Northalsted’s Market Days is one of the biggest street festivals in Chicago. Now, straightaway, I want to admit to having a complicated relationship with Chicago’s many summer street-fests. On the surface, they are a source of pride and fun for many of the city’s neighborhoods, offering local businesses and artisans a chance to strut their stuff and encouraging folks to get out and enjoy music and food while mingling amongst their neighbors. But the fests are also loud and bacchanal, and compulsory if you happen to need to pass through. Perhaps most annoyingly, they are disruptive to pedestrian and traffic flow. And if you don’t particularly want to go to a street-fest but you have tickets for a play that’s happening at a theater located in the middle of one, as I did last night, the experience can definitely be less than both the festival’s and the play’s producers intend.
That was more or less the experience of our party last night as we attended a one-man production of a new acquaintance. The small theater happened to be adjacent to one of the festival’s large outdoor performance spaces, which, for the duration of our play, featured mediocre but booming techno-pop music. While my new friend was up there acting his heart out, the music in the parking lot out back pounded at us relentlessly, demanding we appreciate its bass and blasé vocals, as we were doing our best to watch a play. The dissonance was jarring beyond belief – my attention was split the entire time between the competing performances – it was the auditory equivalent of wearing poorly calibrated 3-D glasses.
In the end, the night was memorable indeed, but I commented as we left the intimate theater that I desperately needed some Tylenol. And though we’d planned to eat quite nearby, we instead walked a good distance away from the street-fest for dinner after the show so we wouldn’t have to deal with any unwanted background music. Over our meal we discussed that we are probably just grumpy old kill-joys.
Thanks for reading.