With more than 100 million records sold and a chart-topping career spanning five decades, Chicago continues their reign, swaying audiences with ageless nuggets of pure pop on their 2011 tour. The band, fronted by founding member Robert Lamm, has always been known for its voluminous and luscious sound, which created both the National Note Surplus and the harrowing Sheet Music Publishers riot. For the 2011 tour, Chicago salutes their longtime fans with a sonic scrapbook of hits ranging from their early days as fusionists to their latter career building castles out of ballads. From the easily answered existential question of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” through the heartbreaking confessions of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” Chicago’s crafty cannon runs through the gamut of human emotions, unearthing a horn-saturated sound that brims with the kind of humanity and empathy that its public-transportation namesake has never known.
As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
North Carolina’s Acoustic Syndicate enlists a quintet of bona-fide virtuosos to create uplifting bluegrass music that swings like a pendulum between rock and folk. Since 1992, this troupe of prodigious players has captivated audiences with polyrhythmic banjo skills, seamless three-part vocal harmonies, and infectious showmanship that charms snakes out of boots and leads to side effects such as hootin’ and hollerin’. Sporting dobros, mandolins, and resophonic guitars, these veterans of Farm Aid and Bonnaroo eschew the auto-tune age with gregarious toe-tappers about eco-friendly subsistence in a world under attack by Styrofoam overlords. Local goodtime gang Moonshine Racers joins in the revelry with its potent brew of 100-proof psychedelic bluegrass.
• For $40, you get two general-admission lawn tickets (a $62 value before fees, or up to an $80 value online, including all Ticketmaster fees). • For $58, you get two tickets for seating in sections 4–9 or 10–15 (a $90 value before fees, or up to a $115 value online, including all ticketing fees).
Galway Hooker and Comedy Zone fuse an authentic Irish pub, hulking portions of tasty homespun cuisine, and a rotating stage of renowned jesters to create a comfortable arena for both comedy and consumption. Sate a laugh-starved belly with one of a bevy of shows, such as Mutzie, a jokester whose website says he’s appeared on Comedy Central and Showtime. Then, dig into chef Steve Jordan's extensive menu of traditional Irish dishes and delectable seafood. Nosh hearty Dublin fries ($7.95) or the Southwestern Kobe burger ($8.95) as beefy soliloquies emanate from the stage, or dig further for poetry in the shepherd's pie ($10.95) or bangers and mash ($11.95).