On Thursday night, I went to a more intimate music “festival.” It wasn’t in Grant Park but at the Land and Sea Dept., the restaurant group behind Longman & Eagle, Lost Lake Tiki and Parson’s Chicken & Fish. The event was the COLLiDE Travel With Purpose Chicago Release Party, which brought together local musicians, notable breweries and food brands for a night of art, food, networking and celebrating Chicago culture.
Collide is an interactive collection of city guides curated by local bands, artists and tastemakers that released its Chicago recommendations from Ajani Jones, Post Animal, In Tall Buildings, Dehd, The Life and Times, Slow Mass, PEEL, Air Credits, Deeper, Jessica Risker, and White Mystery. View their favorite city choices here.
The location was a brick warehouse off the beaten path between East Garfield Park and West Town, the kind of place where the exterior doesn’t tell you a thing about what’s going on inside. What I found was relaxed—real—and undeniably Chicago. The atmosphere was big enough to be impressive, intimate enough to be exclusive with a few choice vendors (more on that below) and not a million. And of course, a musical lineup with talent worthy of that other stage downtown.
The tunes began with a psychedelic DJ set by White Mystery, the Chicago band known for raucous rock n’ roll. Then the music took a different flavor as rising rapper Ajani Jones took the stage. Hailing from the South Side, Jones recently released the EP Cocoons with the Chicago hip-hop label, Closed Sessions. Known for nimble and moving rhymes, Jones flowed not at but with the audience in a passionate and powerful set. The refrain, “You can’t hide from God,” particularly punctured the air, a very real reminder to pay attention, before “Solo Sam” took the act to a smooth finish.
As the headliners set up, a glowing, industrial eco display called out to me featuring Brew Dr. Kombucha. Their flavor line up in brown, glass bottles was both charming and intimidating. I sampled Ginger Turmeric, surprisingly smooth and earthy, and Clear Mind—happy, minty and green!
Invigorated was just the right mood for headliners Dehd. Seriously, the female-fronted three-piece delivered surf rock like rolling, ocean waves. There was even a sweet breeze in the venue. Paradise.
Where did these artists come from? I spoke to Frances Welch, assistant to the Vice President of COLLiDE. “Everyone we invited is part of the heart and roots of the city. They’re integral to the music scene and the community,” Welch said.
Grassroots. This explains the other half of this exceptional evening: grass fed and finished beef courtesy of Pre.
This was the polar opposite of catered appetizer bites; it was dinner you could serve yourself: sesame Korean chuck roast, barbecue sesame sirloin skewers, coconut lime fruit salad and spicy cabbage slaw—a flavor quartet (the beef in particular) that collided perfectly.
As people sat down on wooden boxes, grabbing seconds and thirds, it felt like an underground dinner party. I asked Pre, whose beef I’ve seen at grocery stores around the city, what brought them here.
“We’re proud to be part of this event. It represents Chicago—special, underground places and artists the locals know. This is our city,” said Kristen Wilk, Pre’s communications marketing manager.
She added that Pre is special to Chicago because it’s a leader in the growing food startup scene that brings fresh, healthy beef from New Zealand and Australia.
“We’re a small group of passionate foodies striving to empower people to choose high-quality foods that taste amazing and that healthfully fuel their lifestyle—people who live that lifestyle themselves and want to share it with others. The potential is endless,” she said.
Drinks: Part Two
The Blue Velvet Slushy consisted of Deep Eddy Vodka, Blueberry, Lavender, and Brew Dr. LOVE Kombucha. Verdict: every event ever should include a slushy machine. Full of pride (and food) I heard, “You have to try this slushee” whispers in the crowd. Oh, yes. Revolution Brewing and Topo Chico were also keeping everyone refreshed.
While far away from the hyped Lolla stage, COLLiDE was no less epic in creative possibility. I left proud to live in a city where you can still create great things from scratch.
Featured photo: Francis Scott Key White of White Mystery.
Disclaimer: Currently and in the past, I have written for food and beverage brands including Pre, but all opinions here are completely my own.