WINDY CITY TIMES
||Taste of Chicago, 2012 @ Grant Park
by Vern Hester
This article shared 2430 times since Tue Jul 24, 2012
You'd be damned for saying that the city of Chicago did not try to turn A Taste of Chicago into an institution. After morphing with Chicagofest into one big summertime event designed to revitalize the moribund Navy Pier in the early 1980s, it fell victim to its own offspring. Chicago is now home to so many festivalsboth city (Blues Fest, GospelFest, Jazz Fest), community (A Taste of Randolph St., Market Days), and privately sponsored (Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Riotfest)that Taste became positively antiquated. Add to that declining attendance and revenues, and the burden of a battered civic economy and you get a dinosaur that was fast turning into a white elephant. With a new mayor and some drastic unpopular changes something had to give.
For the 32nd edition of the fest, the talent line-up was a lot spiffier (The Lemonheads or The Wallflowers, anyone?) and, yes, those pavilion seats went for $25 where they used to be free, but you know what? It worked; attendance was up for the first time in years, the pavilion shows that this writer saw were close to sell outs, and the performances were certainly worth it.
The first hometown girl of the fest, Jennifer Hudson, kicked off the event with a performance that was both flirty and ferocious. Alternative platinum rockers Death Cab for Cutie brought a dreamy vibe to the festival while country rocker Dierks Bentley whipped his adoring audience with a whiskey and sand-drenched set of brutal twang. That other hometown girl, diva Chaka Khan, revealed a new svelte figure but kept her unmistakable voice (yes, her hair is still luxuriously fantastic). Hitting the stage with a jagged "I Feel for You," she not only performed gems from her four-decade-long career but found time to duet with opener Raphael Saadiq on "You Got the Love."
All that was just on the main stage. On the smaller Budweiser Stage, the line-up was a virtual "who's who" of oddball Chicago talent: punk brass band Mucca Pazza (who went apeshit), alt-country rocker Robbie Fulks (who donned a mangy wig and ripped through a Lynrd Skynyrd tribute), and hip-hop/jazz collective Kids These Days fresh off its network debut on Conan (and who cut up like jolly delinquents).
Yeah, it was the best time that I've ever had at the festival and I lay the blame squarely on some of the behind the scenes staffers with the City of Chicago: Mary May, Cindy Gatziolis, Alex McIntyre and Bruce Kellner. Sorry, it doesn't get better than this...
This article shared 2430 times since Tue Jul 24, 2012
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