Navy Pier transforms into an indoor winter amusement park complete with a Ferris wheel, zip line, and ice-skating rink. $13, $17 with ice skatinghttp://winterwonderfest.com
When Vic Mensa released his first full-length mixtape, Innanetape, in September, I approached it with caution. For four years the local rapper and producer (who cofounded the Save Money crew) was the MC for the band Kids These Days, whose hybrid of rock, funk, jazz, soul, and rap sometimes failed to live up to its members’ considerable talent. Dragged down by all the cooks in its kitchen, the group broke up this spring, and Mensa has had the challenge of asserting himself as a solo artist in its shadow—and in the shadow of his buddy Chance the Rapper, whose hugely popular Acid Rap helped introduce Mensa to a new audience (he appears on standout track “Cocoa Butter Kisses”). Being known as “Chance’s friend” can get to a guy, especially if he’s ambitious, and Mensa risks sabotaging Innanetape when he gets too concerned about his profile—on “Orange Soda” he complains, “They made a list about Chicago rappers and they skipped me.” Fortunately the very next line is “Maybe it’s because I’m so much more,” and for the most part Mensa carries himself with an almost carefree flair on Innanetape, rapping with high-speed rhythmic tangents that almost fly off the rails and singing with a refined cool. He put together a great team to help realize his polished, poppy mix of retro R&B, gloomy electronic dance music, adult-contemporary soul, and hyped-up rap: the producers on Innanetape include Peter Cottontale and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s Cam Osteen, and among its guest rappers and singers are Lili K., BJ the Chicago Kid, Ab-Soul, and Chance. Innanetape has some party-ready jams (the glitchy “YNSP” and the sunny “Lovely Day”), but the tune I keep returning to is the touching “Holy Holy,” where Mensa raps about mortality and remembers an older friend who was fatally shot—he can boast all he wants, but he has a more commanding presence when he opens up and gets vulnerable. —Leor Galil Jean Deaux opens.
Last year Steve Hauschildt, at the time still a member of recently disbanded Cleveland experimental trio Emeralds, released the most lush and developed work of his career. The credits to his album Sequitur (Kranky) list voice and 18 pieces of electronic gear, and its richly layered songs push forward his fusion of post-Tangerine Dream kosmiche and meandering retro-New Age music by injecting it with Technicolor pop. Hauschildt’s voice, disguised by vocoder, often occupies the foreground, and according to the album’s press materials its neutered sound is meant to suggest the androgyny fostered by high technology—a stale conceit I could’ve done without, given that the music’s plasticine hedonism does all its own messaging. More recently Hauschildt released S/H (Editions Mego), a sprawling double CD of relatively minimal material made between 2005 and 2012, and most of its 37 pieces—some previously unreleased, all of them hard to find—feel like sketches or experiments, in contrast with the meticulous compositions on Sequitur. “Thumbprints,” from October 2012, shares the pulsing, beat-driven feel of the Sequitur tracks, but it’s leaner and rawer. For this solo performance, the final concert in Lampo’s fall season, Hauschildt will be in experimental mode, performing publicly for the first time with the Buchla Lightning, a MIDI controller designed by synth pioneer Don Buchla that translates the movements of two wands into signals Hauschildt can use to manipulate his rig. —Peter Margasak Free with RSVP at eventbrite.com/e/lampo-steve-hauschildt-tickets-8593787249.
New Brunswick blackened folk-metal band Thrawsunblat rose from the ashes of Woods of Ypres, whose run ended after the 2011 death of front man David Gold in a car accident; Thrawsunblat’s drummer, and the final drummer in Woods of Ypres, is Chicagoan Rae Amitay, who also plays in Mares of Thrace. In between Thrawsunblat tours in support of their terrific second album, Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings, Amitay found time to start her own group, Immortal Bird, and create the EP Akrasia. Originally intended to be a studio-only project, it’s now a full-fledged live band (with Novembers Doom drummer Garry Naples freeing up Amitay to be a full-time front woman), and Akrasia is sick and greasy black metal that does an admirable job inventing the sound of a mind tearing itself apart. —Monica Kendrick Crusader and Gnarhval open. $5
"Seem like God didn't see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams," someone says in A Raisin in the Sun. Hearing that line on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—which is when TimeLine Theatre Company's excellent revival of Lorraine Hansberry's classic drama had its opening night—felt a little like being doused in cold water. Still, there's something in it. Despite important gains, it's hard to deny that 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech—and 150 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation—racial equality in America remains a dream deferred. Continue reading >> $35-$48
Billy Bermingham's latest play proves the truth of the old William Blake dictum "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." This wild, campy comedy is certainly excessive, packed with crazy plot twists, insane characters, vulgar language, cartoonish but graphic sex, and all manner of bodily substances (including, but not limited to, blood, urine, sperm, and human excrement). The story, involving Hitler's inner circle, a handful of Disney characters, and several members of the Bush administration, is breathtaking in its wide-ranging craziness. The ironic thing is that Bermingham's vulgarity, reminiscent at times of both Lenny Bruce and the National Lampoon in its prime, also seems to give him artistic space for pointed satire and some very brilliant comic moments. Not for the squeamish. —Jack Helbig $12
When you're standing on a freezing el platform, running late and cursing the CTA, the unexpected arrival of the brightly decorated, Santa-toting holiday train is usually a decent pick-me-up, if only by virtue of its sheer weirdness. And so is Waltzing Mechanics' latest collection of real-life straphanger tales adapted to the stage. The holiday installment is a quirky gem, covering everything from the saccharine pleasures of the holiday train itself to perversions requiring a winter overcoat. The appeal is less the hilarity of the anecdotes—though many are genuinely funny—than their authenticity. The storytellers' voices shine through, even when they're confused or hesitant. Under director Zack Florent, the cast are nimble and versatile. If the CTA ran as efficiently, commuters would have little to gripe about. —Keith Griffith $15http://waltzingmechanics.org
I've been looking over the list of plays presented by Goodman Theatre's New Stages initiative since its inception ten years ago. Pretty impressive. The roughly annual festival offers staged readings and—since 2011—workshop productions of new work by interesting playwrights, and some of the free performances have that retrospective shoulda-been-there mystique theatergoers both love and dread. Just for example: the 2005 New Stages featured an early look at Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated first third of a trilogy by Quiara Alegría Hudes (who went on to win a Pulitzer for the next third, Water by the Spoonful); 2006 saw The Brothers Size from Tarell Alvin McCraney's great "The Brother/Sister Plays"; and the 2007 edition gave us Lynn Nottage's devastating (and, yes, Pulitzer-winning) Ruined. This time around New Stages is concentrating entirely on Latino playwrights, which seems to have changed the dynamic somewhat. One play is returning for a workshop production after having already received a staged reading in 2012; two of the participating playwrights are a lot better established than has been the norm. There's a smaller pool, in short, with fewer wild cards. Continue reading >>
It feels like only yesterday when we were strolling down Division in a T-shirt and short pants, shopping for jewelry, housewares, and other indie-crafty stuff at the Renegade Craft Fair. Shorts are no longer appropriate, but the winter edition of Renegade takes place indoors. More than 150 talented crafters sell their wares in toasty, climate-controlled comfort. Bonus: free trolley rides from the Damen and Division Blue Line stops.http://renegadecraft.com/chicago
Group show featuring multidisciplinary work by artists imitating the style of old masters. Reception Sat 12/7, 6-10 PM.
The inaugural year of this festival features a holiday arts market, food and drink, and live performances from local bands starting at 5:30 PM. $5 cover for the concert.
Featuring David Berner, Rosalie Riegle, and Sam and Peter Stamatis.
The featured readers are Chad Chmielowicz, Michael Anichini, Jay Besemer, and Toby Altman.