I meandered through an industrial area along the North Branch of the Chicago River, past factories and the latest small businesses, only to make that familiar turn on Wabansia Street, finding the enclave I was seeking with a welcoming Hideout arrow leading the way. If you weren’t intentionally looking for the Hideout since its advent, you might not have found it. Those who stumbled upon it were lucky to do so, and if you were there, you knew to be there. Stashed away in a cozy wooden home since 1934, this soon-to-be ubiquitous venue was built in just two days. Two days spent forming what would soon become one of Chicago’s most beloved spaces.
Originally, the Hideout served as a gathering place, forging its way through Prohibition-era legalities and quickly becoming a steadfast place where people longed to be. Here, people shared stories, beer, and, quintessentially, music. Today, the Hideout promotes events nearly every night of the week; concerts, lit discussions, interviews, special events, you name it. The cornerstone of this place was connection, and that’s never gone away.
2016 marks the 20th year since the first Hideout Block Party, a festival showcasing homegrown acts complemented by everything local, food and drink and beyond. This year, co-owners Tim and Katie Tuten decided they wanted to focus on what made The Hideout The Hideout rather than stick to the same festival formula. In doing so, they forged a day that was more special than I even anticipated.
I arrived at 1:30 to a thin yet jubilant crowd of Hideout supporters. Attendees were perched on picnic table seating, on their own folding chairs (Ravinia-style, as requested), or stood out under the sun with a Lagunitas or Old Style in hand. I took my seat next to Tim Tuten as we listened to an interview panel featuring some of the Hideout’s resident show hosts. We learned who they’d want to chat with most among many topics, inviting us into the world of Hideout programming.
I next headed to the beer tent, where former Hideout bartenders would be serving brews all day. I sheepishly introduced myself to Kelly Hogan, a Chicago musician you should all know and love if you don’t already. Despite me formally introducing myself as “Sarah Brooks,” Hogan was just as charming as you’d expect, agreeing to take a selfie with me for this review and asking if it was a good photo afterwards.
I retreated back to the stage and awaited the music. If you’ve been to any Hideout Block Party in the past, you know that one of the most magical aspects is watching Tim Tuten introduce the acts. I’m truly unsure if I’ve ever seen someone more passionate about what they do before, with such spark and enthusiasm. Seeing him speak about bands causes me to pause for a moment and wonder, am I living like that? Because I sure hope so.
First, he brings out Nora O’Connor, who used to perform with Matt Weber as the duo Cantina every Monday night. Her new group just for this fest, Mantina, featured Gerald Dowd and Liam Davis. They performed some sweet folk tunes to warm up the crowd. A Chicago favorite, O’Connor has performed with so many musicians this city knows and loves, from Andrew Bird and his Bowl of Fire, to the Hideout’s own Robbie Fulks and Kelly Hogan. She dazzled us with her vocals as she gave us a mix of original songs and a cover by Lucy Wainwright Roche, as well as “Figure 8” by Diane Izzo. O’Connor remembered this artist we lost in 2011 dearly as “a friend of the Hideout.”
It was in this moment that the interweaving of the past and present began. Throughout the day, anecdotes were shared and we learned how much the Hideout really brings to artists and their listeners.
Next, sibling duo White Mystery turned the volume up a few notches to play one high-octane set (really, I shouted at my friend for the next hour after it was done with ears ringing). Donned in orange from head to toe, including a lipstick shade I desperately need to find, Alex White rocked out with her engraved guitar and bright tangerine amp. Tuten introduced her as the little girl who grew up, made her way through the Chicago Public School system, and now makes rock music.
“Here’s to education! Here’s to White Mystery!” Tuten shouted in a frenzied fervor. After a head-banging ballad, White regaled us with a sweet story about her graduation party, when The Hideout hosted and brought out a carrot cake. As White Mystery continued to perform, their mom videotaped the show and danced out in the crowd. Francis wailed on the microphone and delivered a very punk rock speech.
Along with presenting high-caliber musical acts as always, the Reunion aimed to be more family-friendly this year, too. The Amazing Mr. Ash was up next, otherwise known as Ashod Baboorian, ready to perform some magic tricks. Kids gathered up front and giggled at his goofy on-stage antics. Besides making children young and old belly laugh, he too shared his love for the Hideout, right before he pulled an actual rabbit out of a hat. (It wouldn’t be a magic show without that, now would it?)
At this point, the festival called for a giant reunion, and that’s just what we got.
An O’Connor/Hogan/Fulks trifecta along with the wonderful Andy Hopkins performed a set that recalled American heartland tunes along with each of their crowd favorites. Lefty Frizzell’s “Watermelon Time in Georgia” had us all swaying. The crowd sang along to the next few Hogan tunes, including “Golden,” “No, Bobby Don’t,” and “Sugarbowl,” featuring hands masquerading as brass instrumentation. For individuals who spent so much time at the Hideout, seeing them onstage together was a special treat for us all.
Hogan and O’Connor gave us a duet we didn’t expect, covering Aaliyah’s R&B jam “Are You That Somebody?” The sweet spot of the set arrived with Hogan’s cover of “Papa Was a Rodeo” by The Magnetic Fields, where her voice wavered and broke as she sang “What are we doing in this dive bar/ How can you live in a place like this?” her hands extending up toward the Hideout’s frame. The crowd joined her for that sentimental chorus. The Hideout is more than a place to go to a show; it’s a place where you’re family, no matter if it’s your first time walking through the door or if it’s the place that saw you throughout your life. On Saturday, we all were privy to these inclusive moments.
Mr. Rudy Day continued the party with some soulful grooves. His set was laden with buttery jams that made everyone sway (the amount of beers the crowd had finished at this point didn’t hurt the dance moves, either). “Hot-N-Now” brought out Hogan and O’Connor once more, which ended with a nod to Def Leppard via a little bit of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
Jon Langford has been a Hideout staple for quite a while, and the crowd welcomed him instantly with his band, Jon Langford & Skull Orchard. With a set packed with rollicking tunes, the energy picked up and never stopped. At this point, the Hideout 20-Year Reunion featured many musicians whose lives had been shaped directly by the venue, as they were more than overjoyed to support it in return.
I snagged a front row spot for JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, a Chicago soul institution. Prepared to dance, my mission to groove was suddenly interrupted as a giant cheesecake with syrup-covered strawberries was propped up on a table right in front of me. The Hideout’s resident comedians, Mr. and Mrs. Wednesday Night, opened up the celebration by getting us to freeze dance, all while outfitted in ‘70s disco getups. While the duo sang “Happy birthdayanniversaryreunion,” the cake was hoisted up and sampled by the Hideout greats, including the Tutens, of course.
“Next year the Hideout will be able to legally drink!” proclaimed Brooks when he stepped onstage. Running through a set that incorporated new material, songs from Howl, and old favorites from Want More, the band never stopped the soul sounds and I found myself dancing from start to finish unabashedly, basking in all the Hideout vibes as everyone around me did the same. A shining moment occurred when the group sang their cover of Wilco’s formative ballad, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” Brooks first introduced the song as a story, slowing it down as we all listened in sheer reverence. They picked up the tempo as we sang the lyrics at the top of our lungs, the speakers blaring in return.
The genres kept switching, and in true Hideout fashion, emulated the versatility of the venue. The crowd was hyped up by a DJ from Chances Dances, and next, Eleventh Dream Day began a powerhouse set. Shoegaze sounds intermingled with the night’s cool breezes, while some songs found drummer Janet Beveridge Bean leaving her post and wailing punk rock verses.
I sadly had to depart as Devil in a Woodpile’s set began inside, where a slideshow had been playing in the back room showcasing the Hideout’s age-old history. The evening ended with a performance by the Lawrence Peters Outfit, a Hideout favorite.
At this point in the review, I’ve realized something. I’m naturally a pretty verbose person (my forever fatal flaw), but I’m not sure if I’ve written a review that’s this long for a one-day festival before in my life. Yet, this day deserves all the words I have. For those of you who were there, you know exactly what I mean. For those of you who weren’t, I hope this piece allowed you to feel like you were. Because that’s what the day was about; connecting with others, sharing in moments, and reveling in this tiny house’s major impact on our city. I learned on Saturday that for as many people who built the house, the house in turn built many, many more. Cheers, Hideout, to 20 parties and then some.