and he’s been a local legend for decades. This month, Tate seems to have kicked his activity into an even higher gear! 

On Friday, July 15, Tate’s new visual-art exhibit, The Musicality of Poetry, opens at Experimental Sound Studio’s Audible Gallery. It’ll be on view by appointment till October 2, and it includes a collaborative sound installation with saxophonist Hunter Diamond and cellist olula negre. On Saturday, July 23, he’ll perform a literary tribute to recently departed cultural critic and musician Greg Tate as part of HotHouse’s 35th anniversary festival. And on Saturday, July 30, Tate will debut a four-hour peripatetic performance in collaboration with Theatre Y. Laughing Song: A Walking Dream begins and ends at the YMEN Center (1241 S. Pulaski), but in between it will traverse North Lawndale, along the way involving comedy, happenings, humor rituals, poetry, dance, and a meal. According to Theatre Y, Tate will mix stories from his own childhood with the “dreamlike presence” of the world’s first Black recording artist, George W. Johnson, as “he leads us through his home streets in search of true laughter.” Johnson cut a famous novelty number called “The Laughing Song” in the 1890s, but ended up in an unmarked grave. Tickets for the production, which runs Saturdays and Sundays through August 28, are available at

If you’re still kicking yourself for never visiting iconic Chicago nightclub Neo before it closed in summer 2015, you’re in luck! On Saturday, July 16, Metro hosts its annual Neo reunion, which highlights the DJs who made the club a destination in five different decades. This year’s event includes Nocturna cofounder Scary Lady Sarah and Neo’s very first DJ, Suzanne Shelton—whose vision and ingenuity helped transform a failing Lincoln Park disco into a new-wave hot spot. Glenn Russell, Rob Kokot, Bill Saveley, and Jeff Moyer also spin. The night kicks off at 8 PM; tickets are $25, or $22 in advance.

In February, Chicago band Blinker dropped their debut album, the rootsy indie-rock romp Adult Hits. Its tunes are earnest and occasionally wry—you might even get a laugh out of the languorous “Festival Season,” especially if you’ve ever gone to a music fest and started hating everybody as soon as it tops 90 degrees. You can see Blinker play in the cool indoor climes of Golden Dagger on Wednesday, July 20, with openers Porch Music and Fruit Leather. Admission is $10, and the show starts at 8 PM.

The pandemic prevented Blinker from playing the songs on Adult Hits live before recording them.

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Neo: where misfits fit in

The Lincoln Park club closed in 2015, after providing a sanctuary for generations of night crawlers—but its subcultural legacy continues to reverberate.