Tonic Room transforms itself into Golden Dagger | Gossip Wolf | Chicago Reader

Tonic Room transforms itself into Golden Dagger 

Plus: Eleventh Dream Day release the surprise double album Since Grazed.

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click to enlarge Donnie Biggins and Zoey Victoria on the remodeled Golden Dagger stage - SARAH ELIZABETH LARSON
  • Donnie Biggins and Zoey Victoria on the remodeled Golden Dagger stage
  • Sarah Elizabeth Larson

Lincoln Park venue-slash-bar Tonic Room is no more—technically. When the space reopens later this month, it'll be called Golden Dagger, after an actual knife that a previous owner found inside the 127-year-old building's walls. Though it will still be a venue once it's safe and practical to host live music again, to start it'll be a coffeehouse first and a bar second. Owner Donnie Biggins, who also sings and plays guitar in the Shams Band, says he's wanted to transform the venue since he bought it in 2016, and he decided to make the best of the COVID shutdown and finally start renovations. He was inspired by a conversation with Chicago multi-instrumentalist Zango the Third (he remembers it happening around the time Zango released ReBrand ReCovery in July), and the final event at Tonic Room was Half Gringa's livestream in November benefiting the CIVL SAVE Emergency Relief Fund. Biggins began building out Golden Dagger the next day.

One of Biggins's top priorities was fixing the venue's awkward layout—Tonic Room's entrance fed people directly into the front of the stage. "The last show I played there, personally, I had to kick out a patron because two times he walked in and hit the drummer's cymbal," he says. "In the middle of the Shams' show, I literally walked offstage and got this guy out of there." Golden Dagger's entrance now leads straight back, opening into the middle of the space. The entryway's walls will display local wares for sale, including vinyl and cassettes, along with the "Rapbrary," a collection of books chosen by rapper and librarian Roy Kinsey that patrons can read for free on-site. Golden Dagger will have patio seating, and it will open at 7 AM every day for coffee, with beans from Skylight Coffee (founded by Tonic Room veterans Matt DeWine and Billy Giannopoulos). The venue will also serve cocktails and kombucha on tap, among other beverages, and in May it plans to debut a vintage market on Saturday afternoons, with up to six vendors inside and outdoors. In-person shows aren't on the horizon yet, but music curator Zoey Victoria is helping launch Golden Dagger's new livestreamed series, Local Support, each episode of which will feature two acts performing and interviewing each other. The series begins Thursday, April 15, with Nashville singer-songwriter Katy Kirby and Philadelphia indie trio Another Michael.

Fans of Eleventh Dream Day have learned to keep a volcanologist's close eye on the local rock powerhouse: despite long periods of relative dormancy, when EDD finally erupt into a fiery blaze of glory, it's almost always awe-inspiring. The band haven't put out a studio record since Works for Tomorrow in 2015, but last week they surprise dropped the titanic new double album Since Grazed via New Jersey indie label Comedy Minus One. It's their second release to feature guitarist James Elkington alongside the established lineup of guitarist-vocalist Rick Rizzo, drummer-vocalist Janet Bean, bassist Doug McCombs, and multi-instrumentalist and engineer Mark Greenberg—and it's one of the most sublime and engaging works in their nearly 40-year history. As if in response to the isolation and terror of the past year, the album's 12 tracks—gentle ballads "Nothing's Ever Lost" and "Just Got Home (In Time to Say Goodbye)," up-tempo jammers "Cracks in My Smile" and "Yves Klein Blues"—seem to ruminate on forgiveness and the blessings of reunion.  v

  • Grant Nickson directed the animated video for the title track of the new Eleventh Dream Day album.

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Related Events

  • Local Support featuring Kara Jackson, Kamaria Nayo @ Golden Dagger

    • Thu., April 29, 8 p.m.
    • Buy from TicketWeb

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