Chicago, The Windy City, where it all happens.

Washington Dulles Airport was my first foot on American ground and it gives already a good impression of the States; a lot of food corners like Mc Donalds, Dunkin’ Dougnet, … 馃槈

Anyway, after arriving in Chicago and getting to the hotel, an early bed it was for me. I traveled for more than 16 hours, that should be sufficient for one day 馃槈

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Chicago airport is one of the biggest in the US.

Sunday morning, rise and shine. Taking a bus downtown (I’m situated in the south so a 40′ bus ride gets me downtown) and hitting the wonderful Grant Park and Millennium Park with the amazing Institute of Art of Chicago close by. In the modern wing of the institute there was a great collection on Impressionism and a great story on one of the paintings from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (post-impressionist).Lautrec

Millenium park, on wednesdays there's free movies ;)

Millenium park, on wednesdays there’s free movies 馃槈

Chicago is all about big buildings (financial district) and architecture that comes with these amazing buildings. One that impressed me fairly enough was the Board of Trade.聽The聽Chicago Board of Trade聽(CBOT), established in 1848, is the world’s oldest聽futures and options exchange.聽Since 1930, the Chicago Board of Trade has been operating out of 141 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, in a building designed by聽architectsHolabird & Root聽that is 605 feet (184聽m) tall, the tallest in Chicago until the聽Richard J. Daley Center聽superseded it in 1965. This聽Art Deco聽building incorporates sculptural work by Alvin Meyer and is capped by a 31 foot (9.5聽m) tall statue of the Roman聽goddessCeres聽in reference to the exchange’s heritage as a聽commodity market.聽Ceres聽is faceless because its sculptor,John Storrs, believed that the forty-five story building would be sufficiently taller than any other nearby structure and as a result that no one would be able to see the sculpture’s face anyway. Amazing at night when the building is lightened.

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Board of Trade

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The watertower, one of a few buildings still standing after the Great fire in Chicago.

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Pretty isn't it? ;)

Pretty isn’t it? 馃槈

So, shining my dance shoes and I’m off to a place called The Honky Tonk BBQ. This is where I get to meet my wonderful host for the next couple of days. I won’t share any details on my host cause then I would probably not have a spot in the house next time I’m back in town 馃槈 The band that’s playing there is absolutely amazing; these guys are very keen on producing the exact sound as 80 to 90 years ago. The Fat Babies are playing on a weekly basis at The Honky Tonk BBQ and it’s worth to check them out there. They often bring guest musicians on the stage, all having the same quest, playing like the early years. Even though the bands members are all very young ( 20-30 years of age) they write own compositions of known songs and again the sound needs to be perfect.

probably the best 'vintage' drummer in the US

probably the best ‘vintage’ drummer in the US

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Fat Babies with Paul Asaro at work 馃槈

Alphonse Gabriel Capone, Al Capone to his ‘friends’, is probably one of the most know people in Chicago.聽In his early twenties, he moved to聽Chicago聽to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into the city during Prohibition. He also engaged in various other criminal activities, including聽bribery聽of government figures and prostitution. The Green mill, once owned/co-owned?, by Capone or one of his fellow gang mates, is where you can hear the Fat Babies as well. A nice looking art deco bar, serving nice drinks in an 20’s-30’s atmosphere. Check it!

So what’s the story of the ‘Windy City’? Well, I can tell you this; there’s not much wind around here, that’s for sure 馃槈 The story I’ve heard about it, but there are still others stories to be found on Wikipedia, is one of a rather political angle. After the city being completely burned down in 1871 nobody in the country would ever believe Chicago could be a great city again. Because of the lobbying from a lot of politicians, and the lobbying was of a more then average amount to say it in a soft tone the politicians were having the nickname of Windy people. The others politicians became rather fed up with the Chicago politicians being so ‘windy’ and this where the name should come from. But no matter what, Chicago became a great city once again.

Another remarkable thing in Chicago is they reversed the direction of the Chicago river because of sewage problems. Started of in 1887 and finished the works in 1900. Now the river runs from Lake Michigan to the Mississipi river instead of the other way.

A city of different levels. I find it rather special, it seems you have several levels in the city. There’s the Chicago River with the boats, you have ‘ground floor’ for pedestrians, above you there are trains running and on top of that you’re looking at the skyscrapers 馃槈

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I should mention that Chicago once became the home of many people from the south seeking a new/better life. These people brought a lot of their own culture (african-americam population) with them so making Chicago probably at that time, 1900’s, the mecca of jazz and blues. It still is today. The raw sound of the south got refined in Chicago and this is where we find a lot of well known blues and jazz-musicians playing in town such as Jelly Roll Morton, Tony Jackson, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, louis Armstrong, Joe ‘King’ oliver, Kid Ory, the Dodds brothers, Johny St.Cyr, ….

The blues came more known in Chicago after WW2. Some names; Big Bill Broonzy, Papa Charlie, Tampa Red, Muddy Waters….. You can still hear a lot of jazz and blues being played in about every bar. Every evening there’s dancing and live music so there’s no excuse for you to stay indoors 馃槈 So I tried not to and found myself dancing in the park (summer dance Chicago), listening and dancing to The Boilermakers Jazz Band at The Untitled, I’ve seen the Fat Babies three times this week (cause they are so good 馃槈 ), and I was spinning some tunes at the social dance at Fizz. Not to forget I got my first steps in Balboa taught by the wonderful Nicolle, to be continued…. 馃槈

Dancing in the park with a couple of hundred other people. The boilermaker Jazz Band set our feet on fire...

Dancing in the park with a couple of hundred other people. The boilermaker Jazz Band set our feet on fire…

 

Dj-ing at the social dance at Fizz

Dj-ing at the social dance at Fizz

 

I cannot forget to write a little on the mecca I discovered. On East Illinois you’ll find a spot to spend all your time and for sure all your money. It’s called Jazz Record聽Mart, man, that’s something, the stuff you find over there! It’s bread and water for me the next couple of weeks, spend a fortune but found some treasures there 馃槈

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One of the mecca rooms ;)

One of the mecca rooms 馃槈

Home of the Cubs and the White Sox, baseball it is 馃槈 On saturday I had walk in the most beautiful graveyard ever seen ( a bit morbid I know 馃槈 ) and after that I found myself close to the Cubs stadium so I had a little look at the match. I’ve heard they haven’t won the series in 100 years. They are not doing so well the Cubbies 馃槈

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And last but not least I’ve discovered, thanks to my host, a fine cocktail bar. A very speakeasy-ish place that’s dark on the inside, just a few candles giving some atmospheric light. It’s hard to adept at first but after a minute or two your eyes get used to the dimmed light…. Cocktails were well made by crafted bartenders… Here’s the Violet Hour

 

That’s it for now, feel free to add or correct where needed 馃槈

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Ghent, hometown of the ‘Gentse Feesten’.

Saturday before the 21st of july. 21st of july is our national holiday in Belgium. So saturday it’s kick-off time. A ten day street-festival in the city centre of Ghent with shitloads of bands, animation, theatre, art, buskers, you name it. 10 days! Gentse feesten; you better not miss it 馃槈

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What is so special for me during these ten days? Well, not only the variety of stuff going on but since 2012 there’s a special place in Ghent called Swing Cit茅. A Swing palace you could call it. Ten days of swing, ten days of sweat and fun. This year the organizers had the brilliant idea of combining all the different scenes from Belgium and even abroad to lift the event. Every day was build up with dance initiations, spectacular shows, games, amazing live bands. Every day another ‘scene’ was hosting. Everyday great fun. There were the people from Ghent hosting, Antwerp, Brussels, Kortrijk, Utrecht (Nl), and so on. Every scene had made up a nice program for everybody to enjoy, dancers and non dancers.

Every evening a live band made our feet stomping and jittering. We were proud to welcome; Birds of Swing (Waso De Cauter), One-eyed Sam and the Jam Knights, The French Rag Dividers, Monkey Business, Combo Swing In, Remus Rag and the Slow Drag Gang, The Hot Sugar band (Fr)聽and many more…. Man, these cats were hot! See you’all next year, hopefully 馃槈 A special act during Swingcit茅 (and the rest of the Ghent festival); The Dipsy Doodles (dipsy doodle), an amazing collective of dancers making you wish you were Fred Astaire himself 馃槈

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some Dipsy Doodles fun

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Some Dipsy Doodles fun

A very special person a came across with; Jan Torfs. In the 50’s this guy owned a music magazine called ‘Juke Box’. Later he sold it and it became ‘Joepie’. Interestingly enough this Jan Torfs-guy got to interview all the greatest in the Swing Jazz World at that time; The duke, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton… He even met Elvis! (OK, Elvis is not a jazz musician but I’m still impressed that this guy interviewed them all….) It was nice meeting you Jan 馃槈

And last but not least there’s JIGGERS. A speakeasy as it should be, great cocktails nice atmosphere, skilled bartenders…. A place to be kept hidden, it’ll become too crowded otherwise 馃槈

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