An alien and Andrew Sa performing at the Hideout
Credit: Sarah Larson

The Cosmic Country Showcase is an acid-infused variety show that happens a handful of times per year at the Hideout, and on July 24, its presenters are repotting this ravenous alien plant (think Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, except in a cowboy hat) as the Cosmic Country Cookout at Logan Square’s newest whiskey distillery, Judson & Moore. Launched in 2019 by musicians and event organizers Sullivan Davis and Dorian Gehring, both of whom have deep ties to the local roots-music scene (Davis used to book talent for the Hideout), Cosmic Country was originally a covers night where its founders could jam with pals. But it quickly grew into something wilder and more amorphous that included intergalactic skits, drag performances, alt-comedy sets, and an eclectic mix of headliners, including Tasha, Lala Lala, and Jeff Tweedy. After the pandemic shut down Chicago’s music venues, the showcase went online as Cosmic Country VR, but it has survived as a local cult favorite in no small part due to its organizers’ passionate attention to the details of its atmosphere, which relies on a raw mix of humor, innovation, and escapism. 

The Cookout expands the showcase’s usual evening format into a daylong delight of trippy country music. What separates it from other Chicago summer festivals isn’t its lineup, though; it’s the Cookout’s promise to open a door into another world. The showcase’s freewheeling magic will extend beyond the stage into every inch of the venue, and it’ll include an immersive photo booth, food from Lonesome Rose and Pretty Cool Ice Cream, and a “general store” (read: vendors specializing in camp, country, and vibes). The bill features plenty of local crooners, such as Andrew Sa and Tobacco City, plus cameos from the extended Cosmic Country universe. New York songwriter Dougie Pool sings electronica-inflected songs for an audience that knows about surviving the gig economy; Boulevards (aka North Carolina singer-songwriter Jamil Rashad) makes funk-infused roots music like a cowpoke Curtis Mayfield; and pioneering queer musician Patrick Haggerty, everyone’s favorite gay grandaddy of country, returns with his  band Lavender Country. Cosmic Country is taking over Chicago one venue at a time, moving from the distillery to other local music spaces before making a triumphant return to the Hideout. Next year? Maybe it’ll take over the world.

Cosmic Country Cookout Dougie Poole headlines; Boulevards, Tobacco City, Toadvine, Andrew Sa, Lavender Country, and Sarah Weddle open. Sun 7/24, 2-10 PM, Judson & Moore Distillery, 3057 N. Rockwell Building 5, $15, 21+