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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fashionistas: See what you're missing at the sold-out 29Rooms installation

Posted By on 07.26.18 at 02:48 PM

  • Isa Giallorenzo

A gallery-wide girls' night out—that was the vibe at last night's opening of 29Rooms, a traveling interactive art exhibit promoted by the digital media and entertainment company Refinery 29. The "rooms" of the title refer to installations individually curated by celebrities such as Janelle Monáe, Jake Gyllenhaal, Madame Ghandi, and Jill Soloway as well as visual artists like Maisie Cousins and Shani Crowe. (Chance the Rapper and The Chi star Tiffany Boone, who's shown below, were there in person.) Tickets to the Chicago installation, which runs through Sunday, are sold out, but you can see more of the guests after the jump.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Chicago postpunks Negative Scanner don’t have to stay DIY anymore—they just like it too much to stop

Posted By on 07.25.18 at 06:30 PM

Negative Scanner: Tom Cassling, Nick Beaudoin, Rebecca Valeriano-Flores, and Matt Revers - VITA PHOTO
  • Vita Photo
  • Negative Scanner: Tom Cassling, Nick Beaudoin, Rebecca Valeriano-Flores, and Matt Revers

I feel fortunate to have retained any memory at all of seeing Negative Scanner guitarist and singer Rebecca Valeriano-Flores fronting her first band, Tyler Jon Tyler, at the Empty Bottle ten years ago. I'm foggy on the details—I doubt I could even tell you who else was on the bill that evening—but I absolutely remember coming to the conclusion Valeriano-Flores was a force to be reckoned with. Her bellowing voice wasn't just a hair-raising surprise coming out of someone so small, it also flat-out commanded your attention. I was sure that wouldn't be the last time I'd see her own a stage, whether in a club or a basement.

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Hannah Litvan couldn't find a job in a gallery. So she opened her own.

Posted By on 07.25.18 at 03:43 PM

The Ice House Gallery - ANNA WHITE
  • Anna White
  • The Ice House Gallery

When 25-year-old Hannah Litvan graduated from Albion College in Michigan with a degree in art and moved back to her Chicago hometown with dreams of working in a gallery, she had a hard time finding an entry point into the local art scene. Instead of giving up, Litvan made room for herself by creating Ice House Gallery, a multifaceted art space intended to support both emerging and established local artists.

The gallery, located a block away from the South Boulevard Purple Line stop in Evanston, is housed in an unassuming brick building that in the 1950s served as an ice storage facility. The inside of the space is similarly unpretentious, furnished with movable partitions made of latticed metal, the walls painted industrial blues and whites. The simplicity highlights the gallery’s otherwise maximalist aesthetic: colorful canvasses and photographs cover every surface. Litvan speaks in sentence fragments and tangents, punctuated with excited hand movements—it’s clear she’s passionate about what she does. She points out the gallery's most recent addition, wooden racks used to exhibit prints, and explains that the gallery itself constantly evolving to serve the needs of the artists being featured.

Nine months after its initial opening, Ice House has already surpassed Litvan’s ambitious initial vision of a gallery space that offers workshops and studio space, and now hosts poetry slams, book signings, concerts, storytelling events, and movie premieres. Litvan is trying to figure out what this growth means for the gallery. "Right now I think we're figuring out, it’s starting to click with what’s working," says Litvan, "now I don’t want to change, I just want to be more of what we are."

What really struck me about Ice House Gallery is this clear sense of identity—though the space itself is in flux, Litvan’s commitment to supporting local, emerging artists remains the gallery’s cornerstone. Inspired by her own difficulties as a young artist trying to break into an already established scene, Litvan above all wants Ice House Gallery to be a space where all artists can exhibit and sell work. She offers help coordinating framing and pricing work, especially for those who have never showed their work in a formal setting before.

The gallery’s upcoming show, "Redefining Tradition," opens August 4 and focuses on nature, nudes, and landscape imagery. This will be Ice House Gallery’s largest show yet, featuring 32 artists, all from the Evanston area. The show’s title is also applicable to Ice House Gallery itself. There isn’t another space in Evanston like Ice House Gallery, and as it continues to grow and support emerging artists, it's redefining the local arts community—altering the exclusivity of the art world from the inside out.

"Redefining Traditions: Natures, Nudes and Landscape." Opening 8/4, 5-9 PM, Ice House Gallery, 609 South Blvd., Evanston, 847-232-7092,, free.

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Staring into the void on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 07.25.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Carrie Vinarsky
SHOW: Matchess and Ulla Straus at the International Museum of Surgical Science on Fri 7/27

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Five big-screen movies obsessed with the small screen

Posted By on 07.24.18 at 06:30 AM

  • David Cronenberg's Videodrome
Even as Unfriended and other computer-screen-focused films continue to reflect our new media-consumption reality, the Film Center's upcoming shows of the satirical 1994 Czech sci-fi movie Accumulator 1 remind us that big-screen filmmakers have long been interested in the small screen. Here are five prime examples.

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The iO Theater's Bentwood Comedy Festival arrives with an abundance of talent

Posted By on 07.24.18 at 06:00 AM

Scott Adsit improvises two shows with fellow iO alum Jet Eveleth on Wed 8/18. - GETTY IMAGES
  • Getty images
  • Scott Adsit improvises two shows with fellow iO alum Jet Eveleth on Wed 8/18.

Named for wobbly stage chairs, iO's first annual Bentwood Comedy Festival runs August 10 through 19. Much comedy awaits; here are the Reader's top picks, each of which has been vetted by our critics over the years.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Chicago’s first-ever cat convention was like catnip to fans of felines

Posted By on 07.23.18 at 04:33 PM

Baby siblings Whiskey and Rye with Windy Kitty Cat Cafe owner Jenny Tiner at the Meow Meetup. - KAYLA MOLANDER
  • Kayla Molander
  • Baby siblings Whiskey and Rye with Windy Kitty Cat Cafe owner Jenny Tiner at the Meow Meetup.

The first rule of Meow Meetup: When other attendees ask about your Instagram, it's a trick question. What they're inquiring about isn't you—sorry, human—it's your cat's social media presence.

It's a pretty good time to be alive if you're a Felis catus. Or so it seemed at Chicago's first-ever cat convention. An estimated 3,000 people gathered at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont over the weekend in devotion to their chosen house pets. Some adopted adorable strays, listened to lectures like "How to #LoveCatsMore" that doubled as pro-cat agitprop, shopped for political cat toys (the Donald Trump one sold out in under an hour), attended a feline film festival, visited a cat-themed cafe, participated in cat yoga and bingo, and, yes, exchanged Instagram handles.

"Cats are taking over the world," pronounced Jessica Spaid, a manager of Windy Kitty, a Cat Cafe in Bucktown, as she held a pair of mewling kittens at the meetup.
But what kind of emperors will these tiny carnivorous mammals make? I must admit that, as a brand-new owner of a kitten, I left the meet-up feeling a bit insecure. Remember when ownership was mostly a matter of taking care of your cat's sustenance, shelter, litter box, and health care in exchange for—if you're lucky—some affection?

No longer. Feline-obsessed grassroots communities born on the Internet have grown and spawned celebrity cats with millions of followers who get book and movie deals and appearance fees at the cat-themed conventions, which keep springing up around North America since the debut of CatCon in Los Angeles in 2015. To keep up, cat enthusiasts must now serve as their creatures' PR person, social media manager, and marketing executive.

That might sound exhausting, but living in an era of cat supremacy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Take Lauren Mieli, Meow Meetup's founder. She got laid off from her Chicago-area marketing job in the last year and is turning her six-year-old cat blog, The Catnip Times, into a full-time job. After amassing almost 900,000 followers on Facebook and 50,000 on Instagram, she decided to organize a convention to bring cat lovers together in real life.

"Unlike, say, dog owners, cat people meet online because there is no such thing as a cat park in Chicago," said Mieli. "So I decided to go big or go home and said, let's do this. Let's have fun and bring together this huge Instagram community and influencers and friends of felines."

Mieli hopes that the Meow Meetup (which she'd like to turn into an annual event) can help normalize cat fandom to some extent—enough of the crazy cat lady cliche. "I was once in the closet about my love for cats, and then I came out, so to speak, when I started my blog," she says.

The biggest draw of cat cons still seems to be the promise of mingling with Instagram-famous felines at meet-and-greets. At the top of Saturday's bill was Lil' Bub, the odd but endearing saucer-eyed mutant cat from Bloomington, Indiana, who has her own media empire that includes a webseries, a book, a documentary, and most recently a video game. Attendees paid $100 each to briefly bask in the presence of 'Lil Bub and waited in lines to pet or get selfies with a handful of other, more minor, cat celebs.

I strolled over to celebrity cat's Chuck the Duck's booth to meet the Lakeview-based Instagram star, but the 11-year old orange tabby was on break in his hotel room, said his owner Cody VandeZande. Four years ago, VandeZande, a professional hairdresser, started to dress up his cat in elaborate costumes and post pictures of them online. One in particular, of Chuck wearing hair extensions in imitation of Beyoncé went viral, and he now has 11,500 Instagram followers. Not bad for a former barn cat from rural Wisconsin.

"It's been great so far," says VandeZande about his first cat con. "A bunch of Chuck's fans were so excited to see him. Everyone in this community is so supportive."

Even with Chuck taking a breather, VandeZande was busy promoting his cat's merch: stickers, pins, and a forthcoming ABC primer, The Chuck Book, an illustrated children's book featuring dozens of other Instagram-celebrity pets in alphabetical order.

"I never thought I'd be a crazy cat person," he confesses. "But it definitely did happen."

  • Kayla Molander

Four booths down from Chuck, I spied a different species of celebrity in the cat world. It's the booth of Jeanette Skaluba of Decatur, who in 2015 decided to try bringing cats from a nearby shelter to her yoga class? "Yoga and cats is a natural combination that no one thought of before," says Skaluba.

She taped the resulting event on a GoPro camera, and the video of a black-and-white colored kitty named Oreo slinking around or on top of Skaluba and other women as they made catlike poses earned 13 million views on YouTube and inspired what's become a nationwide phenomenon: Cat Yoga. "I still get contacted from media outlets about it," said Skaluba. "Recently it was BBC Russia."

Cat yoga's success has meant good things for Skaluba. Her Yoga4Cats became a both nonprofit and a licensed rescue organization last year, and she hosts special events such as an upcoming night session that pairs cat yoga with beer. Silly? Sure, but for a good cause. "Doing yoga with [the cats is] supposed to be a way to give them new exposure so they can get adopted," she says.

Don't be surprised if Lululemon has a Meow Meetup booth next year.

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Street style at Pitchfork: Ms. Lauryn Hill sets the tone for some serious eclecticism [PHOTOS]

Posted By on 07.23.18 at 02:00 PM

Ms. Lauryn Hill - MATT HARVEY
  • Matt Harvey
  • Ms. Lauryn Hill

Can we just talk about Ms. Lauryn Hill's glorious outfit for the closing night of Pitchfork 2018? Such a bold mix of proportions, volumes, textures, gender identifiers, and casual/formal pieces. Mixing is where it's at. And festivalgoers also did that beautifully, with a very diverse crowd sporting outfits that go way beyond the basic boho look. See some of the creative combinations they put together in the photos below.

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Ms. Lauryn Hill reminded Pitchfork how vital she was and is to hip-hop

Posted By on 07.23.18 at 12:16 PM

Ms. Lauryn Hill at Pitchfork on Sunday night - SARAH JOYCE
  • Sarah Joyce
  • Ms. Lauryn Hill at Pitchfork on Sunday night

It was coming up on 15 minutes past the scheduled 8:30 start time for Ms. Lauryn Hill's headlining Pitchfork set when her DJ started playing Nas's "If I Ruled the World," which features Hill's classic rendition of Kurtis Blow's hook from the original—her cooing vocals over the itchy percussion of the song's intro were met with thunderous anticipatory applause. But in moments it became disappointingly clear that this was not, in fact, the song that was going to introduce Ms. Lauryn Hill. A young photographer, not much older than me, came clamoring into the photo pit. "Damn, so she still hasn't come out yet?" she asked, with a dash of genuine concern sprinkled on top of the obvious sarcasm. "Nah, but that was kind of a sick tease," I replied.

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Eating elsewhere: of cow tongue Reubens and fresh pasta at Raduno, in Traverse City, MI

Posted By on 07.23.18 at 12:00 PM

Tagliatelle, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Tagliatelle, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

I headed to Leelanau County in northern Michigan last week for R&R, armed with a list of cideries, wineries, farmers' markets, ice cream stands, and restaurants to check out. That's the little peninsula on the state's greater lower peninsula that sticks out between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay like a pinky finger on a wine stem. Blessed with a glorious maritime climate (in summer, anyway), it has a serious viticulture (relative to the rest of the midwest) and a comparably respectable food scene.

Porchetta sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Porchetta sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

There's almost too much to take in in a week, but near the top of my list was Raduno, an Italian cafe-deli in Traverse City, founded in part by onetime Chicago butcher Andrea Logan Deibler. Deibler, a Kansas City native, dove into the charcuterie arts at the late, great Mado, studying whole animal butchery with Rob Levitt, then later went on lead the charcuterie program at the late City Provisions, and then set up as the in-house butcher at Hopleaf. In 2014 she moved to Traverse City, where her husband grew up, and bounced around various farm and restaurant kitchens on the peninsula, notably at 9 Beans Row, a beloved farm-to-table situation in Suttons Bay where she met chefs Paul Carlson and Janene Silverman, the latter an accomplished maker of pasta and bread who'd worked in Italy's Piedmont region for nearly two decades.

Rigatoni with pork bolognese, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Rigatoni with pork bolognese, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

Last summer, the three struck out on their own, opening in a small neighborhood strip mall well off Traverse City's well-touristed waterfront strip. Inside it's roomy with lots of tables and a good view of the operations, but what's most striking is the display case of the fruits of Logan Deibler's labor: mortadella, prosciutto, coppa, speck, bratwursts and blood sausage, and a striking bowl of fat corned cow tongues, all preserved from local beasts.

"I get whole Durocs from Hampel Farms up here near Buckley, Michigan, and make sausages, patés, smoked meats, and such in house," she told me later. "Whole lamb I get from a farm near Williamsburg. We don't move enough beef for me to get whole steers (and labor is very tough to find up here) ,so I buy odd bits from a great local food distribution company called Cherry Capital Foods. They are getting organic beef tongue from dairy cows at Dekam Dairy near Falmouth."

Smoked turkey sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Smoked turkey sandwich, Raduno, Traverse City, MI

Many of these are put to good use in fat sandwiches like smoked turkey with mozzarella, pickled red onion, pesto, and greens; or porchetta with salsa verde and arugula; or an enormous banh mi with country paté, chicken liver mousse, pickled carrots, and aioli. All come on Silverman's seductively chewy ciabatta. The cow tongues are sliced and used to build Reubens that Logan Deibler reports sell surprisingly well. "People here get really excited for all the bits you can’t find easily. It’s a farming community, and a lot of people grew up eating beef tongue and blood sausage and braunschweiger and can't get that at a lot of places."

The other key component to the operation are the fresh pastas made by Silverman that, along with Carlson's sauces and fillings, stock another display case: tentacular tagliatelle with bright tomato sauce, ruddy rigatoni with lamb ragu, bucatini, gnocchi, sardi, ravioli, each available raw and unsauced to take back to your vacation pad or back home to Chicago. Either way it's an essential stop to or to from the peninsula.

Raduno, Traverse City, MI - MIKE SULA
  • Mike Sula
  • Raduno, Traverse City, MI

Raduno, 545 E. Eighth St., Traverse City, MI

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