Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Local Live Music - Nov/Dec Edition

This is only a guide - always check with the venue or the band to confirm.  This is live music - things can definitely change.

11/9 - Love, Chicago : A Benefit Concert for Mexico & Puerto Rico, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, IL
11/10 - HandGrenades - Mac's Bar, Lansing, MI
11/10 - Time Bandits - Tracy's Tavern, Clarendon Hills, IL
11/10 - Krewella - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
11/10 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/11 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/11 - Time Bandits - Old Town Pub, Crestwood, IL
11/11 - Susan Williams Band - Porkchop, Glenwood, IL
11/11 - 95th Street Band - Slapshots, Midlothian, IL
11/12 - Finding God in Popular Music - St. Raymond de Penafort Parish, Mount Prospect, IL
11/17 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/17 - Snow Leopard Love Affair, Underclass, Big Sky Hunters, Feedback Friends - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
11/18 - Sniper - Mister Mo's, Palos Heights, IL
11/18 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/18 - Cornerstones of Rock - Coronado Theatre, Rockford, IL
11/18 - Charlie FoxTrot - The Port, Bridgeport, IL
11/22 - Low Voltage - Mainstreet Bar & Grill, Hopkins, MN
11/22 - Kashmir - Q Sports Bar & Grill, Darien, IL
11/24 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/25 - Sopro's Annual Thanksgiving All-Star Blues Revue - Cheers, Midlothian, IL
11/25 - Cornerstones of Rock - Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL
11/26 - Old School Jam Night - Lynwood Skating Rink, Lynwood, IL
11/29 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Homewood, IL
12/1 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Charlie FoxTrot - Main Street Pub, Robinson, IL
12/2 - Modern Day Romeos - MT Barrels, Schaumburg, IL
12/8 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/8 - Hed(pe) at Dark Days of Christmas - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
12/9 - Sniper - Finnegan's Pub, Dyer, IN
12/9 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/9 - Kashmir - Buddy & Pal's, Crown Point, IN
12/15 - 4th Annual Night Ministry Christmas with the Beatles Glove Drive feat. Danny Donuts & Crabby Road Band, Yellow SubMorons, Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band, Meet The Beatles - Harry's Sports Bar & Grill, Countryside, IL
12/15 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - The Ides Of March - Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL
12/16 - Liquid Monday - Bottom's Up, Lansing, IL
12/22 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/23 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/27 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Homewood, IL
12/29 - Jeff Massey from Steepwater Band - J. Martin's Tap, Steger, IL
12/29 - Kashmir - The Forge, Joliet, IL
12/31 - Kashmir - Ballydoyle's, Downers Grove, IL
1/20 - Jim Peterik's World Stage - Wentz Hall at North Central College, Naperville, IL
2/10 - Dennis DeYoung - Genesee Theater, Waukegan, IL
2/10 - Charlie FoxTrot - Rod & Gun Club, Bruceville, IN
3/9 - 2nd Annual AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation Jam Night - Glass Tap, Steger, IL

Monday, October 30, 2017

Seasonal Hiatus has begun

For you regular readers, you knew this was coming.

We will begin our seasonal hiatus effective today, the night before Halloween!!!!

We will be back with Running Blogs and Live Music/Artist Blogs in January.

We will still post some updates to the Local Live Music scene during this time, though.

There might be some stuff between now and then - but until then - enjoy the Holiday Season!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Sniper

Finally, after numerous hit-and-misses, I got to see Sniper live and in person.  I had planned to see them many times, but things never worked out.  But this time it did, and it was perfect, an early autumn evening outdoor concert at a local bar.

This band is so prepared, they even built the stage for the event!!  (seriously)

Sniper is a hard rocking 4 piece band, with a bass guitar, lead/rhythm guitar, drums, and lead vocalist/frontman.

This is a band that stays true to the hard rock formula of the 1980s, powerful vocals with an energetic frontman, awesome lead solos with an energetic guitar player, featured drums solos with a hard hitting drummer, and an energetic bassist who loved going out into the crowd.  (Okay, so the bassist wasn't the ordinary 1980s/1970s stand in one spot bass player)

Speaking of going out into the crowd, this band probably makes the best use of cordless instruments an microphones than any local band I have seen in a while.  Throughout each and every song in every set, at least 1 of the band members was rockin out in the crowd (except the drummer.....yet).  The bassist would walk right up to people and slap out some awesome bass lines, the lead guitarist not only went up to people in the crowd and displayed his guitar playing, but the stage couldn't contain him, I think he spent most of the time in front of the stage moving around.  And the lead vocalist, always mixing it up with the audience, singing with them, going up to them, and putting on a show.  Not just a vocalist, but that classic 80s frontman as well.  High energy output from each member of the band, it was more than music, it was also a show. 

But, it's not just the showmanship, this band can play!  Awesome recreations of songs from the 80s and 90s and 70s that we all know and love.  When playing covers, there is definitely pressure to do it right - and they did it right.  All of the songs played perfect tribute to the original songs, many spot on, and some with minor twists that the band threw in, which is always a welcome change!

I can't remember the entire set list, but I do remember a segment where they went from Judas Priest directly into an extended jam version of Radar Love and seamlessly into War Pigs!  Radar Love to War Pigs - now that's variety!   One surprise was when this 4-piece hard rock band broke into a song from a local legendary band, The Ides of March.  That's right, this hard rock band was about to play Vehicle.  (Chicagoans know the significance of that song and that band in music lore)  And you know what, without the use of a horn section, this band PULLED IT OFF!!!  I admit, I was curious as to how such a strong Chicago-horn style song would work without horns - and with only 2 guitars (one being a bass) - but you know what - they rocked it!!!!!  Very cool to have seen/heard!!

Definitely a fun-night-out kinda band.  Between sets the band didn't go hide backstage or in their vehicles (no pun intended) - but rather sat at the bar and did shots with people and drank beers and met people and mingled with their audience.  A great band to book for that fun-night-out type event!!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week : The People of Endurance Running

So, this is more of a generic article about Endurance Events in general.  These tend to be known as 4-hour, 6-hour, 8-hour, 12-hour, 24-hour, 48-hour timed events.  The goal of these events is not get from point A to point B.  But, rather, how many times a person can get from point A to point B in a given time frame.

One beauty of endurance racing is that it is great for beginners, like even brand new runners, it's great for walkers, it's great for speed runners, and it's great for consistent-pace runners - and anything and everything in between.  Why?  Because a participant can complete 1 lap and stop or complete 120+ miles and stop.  However many they want to attempt, they can attempt.  However many they complete, they complete.   People can walk 30 minute miles, or run 10 minute miles.  It doesn't matter.

And that's because there are two major aspects of Endurance Running.  1) Challenging yourself - what can you do, what do you want to do, challenging your physical and mental and emotional being  and 2) the camaraderie.  And the camaraderie is the topic of this particular post.

All of these events have a "tent village" or "staging area" or "support area" (called different things).  This is where each participants sets up a "home base" - it's where their food and water are, it's where their support team is, it's where additional clothing is, and, in some cases, it's where they catnap or just sit down for a while.  This is one part of the camaraderie.  Everybody in "tent village" is there for the same common goal - endurance racing.  Doesn't matter WHY they are racing or what THEIR goals are - they all share the same common bond of challenging oneself.  But the talk isn't just about running this particular event, it's about other races, it's about horror films, it's about baseball or football, it's about music - you name it, it's being talked about - before, during, and after the race at various times in "tent village".

Then, there is the unique aspect of "on-course conversations".  Yes, even in street sprint races and marathons and trail races, runners talk.  But the sheer length of an endurance events, often times leads to 1-lap (3, 4 miles) conversations with "strangers" (for lack of a better word).  Someone may catch up to someone or happen to match a pace, and they talk the entire lap - about the event, about other events, about movies, about cars, or whatever.  After a few steps, there is always an introduction/exchange of names, and it goes from there.  Friends are made as the event is in progress.  Some people run/walk the entire event with a friend or friends as well.  It's a time to spend 4,6, 24 hours with friends.

Then there is the 3rd level of camaraderie - the unsung heroes - THE VOLUNTEERS and/or RACE DIRECTORS.  These are the people who learn your name and recognize you after 1 or 2 laps (or less).  These are the people that cheer you on as you pass by - or as you stop for food or water or both.  These are the people, that legitimately, 100%, sincerely ARE rooting for you.  They want to see you meet your goal - whatever it is.  And they will try to help you any way possible, within the rules of course.  They ask how you are doing - if you don't seem all peppy, if things aren't going well, they say "how can I help?" and they mean it.  They will pour a Ginger Ale for you, not make you pour it.  They will tell you what items are on the food table, and hand it to you, not make you grab it.  They will motivate you with sincere comments - or they may even suggest "it's ok to rest for a few minutes, then go back out and get it".  They will talk to you - and listen - and legitimately care about your race.  How are you doing?  What is your goal?  How close are you to it?  Etc etc.  Some endurance races have one manned station - some 3 or 4 per lap - it all depends.  But regardless, they are there rooting for the runners, not just guarding food and water.  They will joke with you and laugh with you, they will encourage you, they will cheer for you.  These are the totally unsung heroes, of which no endurance race would be worth attending, if these people were not there.

Speaking of the food - not all endurance races are the same - but they all try.  Some have a constant supply of pizzas brought in for HOURS, some have awesome restaurant hamburgers, some grill burgers and brats on the spot, some have various "wrap" sandwiches, some have the great PB&J, some have nuts and M&Ms, some have fruit and veggies and slices oranges, and cut up bananas.  There is SO MUCH effort that goes into these food stations - they just don't throw food out there and make the runners "deal" - this food is sliced and diced and wrapped and prepared and ready to grab and go!!!  Plus there is water, and pop, and gatorade (or similar) drinks.  Some even have music!!

As I mentioned earlier - two key aspects of Endurance Racing.  1) Challenge yourself  and 2) The People - the camaraderie.  And in my opinion, if #2 didn't exist, then there is no point of even attending the event.  Challenging oneself is great and important and tough and gut-checking and fun and exhilarating.  But without people and camaraderie - what's really the point of it all?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday - Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - HandGrenades

So, I just returned from Detroit earlier this week - so I decided (just like last week) - I'll post a TBT post - this one from 2014 (reprinted unchanged)


Sitting here watching the Bears vs. Lions on TV - while they are at Ford Field in Detroit - it helped me decide today's Featured Live Music Artist of the Week.

Based in the Detroit Metro Area - THE HANDGRENADES

The best way to describe this band's musical style is with adjectives, not with a genre: melodic, guitar-driven, impressive harmonies, evolving, energetic, fun, astounding lyrics, and with one noun - ROCK & ROLL.   This is rock-n-roll in its most pure form, it's all about the music, it's fun, it's contagious - it is everything Rock & Roll is meant to be.

Originally a 4 piece (2 guitars, bass, drums), now a 5 piece with the addition of keys, the band members shift between instrumental roles during the show, as some move from lead, to rhythm, to bass guitar.  Although every aspect of the band is impressive, they are most certainly defined by their harmonies - a modern-day much-heavier Beatles in that area.  But, make no mistake, just because they have Beatle-like harmonies - this is far from being "a band that sounds like the Beatles" - this is an original new band with their very own unique sound.

They are now on their 3rd full-length CD, plus an earlier EP/demo.  The band writes the songs from music through lyrics.

But even more than the music is the STAGE PRESENCE!  And man, it is a presence!!!  A very cool inside lit bass-drum with the red glowing HG is the centerpiece of the stage.  Speaking of drums, and I've told him this to his face, the drummer beats the living daylights out of those drums!!!  Rumor has it he has actually broken cymbals!!  But, the sound that comes out is forceful, full, and driving - just like the guitars.  The guitars drive the song along, pushing each song onward, and bring pure energy to the forefront!  And the vocals, on top of all that, with the amazing - dare I say "perfect" - harmonies put the whole package together.  I saw these guys cover "This Boy" (or is it "That Boy") by The Beatles, and I think HG did it better than the actual Beatles!!!

So, now we've established the sound - full, driving, forceful, melodic, harmonic, energetic, and fun.  And that FUN translates to an on-stage presence that is captivating.  This band never stops moving, never stops playing, never stops singing, never stops smiling, never stops laughing, never stops HAVING FUN.  Every song is a 200% effort, that somehow looks effortless, yet fun.  You can clearly tell the band is having just as much fun making the music as the crowd is having listening to it.

They have another quality which is only present in few bands - chemistry.  All that moving around on stage and jamming - and they are all in-sync with each other - both musically and physically.  They are a cohesive unit (using a football term, since I am watching the Bears/Lions game while writing).

The best way to truly appreciate their music - buy it.  The best way to truly appreciate them on stage - go see them.  This band has a long great future.  This is a band that on a 1-10 scale, gets an 11.

Their only drawback, from what this Chicagoan can see, they actually enjoy watching football played INDOORS!!!

(ps - with no disrespect towards the new members, I admit, I do miss founding member, Tom)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Emerging From The Tunnel (formerly "Why Do I Run?")

So, I self-deleted one of my own posts the other day - because when I read it, I thought it painted running in a bad light - which was NOT my intent at all. I love running, I love every thing about it, the friends I have made, the people I meet, the challenges of it - physical, mental, and emotional. I was afraid my post painted it negatively - and I didn't want to do that to something I enjoy so much.
It's back - and it's still long-winded. Because I thought, why should I pretend something true didn't really happen? What if other runners have experienced the same? What if i was just me and nobody has ever "been there"? Regardless, to hide the truth, is to deny the truth. So here is the story once again - re-titled - "Emerging From The Tunnel" (yeah, so I'm not good with titles)

What I'm about to say was true when I was just starting with 5Ks, but it happened around Mile 2.  As my distances got longer, this would happen at Mile 5, or Mile 7 - and now, in the Half Marathons, somewhere between 11 and 11.5 miles.  But it's the same feeling, it just gets more magnified with the longer distances.

Grab something to drink, find a comfy chair, because as you know, I'm long-winded.

So, the race starts off in the early morning, maybe a runner is nervous, maybe not.  All runners are excited, the adrenaline is pumping, the race starts, and "it's on".  You got this - you know that because random strangers are yelling that to you.  And YOU know it - you are ready to conquer this event.  Miles pass, you notice some great scenery, maybe even first-time-ever-seen scenery, you notice the camaraderie among the runners, you notice those awesome random strangers on the sideline cheering you on, you read their funny signs "I'm just trying to cross the street"  "A parade this long and still no candy"  "Keep running, no time for Walken (with a picture of Christopher Walken)" and so on and so forth, you hear the cowbells, you hear "You got this", you even hear - I kid you not - "Go you random stranger you".  It's exciting, you are running, your adrenaline is peaking, you are having fun - YOU GOT THIS.

Then, well, maybe you don't got this.  Maybe you just want to pull over and find a short cut and not finish.  Maybe you realize your friends are right - you are crazy.  Maybe you realize, even if you quit now, you still have to find a way to travel 4 or 5 miles back to where your gear is checked and your car is parked.  Maybe you realize, this wasn't such a good idea.  Maybe you think - you know my goal doesn't matter, who cares if I don't finish, who cares if I miss my personal goal time - and I don't care what people think!  You have reached "that dark place".  Every runner reaches it during a race, especially long races - even the best of the best mention it.  It happens, for some it's Mile 20, some, like me it's Mile 11 in Half-Marathon.  Doesn't matter when it happens - it happens.  This is, as Survivor once sang in their song "Burning Heart", "it's you against you".

Forget the physical pain, that's probably happening too, by the way.  Muscles you didn't even know you had are now getting tense or fatigued.  Your body suddenly seems to forget how to put one foot in front of the other as you barely get your foot off the ground and feel the sole scraping a rock you would have cleared by 6-inches 10 miles ago.  Maybe your lungs are on fire, and you are probably hot and thirsty and tired.  But, seriously, all of that can be overcome with increased training and preparation.  That's not the "dark place" - that part is no fun - but it's nothing compared to "that dark place".

That dark place is in your head - literally - it's you against you.  Every thought in your head is about quitting, who cares about the goal, "just walk it", "pull over, who cares".  Maybe, just maybe, you don't got this, despite what that stranger with the cowbell is telling you at this very moment.  You actually reach a point where maybe you don't like this encouragement, maybe you want to say "don't talk to me" or "enough with your signs" or "You know what - I don't got it - stop telling me I do".  You want to lash out, lash out with no valid reason.  Maybe you are getting annoyed by that great camaraderie from earlier - why is this person running so close to me? It's a big street, get off of me.  Even though they are 11 feet away from you.  Or maybe somebody is behind you and you are thinking "geez, buddy, just pass me, stop pushing me".  When in reality he is probably thinking "why is this person in front of me so close to me - big road dude move".  Suddenly, it's that "dark place".  That band, from earlier that inspired you with "Eye Of The Tiger" - well maybe you want to unplug them.

Now, NONE of these people deserve those thoughts - they are there to encourage you - believe it or not, these random strangers really ARE rooting for you.  Believe it or not, you might be inspiring them or motivating them, maybe you are why they start running next week.  But even if you don't inspire them, they are standing outside in the heat or cold or wind or whatever, and they really ARE rooting for you.  They are playing music for you, they made signs to cheer you up, they shout motivational things to you.  They do not deserve those "dark place" thoughts you might be having - but you are human - you are having those thoughts anyhow.

And THIS my friends, THIS is the time, when you WIN the race.  It's not the finish line, it's not the clock, it's RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.  This is when you win the race.  This is when you win the battle and you exit that dark place like exiting the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel into a sea of light and cheering strangers.  This is when you win - this is the moment that defines you.

You feel miserable and tired, but you see that kid on the side with his hand out for high-fives, and you drift over to high-five him.  You see that funny sign, and you somehow manage a smile or a thank you or a funny comment back, even though you don't feel much like smiling.  You see the volunteer Police Officer and you say "Thank You Officer!".  Even though you can barely speak.  THIS is what winning is about.  This is when, despite every dark thought you just had - YOU GOT THIS - you really do!  You fight those inner thoughts and you overcome.  You win, because you realize, no matter how awful you feel, those random strangers, those volunteers they deserve to know that you really do appreciate them.  You put your concern for their feelings over your own "misery of the moment".  This is the precise moment when you won the race.  This is when you KNOW, just like that random stranger is shouting to you, YOU GOT THIS.

You fought "you against you" and you won.  This is why people have that "happiest person on the planet" smile when they cross the finish line - this is why grown adults are seen crying as they cross, tears of elation (well, and perhaps some physical pain as well).

But this is the challenge - this is why I run.  I don't run to finish the race first, I don't run to beat that lady or that gentleman, I don't run to win a medal for my age bracket, I don't run for the free beer (ok, maybe that helps).  I run for that challenge - the "you against you".   The challenge isn't always "that dark place", in shorter races it's the challenge to raise the bar of my finish time or to run negative-splits, but the challenge is still there.  I have a shirt from a race that says "Challenge Yourself".  That is why I run - to challenge myself, yes physically, but mostly mentally.  It's not mind over matter - it's attitude over bad attitude.  It's wax on-wax off!

So, if you ever wondered what that half-dead totally-exhausted runner - with the largest smile on his or her face sitting over there with a towel around their neck and a water bottle on their forehead might be thinking - it might just be all of this.  (or it could be, "where is the free beer line?")

(Final note, don't get me wrong, I also have made tons of great new friends and meet new people at every event - and that's a huge reason too)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Featured Running Event of he Week - Detroit International Half-Marathon

So, how many events can one participate in, in TWO countries, in the same event.  I'm sure there are a few, but two of them are the Detroit International Marathon & Detroit International Half-Marathon. 

This marathon course, offers two distinct Half-Marathons as well.  It's not uncommon for a Marathon to offer a Half option - but this offers two different Half options - an International Half and a US Only Half.  The International Half starts with and at the same exact time as the full Marathon and runs from Detroit, USA to Windsor, Canada and back.  The US Only Half, actually starts a full 3 1/2 hours later, and picks up at the 13 mile mark and runs the entire marathon course, finishing at the same finish line as the Full Marathon and International Half.  One thing this does is creates an element where no runners will ever feel alone on the course, because shortly after the International Half peels off - the US Only half joins in.

I ran the International Half, so that's all I'll really be able to write about.  However, I knew 3 runners in the full and they had lots of great stories to tell about the neighborhoods and Belle Isle, which I did not get to experience.  Based on what they told me, I fully intend to return next year and run the US Only Half.  I still have no desire to run 26.2 - and kudos and congrats to those that do run Fulls!!!

This is definitely one of these races where I don't want to say too much, because I feel that the exploration and surprises are what makes this race so enjoyable to run.  To talk about this race in detail would be to include spoilers, which I will not do.  But I will give you an overview.

First, the volunteers at the aid stations and spirit stations were PHENOMENAL.  Many many many thanks to the hundreds (probably thousands) of volunteers.  Also many many thanks to all of the Police Officers and Border Patrol Agents that were out there.  Not only were they providing valuable services, but they were also providing much encouragement.  And many thanks to the race organizers who made sure aid stations were plentiful (as were porta-potties), the race started on time, the finish was organized, and all that jazz too!!!

The Half leaves downtown Detroit, only a rock's throw from the Cobo Center and short jog from the Renaissance Center.  As with all large runs, it starts in waves, but it will be crowded for all 13.1 miles (and for all 26.2 from what I hear).  The race runs south out of downtown into a light industrial area, which is still lined with spectators all the way to the bridge entrance area.  7:00am in October is still dark in Detroit, but that did not dissuade any spectators from coming out in full force, including live bands and acoustic guitar players, scattered all over the course.  The route then winds around and enters the Ambassador Bridge, which is at least a mile long (maybe more) and has a long incline, which is followed by a long decline and suddenly the race is in Canada.  The course then runs along the river for most of Canada before heading back to Detroit - via the famous tunnel!  Or as the shirt sold at the Expo said "The world's only under water 1 mile run".  Upon returning to Detroit, the course runs along riverfront drive (might not be the right name for the street) and goes under the famed Cobo Center.  It then heads out past where Tiger stadium used to be, and then through a nice neighborhood called Corktown.  The course then turns and goes over some busy roads and back into downtown with a loop back to the finish line, and a long home stretch with cheering spectators on both sides. 

This was probably the largest (in attendance) race I've ever attended, though Chicago's Hot Chocolate draws 10s of thousands, somehow this just seemed more crowded.  At all times, runners need to look around before slowing and also check blindspots before "changing lanes".  It was truly a pleasure to be part of such a large world-class style event.  (Nothing is wrong with smaller events, just different)

There are so many very cool things I can say about spectator participation along the route and/or scenery around the course, but I don't want to give out any spoilers. Seeing it is more than half the fun.  I really wish I could tell you about the people and scenery and the surprises, but that's where the fun lies.  I will say this - if I took away just three memories of the event (though I took away about 3 dozen) - they would be 1) The Bridge  2) The Tunnel and 3) The Spectators.

Okay, I really have to include this, it's not a spoiler, but it has to be said - the people of Detroit and Windsor are great great great people!  So thankful to have them lining almost the entire course!

For those wondering about the border crossing logistics.  Runners participating in the Full and International Half must present Passport, Passport Card, or Enhanced ID, to pick up their bibs.  Bibs must be worn on the front, near the chest.  Any bibs on the legs or backed risk being stopped by Border Patrol Agents.  Backpacks and Camelbacks and even large liquid containers are prohibited on the course, but there are PLENTY of aid stations and runners can easily keep hydrated that way.  All aid stations have both water and Gatorade.  Border Patrol watches on both sides of the bridge and both sides of the tunnel - and there are PLENTY of them - and they see all.  I witnessed at least two calling out to runners "You, in the green - bib?" and the person (who had taken his shirt off earlier) produced the bib.  My friends in the Full said they even saw two officers chase a runner, instead of stopping him, as he unrolled his previously removed jacket, which had his bib.  I also so two people with backpacks stopped, and were asked for their passports.  Even in the wake of all the recent terrible things in the world, I never felt unsafe during this event - not once.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Throwback Thursday : The Rockingbirds - Featured Live Music Artist of the Week

We don't usually do Throwback Thursdays - but seeing how we will be in The D for the Detroit International Half Marathon, seemed fitting to feature a local Detroit band.......

The Rockingbirds, from "The D" (Detroit), are the featured live music artists of the week.

The Rockingbirds are a 4-piece classic rock band.  And not just a typical classic rock band.  Many bands play all the most well-known (and sometimes overplayed) classic rock hits, which is fine, that's a good time too.  But this band plays some of the deep cuts.  And not just from 5 or 6 famous bands, but from across the 60s and 70s, and even 80s.  To be honest, I didn't even know them, BUT, the bulk of the crowd did - and that's what counts!  And this is what makes them a great cover band - they bring back songs that you might have forgotten about, songs that aren't played 10 times a day on the local classic rock station.  But, of course, they also play songs that are very well known.  A great variety.

I do recall songs from CSN, Stephen Stills, Beatles, Traveling Wilburys, Hollies, Eagles, Outsiders, Steely Dan, Badfinger, and others.  I wish I could remember the entire set list, but I was busy enjoying the show - not taking notes.

The band is in the process of changing out guitarists, as long-time member, Tom is leaving and the newest member, Tom is joining.  Yep, Tom's spot is now being played by Tom.  The new member, Tom, was a former member of Detroit based band The HandGrenades and current member of Beatles Cover Band - Mister Mustard.

I was fortunate to see the band play with both members, half the set with Tom - and the other half with Tom.  The band was great in both incarnations.  They all exhibit my favorite characteristic in a musician - they love what they are doing and they love music.  And it is obvious - it comes across in their stage presence and in the music itself.

They happened to be playing at a local K of C, where they knew many of the audience, and that added to the night as well, as they interacted often with the crowd, in fun ways.  In addition - they supplied the crowd with a duffle bag of percussion items to play along!!  Not just a sing-along but a percussion-along!

The band lists their hometown as Allen Park - but they can be seen throughout the Detroit area.  Well worth checking out!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - "Aiport Races"

Two years ago, I took a shot and submitted this as an article to 3 different running newsletters/blogs.  It actually got picked up by 2 of them, but not the third.  So, I figure, now is a time to print it here, as I’ve given the other 2 blogs enough time to circulate it on their sites.

So, at one point, there were 4 different “airport races” in the Chicagoland area, that I was aware of.  I managed to run in 4 of them.  The 5th one, a 1-mile sprint, called “Run The Runway, took place at Joliet Regional Airport.  Due to other race conflicts, I was not able to participate in that one.  But here is a breakdown of the ones I did get to run.  Some of these are still active events, some are on hiatus, always google first, to see which ones are still going on.

“Midway Fly Away 5k”
Southwest Chicago
Date : Usually in September
Distance : 5k
Open to walkers : Yes

The pre-race/post-race of this event takes place in the Southwest Airlines hangar.  Parking is directly across the street from the hangar and is free with race bib.  Inside the hangar sits a Southwest Airline jet for viewing and photo-ops.  Due to FAA and DHS regulations, there is a very bright yellow line that participants can not cross.  Wayne Messmer, of Chicago Wolves/Chicago Blackhawks fame has been the singer of the National Anthem inside the hangar to start the event.  The course starts/ends just outside the hangar and runs along access roads around the border of the airport property.  At one point, the course actually exits airport property and does an out-and-back on a local Chicago sidestreet.  The course returns to airport property, and bibs must be visible for re-entry.  The course then begins to head back towards the hangar on the same perimeter access roads.  The race is chip-timed.  There are several raffles and silent auction opportunities during the post-race event.  And, being an airport, the course is naturally quite flat and fast.  All the while, planes are arriving and departing overhead.

“O’Hare 5k On The Runway”
Northwest Chicago
Date : Usually in September or October
Distance : 5k (though, some years also a 10k)
Open to walkers : Yes

The pre-race/post-race takes place near Economy Lot G in the Department of Aviation parking lot and there should be plenty of available parking there.  Parking is free for those with a race bib.  Like most races there are plenty of sponsor/health tents set up including a donut/hot coffee food truck.  There was also a group Zumba/stretching warm-up class prior to the race.  The race starts on an access road just inside the airport property, as runners have to pass through a gate from the pre-race event onto the access road.  The course runs on two driveable access roads for a short time before heading towards a runway.  Runners then traverse a long distance on one runway before turning onto a crossing runway for a period of time.  Runners then make a sharp turn of less than 90 degrees onto another runway towards a taxi-way.  At this point in the race, there is a giant airplane parked alongside the course.  Runners can peel off from the course and get a photo-op in front / nearly under this plane on an actual runway.  The course almost takes runners directly under the wing of the jet.  Participants then begin the trek back to the finish line essentially following the same path taken out.  The race is chip-timed.  The post-race party includes a live band and food trucks serving lunch faire.  A flat and fast course. And, all the while, planes are arriving and departing overhead.

“Run The Runway At CEA”
Wheeling, IL
Date : Usually around the 4th of July
Distance : 5k (and 1 mile walk)
Open to walkers : Yes

This event takes place at the former Palwaykee Airport, now called Chicago Executive Airport or CEA.  The event consists of a 5k and a 1 mile walk.  The 5k is open to walkers as well, and there is an established time-limit.  Parking is on the property and free.  The pre-race/post-race takes place near one of the many hangers, with several planes parked on the parking lot and in a row along the taxi-way.  Planes ranging from single-seat props to 30+ seat jets are on display.  All planes are available for viewing before and after the race.  The course starts out immediately on a taxi-way and makes a turn onto a runway.  Runners then peel off of the runway to run the perimeter of a few hangars and then back to the runway.  The course then hairpins, sending runners the opposite direction on the runway for a long straight-away.  The course then heads onto some taxi-ways, makes a couple of turns, places runners within sight and sound of the finish line – only to make a turn away from the finish and back up another taxi-way before making a hairpin back towards the finish line.  After the race, the parking lot perimeter is lined with operating food trucks for the annual CEA FoodTruck and Airport show.  Lunch and breakfast are available at the food trucks, and runners do receive a coupon for some free items.  The race is gun-start/chip-finish.  The course is naturally flat and fast with long straight-aways.  The airport is not active during the run, as the runners are using the main runway for the event.

“Rockford Airfest – Run The Runway”
Rockford, IL
Date : Usually in June
Distance : 5k (and 1 mile competitive run an a kids run)
Open to walkers : The 5k is – the 1-mile is not

The pre-race/post-race takes place outside a remote hangar with an adjacent parking lot.  There is plenty of parking, and the parking is free with a race bib.  Runners could sign-up for both the 1-mile and the 5k event.  The 5k is open to walkers as well, with a time limit.  This event is one of those rare evening runs, which is certainly welcome in the summer months.  The race starts as the sun is setting and ends just before it actually gets dark.  By the time awards are presented, participants will need headlights to get home.  The race is actually part of the Airfest event, and that means that some of the runners are actual members of the F-22 Raptor Air Team and THE Blue Angels Flying Team.  Both of these groups went out and ran the kids back to the finish line during the kids race – in uniform – something the kids will always remember.  In addition, their jets are parked along the final mile of the course for runners to pass as they complete the race.  The course itself is 100% on runways.  It starts heading one way on a runway, then hairpins and heads the other way, and turns onto a crossing runway and does the same.  Basically the course is almost like an X or a + sign.  Racers finish the final mile on an access road, running past a couple of parked jets and then the Blue Angel and F-22 Raptor planes down the final stretch.  This course consists of basically 4 very long straightaways and some hairpins – a true runway run.  However, it’s not completely flat and fast.  The main runway actually has an uphill grade for half of the course – and a downhill grade for the other half.  The race is gun-start/chip-finish.  The airport is not active during the run, as the main runway is used for the event.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Mother Road Half Marathon

The Mother Road Half Marathon takes place on America's Mother Road - Route 66.  This event is 1 of 3 events that occur simultaneously.

There is a 5k, which starts and ends in Joplin, MO - and runs a portion on Route 66.

There is the Half-Marathon, which starts in Baxter Springs, KS and ends in Jopin, MO - and runs at least 95% on the actual Route 66.  Two states for the price of one.

There is the Full Marathon, which starts in Commerce, OK, runs through Kansas, and ends in Jopin, MO, with at least 95% of the actual Route 66.  Three states for the price of one.

I ran the Half, so I really can only comment on the Half, but I'm sure most of what I say will apply to the other events.

The 5k is an out-and-back, and the Half and Full are Point-to-Point races.  The event picked up runners either at the finish line, or at 2 different hotel district areas, and transported them to the starting lines.  The buses then took people back to the hotel district stops after the race.  So, those staying in hotels, simply had to walk to one of 2 pickup locations to get to the start line.  Can't be simpler.  5k runners had to go to the actual start/finish line, as their event was a an out-and-back.

Once at the start-lines, there were sports therapists there to do any "tape work" that needed to be done for any runners.  In addition, there was a gear check, so runners could still bring all of their pre-race fuel or sweatshirts or whatever, right to the start, and then have it transported to the finish line for them.  This of course was very handy - as many runners bring tape and fuel and even outer layer clothes for the pre-race routine.

The Half started at Baxter Springs High School, which was unlocked for the runners.  This gave everybody access to indoor plumbing (which was good, because it was still dark outside pre-race).  In addition, there was plenty of seating in the gymnasium and in a lounge filled with comfy chairs.  Pre-race announcements were made in the gym where everybody could hear.  The weather was perfect, but had it been cold or wet, this would have been very much appreciated.  (It was appreciated anyhow, though).  The race started with the National Anthem followed by "The Runner's Prayer for the Knees", which is actually a serious prayer, thanking God for the day, for the fellowship and for the runners' health, including a humble request to look over the runners during the race and to give thanks for the volunteers and police officers working the event.

The Half headed north from there, and from this point on, the half and the full shared the exact same route.  The route primarily followed KS 66, which a slight variation to get around a high traffic area.  The entire race took place on the streets, no paths, no trails.  The Kansas route when from Baxter Springs through Riverton and then through Galena.  In Galena the course when directly through the old downtown and even on the less traveled "Old Route 66" to exit the town.  While in the town, there was even a keyboard soloist, which inspired all of the runners.

The course then rejoined the main Route 66 to cross the state line and finish at the Athletic Center in Joplin.  Parts of the course consisted on fully closed roads, while parts had the runners running against traffic on the shoulder, with the right lane blocked off.  This allowed cars to cheer as they drove by - and they did - some even ringing cowbells.

The scenery of Old Route 66, plus some general open fields, and an excellent sunrise made for an enjoyable race for all participants.  Along the way, from start to finish, spectators were cheering from the side of the street, from their porches, and from their cars.  The community definitely got into this event in a very positive way.

As for technical aspects of the race, there were hydration stations approximately every 1.5 miles (give or take based on terrain) - and port-a-potties probably every 2 miles (as an estimate).  There were PLENTY of volunteers at the aid stations.  There were also a few stations which also were staffed with medical personnel, and I recall seeing a medical vehicle driving along down one of the main routes with its hazard lights on looking across the field of runners.  Each and every intersection was well staffed with Police Officers and Community Services Officers, and there was never a concern related to safety in regards to vehicles.  The race was chip start/chip finish.  In addition, pacers were set up by finish time (so instead of trying to figure out a minute/mile pace, the runner just had to find the target finish time).  The pacer I hooked up with for some of the race was energetic, friendly, talkative, and motivational - everything one could ask for in a pacer - and, of course, was on pace.

A most excellent return of the event, which had been dormant for a few years.  Here's to more successful years ahead!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Pepperland Rockestra Strings

No, no, this isn't deja vu all over again.

Last week, we featured the Pepperland Rockestra, this week we are featuring the Pepperland Rockestra Strings, a sub-band of the band (if there is such a term).

The name is quite self-explanatory - Pepperland (Beatles-related) Rockestra (like an orchestra, but rock) Strings (well - strings).  This band is the "string section" of Pepperland Rockestra, and they actually perform on their own, and they perform an entirely different show.  This isn't just the string section re-performing what the larger band performed, this is different.

One could say this is where classical music meets classic rock.  Or, one could say, as one did in the audience during the show, "This is beautiful music".

The PR Strings consist of 4 distinct string instruments; the violin, the viola, the cello, and the 7-string viola (yes, there is such a thing).  This combination allows the quartet to cover many different musical ranges.  The Pepperland Rockestra Strings is an instrumental band and covers Beatles and Beatles Solo tunes.

Unlike Eleanor Rigby and Yesterday, most Beatles/Beatles solo tunes were not written for a string quartet.  However, that doesn't stop these ladies, as they score the songs themselves as a collaborative effort.  So, they are able to cover songs like Yes It Is, Photograph, I've Just Seen a Face and so many unexpected tunes.  And they do it in such a manner that the audience would think these were always written this way.

To illustrate how they choose unexpected songs to cover with a string quartet - check out these two medleys they played :  No Words/Happy/Money Money Money/With A Girl Like You/Spin It On/Back Seat Of My Car - and this one - I Want You/Happiness Is A Warm Gun/You Never Give Me Your Money.  Nuff said.

The feeling of a Pepperland Rockestra Strings show is sort of like a recital, with all of the class and charm and talent, but without the seriousness.  (obviously the band isn't goofing off, but they most certainly are not "stuffy" either)

Pepperland Rockestra Strings is a great addition to any Beatles related show or weekend, a very classy change of pace.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Wild Wild Wildnerness

The Wild Wild Wilderness is a 7.45 mile single-loop trail race presented by the Kennekuk Road Runners, a central/southern Illinois running club. Or as some of their shirts say - "A drinking club with a running problem.".

However, don't let the silliness of the shirts fool you - these guys and gals run some very tough races.  8-Hour Endurance Events and Trail races with over 300 feet of elevation change.  The WWW is one of those races.  This is a 7.45 single loop 100% trail race, covering all sorts of terrain.

There are open fields, double-wide grass paths, double wide gravel paths, double wide rocky paths, single wide dirt paths, single wide root-filled paths, single wide root-and-rock paths, creek crossings, sudden surprise downhills, steep downhills, steep up hills, 1.5 feet wide paths, and steep ravines if leaving the path. 

Seriously, this is THE trail race for people who love trail racing.  It has sections where the runners have to watch their feet the entire time to avoid roots and rocks, stepping forward but also to the left and the right and half stride and extended stride and all sorts of stride variations.  There are 2 hills that are so steep, that the roots almost act as ladder rungs - in the dry one can climb with feet alone, but if muddy, no way, it's ladder climbing time using the roots and trees.  There is one spot with rolling hills and at the crest of the last hill is a surprise steep downhill that requires more effort and concentration than an uphill.  There is a creek crossing with banks of 80 degree inclines/declines.  Pretty much have to almost jump at some point to avoid climbing.  There is a sudden hairpin at the end of a long downhill - right at the lake, and if you don't make that hairpin, you'll be in the lake.  There are areas where the path is, at best, 1.5 feet wide, and one side of the path is a steep ravine.  This might sound intimidating or scary - but this is exactly what trail runners live for - this is the ultimate course.

Now, at the start it's wide open grass - like 30 people wide - and then a brief (like 25 yards) or asphalt, but that's it - there is nothing easy after that.  It narrows down to a 2-wide and then a 1-wide pretty quickly.  Runners must keep up the pace as there is no way to get out of the way for quite some time.  But there are places where it does open up and allow for passing.  This is a thinking-runners event too - time the passes, pace slow in bottlenecks, and race hard in other areas. There are areas of large flat open fields, which, if not hot and sunny are ideal places to pick up speed and make passes.  However, when hot and sunny, these feel like the desert scenes in old movies.

80% of this race is in the woods and there is no "sure footing" during that time.   Even some of the wide paths are riddled with fallen black walnuts.  But those climbs, they are literally climbs, it's almost like going up a ladder, literally.  And there is one final steep climb less than a 1/4 mile from the finish, just when you think you're done!

And all of this is what makes THE MOST AWESOME TRAIL COURSE!!!!  All of these things are not negatives - these are all positives.  This is like running through a trail in a horror film or Rambo film - this is what trail running is all about!!!

Now, in addition, there are water stations, and one of them even serves Apple Pie Shots - I kid you not!!

And the end, in true Kennekuk Road Runner style, there is a beer wagon, with kegs and kegs of at least 3 different beers on tap - and there is food, lots of food.  And there is the excellent camaraderie that exists at KRR events, where everybody is having fun and being funny.

A most excellent race and highly recommended for anybody who enjoys trail running.  THIS is what trail running is all about.  It's a tough course - and that's why it's a great course!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Pepperland Rockestra

The name sounds large and grand - and well, it fits.  The band is large and grand.  Pepperland Rockestra consists of Keyboards, Drums, Bass Guitar, Guitars, Viola, Violin, Cello, a 7-string viola, and an entire horn section.  This is like "Wall of Sound" stuff that would make The Wrecking Crew and Phil Spector proud!

For those not familiar with The Beatles, this is a Beatles and Beatles-Solo cover band.  Pepperland coming from Yellow Submarine and Rockestra from Paul McCartney.  But it's not just a clever combination of song titles.  (Yes, both are actually song titles)  The band takes the stage dressed in late 1960s style attire, colorful, flowery, and imaginative - like Pepperland the place.  Though they obviously aren't cartoonish, thing of the attire as something from Yellow Submarine, if it were a live action band today.  Rockestra, well, with horns, strings, and a rock & roll band - that IS a Rockestra if there ever was one!

The band takes the "big sound" songs of the Beatles or Beatles solo and recreates them in full orchestral fashion - and they do it very well.  It's like listening to the recording - but watching it live and hearing it in real-time.  They also take some of the less "big sound" songs and recreate them as if they were originally "big sounding".  And they also do this very well!  Playing well known songs with a new flare.  (or is it flair, it's not Ric Flair, though I think he'd love the bigness of this sound - woooo - sorry I digress)

Not that The Beatles weren't cultured, but this full orchestral band, brings a new element of culture to what could have been "just another Beatles band".  Of course, as you can tell, they most certainly are NOT "just another Beatles band".

They are fun to watch on stage, as every single band member, whether it's the lead vocalist, the drummer, the guitarists, the string section, or the horn section, every single band member really gets into the music.  They are having fun - and it shows - and that's what music is about.  Didn't Mr. Holland say, "that's why it's called PLAYING music" because it's supposed to be fun.   And this band is having fun - and so is everybody watching them.

Highly Highly talented musicians, all combined on one stage (or on the stage, in front of the stage, and next to the stage).  This band is definitely one of the premier "Beatles bands", without a doubt.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Buffalo Stampede 10k

No, don't worry, it's not like the running of the bulls, there are no buffaloes stampeding towards any runners.  It does take place in Buffalo Grove IL, though.  The race is part of the larger Buffalo Grove Days Festival, which includes live music and a carnival.  The start/finish line is very close to the carnival, so for those runners looking for a pre-race warmup, there is a nice scenic stroll through the carnival/event grounds - sort of nostalgic.

There is also a 5k event, but this focuses on the 10k.  The events have staggered start times, with the 10k going out first.  This actually creates a unique situation the course.  At around mile 5, the 10k route mergers with the 5k route.  The 5k runners are on their 2 mile mark.  So, there are a bunch of fresh fast runners, mixing in with slower not-so-fresh runners, all at the point of a walking/running path in the park.  It makes for some unique situations as runners from both events need to adjust to the faster or slower traffic.  I think it adds a unique nuance to the entire event.  For some, those fresh runners actually add a boost of energy to those that were running out of energy.  Also, many of the fresh runners offer words of encouragement to those finishing the 10k, which is always a plus.

This 10k features roads, paved walking/jogging paths, and crushed gravel paths.  The race is a combination trail race and road race.  The race starts on the streets, then moves onto the crushed gravel paths in a park.  At this point of the race, the course becomes hilly with a couple of semi-large uphills (and downhills).  The crushed gravel portion is an out-and-back, so runners get to receive encouragement from runners heading the other way - this is always one of the coolest things about running.  The race then returns to the streets and then to the local park, where it transitions to a paved walking/jogging path, which goes past playgrounds, ballfields, and a pool.  The course then finishes with a long straight-away final stretch to the finish line.  Almost feels like that scene from Vacation with everybody running towards that giant sign, that never seems to get closer.

Only as a guesstimate, the 10k is probably 50% trail and 50% road.  This makes for a perfect course for those who enjoy both styles of running.

The raceday packet pickup/registration is probably the most organized around.  There are signs everywhere, spacious booths, plenty of volunteers.  Raceday registration and/or packet pickup is extremely fast and easy.

And enjoyable course, with a little something for everybody.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Mister Mustard

Beatles fans will recognize the name of the band and immediately think it will be a Beatles cover band, and, well, they would be correct.  Mister Mustard is a side project of the original 3 members of the HandGrenades.  One of those members now plays in The Rockingbirds, which we have featured here before, and the other two remain in the HandGrenades.

The HandGrenades are well known in the music scene not just for their musical chops and songwriting talents, but also for spot-on perfect harmonies.

So, one would expect Mister Mustard to also have spot-on perfect harmonies - correct?  Yep - and that would be a correct expectation - and they far exceed that expectation on stage.  The band consists of 2 guitars, 1 bass, and 1 drum - the standard rock combo.  All three guitarists take tuns on lead vocals of various Beatles songs from the early years to the final years - and all three guitarists combine for harmonies throughout the songs.  And the do it well, very well.

I was so focused on the music and having a good time, I didn't keep track of a set list, but they did play once on Saturday and once on Sunday on the Apple Jam Stage at Chicago's Fest For Beatles Fans.  And they packed the atrium both times.  Honestly, it almost felt like a Beatles concert with girls screaming (seriously) during some songs.  And, well, everybody screaming when they pulled off the rising vocals in "I've Got A Feeling".  If you know the song, you know the part I'm talking about.  And of course, with those vocals, the music is also rising.  Talk about nailing a song spot-on perfect.  Literally, the crowd, every person in the crowd, screamed and whistled and clapped at that point - literally everybody.

Their on stage presence is relaxed and fun, which is not surprising given that is exactly how one would describe the HandGrenades and Rockingbirds.  But, at the same time, as one young lady sitting behind me said, they "even sort of act like The Beatles up there, having fun and looking at the crowd".  And I think she was right.

Another quote from an older gentleman sitting near me was, "I like how they keeping cracking wise between songs".  And again, he was right.  From the time they got on stage until the time they got off stage, they had funny little dialogues between songs, totally relaxed and unforced fun.

They do play out on occasion, and hopefully those occasions will increase.  One thing is certain, if you ever need the perfect Beatles cover band - Mister Mustard is the call you should make.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Local Live Music - Autumn Edition

This is only a guide - always check with the venue or the band to confirm.  This is live music - things can definitely change.

10/20 - Time Bandits - Tracys Tavern, Clarendon Hills, IL
10/20 - Steadfast, The Shindiggas, Blue Carpet Authority, Crystal Killers, Distant Haze, Oh Dreamer - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
10/20 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
10/21 - Celtic Aire - 115 Bourbon, Merrionette Park, IL
10/21 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
10/21 - The Ides Of March - Watseka Theatre/Iroquois Performing Arts Center, Watseka, IL
10/21 - Kashmir - Cheers, Midlothian, IL
10/21 - Groove Candy - Bottom's Up, Lansing, IL
10/25 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Homewood, IL
10/27 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
10/28 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
10/28 - Charlie FoxTrot - The Diamond BBQ, Sullivan, IN
10/28 - Sad Monster Party - Gallery Cabaret, Chicago, IL
10/28 - Kashmir - 210 Live, Highwood, IL
11/3 - Kashmir - Buddy & Pal's, Schererville, IN
11/3 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/4 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/4 - Wild Dogs - Brass Monkey Bar, Wyandotte, MI
11/4 - Sniper - R-Bar, Highland, IN
11/10 - HandGrenades - Mac's Bar, Lansing, MI
10/10 - Krewella - Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL
11/10 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/11 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/17 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/17 - Snow Leopard Love Affair, Underclass, Big Sky Hunters, Feedback Friends - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
11/18 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/18 - Cornerstones of Rock - Coronado Theatre, Rockford, IL
11/18 - Charlie FoxTrot - The Port, Bridgeport, IL
11/22 - Kashmir - Q Sports Bar & Grill, Darien, IL
11/24 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
11/25 - Sopro's Annual Thanksgiving All-Star Blues Revue - Cheers, Midlothian, IL
11/25 - Cornerstones of Rock - Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL
11/29 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Homewood, IL
12/1 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/2 - Charlie FoxTrot - Main Street Pub, Robinson, IL
12/8 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/8 - Hed(pe) at Dark Days of Christmas - Bada Brew, Crest Hill, IL
12/9 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/9 - Kashmir - Buddy & Pal's, Crown Point, IN
12/15 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/16 - The Ides Of March - Arcada Theater, St. Charles, IL
12/16 - Liquid Monday - Bottom's Up, Lansing, IL
12/22 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/23 - Big Boppers w/ Special Guests - Mama & Me Pizzeria, Homewood, IL
12/27 - Big Boppers - Melody Mart Adult Jam Session, Homewood, IL
12/29 - Kashmir - The Forge, Joliet, IL
12/31 - Kashmir - Ballydoyle's, Downers Grove, IL
1/20 - Jim Peterik's World Stage - Wentz Hall at North Central College, Naperville, IL
2/10 - Charlie FoxTrot - Rod & Gun Club, Bruceville, IN
3/9 - 2nd Annual AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation Jam Night - Glass Tap, Steger, IL

Monday, September 11, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - Flossmoor 5k

The Flossmoor 5K takes place at Leavitt Park in, you guessed it, Flossmoor, IL.  It is the 3rd, and final, race in the H-F Summer Circuit, presented by the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.  The races are held in May, July, and September.  The other two have been featured this past year on our blog.

This race is the only race of the three that actual does not run "in" a park at all.  It starts at a park, and the pre-race/post-race tent is in the park, but the race is 100% on the streets of Flossmoor.  The park itself is picturesque and even contains a sculpture garden.

The race heads south from the park across Flossmoor Road and winds through a neighborhood there before crossing back over Flossmoor Road to wind through more neighborhood streets.  The second half of the race contains some windy streets and some elevation, but nothing severe.  The course itself finishes the final 1/4 mile downhill - not a steep downhill - but noticeable, which is great for those who love the finish line kick.

The entire race is run on heavily shaded streets as these are well established neighborhoods with ancient trees lining the streets the entire way.  It was a cool September day, but even if it wasn't cool - the course would have been primarily shaded.

Being a local circuit, it creates an opportunity to see many of the same people and to develop friendships and running partners along the way.  Also helps runners with a friendly rivalry between runners of similar speeds.  In addition, being a neighborhood series, it is more relaxed and there is always a large crowd of people cheering on the runners (and walkers) as they finish the race.

In addition, there are awards for the fastest participants across all three races - adding to the challenge for those fast runners.  (Each individual race also had age-group awards.)

Great low-key friendly series - perfect for established runners and those new to running - and for walkers as well.  Courses are all stroller friendly as well.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Featured Artist of the Week - Ron Fitzgerald

So, this week's "artist" is not a musician (well, he might be and I don't know) and he's not a painter, but he is an artist.  He is an Illusionist - and is the driving force behind Ron Fitzgerald's Dark Realm.

I've seen his show twice now, one time on a stage, and one time as part of an outdoor afterparty sponsored by Zombie Army Productions, both as part of Flashback Weekend HorrorCon - Chicago.  (as a side note, back in 2016 we did a Featured Artist of the Week about Flashback Weekend, you can use our search function to find that)

Anyhow, back to Ron Fitzgerald.  This guy immediately makes an impact, and he definitely makes an interest.  He has a "dark" look to him from the minute you see him, including his pale eyes, which almost look grey.  He is clad in exactly the outfit you'd expect a dark illusionist to be clad in - long dark jacket and supernatural surreal jewelry.  But, that's all just superficial, right?  What really matters is the show.  And, he can put on a show - whether it's on a stage or outdoors in a parking lot surrounded by people who have been drinking free beer (compliments of Zombie Army) for hours.

Certainly don't want to delve into spoilers here, because spoilers would ruin the show - right?  But, I can say it's a great mix of well-known illusions (sawing a woman in half), to new and dark illusions, to dark humor, to sexual innuendo (some not so subtle).  That combination equates to 100% entertainment.  The illusions will leave even front-row skeptics going "how DID he do that?"  But even if the viewer is a non-believer in magic and illusions, it's still entertaining as Fitzgerald throws in humor and dark humor at just the right times - and throws in a little innuendo here and there as well - all at the expense of his fun-loving female assistants.  And let's not take anything away from the assistants - as everybody knows, a "magic" act is only as good as the assistants.  The combination on Mr. Fitzgerald and his 2 (or 3) assistants makes for a well oiled machine.  The show moves along without a hitch and there is no question that Mr. Fitzgerald is not only a master of illusions, but also a true professional who understands that it's all about the show - it's all about entertaining (and surprising and shocking) the audience.

The show never feels fake, it never feels phony, and it never feels cheesy.  The entire show is engaging from start to finish and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats (unless they are standing in a parking lot).  Even during the free-drink show, as we were calling it, the show was so engaging, few people walked away to get refills - very few.

Whether he is able to have all the effects that a stage show provides - or whether he is doing it the old snake-handler way in a parking lot in the dark - the show is engaging, funny, dark, and shocking!  Everything one would want from an illusionist from the Dark Realm.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Featured Running Event of the Week - AshleyCan Half/Relay/10k/5k/Kids Run

The 6th Annual AshleyCan Pediatric Cancer Foundation race is a combination of many many races.

  • Half Marathon
  • Half Marathon/Relay 
  • 10k
  • 5k
  • Family 1 Mile Fun Run
All of these are conducted on the rolling hills on the streets of Bourbonnais, IL.  There are stretches of flat and fast course, but it is not a flat course.  People have PR'd on the course, but it's not easy.  It is perfect for beginners wanting to challenge themselves and perfect for long-time runners looking to take on the challenges.  One thing to remember, especially when it gets challenging, is that the money raised is to fight Childhood Cancer, a terrible disease that is far more challenging than the most challenging hill.  In past years, runners have used that as their inspiration and find themselves overcoming the hills and even setting a PR or two.

But MOST IMPORTANTLY, 100% of the money raised - 100% - is used to fight childhood cancer.  The majority of the money goes to St. Jude's Childrens Hospital, but some of the money is also used to assist families impacted by this terrible disease.  Every single person involved with the Foundation and with the races is an unpaid volunteer.

The founder of AshleyCan was Ashley Montgomery, a young lady that was impacted 4 times with childhood cancer.  She was strong, she was a fighter, and she believed in finding a cure, even to the point of using experimental cures as a way to help the medical industry learn.  Sadly, Ashley passed away in 2017 during her final battle with the terrible disease.  And that's what makes these events so important - we must not let Ashley's fight be the end of the fight - we must continue to raise money to find a cure!  This is the event where I first met Ashley and the Montgomery family, her courage and strength was so moving that I have been a volunteer at nearly every event (running and non-running) since that day.  I've even run in a couple of the events when there were enough volunteers.

So, aside from the cause, this is a challenging, yet fun, course - and there is something for everybody.  Half Marathon, be part of a relay team and run the Half Relay, a 10k, a 5k, and even a family (not just kids) 1-miler.  Child Daycare is also provided, free of charge!!!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Featured Live Music Artist of the Week - Tuesday Knight

So, to be honest, the "live" part of this really only applies to one song, but even music from CDs was live - live in the studio - so this all counts.

Fair warning - this is one of my "long-winded" reviews, but please indulge me - it all ties together.

To horror fans, Tuesday Knight is known for a couple of things - 1) Her role as Kristen in Nightmare On Elm Street 4 (and also playing herself in New Nightmare) and 2) Singing the theme song, "Nightmare" for Nightmare on Elm Street 4.

However, Tuesday has many more film credits than just the Nightmare franchise, and she also has many many more songs than just "Nightmare". And, I'll be the first to admit it - I had no idea about the song part. I knew she sang the theme, but really that is all I knew about her music career.

It just so happened that one of the features of the 2017 Flashback Weekend HorrorCon was that Tuesday would sing "Nightmare" live just before the outdoor screening of Nightmare 4. How freaking cool is that?!?!?!

So, earlier that same day, I went to her booth on the convention floor to get a selfie and autograph, and I commented about how cool it's going to be seeing her sing "Nightmare" live. She was super nice, very friendly, and very genuine. After a few minutes of talking, her husband asked if I knew more about her music. I sheepishly said "Sorry, I really don't". So, we talked a bit about it, and she happened to have a pre-release of her newest CD, "Uncovered" along with the EP CD "Nightmare", which had "Nightmare" (duh), a few different mixes of "Nightmare" and some other songs. I decided to purchase the pre-release CD - why not, what a cool chance to get something before the public - I love music, Tuesday seemed very nice - figured I couldn't lose. Thinking I had brought my portable CD player with me, I said that I would listen to it that day.

Fast forward to that evening. The cast of Nightmare 4, including Mrs. Knight and Robert Englund, did a brief live intro to the movie - and then the cast left the makeshift stage - and the "Nightmare" music began. Tuesday Knight, standing front and center to an audience that was glued on her - like convention fans will be. She started singing and, immediately, right out of the box was knocking it out of the park. She was hitting the high notes, she was grooving, she was walking back and forth across the stage - hitting every lyric exactly as we all remembered it from the movie. No signs of nerves whatsoever (I would imagine it would be a little nerve wracking performing in front of this audience that memorizes every word to movies they love) and she rocked it for the entire length of the song - making the outdoor gathering feel like a large scale concert. She finished the song to a standing ovation!

Fast forward again, the next day, I headed back to her table and complimented her on the performance - and immediately bought the other 2 CDs that I had not bought the day before. Sold on the strength of her live performance - and her voice. The 3 CDs are titled "Faith", "Nightmare" and "Uncovered".

Sadly, when I got back to my room that first night, turns out that I did NOT bring my portable CD player - so when she asked me what I thought about the CD, I had to admit my failure. But when I got home I transferred them all to my iPod and listened to them on my way to the Fest For Beatles Fans convention the next weekend. And, I was SO BLOWN AWAY by her sound, that her CDs became my in-room music for the entire Beatles event - and that says a lot, because usually, it's Beatles music.

Her sound across the CDs varies from not only CD to CD but from track to track. And variety is a good thing always. I'm not a fan of categorizing artists, but to help explain her music - it's like Rock & Roll, Pop, Groove/Dance, and "New" Country all rolled together. Each song has an element of those items, some songs are little more of one than the other. Her sound is uniquely Tuesday Knight, which is why I don't like to compare her to other singers, because it does a disservice to her own style - but I kinda see it as a great mixture of Blondie, Pat Benatar, Heart, and Shania Twain. All of the songs are excellent - including the novelty mixes of "Nightmare" - and she even throws in a cover song here and there, with her own very unique interpretation on them.

It's hard to pick a "favorite" song, because they are all good - but of course "Nightmare" is in the running - and I have to admit - I enjoy the attitude in "Sorry Bout That" - makes me smile each time I listen to it.

If you like music, if you like to expand your collection, and if you like the "Nightmare" franchise - I'd suggest picking up some Tuesday Knight CDs.

By the way, even more important than all of my opinions about her music - she is really a class act. One of the nicest people I've ever met at any convention. Genuine and friendly. Glad I had a chance to meet her and to see her perform!!