Bowen Violin Shop Run by Sharon Bowen since 1981, this 470-square-foot shop on the eighth floor of the Hyde Park Bank offers affordable violins, violas, cellos, and accessories, many in a price range accessible to students. The shop also rents and repairs instruments (single-day service is available for bow rehairing). A second location at 410 S. Michigan, opened in 1995 by Sharon’s husband, John, handles strictly repairs. The Hyde Park location is open by appointment only during the hours below.
Checkerboard Lounge Founded in 1972 by L.C. Thurman and guitarist Buddy Guy, the Checkerboard Lounge is one of the city’s most celebrated blues clubs, but for decades it’s been running on fumes—Thurman has owned it exclusively since 1985, and his old partner launched Buddy Guy’s Legends in ’89. The original location, at 423 E. 43rd, was a charming dump with a regular crowd of friendly locals and a contingent of tourists lured by stories of Guy hopping onstage to sit in with whoever was playing. Its legend got its biggest boost in 1981, when Muddy Waters jammed there with members of the Rolling Stones. But the Checkerboard hasn’t been the same since 2003, when the city shut down the already struggling venue for safety violations that Thurman blamed on the landlord. The U. of C. offered him a new space and he was back in business that fall, but the club lost much of its atmosphere in the move to cleaner, better-maintained digs. Worse, the quality of its bookings has declined. The Checkerboard still hosts live music most nights, but at press time Thurman wasn’t able to confirm any specific acts for March.
Chicago Presents Live music in Hyde Park, like most everything else, is dominated by the University of Chicago. The school has a hand in concerts of all stripes, at venues both on and off campus, by professional touring musicians and student ensembles; there are often more than a dozen in any given week. Chicago Presents (more formally known as the University of Chicago Presents) programs most of the big-name artists, focusing on classical but occasionally booking, say, a progressive jazz band like the Bad Plus. Most Chicago Presents productions are at Mandel Hall (1131 E. 57th, 773-702-8069), one of most important venues on campus. A Victorian theater modeled after London’s Crosby House, it opened in 1903 and holds around 850 (more if you count obstructed-view seats); the balconied space is full of ornate woodwork and beautiful glass, including a Tiffany window, and its acoustics are superb for classical music. This week (3/4 through 3/6) Chicago Presents brings to Mandel Hall the Beyond Flamenco Festival, which features the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the University Symphony Orchestra, the Motet Choir, pianist Pedro Carboné, conductor Angel Gil-Ordoñez, and writer Antonio Muñoz Molina, among others. Upcoming events, also at Mandel Hall, include the Brasil Guitar Duo (4/8) and the Pacifica Quartet (4/11).
Contempo Formerly the University of Chicago Contemporary Chamber Players, Contempo has been an unambiguously progressive force in classical music since its founding by composer Ralph Shapey in 1964. Composer Shulamit Ran has been the collective’s artistic director since 2002, and its core membership now consists of the musicians in Eighth Blackbird and the Pacifica Quartet, augmented as needed by performers from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or Lyric Opera. Contempo regularly premieres new work and often collaborates with artists outside the classical realm. Some of the group’s concerts take place at off-campus venues like the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (where Eighth Blackbird plays March 24) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but on May 14 Contempo plays at Fulton Recital Hall (Goodspeed Hall, fourth floor, 1010 E. 59th, 773-702-8069). A relatively intimate room that seats about 150, Fulton has had a special place in my heart ever since I saw a wonderful concert there by British improvised-music pioneers AMM in 1996.
Experimental Station This community center, technically in Woodlawn, describes itself as a nonprofit “cultural incubator.” It occasionally hosts concerts, but at press time no music was scheduled. See Martha Bayne’s story on the 61st Street Community Garden in the front of this issue for more about the center.
Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company Hyde Park’s Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It stages one production a year, and this year it’s the company’s seventh version of The Mikado. It runs 3/12-3/14 at Mandel Hall, with music by the University Chamber Orchestra.
Hyde Park Art Center One of the city’s most vibrant arts spaces, and sometimes host to adventurous music. On 3/6, in conjunction with the multimedia installation Notes to Nonself by artists Diane Christiansen and Shoshanna Utchenik, a quartet of Christiansen (vocals), Steve Dawson (vocals, guitar), Jason Roebke (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums) will perform amid the installation’s many parts—which include projected animation, a large pink sculpture of an octopus, and a mock forest. See also Art & Museums and Education.
Hyde Park Jazz Society This nonprofit formed in 1995 to honor Hyde Park’s important role in the history of Chicago jazz—and encourage more of the same. Each September since 2007 it’s blanketed the neighborhood with music during the daylong Hyde Park Jazz Festival, held on indoor and outdoor stages throughout the neighborhood; the fest’s roster is pretty much a who’s who of south-side jazz, representing all styles and approaches with artists like Von Freeman, Corey Wilkes, Ernest Dawkins, Ari Brown, Dee Alexander, Edward Wilkerson Jr., and Orbert Davis. The society also presents a well-attended series at Room 43 (1043 E. 43rd, 773-285-2222), a large
basement space with exposed brick and full bar service that it rents every Sunday; the sound system is merely adequate, but the friendly, community-oriented vibe more than makes up for it [Correction: Shows at Room 43 are held on the main floor, and the basement accommodates overflow crowds]. The bookings intersperse mainstream programming with edgier AACM fare, and upcoming shows include the Deep Blue Organ Trio (3/7), Jeff Lindberg’s Chicago Jazz Orchestra (3/14), Dana Hall’s Spring (3/21), and the Corey Wilkes Quartet (3/28).
Hyde Park Records If Hyde Park Records were a bar, it would be one of those weird, beloved corner dives that serves up cheap drinks, brings the hoodies and weirdos of the neighborhood together, and offers little treats like bowls of snacks or weekly trivia nights. If you’re looking for a specific import disc or sharply curated genre sections, you might not be satisfied with the store’s inventory, but if you’re looking to do some laid-back crate digging you’ll appreciate the supercasual atmosphere. Hyde Park Records stocks an impressively broad span of styles, from old funk to new punk, that reflects the neighborhood’s heterogeneous demographics, and if you’re willing to spend some time browsing you can turn up some serious gems, often at remarkably reasonable prices. The store also buys used music, and on any given day it’ll usually have a couple dozen auctions going on eBay.
Hyde Park Suzuki Institute Hyde Park is home to one of a handful of centers in the Chicago area that use the famous Suzuki method, an immersive approach that begins when students are three or four years old and encourages them to learn to play an instrument the same way they learn to speak. The school offers training for violin, viola, cello, and piano; conventional music lessons are available too, for adults as well as kids. See also Education and Volunteering.
International House The U. of C.’s International House, founded in 1932 by John D. Rockefeller, is a residence for international students and interns that doubles as a cultural center, presenting music, theater, dance, and more in an auditorium that holds 500. From 3/19 through 3/21 it hosts the 45th annual Eastern European Folk Festival of Music & Dance (colloquially referred to as the “Spring Festival”), a celebration of Balkan cultures that draws people from all over the country for performances, workshops, and “culture sessions.” The main event is the Saturday-night concert, which begins with a Balkan buffet and ends with a dance party that runs till 1 AM. Other upcoming bookings include the Organization of Black Students gospel concert (3/6), the Middle East Music Ensemble led by Issa Boulos (4/11), the Chicago Ensemble (4/18), and Zolotoi Plyos (4/20).
Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap It wouldn’t be quite right to call Jimmy’s a blues bar or a jazz joint, even though on Sundays there’s blues from 4 till 7:30 PM and jazz from 9 PM till 1 AM. Mostly it’s just a really perfect example of a Chicago dive, the kind that manages to bring in folks from every sociological subset in the neighborhood for cheap beers and burgers. If you’re looking for one spot to give you the best possible cross section of Hyde Park, check out Jimmy’s. If you want all that and a side of blues or jazz, come on Sunday. See also Bars.
Linda’s Place The abundance of squeaky-clean tourist-trap blues clubs in Chicago—places that give you a kind of Disney’s Jungle Cruise version of the blues experience—hasn’t entirely squeezed out the places where you can get the real deal. Linda’s Place is one of the venues on the annual Chicago Blues Tour, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea: the interior design is stock 70s south-side corner bar, the beer selection’s limited, and the music schedule doesn’t include any names you’ll find in the blues section at Borders. The club doesn’t seem to have a Web presence, and I couldn’t even find a phone number that worked. But acts like Fabulous L-Roy & the Bulletproof Band (basically the house band at Linda’s) are what out-of-towners should be seeing if they really want to experience Chicago blues—tight enough to play loose, totally devoted to entertaining their crowd, and greasy as hell.
Little Black Pearl This community center, which serves youth in predominantly black neighborhoods like Kenwood, Oakland, Woodlawn, and Bronzeville, occasionally hosts music, though at press time nothing was scheduled. See also Art & Museums, Education, and Volunteering.
Marsha’s Music Together Music Together, which also has locations in Wicker Park and Lincoln Park, is a music-education program for babies, toddlers, and young kids—basically children who aren’t ready for more formal lessons. It’s not based on learning scales and keys, or even on learning to play an instrument (beyond basic percussion), but instead teaches the very deepest foundations of musicianship, like keeping rhythm. Kids, parents, and instructors engage in sing-alongs, clap-alongs, and drum-alongs designed to have a more positive developmental effect than your typical preschool racket making—but that seem just as fun.
Renaissance Society The Renaissance Society is one of the city’s best showcases for modern visual art, and cocurator Hamza Walker also presents occasional concerts of improvised and experimental music, some of which—like a memorable Phill Niblock installation in 2001—exploit the acoustics of the space’s vaulted ceilings. The next Renaissance Society concert is actually at Bond Chapel (1050 E. 59th) and features electronicist Brian Labycz, percussionist Seijiro Murayama, and bassist Jason Roebke (3/22). See also Art & Museums.
Robie House Frank Lloyd Wright’s historic Robie House recently launched a monthly Emerging Jazz Series; the next show is 3/12 with singer Sarah Marie Young. Tickets, which must be bought in advance, cost $10 and include two drinks. See also Art & Museums.
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel The largest building on the U. of C. campus, designed by Bertram Goodue and built between 1926 and 1928, still hosts ecumenical worship services and can seat up to 1,700. The chapel presents quite a bit of live music, with a pronounced tilt toward choral material; four student choirs (all connected to the music department—see below) perform regularly, along with visiting groups from Chicago and elsewhere. Upcoming concerts include early-music ensemble Chicago Syntagma Musicum (3/7), the Peiyang Chorus from China with the university’s Motet Choir (3/12), and the Apollo Chorus of Chicago (3/13).
Summer Breeze Every May the U. of C. Council on University Programming puts on a big student-and-staff-only carnival-slash-concert called Summer Breeze, often with bands (booked by the Major Activities Board) that could fill some of the city’s biggest venues—the 2009 lineup was Broken Social Scene, Santigold, and Voxtrot, and bookings in years past have included Guided by Voices, the Roots, Eminem, and Sonic Youth. (The MAB also books student-only shows in the fall and winter—Girl Talk played Mandel Hall in November—but they’re less predictable.) Earlier the same day student radio station WHPK (see below) presents a smaller show that’s free and open to the public, usually with bands that are more obscure, more obnoxious, or both—last year’s lineup, on an outdoor stage at 58th and University, was Thomas Function, Cause Co-Motion, White Mystery, the Names That Spell, and Johnny & the Limelites.
University of Chicago Folk Festival The prestigious University of Chicago Folk Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary last month with three days of concerts at Mandel Hall—bluegrass, blues, old-timey string-band music, klezmer, Greek and Creole music, and more. The shows are always ticketed, but the fest’s daytime workshops at Ida Noyes Hall (1212 E. 59th, 773-702-9737), which cover subjects like hurdy-gurdy, shape-note singing, and 19th-century parlor music, have always been free.
University of Chicago Department of Music The U. of C. music department programs public concerts all over campus (and sometimes off it), with both student and nonstudent performers. Most of its 14 student ensembles play classical music, including the University Chamber Orchestra, the University Wind Ensemble, and the New Music Ensemble (which plays at Fulton Recital Hall on 4/17). But there are notable exceptions, like the Middle East Music Ensemble, led by Palestinian oud master Issa Boulos (which plays at the International House on 4/11), and the Jazz X-tet, led by veteran AACM reedist Mwata Bowden (which plays at Fulton Recital Hall on 3/11). Many of these groups often perform with well-known guests and visiting artists, and members of the Newberry Consort, one of the department’s several artists in residence, lead its Early Music Ensemble. The Newberry Consort itself plays the Oriental Institute Museum (1155 E. 58th, 773-702-9514) on 3/20. The Central Javanese Gamelan, which is informally sponsored by the school, rehearses and performs with a Chicago group called Friends of the Gamelan, one of the oldest such organizations in the States; both are composed mostly of community members, not students, but they often perform on campus. This year’s spring gamelan concert is at Hyde Park Union Church (5600 S. Woodlawn, 773-363-6063) on 4/25.
WHPK Broadcasting since 1968 as WHPK, the University of Chicago’s radio station reaches Woodlawn, Hyde Park, Kenwood, and much of the rest of the south side via a 100-watt transmitter (upgraded from ten watts in 1985) atop Pierce Hall, a ten-story undergrad residence at 55th and University. The north side, and the rest of the world, can listen at whpk.org/stream. “The Pride of the South Side,” which has its studios in the Reynolds Club at 57th and University, is more a community radio station that happens to be owned by a university than it is a college station—more than a third of the DJs and hosts (including me) are nonstudents. The broadcast schedule is divided into blocks of classical, folk, international, jazz, rap, rock, public affairs, and specialty programming, with several wildly divergent shows within each. Rock (broadly interpreted) airs most weekdays from midnight till noon, with another sliver Fri 9-10:30 PM—that’s when Pure Hype, the show I’ve been involved with for more than 15 years, brings in local and occasionally out-of-town acts to play live on the air. (Next up: Wummin on 3/5.) The station has particularly solid rap programming, notably CTA Radio (Wed 9 PM-midnight) and Bonz and The Essence (which alternate in JP Chill’s recently vacated slot, Fri 10:30 PM-3 AM). There’s plenty of jazz on weekends, including Jazz for Shut-Ins with Sanchez (Sat noon-2 PM). Specialty shows include the indescribable Blues Excursion with Arkansas Red (Sat 7 PM-midnight) and Sitting in the Park (Sun 7:30-9 PM), where record collector Bob Abrahamian explores classic Chicago and vocal-group soul, often supplementing his playlists with revelatory interviews.