The weather is already getting cooler, and soon enough the leaves will change. But there’s an abundance of color in Chicago even before the sunny youth of summer transforms into the middle-aged actuary of autumn. This weekend, we explore the many hues of the city, from an all-ages kite festival in the botanic garden to a kaleidoscopic Japanese festival nearing its 60th consecutive celebration. We also take in the flashy costumes and flashier comics at Wizard World Chicago, an opening that pairs street art with fresh fruit juice, and a jazz quartet tinted with shades of soul and bossa nova.
Jeff Parker Organ Quartet
Chicago jazz mainstay Jeff Parker joins forces with musicians Scott Burns, Pete Benson, and George Fludas in a cozy club on the west side of Avondale.
When: Friday at 9:30 p.m.
Tip: Don’t be fooled by the name—Parker is the guitarist, Pete Benson is the one at the keys.
Jeff Parker grew up on the East Coast, but he’s viewed the Windy City as his home since moving here in 1991. “Chicago has a tradition of supporting fringe music,” he told Guitar Player in 2005, “and it's a nurturing place for independent artists...There's a lot more freedom to experiment here, which is what I'm all about.” Lush and innovative, Parker's riff-free stylings could be broadly categorized as jazz, but as several critics have pointed out, he freely incorporates elements of other genres into his work. Playful wood blocks add a bossa nova touch, and gentle funk recalls the soul music of the early ‘70s. And it's not just the press that’s taken notice: Parker has been invited to play with such renowned ensembles as Isotope 217 and the Chicago Underground, and he’s currently a member of post-rock legends Tortoise.
Street art gets the gallery treatment in this exhibition presented by Jennifer Norback Fine Art and the health center Renuil, which will serve fresh juice onsite.
When: Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Jennifer Norback Fine Art
Tip: If you don’t fill up on juice, grab a bite around the corner at Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, which is open until midnight.
A migrating family carries their belongings on their backs, surrounded by the dusty glow of paper lanterns. A man in a poor-fitting jacket looks like he’s trying to hitch a ride. A younger drifter drawn in muted browns laughs uncomfortably at the audience's gaze. These pieces were all created by Jourdon Gullett, whose work can be characterized by struggling figures imbued with a sense of hope. The other artists featured in this Friday’s Urban Renuil exhibit take a less realistic approach. Stencilist FRESH emblazons walls around the city with political, symbolic images such as a Pied Piper with a television for a head, and a portrait of the president disguising himself as a sheep. Jeff's Ant is the most lighthearted of the bunch, his noodly limbs, grotesque faces, and richly textured surfaces reminiscent of the work of R. Crumb.
Chicago Botanic Garden’s Kite Festival
Marvel at professional kite-flyers, then applaud as your kids make kites of their own.
When: Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe
Cost: Free, $20 parking
Tip: Every participant in the Kids’ Mad Dash gets a kite to take home, but the competition is only open to the first 30 registrants.
When you took an employment assessment test in high school, did you ever see professional kite-flyer on your printout? Do you wish you had? At Chicago Botanic Garden’s Kite Festival, kids get to live out this type of dream for a weekend. A kite-making workshop opens the festival both days, followed by a parade of kite-flyers and the Chicago Fire Kite Team's grand launch. Demonstrations, performances, and public fly-time fill the rest of the festival, broken up by the Kids' Mad Dash competition at 2:20 p.m. Meanwhile, vendors sell lunch, beverages, and ice cream in the west meadow.
Traditional Japanese arts are the centerpiece of this Old Town tradition.
When: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Where: Midwest Buddhist Temple
Tip: Catch headliner Yoko Noge's fusion of minyo folk music and Chicago blues on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Though the celebration in Old Town is only in its 58th year, the full story of the Ginza Festival dates back to 1603. The Edo period was a time of great social upheaval, when the general Tokugawa Ieyasu established the shogunate, a military government that held de facto rule under a figurehead emperor. The shogunate promoted a renaissance of the arts, and a new class of craftspeople known as the waza was born. Though the shogunate fell in 1868, the waza survived, and the Ginza Festival welcomes a handful of these elite artisans every year with music, food, and dance. This year's waza guests of honor include ceramicists, stoneworkers, cotton artists, top-makers, and practitioners of shiatsu massage. Other events range from traditional taiko drum performances to numerous martial-arts demonstrations and a fusion of blues and folk music by Osaka-native Yoko Noge.
Wizard World Chicago
Step into a world of radioactive villains, flesh-eating zombies, and aliens out to destroy Earth. Then get your picture taken with them.
When: August 9–11
Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont
Cost: $60 for a one-day pass online, $70 at the door
Tip: Celebrity Q&As usually mean long lines, so keep your eyes open for other events, such as sci-fi speed dating and discussions on multicultural heroes.
Wizard World invites one and all to enter another dimension. Casual fans, aspiring artists, and heroes in training are all welcome at this four-day celebration of comics, television shows, movies, and professional wrestling. At Q&As with TV stars such as Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead (Saturday at 4 p.m.) and Firefly's Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin, and Alan Tudyk (Saturday at 5 p.m.), guests can find out what it's like to be a part of a cultural phenomenon, and what they feed the zombies at craft services. Panel discussions explore specific aspects of geek culture: during Batman and Psychology (Friday at 6 p.m.) and Supervillains and Psychology (Saturday at 5:45 p.m.), Dr. Travis Langley and author Danny Fingeroth peek behind the masks of some of our favorite characters to see what makes them tick. In Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl (Sunday at 3 p.m.), a panel of writers challenges the audience by head-on tackling the sexism that often haunts geek culture. Other attractions are of an ongoing nature—in The Art of Frank Frazetta, Robert Rodriguez displays his private collection, allowing guests to better understand the artist who created the iconic, highly detailed oil paintings for Conan, John Carter of Mars, the Flashman novel series, numerous album covers, and many, many others.