Some aldermen sponsor ordinances and resolutions. Alderman Rey Colón sponsors concerts. The 35th Ward Alderman’s website declares that the representative for parts of Avondale, Humboldt Park, Irving Park, and Logan Square, “has been an independent, progressive leader in the City Council since May 2003.” Well, nothing sounds quite as progressive as co-sponsoring a show with the Empty Bottle and 312unes that features the Dan Deacon Ensemble and Lightning Bolt. Before Sunday afternoon’s concert at the Illinois Centennial Monument in Logan Square, The A.V. Club spoke with Colón about the importance of live music and the arts to his constituency, and got Colón to grade the musicians in his ward as well as those slated to perform this weekend.
The A.V. Club: What do these big public events do for the Logan Square community?
Alderman Rey Colón: Since the economy’s been bad, our local stimulus has been trying to coordinate a partnership between the arts and the business community. So we’ve done the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, which allowed us to convert and transform some of the empty storefronts into pop-up galleries that have been able to drive a lot of foot-traffic to existing businesses, and, helping them to thrive even during this bad economy.
We’ve done a festival called the Boulevard Bash, which surfaced for the first time this year. We support a program called Summer Sessions on the Square, where there are some jam sessions that take place on the last Saturday of every month throughout the summer.
One of the big projects we’re working on is we’re creating live-work spaces for artists right at the historical intersection of Kimball, Diversey, and Milwaukee. The Hairpin Lofts, which is under construction right now, will be 28 units of live-work space, an arts center on the second floor—which will be open to the community—and retail on the bottom. We’re hoping that all this activity helps to anchor Milwaukee Avenue as a potential arts district for the future.
AVC: Is this the first time someone has approached you about doing a big concert like this in Logan Square?
RC: This is the first time that it’s happened. The space that’s being used is what we’ve closed off for the festival. We like trying out closing off that section of Milwaukee, only because we’re looking at the potential of creating a European roundabout there. Trying out different events and activities, allowing residents to reclaim the street, is something that we encourage.
A major festival like this is going to add to what we’ve been doing, as far as bringing in people in Logan Square. I don’t know if you saw, but just this week in The New York Times, they did a feature, “36 Hours in Chicago,” and Logan Square was one of the places that you had to come to, and Longman & Eagle was one of the places that you had to come to. Obviously they’re doing a great job helping build the community and help us make a name for it, but also with their involvement and sponsorship of this concert. I think it’s going to continue, that trend of people recognizing our area as a place where it’s a quality place to live, also a place that embraces the arts, culture, and diversity of our city.
AVC: Who approached you with the idea of co-sponsoring this concert?
RC: Pete [Toalson] from The Empty Bottle and Longman & Eagle, who really gets it, who’s really a forward-thinker. He’s obviously been very successful with what he’s done, both at the Empty Bottle and at Longman & Eagle. I’m interested in working with him, and working with other business owners like him, to help promote our neighborhood as a place to live, and as a place to play. So, this concert is going to be a big step in that direction, as far as utilizing the monument in a way that the residents can all come together, and utilize that space more often.
Grading Dan Deacon, Lightning Bolt, and his constituents
Dan Deacon—“Paddling Ghost”
RC: I thought it was great, and I think it’s something that people are going to genuinely enjoy when he gets here. I’d give him a B+.
Lightning Bolt—“Sound Guardians”
RC: I thought they were noisy, but I thought they were good. I’m looking forward to them being here, and I look forward to hearing that live. It’s a little too loud for my taste, but I’m an old guy. I would do a B.
Logan Square Locals
Andrew Bird—“Simple X”
RC: It’s a little more my speed. I would say an A-.
RC: I think that’s an A.
The Please & Thank Yous—“Peas n’ Cheese”
RC: It’s good. Sounds good. I like the other two better. I’d give them a B.