Concert Preview: Taste of Randolph (Friday, 6/15/12 - Sunday, 6/17/12))

Concert Preview:  Taste of Randolph (Friday, 6/15/12 - Sunday, 6/17/12))

The West Loop's signature outdoor street fest returns this weekend featuring live music by Los Campesinos, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, The Hold Steady and many more... 

There's just nothing like summer in Chicago.  Maybe it's the fact that with the long, cold winters, people just feel the need to get out during the summer.  Whatever it is, the combination of great people watching, live music and cold beer always makes for a tremendous summer street festival season.

And annually one of the high points of the festival season is Taste of Randolph.  Taking place along a six block stretch of Randolph St. just off the Kennedy Expressway between Peoria and Racine, Taste of Randolph usually attracts around 100,000 people throughout the weekend to sample West Loop food and drink fare from establishments like BellyQ, Publican and many more with a $10 suggested donation..

This year, music takes place on three stages offering a diverse sampling of ear candy from an array of artists.  Two stages feature a variety of rock and indie rock while the "DJ Dance Stage" presents live DJ sets from artists like Kate Simko and DJ Demchuck as well as resident DJ's from the Mid, Smart Bar and Sound Bar.

New to the fest this season is a special VIP pass.  And while that's usually the type of unnecessary "perk" I'd balk at when it comes to a street fest, this one actually sounds like it could be worth the extra dough.  $25 gives festival attendees access to the VIP "Star Lounge" and with it "upgraded" restrooms, three free beers, a seating area and free bottled water.  Festival beer isn't cheap so the three freebies make this upgrade almost entirely worthwhile on its own.  And fellas, take my word for it, you know nothing but good comes from treating your date to an "upgraded" restroom experience, sparing her a twenty minute line at a rancid, overflowing port-a-john.  You know this is true.

Did I mention there's music?  Here are my can't miss picks for each day of Taste of Randolph this weekend...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Los Campesinos - 8:30PM Friday, West Stage

You know them from their placement of "You! Me! Dancing!" in beer ads but there's more to the seven-piece, Welsh indie rockers.  They've drawn comparisons to Arcade Fire and their often morose stylings are on full display on the 2011 double album Hello Sadness.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chris Robinson Brotherhood - 8PM Saturday, West Stage

The former Black Crowes frontman is going it his own once again and is it just me or does that band name sound a bit like a shot at his brother and former Crowes colleague Rich Robinson?  Regardless, Robinson draws here more heavily on the Crowes latent jam band tendencies (not a single one of the seven tracks on his recently released Big Moon Ritual clocks in at under seven minutes).  That said, I've seen the Crowes live countless times and caught Chris Robinson solo in 2002 at Park West and have never been disappointed.

Empires - 6:15PM Saturday, West Stage

I hear a bit of Interpol in the band's guitar and vocals.  Check out Chicago's own on Saturday or wait and do it in August at Lollapalooza.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Hold Steady - 8PM Sunday, West Stage

Frontman Craig Finn might as well make Chicago his summer home at this point (Finn played only weeks ago at both Empty Bottle and Do-Division street fest).  As I wrote about the Minneapolis rockers following a show last August at Metro, The Hold Steady are one of the best live acts in rock.  Equal parts Springsteen, equal parts Replacements, Finn and company are something to behold in the live setting.  Since the departure of keyboard player Franz Nicolay, the band is even more dependent on guitar and that's generally translated to pretty raucous live sets.  Let's hope Chicago doesn't seem tired Sunday night.

Ezra Furman & The Harpoons- 8:30PM Sunday, East Stage

Good luck deciding which end of Randolph to end the festival on Sunday.  The Hold Steady or Ezra Furman?  Great question!  The local four-piece band is a blast live.  A hint of Dylan with a punk spirit, Furman has something to say.  Check out the harmonica driven rock of "Take Off Your Sunglasses" for a hint of what's awaits you Sunday at Taste of Randolph.

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    Jim Ryan

    Jim Ryan has written about music in print and online for a variety of Chicagoland publications for over fifteen years. In addition to duties filling in as Traffic Anchor on CLTV or in the helicopter on NBC 5, you can also catch him Sunday nights at 6PM central as host of "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" on AM 1420 WIMS and AM 1060 WHFB (streaming at wimsradio.com and via the TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet). Jim has also worked locally for WXRT-FM, lives within walking distance of the Metro and is an avid White Sox and Blackhawks fan whose first live concert experience came at Comiskey Park in 1984 during the Jacksons' "Victory" tour.

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