I never really appreciated music until I moved to Evanston.
Without going into graphic detail, I’ll admit that my playlists have always been filled with more pop songs than I care to identify. Music was something I merely listened to and sang along with. It wasn’t something I appreciated.
Living in Evanston, however, has changed my outlook.
My daughter takes piano lessons at and my sons are in a band (together! Who knew?) at . One plays drums and the other plays bass guitar. As I witness each of my children grow up while developing musical skills I never acquired, I've come to see how many opportunities Evanston offers to soak up the talents of so many brilliant musicians around town.
A prime example: how fortunate are we to have Nora O’Connor as a fellow Evanstonian?
Who’s Nora O’Connor? Glad you asked…here you go.
Earlier this month, O'Connor was one of three amazing musicians featured at a backyard bonfire party hosted by Karen and Kirby Callam to raise money for . Guests were treated to a magical performance by a musical trio of three Washington parents: Nora O’Connor, Karen Callam and Jeff Libman. I recorded this video of Nora singing solo, as well as the trio singing “Tenderness On The Block” and “If You Want Me”. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.
A few days after the fundraiser, one of my sisters treated me to an evening at Union Pizzeria and the attached music venue, , to see one of her favorite artists, Kelly Hogan. A few years back, Kelly performed at my sister’s wedding, and all the guests talked about how Kelly was famous because she'd performed with the artist Neko Case ("Who?" I'd asked.). Two of my most enduring memories from my sister's wedding include 1) how beautiful she looked and 2) what an amazing talent Kelly Hogan was. I’d spent that entire evening twirling my daughter on the dance floor, singing along with this woman I’d never hear on a Top 40 station--and I absolutely loved it. Still, I thought, I’ll probably never hear Kelly Hogan again…
And then she came to SPACE in Evanston.
I have very few words to describe Kelly Hogan's performance, but I took might explain where words fail. I only wish I’d had enough memory to record the entire song.
Kelly Hogan – and Nora O’Connor, who just happened to accompany Hogan at SPACE on June 8 – are two of many musical powerhouses sharing their talents in Evanston.
Last week I reached out to Hogan, hoping to find out what she thought of performing in Evanston. Through her publicist, she sent this message:
"I love playing at SPACE! When my band The Flat Five first played there, we thought ‘oh man, it looks so fancy -- is it gonna be a good time?’. The answer is a resounding, YES. The club treats bands like kings in their gorgeous backstage (I'm not exaggerating -- the backstage is PLUSH people!) and everyone is super-gracious, all-around. It's a great room for music, whether you're whipping it out onstage, or drinking wine and letting the music wash over you in the audience (I saw a lovely show there with Lucy Wainwright Roche and her mom, Suzzy Roche.) It's an intimate room, with wide-open sight lines, and every seat is pretty much close to the stage. The food is killer too -- no need to have separate dinner plans anywhere else. It's nice that it's close to Chicago, but far enough away for a "date night" to feel a little bit "exotic" -- which those of us in long-term relationships know goes a lonnnng way... SPACE ROCKS!"
The Chicago Tribune glowingly reviewed Hogan’s concert at SPACE, describing her as a "stunning interpreter of songs" who is "at the height of her powers as a vocalist". Critic Chrissie Dickinson also name-checked "local legend" Nora O’Connor!
Clearly, I wasn’t the only one recording Kelly that night: here she is singing “Papa Was A Rodeo” as the crowd sings along.
What I’ve seen in my fifteen years in Evanston are the many opportunities for people young and old to achieve their dreams, whether it’s opening up a business, training to become a performer, or graduating from some of the finest schools in the country. I'm inspired every time I listen to my kids practice or perform (such as this recent evening when Henry played bass with a Boocoo blues ensemble).
It remains to be seen if even one of them will become a musician, but it’s a wonderful feeling to see them surrounded by so many fine examples, right in their own hometown.