Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Newcity cover story

You can pick up a dead tree version of my Newcity cover story, "Raising the Bars: The growing trend of art in bars." Newspapers are dying quietly, as you know, so it has been nice to see my byline smack dab on the cover around town. I only ask that if you do pick it up, please recycle! Nothing irritates me more than seeing people throw a newspaper into a trash bin that sits inches away from a recycling container.

What drew me to this topic was an interest in reporting on the intersection of art and nightlife. I had just turned in a piece on alternative spaces and mentioned the idea to editor Jason Foumberg. He suggested art in bars and viola! There you have it. The best part of doing this article was the "live scene" reporting I did at The Whistler. The reporter went in search of capturing the experience of "night in the life of one of Chicago's newest and most fetching bars" and found a scene immersed in serene ambiance, cool-ass cocktails, in-the-know locals and an art opening to boot. Lovely. Yes I do enjoy The Whistler. It's hot in a Paris Hilton sort of way but not at all trashy and splashy like the blond heiress. The gently glowing candles add a nice touch and you can actually have a conversation here. Not a lame-ass TV in sight, thank God.

On the polar opposite of this spectrum is the crusty, 73-year-old Rainbo Club, where art rotates every month. I say crusty because the bartenders are more interested in playing their guitars than kissing your ass. While I shot the photos there (which didn't end up in the spread) the bartender strummed his guitar the entire time. It was a Sunday evening and not a customer in sight. He was pretty laid back and cool, once he called his boss and got approval that I was a real reporter, not some obsessive fan of the Rainbo. Keep in mind that if you go here, expect a kind of attitude, along the lines of "who the fuck are you and why are you here?" from the bartenders. It's part of the holier than thou rocker shtick. But don't let that stop you from experiencing a piece of Chicago history that includes Nelson Algren and John Cusack on its list of famous regulars. Also in the area worthy of a look is the Flatiron, which opened last June. Art here takes the spotlight, and as I mention in the article this is where The Note was formerly located, the music venue that used to host the beloved "I Love House Music" event. For years it was music permeating the Wicker Park scene, now it's art weaving its way into the fabric of nightlife.

You can tell so much about somebody and/or a place of business by their online identity. Whister has a myspace page, oh so hip, Flatiron a full-fledged website, while Rainbo keeps on churning without an online presence. You have to love Rainbo for being just what it is and not giving a shit.

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