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Hideout Block Party Delivers On Its Line-up

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 26, 2011 9:30PM

Though at certain points music fans found each other elbows-to-elbows waiting in beer lines and by food trucks, The Hideout's Block Party, commemorating the venue's 15th anniversary, was an enjoyable, eclectic array of talent both young and old, local and national.

The festivities kicked off on an inclusive, participatory note with Guitarkestra, an opportunity for budding guitarists to jam together in the middle of the parking lot near The Hideout. Participants brought their own equipment and jammed on an E-chord. Unfortunately, this reporter didn't arrive in time to catch it, but, in his subsequent band intros, Hideout main man Tim Tuten made it sound like oodles of fun. How could it not be?

Speaking of fun, White Mystery, Chicago's own wild-haired, garage-rock brother-and-sister twosome, started the festival proper on exactly the right note; a note emphasized greatly by thick guitar-fuzz and drummer Francis White's booming, tom-tom-heavy drumming. Highlights from the group's self-titled debut, and from this year's Blood & Venom, effortlessly and energetically bled into each other. The duo's set, peppered by charming, professional stage patter from soulful singer Alex White, showed that what White Mystery need to do next is put out a live album, direct from the soundboard and into listeners' veins.

Next up after White Mystery was Kids These Days, a youthful octet that will no doubt be the pride of the Chicago Public Schools system once their blend of soul, jazz, funk and rap coalesces into a more original musical stew. For the time-being, KTD have a stage presence of a professional band twice their age, and demonstrate great creativity in their arrangements. (One highlight was a song introduction that was a dual-harmonizing duet between their trumpeter and their female lead singer.)

But far too many of the guitar licks were cribbed from John Frusciante, and far too many of the raps sounded like what happens when I forget to take my anti-anxiety meds: Talking that is impassioned, intense, but way, way unfocused, to the point of great concern. Still, a rock-solid rhythm section tied the whole set together in a way that would've kept even hardened skeptics at attention.

Following the Kids were The Eternals, who added more oomph and forward-thinking experimentalism. If the Japandroids are post-nothing, then The Eternals are post-everything--theirs was a set filled with an intoxicating, invigorating mix of electro, dub, post-punk, and reggae. I didn't take many more notes because I was too busy dancing my ass off, then trying to find the keys that fell out of my pocket once said ass-dancing-off ceased.

Youthful vigor then gave way to veteran performers as legendary multi-instrumentalist Booker T. Jones took the stage. Jones's set started off with a rap from his drummer (no!), segued into material from his most recent album (better) and lead into a performance of classic "Green Onions" (Jackpot! You may now die a happy music fan). An instrumental cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" was also spectacular, as was a cover of Otis Redding's classic Otis Blue cut "I've Been Loving You Too Long." Jones's workman-like set undoubtedly set the tone for soulful goodness for the Hideout, which would later pay transcendent dividends with Mavis Staples's set.

But before that point, Hideout favorite Jon Langford and his band of merry ex-Circuit City employees (known more formerly as the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus) took the stage with a set that initially felt like the Wales Wikipedia entry adapted as a musical taking place in your uncle's drinking buddy's basement. Not saying it wasn't without its charms--just that one can get wearied of all the swaying sea-shantiness of it all. Fortunately, Langford and company turned it up a notch with a cutting version of murder ballad "Delilah," another satisfying festival highlight. Additionally, Langford's brief pro-independent, anti-corporate remarks provided a welcome political context for the day's festivities. The set rang long, but with company this charming, Langford can stay for as long as he damn well likes.

Same goes for Mavis Staples, whose set was simply one of the best concerts I've seen this year. Though Ms. Staples may or may not appreciate the language I'm about to use, her set, done with the exact same line-up that recorded her 2008 record Hope At The Hideout, made all other music look like useless bullshit. Staples Singers classics, highlights from last year's Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone, guest appearances from Andrew Bird (for a cover of The Band's "The Weight) and Nora O'Connor ... whatever The Hideout crowd wanted, Mavis gave them. Her set was impassioned, soulful and raucous...

...Which meant poor Dosh, a Minneapolis-based one-man-band/multi-instrumentalist known for patiently building sound collages, had a huge act to follow. In his brief 20-minute set, Dosh touched on highlights from terrific albums like Wolves and Wishes, but the whole time, one couldn't help but think his set would've been more well-received had it A) Not followed Mavis Staples and B) Been at a small, intimate music venue ... like, say, The Hideout.

Luckily, Dosh's brief set segued seamlessly into headliner Andrew Bird's, starting with a peaceful sound collage that turned into one of the most remarkable displays I've ever seen: A "sound whale," piloted by Opera-Matic, which interacted with Bird's violin. Watch video of it below:

Incredible. From there, Bird debuted a whole host of new material, touched on highlights from Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha, brought up the winner of the Rock For Kids scholarship in his name to perform with former members of Bowl of Fire, and waxed nostalgic about sleeping on the second floor of The Hideout when he was starting out in music in Chicago. With creative arrangements of known Bird favorites, the former Logan Square resident capped off an eventful day of music in profound fashion.

With music out of the way, here's a few words about everything else: Beer: Yay Zombie Dust, boo seemingly insurmountable lines. At around 5 or 6 p.m., the back area seemed impossibly crowded. Both food and drink were good, but ran out very quickly, which made waiting in lines a frustrating prospect. (More so than they usually are). The Hideout is dead-on in terms of the quality of the vendors: Now they just have to figure out how to lay it all out.