After opting against the bus and making the trip on foot, we arrived at South Union Arts, for the first time, just after the show started.
South Union is an old, small one-room church. Pews have been replaced with fold-down theater seats and the small stage holds a projector screen for the weekly film nights. The stage is absent of the Rev. A. Sharp, who was advertised on the fading sign outside. Inside, the walls are now covered with pictures, paintings, and other art.
Within the first few minutes of listening to Pat Ford play and looking around, I had already decided that this was the most interesting and comfortable Chicago venue I'd visited.
Although Pat claimed he was far from his 'A' game, his talent was still clearly visible. Later in the night, Chris commented that "he played four chords I didn't know…in a row!" Pat spends most of his time fronting Asian Man indie rock band Colossal, but holds his own just fine with only an acoustic guitar. One of the highlights of his set was a song about living in your parents' house, which coincidentally all three performers for the night do. After several heartfelt songs, backed by some beautiful guitar work, Pat left the stage and we left our seats.
As the lights came on, I was greeted by the most surprising sight of the evening. Neon Jesus…hanging above the stage.
The back room was covered wall-to-wall with a screened poster exhibit, including many available for purchase, comprised mostly of old Fireside Bowl posters.
Finally we returned as a man named Chris (I didn't catch his last name) was starting. After the intricacy of some of Pat's work, Chris was a bit boring to listen to. His style was primarily simple, open-chord strumming, although he had an interesting voice. After his brief set, Mike Park took the stage.
Obviously the highlight of the night, Mike put on a great show. He opted to stand in front of the stage, rather than on it and there was plenty of crowd interaction. The whole place had the feeling of a gathering of friends rather than a show and Mike put out an invitation to anyone that wanted to join him at a local bar afterwards.
Those that have seen Mike live have probably seen the movie he plays in the background while he performs. Usually it is a movie that starts out about music and heroes and bridges into facts about racial stereotypes and finally about Plea for Peace. Now he also has a video comprised of home movie footage from his childhood. He was a damn cute kid too.
In addition to songs off of both For the Love of the Music and North Hangook Falling, he also provided a few surprises. The second or third song he performed was a cover of Billy Bragg's "New England" that had several people, including myself, singing along. He also reached back in time to pull out a Skankin' Pickle cover ("I'm in Love With a Girl Named Spike") and the early "Don't Sit Next to Me."
Mike always puts on a great show, and the venue just made it that much better. I encourage anyone in the Chicago area to visit South Union Arts if you get a chance.