Thursday, June 17, 2004

Concert Recommendation: Taste of Randolph St., Saturday, June 19

When considering a move to the New York area last year, I asked myself what the advantages were of New York versus Chicago. Chicago was the big winner on free outdoor concerts. The Taste of Chicago and Blues Fest may have set the precedent and attract the bigger names, but the best action is at the neighborhood festivals. New York has nothing like them.

The problem with the big Grant Park shows is that they are events more than concerts. So more people are there just to hang out rather than see specific performances, and the sound system is too muddy to really cover the space. On the other hand, smaller neighborhood festivals are more concentrated, attracting smaller crowds so that it's easier to provide adequate sound and making it possible to pack the area in front of the stage with actual fans. Yes, lots of these events just bring out the usual cavalcade of local bar bands, and most have a suggested donation for entry, but the better ones provide well-known talent at a price much cheaper than you'd pay at club to see them normally. Highlights of the last few years include Shellac, Jill Sobule and Interpol. The Taste of Randolph St. has been particularly fruitful, including appearances by Morphine and They Might Be Giants.

This year's Taste of Randolph packs an impressive double wallop on Saturday: back-to-back performances by Ted Leo/Pharmacists and Fountains of Wayne. Let's just hope that FoW singer Chris Collingwood has caught up on his rest since their show last month at Rockin' de Mayo.

Ted Leo/Pharmacists and Fountains of Wayne play the Taste of Randolph St., 900-1200 West Randolph St., Chicago, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively, on Saturday, June 19.

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