Sun Spots: Mondays w/ Musician's Network MECCA

 Looking for Something To-Do on Mondays?  Look No Further! 

Monday evening was filled with great music at the Museum Shores Yacht Club with Musician’s Network MECCA!  MNM is a "network of Musicians Economically Conscious Creative Association,  committed to the sharing of resources in the music industry."  On Mondays, they bring together some of Chicago’s best jazz musicians at this free To-Do.  

On this particular Monday, I was able to catch Bethany Pickens, who is always a listening pleasure, whether she's playing an original number or a standard.  Panama, featuring Nanette Frank (with Dianne Madison, Mae Koen, Shawn Christopher and Shay Jones), blew me away with Sergio Mendes' "The Real Thing!"  Thank goodness I found my own, personal, tiny dance floor!

MNM offers a wonderful option to Jazzin’ at the Shedd.  Parking is ample at this To-Do (despite the crazy new parking-meters-in-parks thang), as is seating space.  Get there early and sit in the covered space or patio, or bring a lawn chair and set up in the grassy areas.  Cocktails and soft drinks are available for purchase and there is a limited food menu – or, if you prefer, bring your own food and drinks! 

One of the cool things about this To-Do is the wide age range of the jazz lovers!  Jazz vets are clearly in the house, but you’ll also find younger folks represented.  If you’re looking for something laid back for your Monday evening, be sure to give Mondays at the Museum Yacht Club with Musician’s Network MECCA a try! 

Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm.  Get the details

Soleil’s To-Dos 






Sun Spots: Let's Fall In Love

Just hangin' around!

  1. Goodman Annual Gala - Let's Fall In Love!



From the moment I received the invitation, I knew that it would be a very special evening - and indeed, it was!  "Birds do it . . . , Bees do it . . . Let's Fall In Love", the invitation read, with each folded page beckoning me to the next.  In keeping with the Spring-like feel of this popular Cole Porter tune, the weather on the evening of the gala was divine - definitely an auspicious beginning! 

Heather Headley Performs Heather Headley (c) Liz Lauren

The Moulin Rouge room and the Imperial Ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel were decked out and well-stocked with hors d’ouevres, spirits and spirited people! But, the highlight of the evening was Heather Headley!  Heather's performance was outstanding and her voice incredible.  She radiated with warmth, love and authenticity and was clearly in a joyous space with her marriage and recent birth of her son.  Heather seems like a truly lovely person, in addition to being so talented! 

Despite current economic conditions, over 550 enthusiastic patrons attended the Goodman Gala.  The Gala guests were fabulously dressed and donned festive attitudes.   The delicious food, divine decorations and fabulous music were all arranged in support of a good cause:  Goodman’s Education and Community Engagement programs.   Each season, you can count on Goodman Theatre to provide culturally diverse productions.  They also reach out to diverse audiences through their Diversity Night and through their marketing decisions. 

Diversity at the Gala wasn't too evident this year, so get ready for next year and we'll make a real party of it! And at $500 per ticket, you'll definitely want to break out your finest for this annual To-Do


Soleil's To-Dos






Me and Heather Post-Performance





Sun Spots: Simply Social w/ the Buena Vista Social Club

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="163"] Just hangin' around![/caption]


Sun Spots:  Simply Social with Buena Vista Social Club

I planned well in advance, including the preparation of an FAQs page.  One key question I didn't ask and answer:  What if it rains?  I was stumped on that one, choosing instead to hold fast to the belief that Saturday, June 26th would be a perfectly gorgeous day for a Simply Social outing at Ravinia Park - and it was!!!

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="230"] Photo by Lee Bey[/caption]

Our group (predominately dressed in red - with no reminders!) assembled on the Metra platform and boarded the Party Train.  Excitement was definitely in the air!  We started the trip with a lot of chatter, along with Pinot Grigio (although people were clamoring for mojitos!), beef and chicken empanadas from Cafe Cubano.  The train ride was festive, which made the time pass amazingly quickly.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="207"] Lounging on the Lawn[/caption]

Once we gained admission to the park, we settled into our spot, set up our tables, Cuban food and mojitos and commenced to grub down!  Before the concert started, there was plenty of time to chill out, wind down, walk around and visit - all with perfect weather.   The park is vast and merits exploration.  On this particular night, "The World's Largest Lawn Party" was taking place, as well as a dance competition!

Ravinia Park provides a host of dining options, from casual special order "lunchboxes," al fresco dining, as well as a nice variety of concession stands - all at reasonable prices.  However, one of the cool things about Ravinia is that you can take just about anything but grills, weed and crack into the park!  (I exaggerate, but there are very few restrictions.)  So, even when dinner came to an end and the two tubs of mojitos were sucked dry, there was still plenty to drink and many people were equipped with snacks to last through the night.

At 7:30pm, Buena Vista Social Club began to perform, providing the perfect soundtrack to our evening!  Now, don't get me wrong, 'cuz lawn tickets are great, but, sometimes you just gotta get the visual effect, too!  Even if you only purchase lawn tickets, you can make your way up to the pavilion and get a view of the stage.  Ravinia also has two jumbo screens on either side of the stage and those can be seen from portions of the lawn.   Pavilion seats allowed me to get an up-close and personal look at those cool, Cuban cats that comprise the Buena Vista Social Club!  It was fun just to watch them enjoying their music and their interplay with each other.

Buena Vista Social Club is comprised of legendary Cuban musicians.   They informally formed in 1996 with new and aging performers.  While some of these performers have since passed, at 80, Omara Portuonda was in excellent form!  I see the group a bit romantically: they remind me of Awakenings and The Twilight Zone "Kick the Can" episode.  How wonderful to have such an opportunity to introduce Cuban music to so many so much later in life!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="291"] Omara Portuondo[/caption]

(Even if you are not yet a legend, don't give up on your dreams, people!)

The Ravinia Park Festival continues through September 6th and there are still a few cool acts remaining, including Sting (oops - that's been sold out for months!), The Temptations and The Four Tops and George Benson, Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin.  View our select Ravinia Park schedule!


Enjoy more photos by Lee Bey.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="517"] Breathless Anticipation[/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="576"] Patience[/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="576"] Quality time . . . lasting memories[/caption]

Sun Spots: Somi Shines

Just hangin' around!

 Somi was Somethin' Special! 

Typically, as I upload an event relating to a musical performance, I'll listen to some of the performer's music as I work.  As soon as I heard Somi, I knew I had to attend her concert - and she did not disappoint! 

I would describe Somi's sound as jazzy, influenced by African rhythms.  In fact, it occurs to me that her CD "If the Rains Come First" (which, I am unashamed to admit, I have worn completely thin!) is reminiscent of "Princesses Nubiennes" by Les Nubians - very seductive!  "If the Rains Come First," the thirty-one-year-old's third CD, debuted at #2 on Billboard Magazine's World Music Chart.  Her voice is sultry and smooth and she exudes elegance and confidence. 

Grainy photo, GREAT performance!

Somi was born in Champaign, Illinois to parents from Rwanda and Uganda.  With the exception of a few early years spent in Zambia, Somi remained in Illinois through 1998 and currently lives in New York.  Somi is definitely someone who is on the rise and kudos to Sound Culture and the HotHouse for bringing Somi to her first Chicago performance! 

As for the venue, the Shrine, that's a whole different story.  I had been to the Shrine once before and was pretty determined not to return - and I hope I don't feel compelled to return again.  The venue itself is nice, although its Chuck E. Cheese-ish stage is a little odd.  My biggest issue with the Shrine is that its business practices are geared toward youth who get their "swag" from a very superficial VIP status.  Here's the set-up:  the bar is expansive, but there is not a single bar stool;  there are high-boys on the main floor, but no cocktail tables or chairs; there are two roped-off seating areas that are reserved for "bottle service" only.  Bottle service?  Yes - for $200 you can have a $30 bottle of liquor and be a Very Important Person.  Grown folk don't go for that kind of foolishness - regardless of our wealth.  For the hard-core partiers, I still think the practice is pretty silly, but, whatever.  However, for the Somi performance, it was completely inappropriate and no one (except for family) sat in the otherwise empty "VIP" section.  Ordinarily, given the length of this performance, I may have had 2 or 3 cocktails.  In this case, I refused to have even one - purely on principle.  Be warned:  even at a laid back performance geared toward a mature crowd, the Shrine is standing room only.   But, don't let 'em bully you into a bottle. 

Soleil's To-Dos

Sun Spots: Music Without Borders

Just hangin' around!

Stephanie!  Soleil's To-Dos



Music Without Borders at Millennium Park

On Thursday, despite the fact that I was up until 4am, I was determined to make it out to the first night of Music Without Borders.  Well, there have been plenty of instances  when determination didn't stop a little durmido!  It's easy to back out of plans if there's no one sharing your enthusiasm enough to put the screws on you to make sure you show up.  So this time I backed up my determination with a date and had a wonderful time!

Music Without Borders opened its summer season with Dandana: A Celebration of Muslim Voices featuring Tinariwen with Monajat Yulchieva.  The music was lovely with soulful voices, Arabic rhythms and the occasional bit of rap - definitely danceable!  As usual, I spread out on the lawn, but with some groups, you've just got to get the visual, too!  Outdoor theater seating is free, so make sure you at least get close enough to watch at least a portion of each performance. 

During Music Without Borders, the lawn fills up, but is not overly crowded.  Enjoy the music on the great lawn (the great gathering place) - there will be no view of the stage (without a lawn chair), but a great view of the sky! Or take advantage of the open, theater-style seating. Food and beverages are available for purchase - or bring your own.  (Alcoholic beverages are permitted.)  Even if you go to this family-friendly To-Do at the last minute, there are plenty of places in the area to allow you to put together an impromptu picnic! 

Music Without Borders has another wonderful line-up this season, so be sure to take advantage of it!  The series continues on Thursdays from 6:30-9pm through July 22nd.  View more photos.