Tag Archives: Blue Line

Drive Slow, Homie: A guide to the Chicago EL

21 Jun

The El: Chicago’s third least convenient way to get around.

Why did you to come to Northwestern? “To have access to the amazing city of Chicago,” of course! So you told Aunt Sally and your friends as you bid adieu to your suburb in California/Illinois/New York/Texas/Florida. Arriving in Heavanston you began soaking up the wonderful amenities college-friendly Evanston offers, The Keg, no-ID BYOB restaurants, multi-student homes/brothels and Burger King. But after months, or perhaps years, of frat-hopping and Taco Bell blundering you may reflect on your time at Northwestern and realize Chicago has played only a fraction of the part you envisioned it would as a prospy.

What’s kept you cooped up in the Easy-E? Afraid of the trip into the city aboard the Elevated? Never fear, with this guide to public transit in Chicago you’ll be visiting the equally-crowded Lincoln Park Cozy Noodles in a jiffy, and enjoying your time to get there.

The everything EL guide

How to steal a map
You’ve seen them in dorms and apartments and now you want a piece of Chicago for yourself to pin on your wall next to your Nickelback poster. Worried you’ll get caught? First, consider what the typical Chicagoan will witness aboard the El (see: Dealing with Crazies). Now consider well-dressed, inebriated you (see: Boozing Aboard). The Chicagoan will be delighted you aren’t asking them for money, selling them your invention, enlightening them about a conspiracy, or peeing yourself. So be confident. Still worried? Board the Purple Line North of Noyes between 12 and 2am.

Boozing Aboard
This may be the mostcritical step to enjoying your El ride. Save your Norbucks cup and mix yourself something with a kick. Food and drink aren’t allowed aboard the El, however, so be a doll and don’t spill.

Are you an old-timer with these tricks? Why not try spicin’ it up with an original El drinking game, perhaps? Ideas include drinking whenever someone makes a statement to the train car as a whole, drinking whenever the conductor plays the “doors are closing” message more than once, and drinking at every hilarious stop name (i.e. Jarvis, Bryn Mawr, Argyle, 69th).

El surf
While the Midwest Coast may not offer the salty, shark-infested waters of the Atlantic and Pacific, Chicago does offer a sizable alternative, 20 feet in the air. Assuming you’re properly boozed, simply stand up while the train is stopped and plant a wide stance. Get the attention of the entire car, because what you’re about to do is really cool. Now continue standing, and continue doing so as the El moves and world starts turning. You’ve done it. Then get off the floor and try it again. Insiders tip: the best waves aren’t on the Red and Purple lines. Try Blue instead, it’s faster and with less frequent stops.

You also receive ten points per stop for holding eye contact with a perfect stranger.

Dealing with Crazies
In the course of human events you will meet some incredibly strange people, and most of these will likely occur aboard public transportation. This however, is not a deterrent, but rather an opportunity. Take the time to speak with the urban cowboy determined to set the record straight on “who was here first”, or the gentleman who promises you that when the rich folks get enough money, they’ll put Congress on the moon and enslave you. Even the guy with plastic guitar in the subway deserves to be heard.

Perhaps these lessons will not be taught through Northwestern’s traditional and close-minded curriculum, however they are worth considering and subsequently tweeting. So elevate your mind.

Review: The Welcome’s Debut EP “The Welcome”

28 Feb

Harding, Miller, Stoner, and Baetz of The Welcome

If your interests include smoking jackets, time travel, french cinema, kittens, fire-side chats, or ornithology, then the debut EP “The Welcome,” from Chicago-based Indie Rock band The Welcome, is just the 12.4 minutes-worth of music you need to hear. The Welcome, who claim to be influenced by bands as diverse as Death Cab for Cutie, The Weakerthans, Weezer, and The Hold Steady, released their introductory EP in late December of 2010 before launching a string of gigs at such respected Chicago venues like Schubas and the Cubby Bear.

Fronted by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Gehring Miller, along with the musical stylings of Eric Baetz (guitar), Evan Stoner (bass/vocals), and Casey Harding (drums), The Welcome’s EP features all four members concisely working together to bring life to Miller’s distinct style of songwriting. Miller, a poet, jazz musician, and audio engineer, also happens to hail from the same Oak Park musical scene that spawned such critically acclaimed bands as The Reverend Funk Connection, Lissin’, Bull Run, Wailin’, Blue Line, and The Idiosyncracies. Miller has been on a musical rampage since graduating from Columbia College, devoting himself to releasing a new EP each month, and his effort with the newly minted band The Welcome displays some of his finest work.

The Welcome’s EP opens with “Robin Robinson,” arguably the strongest track of the three, not to mention one of the more impressive displays of alliteration in song titles. Beginning with a steady bass that’s joined in simple harmony by understated guitar, every piece of the song fits in place, as Miller’s vocals lay on top of a grove established by Harding’s tight drumming. Transitioning with ease between verses and choruses featuring unified staccato build-ups that break into distortion, The Welcome are able to develop the alienated nature of Robin Robinson into a character suffering from an affliction reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue.” What is most impressive about the EP’s opening song is the execution of the post-bridge crescendo, which features a repetitive chorus of increasing dynamic and melodic intensity that culminates in a final defiant chorus.

Next comes “My Body Will Remember You,” which is just as overt as the title suggests. With Miller singing over descending bass and guitar lines, the track showcases The Welcome’s ability to create multiple layers of sonic texture through contrasting guitar timbres. Harding keeps a relaxed groove, maintaining the song’s languid and nonchalant feel. The reserved nature of the song, which never fully climaxes (odd, perhaps, considering the subject matter), occasionally pushes its tranquil nature too far and risks losing the listener’s attention, but fortunately varies things up enough at the end to keep everything fresh. If The Welcome were making a full length album, this track might feel like a drag, but luckily in a brief EP like this one, its aesthetic artistry serves to further encapsulate most of the overwhelmingly positive traits of the band.

The Welcome conclude their debut EP with “How Knows the Night,” an excellent end to a fantastic display of their talents. With a solid riff as a strong base, the band builds up to a chorus that pits Miller’s voice against distorted guitars, eventually coalescing into a brilliant solo that fits perfectly within the feel of the song. The guitars of Miller and Baetz work together well throughout the EP, but the interplay between the two is especially potent on the final track.

In a mere three songs, The Welcome establish themselves as a legitimate force in Chicago’s Indie Rock scene with an EP that displays their unique talents and identity. The best way to grow as a band is to produce quality music and then tour the hell out of those songs. The Welcome has done exactly that so far, and hopefully will continue to do so. I look forward to a full-length effort from the band in the near future that showcases The Welcome’s considerable musicianship, lyricism, and wit.

OVERALL RATING: Like eating donuts. From The Depot.

Download the album HERE, for FREE!

Seriously, these donuts are like the food approximation of Brooklyn Decker, circa 2007