Saturday, July 24, 2021

Notes From The Plaza: Moods & Foods

Rent Party

     And here I thought Austin was a cool town. Maybe it's really Dullsville, and only seemed interesting because Caren Jeskey was there, describing it. Here is her latest Saturday report, now from Chicago, thank God, striking a vibe that I wouldn't find had I hung around the neighborhood for a week. 

     It’s time to party again— even though COVID is ramping up the hunt. Yesterday, the unscrupulous virus prompted an alert on my phone (that still thinks I live in Austin): “COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Austin Public Health is recommending both vaccinated/unvaccinated people wear masks indoors & outdoors when you can’t distance. Getting vaccinated is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
     Listening to music outdoors while distanced is one way to find joy this beautiful summer in Chicago. A friend’s band Rent Party played at Woodard Plaza this past Thursday evening as a part of of a free weekly music fest in Logan Square—— that runs through August.
     The band consists of three brilliant writers and musicians. Snežana Žabić played various instruments including an amped-up cigar box guitar accompanied by her poetic, thought provoking lyrics. Matt Sobczyk’s laid back stance, smooth voice and sultry bass is a pleasing balance to Ms. Žabić’s strong, bright voice and powerful (yet small) stature. Holly Rose Shapiro’s drum work wowed me. Her fair skin, dark curls, red lips and patterned Chuck Taylor’s cooly said “rockstar,” as her expression remained steady and focused. She clacked her drumsticks together to alert the band when to start each song, and hit the rhythms and beats with precision. At one point I tried to figure out what the heck she was doing, her handwork so intricate and quick. She nailed every stroke of the sticks and step of the pedals, and it was impossible not to dance.
     You can catch Rent Party at their next show on August 15th from 1-2pm at North Park Community Market at 5527 N Kimball. It’s outdoors, free and family friendly ( I heard, on good authority, that the tamales are tasty too.
     For the first half of the show, the audience sat on concrete risers, attention fixed towards the stage, starting to emerge from their shells. A group of four young boys, some with ice cream cones in their hands, sat close to the stage. They were into it. One of the boys, about ten or so with a head full of thick black hair, patterned shorts and a bright blue tee shirt couldn’t help himself. The rhythm got into him, and he started clapping and knee slapping along with Holly.
     Enrique Morales, one of the organizers of this fine event that breathes life into the intersection of Diversey, Kimball & Milwaukee, placed a bucket of sidewalk chalk in front of the kiddos. They immediately sprang into action and turned the Plaza into their palette. They jumped and ran and danced as they swiped colorful thick wands of chalk all over the white concrete. When they were finished I got a closer look to see what they wrote. “Jesus Loves You And We Love You,” and “Take Care,” along with plenty of hearts.
     A few men who either live on the streets or perhaps in the encampment of tents set up just across Kimball also joined us. One came swaying over, obviously intoxicated, and sat down. I felt nauseous just looking at him. He could barely hold his head up yet still bobbed it along to the music and called out “more, more!” when the band paused to share a story. He was wearing $10 shower shoes from Walgreens with the Cubs logo on them, and I noticed that one of his toenails was badly infected. I wondered what all he has been through?
     A slender black man came by, danced a bit with some nimble footwork, then picked up a good sized cardboard box I hadn’t noticed (probably his bed for the night). He then stepped right in front of traffic to cross the street, making it to the other side—unscathed, thank goodness. He placed the box on a bus stop bench for later, and danced away. That’s when I noticed the tents and men sitting on lawn chairs in the little park across the street.
     Midway through the show, a young couple bounced over with big smiles. The bearded man leaned back, turning the concrete risers into a comfy couch, extended his arm and offered his chest as a pillow for his special lady. They gazed lovingly at each other and then settled in to rock out to the music. When the show was over they approached Snežana and asked about the stringed cigar box. Snežana offered it to the young lady to test out. We chatted a bit and I learned that she is a talented artist and musician named Anna Marie. You can see her lovely work here: The bearded man is her husband, Zander.
     I helped the band load up and we went to Dante’s on Armitage for a slice. A lovely time was had by all.


  1. Thanks you paint a lovely picture. Here's an article about the homeless living in the Fireman's Plaza across the street and their concern about being cleaned-out by the city:

    1. Thank you! This is one of the men who came over and joined us.

  2. Welcome back to the stomping grounds Caren. If your in Rogers park on a Friday or Saturday and in the mood for some outdoor music check out the scene at Archie's on Loyola just west of the L it's always alot of fun . Real laid back. The crowd skews young but age is just a number

    1. Ah yes! One night I was having a meal at Blaze with family, and we heard the music coming from that direction so drove by. Great outdoor venue. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Caren! It was very nice to meet you and I really enjoyed our trip to Dante's.

    1. You bet, Matt. Thank you for working so hard to bring music to the masses.


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