Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Joliet: A Historical Prison and Rock and Roll History

 The first Illinois Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction was delayed because of the pandemic. When they rescheduled, I was ready to go experience this exciting night – and spend some time checking out the city of Joliet.

I took my friend Lisa along. It had been quite a while since we had traveled together, but we certainly had a lot of trips behind us.

Our first stop was at a place I’ve never been to in any city, a prison. We spent about two hours on a private tour exploring one of the most famous in the country. Old Joliet Prison, which was featured in the Blues Brothers movie.  


Given the importance of keeping a lot of the historical artifacts, the accessibility to every building wasn’t available to me. I still felt I got to see a lot from the outside in my scooter. I let Lisa do the deeper exploring and picture taking.

It was even more interesting to hear about how important these structures were to the development of the prison system in the state, and one might say to the United States. The first prisoners arrived at this facility in 1858 and it was a functioning place of incarceration until 2002.

We also learned about two books that tell a lot of the story, Joliet Prison Blues and Old Joliet Prison: When Convicts Wore Stripes, both by Amy Kinzer Steidinger. The boxes depict a lot of the treatment of prisoners, which was criticized in later years.

After we left the prison, we were more than ready for lunch and headed to downtown Joliet. Lunch was at Chevre Latin Café.

It was a nice day to sit out on the patio. The food was both excellent and unusual. We shared some empanadas, then Lisa had the Café Steak Bowl, and I had the Chicken Bowl with Plantains. We were too stuffed for dessert, but we ordered lattes and picked up Cheesecakes by James next door to bring back to our hotel. We settled on one cherry and one turtle.


Before we went to the hotel, we met up with some other journalists at the Bishop Hill Winery for tastings. We didn’t stay long because I was tired and wanted to put my feet up before the night’s festivities.

We quickly checked into Harrah’s Joliet Hotel. It was a nice hotel. It wasn’t quite like some of the previous Harrah’s properties I had stayed at, but had a few restaurants and a large casino. It was also within walking distance (in my case mobility scooter) of everything we would be going to that evening and the next day.

I always like a reason to get dressed up and I did so for the event, as did Lisa.  It was being held at the Rialto Theater, a beautiful and historic building in Joliet. The Illinois Hall of Fame was the brainchild of Ron Romero, the President & Founder of the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum on Route 66. He was (and is) determined to bring publicity to the huge collection of music that has come out of the state.

Many people don’t realize how many top performers come from Illinois and this first induction class was certainly a good sampling: Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, Chicago, Buddy Guy, Muddy Water, Dick Biondi, Larry Lujack, Ides of March, The Buckinghams, WLS Radio, and Chess Records.


The show was phenomenal, with representation from all the Hall of Famers, including Kevin Cronin from REO, and the full bands of The Buckinghams and the Ides of March. The rest were video acceptances, and live tributes by those such as Blues legend John Primer.*

It was quite an evening. I never saw so many people standing and singing for so long. Everyone knew the songs and it was one big giant singalong, especially for moments such as The Buckinghams singing “Kind of A Drag.”

If I hadn’t been so tired from the long day, I would have loved to get to know some of the performers, but it would have to wait for the next one. Lisa and I headed back to the hotel. We hadn’t really had dinner in the rushed evening, but there was the cheesecake. Yes, both pieces were delicious.


*For more specifics on the concert, check out this story.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A Different Ravinia This Year

Ravinia is one of the most unique music presentations in the world. I am a huge fan of the music festival and can’t believe I just discovered it a few years ago.

The Ravinia Festival has been running all summer long for over 50 years. Located in Highland Park, Illinois, it’s always presented top performers from around the world, with genres that cover all the bases.

Unlike other music festivals, Ravinia is non-profit and runs on sponsorships and gifts.

Last year I did a story on the ZZ Top concert I had seen at Ravinia the previous year, along with a preview of the upcoming season. I also included it in a number of my CI Living segments.

I had planned on doing the same thing this year, but, this year, as we all know, life is quite different. During the Ravinia Festival in 2019, I had the pleasure of seeing Nickelback perform, with Buckcherry opening for them. I have always been an unapologetic Nickelback fan.

They have produced some of my favorite songs. The ones I could sing along with all day.

The concert did not disappoint. Anyone there, watching fans singing and dancing to favorites such as “Someday,” “Rockstar,” and “Photograph,” would be clear about the profound affect the band has had on pop music.

In fact, Nickelback was so good that I had hoped to see them again when they returned to Ravinia Festival in 2020.  Unfortunately, the coronavirus had different plans. The 2020 Ravinia Festival had to be cancelled for the first time.

While this unique festival, where you can bring a picnic and a bottle of wine and listen to music on the lawn in Chicagoland, will not be taking place this summer, the Ravinia team is still keeping things alive.

On Saturday, May 15th, the performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, which was part of 2019’s Ravinia Festival, will be shown as part of the PBS series Great Performances.

Before this initial presentation at 9:00 C.S.T., there will also be a virtual panel discussion with Conductor Marin Alsop, President and CEO of Ravinia Festival, Welz Kauffman, Tony Award-winning actor Paulo Szot, Chicago Children’s Choir Artistic Director Josephine Lee, and Highland Park High School Band Director Joshua Chodoroff.

Check your local PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) listings for additional times if you miss the initial May 15th debut of Mass and put the Ravinia Festival on your 2021 summer calendar. You can sign up for the newsletter on their website. It’s a must for all music lovers.  

Photos of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" by Patrick Gipson/Ravinia Festival
Photos of Nickelback and Buckcherry by Brittany Lambright

Monday, December 16, 2019

Tons of Fun at Acme Hotel Company

I had passed the Acme Hotel Company on a previous trip to Chicago and it looked really interesting, even from the outside. I was excited when they invited me to visit with my friends.

From the moment we stepped inside I know we were someplace fun.

The check-in at Acme Hotel Company was quick and I boarded the elevator to our suite with my friends. It was filled with music albums from a lot of my favorite artists.

We had the one-bedroom suite, and it was spacious enough for a family or group of friends, with a large pullout couch in the living room and two queen beds in the bedroom.

The music theme continued into the room, where we had our own guitar in the living room! 

We also had modern art out the window and in the room, including a Rolling Stones’ style kiss on our mirror.

An Amazon Echo, with Alexa waiting to play our favorite music or tell the staff if we needed anything. 

We even had a DIY cocktail kit so we could mix our own drinks if we didn’t want to go down to the bar.

Scott, Brittany, and Amanda had a concert to go to (Catfish& the Bottlemen), but I had plenty of time to enjoy the hotel.

First, I headed down to The Berkshire Room for drinks and a light dinner. I always love to sit at the bar when I am alone, and this is especially true when there are interesting drinks to be made. 

The Berkshire Room at Acme Hotel prides itself in its unique and handcrafted cocktails. 

They have some that are Barrel Finished, while others are old favorites with a twist.
These include the Old Fashion turned into “Old Money,” with bourbon, Aperol, Walnut Liqueur, and Allspice (it was delicious).

I also tried the Banana Cognac Cocktail. The concoction of cognac, banana brandy, banana cordial, Falerium, and Angostura bitters was flavorful, but not too sweet.

The selection of spirits, and even bitters, at The Berkshire Room bar is huge, so the bartenders can create anything you want.

While chatting with the staff and customers – the crowd grew as the night went on – I also sampled the Charcuterie plate, filled with interesting cheeses, some from the Midwest. There’s also a menu of mini desserts to end with.

I left Berkshire Room and headed upstairs to change into my bathing suit. I had been anxiously waiting for my next stop, the Bunny Slope.

The Acme Hotel Company has a downstairs with a large fitness center and a room they refer to as a Bunny Slope. The room can be rented out for parties, but, on this night, it was empty.

It was the ultimate in relaxation, with a fireplace, a flat screen tv, and crystal-clear water in the whirlpool.

My friends were back from the concert by the time I returned up to the room. We all chatted for a while, and Amanda played the guitar a bit for us.

It was then time to get some rest before an active following day as we were heading to the Starved Rock area to satisfy some bucket lists.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

24 Hour Girls’ Getaway in Chicago, Part 1

No matter how many times I go to Chicago, the minute I see the skyline there is an excitement that runs through my veins. I know I’ll always have a fun time in the Windy City.

This trip was for a 24-hour getaway with my friend Joan. We had the perfect mixture of food, activity, and chill time.

We started with lunch at Cantina Laredo. It had been years since I had been there and it was even more welcoming than I remembered, with our seats in front of a gas fireplace.

The waiter brought us tortilla chips and immediately suggested some of their famous margaritas with the current month’s guacamole. It was as delicious as it sounded, with cotija cheese and tomato, for a combination of sweet and a bit spicy.

I sipped one of their fruitful Pineapple Infused Ritas, a mixture of pineapple infused Avion Reposado Tequila and Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur. Joan had the current margarita special, which was Jalapeno.

Although we were starting to get full from devouring every bit of the guacamole, Joan loved the tamales, which were a bit spicy for me, but the Flautitas were amazing. They went especially well with the Passion Fruit Mojito.

Finally, a basket of warm Churros came out, with chocolate and mango sauces, as the perfect finish to our meal. We washed them down with Cantina Laredo’s house-blend coffee, a must try.

I had arranged for us to spend the night at the HyattCentric Loop in Chicago.  We checked in to our large modern room. I enjoyed the large soaking tub and their soft robes before a nap.

Refreshed for the evening, Joan and I headed to City Winery. I had never been there before and was excited to check out this all-inclusive location (winery, restaurant, and concert hall) that’s perfect for dates night or a girls’ getaway.

I had actually heard about City Winery from the representative of AJ Croce. The son of Jim Croce was performing there that night.

The building itself is large and well-appointed, with unique and modern artwork everywhere. The wine is made right here (the only winery in the city of Chicago) for sale and tasting at this location as well as the riverfront venue.

Equally fantastic is the food at City Winery, led by Chef Mark Mendez. Mendez, who previously worked at Carnivale and Vera, put his twists on some standard favorites that we really enjoyed.

I couldn’t say enough about the burrata and the shells and cheese. Joan, who is more of a steak eater than I, raved about the ribeye which was served with gorgonzola butter.

I was impressed with their selection of wine, which included reds, whites, and my favorite, the Riverwalk Rose.

The AJ Croce show, which was opened by the talented Adam Ezra, had the audience singing and laughing. We sipped wine and vowed to check out this newly discovered venue again soon, but that was it for the first half of our getaway, with ore to come in the morning.

For more on the concert and City Winery, read my story on Beat.  

Friday, January 19, 2018

Music, Food and Celebrities at Inaugural Bourbon and Beyond Festival

When I was first approached to cover the first Bourbon & Beyond Festival, I was attracted to the unique combination of music, food, and bourbon, in a city known for the latter.  

Once I received the itinerary, I was sold, and contacted Louisville Tourism about making a trip.

The huge list of performers for Bourbon & Beyond had a lot of great names, but there were two in particular that sealed the deal for me: Stevie Nicks and Eddie Vedder, both on my bucket list.

Brittany, Jamie, and I had breakfast in the lounge at the Louisville Marriott East. Lounge access for breakfast and snacks before dinner was a great benefit to staying on the executive floor.

We drove over to Champions Park so we could arrive and get settled early for the first day of Bourbon & Beyond. It was a good thing we did.

The only major complaint I had about this festival did not change during the weekend: the parking. It was just a giant mess.

Fortunately, just about everything between getting to and from morning parking and night departing were one-of-a-kind experiences.

We were lucky that the press headquarters was located in the VIP section.
Since we were early, I decided to grab something from the food trucks in the VIP area before I got too busy.

I picked up a coffee from Blackbird Espresso and picked a place to get something for lunch.

I decided on the Zoom Zoom Yum Truck and got a Gyro Bowl. It was absolutely delicious.

The press tent was a bit of a reunion in with Danielle Eddy and Dan Dunn, who were on my very first press trip to Cognac, France.

Dan was there with his Drinky Time Radio Show crew and we caught up for a few minutes before the first performer came on.

I had also seen them both at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans and, ironically, in Kentucky on the American WhiskeyTrail press trip.

Dave Cavalier had contacted me prior to the Bourbon & Beyond Festival to make sure I caught his act. I really enjoyed it and the crowd agreed with me as he opened up the festival.

Dave and I had a great chat for this Beat article I wrote before I headed to the Main Stage (the festival had a great system of alternating stages so that you weren’t waiting for setup between acts.

Chris Robinson, formerly of the Black Crows, was on stage with his Brotherhood band. I caught some of the act before I had to head back to the press tent.

The other interview I arranged was with Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
It went great and I especially loved what he said about his most famous song, which also happens to be one of my favorites – Blue on Black. You can read the whole interview here.

I got to see Kenny Wayne perform a few minutes later, doing that song and Heat of the Sun with his band. He really is one of the best guitarists out there.

It was really hot and there was a break before I had other artists to see, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a while.
On the way out, we stopped to check out some of the interesting booths around the grounds.

I was happily surprised to see a lot of charities and a lot of places with handmade goods.

We stopped at the Rock Out for Rescue booth to buy some tee-shirts.

Given the fact that the word “bourbon” was clearly stated in the title of this event, there was no shortage of bars set up at Champions Park.

You could get just about any bourbon you desired, straight or in a cocktail, as well as cocktails at the Tiki Bar and some beer outlets.

The Water stations were also welcome in the heat of Louisville, as was the gelato.

After some snacks at the hotel and a change of clothing, we were back at Bourbon & Beyond for the headliners.

First up was former Pearl Jam lead, Eddie Vedder.

He sang quite a few of the band’s songs, including Wishlist, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter, and I Wish I Was.

He also did a fantastic rendition of Neil Young’s Rocking in the Free World.

I have to say Eddie Vedder was even better than I expected him to be.  

The Steve Miller Band came on next with many of the hits he is famous for, including Take the Money and Run. 

He kept the crowd singing and dancing. He also brought in Kenny Wayne Shepherd for Stranger Blues.

We left right after Steve Miller finished. It had been a long, but, fun, day and we knew we had to return to the Louisville Marriott for a good night’s rest before day two of Bourbon & Beyond.

On stage photos by Brittany Lambright.

Check out my videos from Bourbon & Beyond on my YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

History and Music in Indianapolis

I’ve had the pleasure of making a lot of trips to Indianapolis as it is less than two hours from here. Every time I go there are different things to see and do. That was especially true for this trip.

My friend Angela and I checked into the Courtyard Marriott Downtown

It’s in a perfect location, directly across the street from Whitewater State Park and the Indiana State Museum.

The Courtyard has a nice coffee shop and lounge area, and it’s connected to the Fairfield Inn and the massive JW Marriott Indianapolis for more options.

First on our schedule was our first trip to the Indiana State Museum. We really enjoyed learning about the Hoosier State and it’s place in America’s history.

Among the exhibits and hands-on experiences are a 50th Anniversary exhibit on the Indiana Pacers and a looks into the gems and minerals in the state, as well as its start through the Ice Age. 

We also were able to see plenty on famous Indiana natives, including James Dean, Michael Jackson, Florence Henderson, Kurt Vonnegut (who has his own museum in Indy), and Axel Rose.

The Indiana State Museum also has a Peewinkle Puppet Studio, which has puppet classes and a puppet camp, as well as show you can watch.

We grabbed some coffee at the JW Marriott Indianapolis Starbucks and headed back to the room for some rest. We were spending the evening about a half hour from downtown at FoxGardin Kitchen & Ale.

Our motivation for heading to this venue was actually to see a local Champaign duo who Angela and I knew well on and off the stage. 

Mank N Sass, Jared Manker and Sara Siders, formerly in the band UpShot, have extended their following into the Indianapolis area, where they play frequently. 

FoxGardin is one of their favorite places so we were anxious to check it out.

While we waited for our table, we visited the upstairs whiskey bar with Jared and Sara, and did a little sampling. The place was quite busy and I’m told it’s always that way.

They took the stage and we took to the menu for some cocktails to start the evening. For main courses, Angela loved her filet oscar and I really enjoyed my eggplant parmesan. Manager/Chef Jacob Burgess has quite an unusual and popular menu.

Mank N Sass were wonderful, as usual. They played some original songs and filled in with just about everything from the Beatles to Michael Jackson to Tom Jones.

Before we left, we talked to some of the Fortville locals. 

We loved hearing about all the small women owned shops in the area. It was quite a fun evening in the little town with the big restaurant.

We arrived back at the Courtyard Indianapolis pretty late and ready for a good night’s sleep before another day exploring Indianapolis.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An Unforgettable Day in Israel

Some days of travel are amazing and some are not. Then there are the ones which are a little of both. This was the case for my fifth day in Israel.

The day certainly started out right as I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast from my balcony at the Dan Acadia Hotel in Herzeliya, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

I was getting spoiled by these Israeli breakfasts, which were filled with fruit, cheese, and sweet treats.

It looked to be another beautifully sunny day and I wished I had time to check out the pool and the beach, but I had to get ready to meet the group.

We were heading for a tour of Old Jaffa. I had discovered my passport and glasses missing and thought they might have been left at the previous hotel so I asked our tour guide to have the bus make a stop at the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv.

Unfortunately, despite the urging from my fellow journalists to stay, Carmela felt they were running late to get to the Jaffa tour and wouldn’t wait for me to check at the hotel.

What was a simple errand turned into quite an ordeal.

I’ll skip all the details, but, needless to say, it was a stressful day trying to catch up with the group that finally ended with me having to take a (very expensive) cab back to Herzeliya in the late afternoon.

The experienced certainly dampened my time in Old Jaffa, but I did at least get to have an amazing apple strudel at Opel Cafe, catch some Mediterranean Sea views of Tel Aviv, and see some of the market while I was searching for the group!

While the rest of the evening certainly didn’t compare to the afternoon debacle, the schedule was a gain changed on us.

An excursion to Drummers Beach was eliminated and we headed directly for dinner at Port & Sons restaurant in Tel Aviv.

By the time we got to the restaurant, I was more than ready for a glass of wine. Porter & Sons concentrates more on a big beer selection, but they did bring me a satisfying Israeli chardonnay from Dalton Winery in Galilee.

Porter & Sons also brought out a selection of food family style.

Even though they hadn’t been informed in advance of my fish allergy, managed to come up with some wonderful dishes for me, including spaetzle, eggplant, and pasta. The desserts were also quite good.

After dinner, we headed back to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art for the Piano Festival.

We saw a popular Israeli singer, who sang a lot of her native songs.

On the way out of the festival, we heard some jazz music as locals and visitors danced around them.

We returned to the Dan Acadia Hotel in Herzeliya and I did my best to relax after the stress of the day.

It had taken a lot of convincing from myself and my fellow writers, but Carmela had agreed to take us to the Dead Sea before Jerusalem the next day so it was time to try to move past the bad experience.