Cover Story, Music, February 5, 2009 | Feature | Chicago Reader

Cover Story, Music, February 5, 2009 

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Music

Al Mansoor Video and Bombay Video There's no better or cheaper place to buy Indian music—classical, bhangra, Bollywood soundtracks—than the slew of video shops along Devon Avenue, and out of all the ones I've been in these two are the best. Al Mansoor focuses on contemporary Indian music and also carries UK bhangra that's been released in India—which limits the selection but keeps prices down. Where Al Mansoor is spacious and slick looking, Bombay Video is a charming, cluttered mess, with most of the CDs in precarious stacks behind the counter. This is a better place for the classical stuff, and the owner seems to know what's in every wobbly pile. aAl Mansoor Video, 2600 W. Devon, 773-764-7576; Bombay Video, 2634 W. Devon, 773-743-5987. —Peter Margasak

Cary's Lounge & Liquors See Bars.

Duke's Bar With a couple TVs behind the bar and a platoon of grizzled regulars posted in front of it, at first glance Duke's looks a lot like a rural Wisconsin watering hole—not the first thing you'd expect to find just down the street from a hippie haven like the Heartland Cafe. But the place has an extremely mellow vibe, unpretentious staff, and a rotating cast of friendly dogs to hang out with. When I was there last month a regular got up to play his favorite songs on the jukebox for what I guess was the zillionth time, provoking a chorus of good-natured grousing, and the bartender seemed sincerely bummed that I could only stay for one beer. Music's not the main attraction here—there's a tiny stage off to one side, which on weekends hosts mostly tiny local bands—but there's never a cover charge, making it a pretty low-risk proposition to check out the scene. Upcoming highlights include Charlie King of Austin's Asylum Street Spankers (2/8). a6920 N. Glenwood, 773-764-2826. —Miles Raymer

Flesh Hungry Dog Show Most days the Jackhammer (see GLBTQ) is a pretty serious gay bar—Thursdays through Sundays it opens a men-only annex called the Hole, which has a dress code that's sometimes more of an undress code (Friday is "shirts off" and on Saturday the order of the evening is leather, rubber, underwear, or uniform). But one Friday of every month it also hosts a variety showcase called the Flesh Hungry Dog Show that's usually almost all live music. The bookings tend to come from the punky, artsy side of the Chicago scene—in the past few months they've included Aleks& the Drummer and Coltrane in Motion—and touring bands turn up occasionally. It's definitely a queer-friendly scene, but it's by no means hetero unfriendly—the crowds are crazily diverse and almost uniformly rowdy, and the vibe is more basement show than bar. aThis month's showcase: Fri 2/6, "around 8 or 9 PM," with the Nice Device, the Pussy Pirates, Retardos de la Mour, DJ Sky, and Girlie-Q Burlesque, Jackhammer, 6406 N. Clark, 773-743-5772, fleshhungrydog.com, $8. —MR

Heartland Cafe Open since 1976 and once the epicenter of Rogers Park's old-school hippie community, the Heartland remains a popular spot for veggie-friendly home-style cooking as well as a vital community center (complete with a well-stocked progressive newsstand) and intimate music venue. It draws a diverse crowd, though dreadlocked college students and left-leaning middle-class families are perhaps a tad overrepresented, and the music programming is correspondingly eclectic: folks, blues, jazz, country, rock, and international, with an open mike on Wednesdays. Most of the acts are local, but some surprises do turn up—Pete Best and P.M. Dawn have played there in the past year or so. Upcoming highlights include the Quintus McCormick Band (2/27), Fred Eaglesmith (4/13), and the legendary Charlie Louvin (6/19). Every Saturday from 9 to 10 AM on WLUW (see below), co-owner Michael James discusses community issues with local guests on the radio show Live From the Heartland, which has been running since 1993. a7000 N. Glenwood, 773-465-8005, heartlandcafe.com. —PM

Morseland Though the Morseland has only existed in its current state for about five years, the building that houses it has been standing since 1918—at one point it was a Piggly Wiggly. For most of the evening it feels like a semiswank restaurant, but around 10 PM the mood shifts and it starts to feel like a semiswank bar, and the stage becomes a focus of attention. The eclectic music bookings include hip-hop, blues, indie rock, reggae, and funk, and Sundays and Mondays are jazz nights—Jimmy Bennington's Colour and Sound plays every Sunday, and Monday's slot is filled by an assortment of groups, among them Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls. Upcoming notable shows include Zing! (2/7) and Zutano (2/11). On nights with no live band, there's usually a DJ spinning in the club's well-appointed booth. a1218 W. Morse, 773-764-8900, morseland.com. —Kevin Warwick

Morse Theatre Built in 1912, the Morse began its life as a silent-movie and vaudeville theater, which closed its doors in the late 20s and then was pressed into service as a furniture warehouse. It reopened showing talkies in the mid-30s, when it also enjoyed the distinction of being the first air-conditioned business on the street. From 1956 to 1977 it was a synagogue, home to the Congregation Beth Israel Anshe Yanova. Since then the space has been largely unused, even as an assortment of small business have come and gone in the storefronts that share the building—but thanks to a $6 million renovation, it emerged as a music venue last fall. The hall, which holds 265, has a mezzanine, a first-rate sound system, and good sight lines; food and drink can be had at the adjoining Century Public House, which is open even when there's no show. The music programming has been a little erratic thus far, but it has the potential to become one of Chicago's best small theaters. Currently WFMT (98.7 FM) books and broadcasts a Sunday-morning classical series, and Wednesdays are given over to local jazz; upcoming highlights include the Gibson Brothers (2/14), Aaron Parks (2/20), Juana Molina (2/22), and Duncan Sheik (3/6). a1328 W. Morse, 773-654-5100 or themorse.com. —PM

No Exit Cafe When No Exit opened in Evanston in 1958, it was allegedly the first coffeehouse in Chicagoland. It's since moved south and become part of the Heartland constellation, but in its present incarnation as a boho storefront performance space it retains traces of its beatnik heritage: a found-art decorating style, a free-spirited interpretation of its own posted hours, and the occasional lurking existentialist playwright. I'm not holding my breath for the cafe to revisit to its brief period as an all-ages punk and hardcore venue in '05 and '06, but it still hosts a regular Wednesday country-music night and the occasional theater production or musical act—this March, for instance, the Theo Ubique Theater Company presents Evita (see Performing Arts). Upcoming highlights include Miss Alex White's White Mystery, Stranger Waves, and Puking Pearls (2/14). a6970 N. Glenwood, 773-743-3355 or heartlandcafe.com/nx_index.htm. —MR

Red Line Tap There's not much to the Red Line Tap: bar on the left, stage on the right, a couple ancient arcade games, the requisite pool table. That's part of its charm, though—whatever it's doing, it's not trying too hard. There are eight beers on tap, and many more by the bottle, and you can order food from the Heartland through a window. (Macrobiotic plate with your bourbon?) There's live music pretty much nightly, mostly rock, punk, and metal. Occasionally a noteworthy out-of-town act comes through—Greg Ginn& the Taylor Texas Corrugators played here last year—but for the most part the bands are from close by and the cover is cheap. Sexfist plays bluegrass every Tuesday, and every Thursday there's an open mike presented by the Flatts& Sharpe music shop, a neighborhood institution (see Shopping). a7006 N. Glenwood, 773-274-5463, heartlandcafe.com/rl_index.htm. —KW

Uncommon Ground on Devon This Rogers Park spinoff of the popular Wrigleyville restaurant and music space features the same eclectic, upscale food and drink, but the music at Uncommon Ground on Devon—booked by David Chavez, formerly of HotHouse—is more varied than at the original location, where singer-songwriters dominate. Folk, country, jazz, world music, rock, and even contemporary classical turn up on the schedule (most of the acts are local), and there's an open mike on Tuesdays. The stage is in one of the dining rooms, and whether the tables and chairs stay put for the show depends on who's playing—management tends to clear a little space for bands expected to provoke dancing. No cover, but there is a suggested donation, usually ten bucks. Upcoming notable shows include Al Rose (2/23), Doug Lofstrom (2/26), and Pezzettino with Arthi Meera (3/2). a1401 W. Devon, 773-465-9801, uncommonground.com. —PM

WLUW Loyola University's popular 100-watt radio station, at 88.7 FM, has seen a turbulent few years. The school handed management of the station over to WBEZ in 2002 in order to offload some of the station's expenses, then took it back last summer, having decided it needed a way for students in its revamped communications program to practice running a radio station. The process wasn't a clean one, though—during the transition some popular staffers, including station manager Craig Kois and program director Shawn Campbell, were let go, and many volunteers quit in protest. Remarkably, WLUW's programming has stayed pretty consistent throughout this behind-the-scenes drama, mixing community-oriented broadcasts and news with indie rock and a slew of specialty shows devoted to hip-hop, experimental music, reggae, electronica, rock en español, and more. Full disclosure: I have a show on WLUW myself—two hours of international music called Mosaic, every Saturday from 2 to 4 PM. awluw.org. —PM

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