Once upon a time, in a land that seems far, far away (but was just outside Chicago), I was a carefree college student. I was able to live off very little money and stay up all night without feeling nauseous, and my biggest expenses were concert tickets and red hair dye. My hair remains a completely extraneous budget item; but now, I attend roughly one concert a year. Maybe.
Why? Shows can be expensive. I would've liked to see the Cure in May, but tickets were $50, and it involved driving to the Allstate Arena. The Beck show at the Aragon in October sounded neat; the $38 ticket price did not. And I don't need to remind you how much those three-day Lollapalooza passes cost.
But when my friend John called to ask if I'd see a show at Beat Kitchen, I readily agreed even though it was a weeknight and I had no idea who was playing. I did know, however, that tickets to the show, which featured four acts, were cheap just $14. (And, because John really wanted to see one of the musicians, he offered to buy my ticket. So mine was free!)
Beat Kitchen is a bit of a hike I took the L and a ridiculously crowded bus down Belmont to get there but shows are a musical steal. Some cost just $6. And, in case you're thirsty, the front bar/restaurant portion of Beat Kitchen offers drink specials most nights of the week. Wine is just $5 a glass on Wednesday; on Tuesday night, when I stopped by, the special was $3 pints of 312. Rock on.
Its a great venue. The acoustics are good, and the space is big (it was crowded, but we had plenty of elbow room, and there were empty wall hooks for our coats). And, although it wasn't open that night, there's a small bar in back for quick refills during the show.
Which was, by the way, good. Four different musicians came out to play solo acoustic sets Graham Colton, Michael Tolcher, Bryan Greenberg and Tim Brantley. Greenberg - who has appeared on "One Tree Hill," a teen show not unlike "Dawson's Creek," but with less water and use of the word "unequivocal" - was the biggest draw. I knew that because the other musicians joked about it, and also because the audience contained an alarming number of excited tween girls. (And a few embarrassed ones attending the show with mom.) I don't think the younger audience members got to spend much time in the bar area after the show. But if they had, they'd have been able to rub shoulders with some of the musicians (including headliner Colton), who were nice enough to chat and take photos with fans before plunking down on a barstool to enjoy a beverage.
Which is another advantage of seeing live music at a small venue. Could you hang out and drink with someone from a CW show at the UIC Pavilion? No. Exactly. I didn't see Colton succumb to any zany intoxicated behavior; he appeared to still be clothed and lucid when we left. But the point is, something crazy could have happened. And I would have seen it.
Decent acoustics, a good price and the chance to watch someone who may eventually become really famous potentially get drunk? I'll take that over a pricey large arena show any day.
Curious about Beat Kitchen's upcoming shows? Find out more at beatkitchen.com, call (773) 281-4444 or stop by 2100 W. Belmont.
Erin Brereton is our resident urban cowgirl on a bi-weekly search for life on the cheap. If you know of the mythic happy hour that she missed, do clue her in.