The Hideout: A Well-Known Secret
A refuge for old-timers and cool kids in the shadow of the Kennedy Expressway, the Hideout lives up to its name.
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Some might call The Residents “unlistenable.” But not Devo, Ween, Primus, or the dozens of other bands influenced by the avant-garde pranksters.
On Saturday, May 3, CIMMfest and the Hideout will host a screening of Theory of Obscurity at 3 p.m. Buy tickets here.
From outside, it looks like grandpa’s house, with grandpa’s wooden patio furniture and grandpa’s swinging Old Style beer sign. Inside, it resembles a homecoming party for a marlin fisherman thrown by a bunch of Girl Scouts. Stuffed animal heads peer down from the walls, their grim stares rendered silly amid whimsical accents such as curtains of tinsel and strings of Christmas lights. Doors separate the bar from the music stage, quarantining chatter to its proper quarters, where on any given night, there may be rock 'n' roll royalty, a radio show, a play, a standup set, or a notable speaker behind the mic.
The friendly staff at the bar is an equal part of the woodwork, and they aren’t putting on an act. They’re happy to be there, usually only leaving when one of their own bands goes on tour (past alums include Kelly Hogan and Andrew Bird, who shot the video for “Fitz and the Dizzyspells” there). No TGI-forced insincerity, Coyote Homely theatrics, or “you’re lucky I didn’t spit in this” scowling.
Some people go to concerts to hear themselves talk, but if any such specimens were going to overrun The Hideout, they would have done so a long time ago. It’s a wide range of old-timers, cool kids, dweebs, outcasts, and insiders—all treated just the same. The packed Saturday-night dance parties are there for those who just want to dance. Your ex might be there, but for one night, you couldn’t care less, because everybody shares The Hideout in the custody battle. It’s been an entire century since the storied venue first attracted its cast of rebels, roustabouts, and real people. Perhaps a magic spell was cast in the old foundation, keeping the affable in steady rotation and keeping the louts at bay.
The Hideout has the air of a best-kept secret, even if it’s not. The indie cred is out the wazoo, but it’s an effortless cool that would never call itself “cool.” Local legends such as Jeff Tweedy and Billy Corgan spot-test their latest stuff there, the mayor drops in to meet his Twitter imposter, and a flu-riddled Jack White yuks up his guts then barnstorms the stage to a raving crowd. Then there’s its annual block party, which sells out every single year. That’s hardly anonymous. Yet loose lips have only fortified the ship since it first set sail as a Prohibition speakeasy, and that word of mouth has turned the former shanty into a nonstop family-reunion site for artists and fans.
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Photo of The Hideout: Stephanie Bassos
Roy left The Polyphonic Spree choir and his punk band The Tah-Dahs to become a balding Chicago writer and folksinger. Find him on Twitter @RoyIvy.