The label is a good fit for Cross's haunting, occasionally experimental mix of drone and folk. Its impressive alumni include the likes of Sharon Van Etten, Six Organs of Admittance, and Beirut, and the current roster features Xenia Rubinos, the Dead C, and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. It's a haven for singer-songwriters, but definitely not the type you'll find at an open mike Monday. Ba Da Bing! is currently planning on distributing the 300 remaining vinyl copies of the awesome Be Good (I eyed one at Saki during my last visit), as well as releasing the album on CD for the first time. Cross Record, now located in Austin, will be releasing the follow-up on Ba Da Bing! as well.
The entire Be Good album was once available on Cross Record's Bandcamp page, but now you're just going to have to deal with a sampler. Them's the breaks, I guess.
If you were to rank Chicago's restaurateurs by their desire to see their own faces in publicity, one end would be marked by the reclusive Brendan Sodikoff and the other by Billy Dec, star of Windy City Live!, wearer of hipster hats, online bro personality and, oh yeah, owner/personification of Rockit Ranch, which has the Rockit bars, Sunda, ¡Ay Chiwowa! and others. Read his online bio or his Facebook page and the line between reality and parody instantly dissolves—his Facebook self-image is a Burberry bus stop ad he was in, the extremely white Dec somehow won "the Asian American Hall of Fame Award," and the top story on the Rockit Ranch homepage is that Lady Gaga dined at Sunda recently, as well as Anne Burrell and Michael Bay (exactly the sort of random semicelebrity pairing we Chicagoans get excited about; maybe next week George Wendt and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will check it out together).
Lots of people make fun of Dec for his oversized, kind of goofy bro-life (assuming it's not, in fact, a cover for fighting crime in a batsuit at night), but you know, this is the bar and restaurant business, not nuclear physics, so why not have somebody like him on the scene? It's all good, and the worst that can happen is that in a city of ten million taco places, you wind up at ¡Ay Chiwowa! eating the queso fundido the Reader's Sam Worley described as "near impenetrable with the tools you've been given: four minitortillas, with the option to order four more for three dollars." A missed opportunity, but not a tragedy in the grand scheme of things.
But two new chef hires suggest that Dec, whose last opening was the typically cartoon-concepted, quickly closed and never-officially-declared-dead Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ, might have his ambition set a little higher for his next venture.
Kevin Warwick: So, let's discuss how clean-cut and satisfying the episode was.
Sam Worley: Was it too satisfying?
Mara Shalhoup: That's the big question. But here's the deal: we've been inundated with these ambiguous, meta endings to great TV shows. This wasn't that.
SW: But Breaking Bad has always been a more ambiguous show than most, especially in the last season, where the theme seemed to be "consequence." I feel like they just sort of wimped out a little here. But it was still very fun to watch.
MS: Wimped out how? Too tidy? The consequences for Walt were extreme.
SW: It was so easy for him in this one, though! He just kinda walked in and blew everyone away.
MS: He lost the love and admiration of his wife and son. That is the hardest thing imaginable.
SW: I think Vince Gilligan backed himself into sort of a corner in terms of the timeline—there was just so much that had to be resolved in the last episode.
MS: The amount of satisfaction in the first 15 minutes had me smitten.
KW: I loved the car scene, when he hit the window and knocked the snow off. Old-school Heisenberg.
MS: When I saw that, I got really sad—because it's one of those lovely, subtle things that seems to only happen in Breaking Bad, and I'm going to miss that.
Then there was Gretchen and Elliott's banter. Straight outta Portlandia. I wanted them to die just for that.
KW: Walt wandering around the house casually stalking them was so good.
SW: I wished (and hoped, after Gretchen and Elliot's return in the penultimate) that the show had developed a little further the idea that the impetus for Walt turning into a sociopath wasn't the cancer diagnosis, but whatever happened to him at Gray Matter—that that laid the groundwork, and cancer was the, um, spark. (Ugh, metaphors.)
Years ago, when I was a sophomore at a new high school, I visited the Toastmasters club one afternoon and was immediately assigned to make a speech. Terrified, I reduced the possibilities for a topic to the one subject I'd actually thought about in my young life—baseball. And feeling a need to say something provocative—and possibly even original—about baseball, I decided to make a case for why it was doomed. I have no idea what my arguments were: all I can remember is standing at the front of the classroom shaking while the club's upperclassmen studied me like a bug on a pin. I persuaded no one. But I was right. Baseball was doomed. It was then—and continues to be. The proof is that our nation's finest minds have been writing off baseball ever since.
I spotted the latest exercise in Sunday's New York Times. "Is the Game Over?—How baseball lost its place in American culture" announced the headline to the lead article in the Sunday Review section. The author, Jonathan Mahler, acknowledges up front that he's making a tricky case, as Major League Baseball profits, over the past 20 years, "have grown from roughly $1 billion to nearly $8 billion." He goes on, "The game, in other words, has never been healthier. So why does it feel so irrelevant?"
Tomorrow night you can check out Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at House of Blues, Langhorne Slim & the Law at Lincoln Hall, Dan Croll at Empty Bottle, or Electric Six at Double Door. On Wednesday there's Sam Amidon at Old Town School of Folk Music, Katatonia and Cult of Luna at Bottom Lounge, and Ra Ra Riot at Double Door. Be sure to check out Soundboard for more concert listings for the week ahead, and read on to see what Reader critic Peter Margasak has recommended for the next few days.
I stopped by his Adidas-branded release party on Saturday at the Bakery in the Lacuna lofts and was honestly expecting there to be more buzz. The crowd that had showed up, dominated by filmmakers, bloggers, streetwear-boutique owners, and Save Money soldiers, weren't acting like they were on the precipice of something great. To them it's always been a foregone conclusion that Vic would break out. He was the one posting YouTube videos before any of his friends ever hit a booth. This is the star student. And now it's his time.
Hey, did you read:
Nah, probably won't happen. But Albany Park still remains the city's center for gampongi, those spicy-sweet deep-fried chicken wings that keep Chinese-Korean spots like Great Sea, VIP Restaurant, and Peking Mandarin going strong. Cafe Orient 33 has them too, as well as a number of basic Japanese-style dishes and iconic Korean ones at extremely low prices in a spare counter-service operation next door to the great Jaafer Sweets (which makes for a great one-two punch).