Cutting up a Storm
It's official: you are allowed to take a break from record shopping when the weather turns darkside.
Even long trips come to an end, and with a week to go before I leave Chicago there's a bit of pressure to step up the must-do activities. This means spending a beautiful hot Saturday morning paddling my way downtown on an architecture tour with Kayak Chicago. Imagine paddling right into this photograph, but under a crisp blue sky.
It's a really satisfying thing to do, and the experience teaches me how there's no better way to learn about a new city than to send yourself down the main waterway on which it's been built. I saw two dead fish and three condoms.
In the afternoon I decide to visit the K-Starke and Jazz Record Mart stores in the same afternoon, both of which come highly recommended. Trouble is, the sky starts to look a bit feisty. I'm passing Dusty Groove, so duck in for a bit of respite, figuring it’ll pass. It doesn’t. It suddenly cocks it down. After snapping up the Best of KMD, I figure my wallet won't be able to handle an extended shelter here, so I decide to leg it. It's 4pm and night has essentially fallen. The streetlights have come on, the sky is pitch black, lit by frequent flashes of fork lightning. I'm getting hit in the eyes by dust that's been swept up by the wind. Roads flood instantly. I shelter under a bus stop trying to work out how I can soldier on. It doesn't take long to realise I'm being a dick. Record need is not that important. Abort.
The next day the sun's back out, so I take a leisurely stroll down Western Avenue to K-Starke. It's a cool store peppered with figures of He-Man and Run DMC, old arcade games, and bits of old-fashioned drum machine gear. Music-wise, it beefs up the usual soul offering with a hearty disco section, and a very tasty chunk of affordable hip-hop. My first love has largely been neglected this trip, so it's nice to pick up a couple of gems, for next to nothing.
Including this, from 1983:
I chat a little to the guy in the store about Chicago and records. He's surprised to learn of the existence of Fletcher, the by-appointment-only record dealer, saying he'd assumed he knew everything there was to know about record spots in the city. He vows to check it out. Weird that I'm telling locals where the record spots are. But he does recommend a place I haven't heard of before, called Beverly's, right down on the southside. He reckons it's second only to Out Of The Past in terms of its old-school family-run dusty rummage potential. Man, here's me running out of days, and the must-visit list keeps getting bigger. It's weird. He also gives me a tip for New York next week: head out to Jersey City, to a couple of digging spots there. Yep. I can absolutely do that.
Afterwards: a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, for the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition.
It's really inspiring, a lesson in lines and dots and bothering to do stuff. The gallery also reminds me of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, an experimental jazz outfit from the 60s/70s. I'm going to keep my eye out for more of their stuff when I'm out at the Jazz Record Mart. Golden stuff like this:
The clouds have parted, and it seems I'm into art and shopping.