Between Interesting Chicago and The Cooking Cop, I get emails inviting me to cover events. Most are the run of the mill festivals, conventions, trade shows, or neighborhood goings on. Others are from PR firms promoting events for clients. There are a multitude of product and service launches, especially in the food and cooking world.
The one promoting "Traffic Jam" at Randolph and State streets piqued my interest. Baked snack food company,Combos, executed a new promotion, Good Combo Bad Combo.
"What happens when you bring two things together? The Combos brand is hitting the streets of Chicago with a local band, The Warm Ones, and asking fans if live music makes a good combo or live combo." (Press release MARS Chocolate)
I partnered and worked with the Combos team to photograph and document the Traffic Jam event.
The idea was to take the nuisance of Friday pedestrian and vehicle traffic jams in the loop and combine them with live music. Late Friday afternoon, a trailer stage was set up on Randolph and State Streets. At 4 p.m. The Warm Ones kicked off their three hour jam session while Combos brand ambassadors handed out samples and encouraged people to use social media with the hashtags #GOODCOMBO #BADCOMBO.
At 4 p.m. pedestrian and vehicular traffic is heavy. People are in a hurry to get out of the Loop and the traffic jams slow them down. Whether you were stuck in traffic on Randolph or bumping into all the other pedestrians on the sidewalks and streets, you got a live show with great music. If you walked down Randolph you could get samples of Combos.
Chicago street corners have all kinds of people handing out samples. Most are desultory looking. The Traffic Jam ambassadors were having fun. Maybe it was the live band. Maybe they were chosen for their personalities. These were an energized group.
The Warm Ones are described on their website as, "Equal parts after-school special and soft porn, the Chicago four-piece specializes in aggressively catchy indie rock songs that range from bubble gum pop, found on such tracks as “Small Spies" and “Love For A Week" - to noisy garage riffs like “Bacteriostatic". The band is as experimental as it is grounded in simplicity and the result has been strong songs, dynamic recordings and memorable melodies."
On and off, people crowded in the shadow of Block 37 to listen, photograph, or shoot video of the band. Some tapped their feet. Others bopped their heads or moved their bodies. Some even danced. Union protesters stopped by from an event at the Thompson Center for the music and free snacks.
Many of the pedestrians used social media on the spot to vote Good or Bad Combo.
Sometimes it takes a product promotion to come up with a good idea. Why not have live entertainment on select street corners in the Loop during Friday rush hour? There are plenty of local companies who could sponsor the events in partnership with groups like the Chicago Loop Alliance. Chicago has talented bands. There are plenty of companies who could sponsor these pop up concert events.
Mars/Combos came up with a great idea. Promote a product while entertaining thousands of people for free. After a long week at work people need something to put a smile on their faces while sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. They need something to put some pep in their step while bumping into each other walking to Els, trains, or bus stops.
Pop up corner concerts is an idea whose time has come.
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