Rockwell Crossing House of Folk

Amongst both singer/songwriters and folk enthusiasts, it’s becoming less and less of a well-kept secret that living rooms are the best venues around for live music. Performers are likely to benefit from an attentive audience in an intimate setting, with no interference from a business-oriented middle man who all too often comprehends marketing concepts such as promotion and audience draw but not so much what makes for quality music.

What makes for a quality house concert?

Part of the appeal of one house concert series, the Rockwell Crossing House of Folk in Lincoln Square, is that the proprietor, Jack Price, happens to be one of the city’s leading soup entrepreneurs. His house concert series features an optional potluck. Of course, he also picks out great music from amongst his favorite local and touring acts.

Some will also say that a quality house concert also should involve a quality house cat.

Joey, the Bouncer at Rockwell Crossing House of Folk

On March 13, Rebecca Sometimes led off the night’s music the way many others might have ended it- with a lullaby. "Oh, good," Jack jests, pretending to nod off to sleep. Ms. Sometimes eased into a mellow version of "Night-Oh-Night" accompanied by only her voice and her acoustic guitar. Though the stripped down arrangement may have lacked the pulse of the Sometimes Family Band’s Phil Merker on drums, Joey the cat marked time metronomically with a feline wave of the tail. "Right-oh-right, all the way to paradise/ I will meet you there," Sometimes closed the first tune. The host and everyone else were still very much awake and attentive.

Sometimes then launched into "If This is Love," a jazzy and soulful original ballad (think Etta James’ "At Last") that validated her solid grounding in the musical roots that inspire her current music, and then "Red Riders" from her recent Sometimes Family album, before offering some insight into her stage psyche leading into the tune "Rabbit."

"Sometimes the rabbit is on a motorcycle, other times it's on a bike. I can’t decide... it depends on my mood."

There was at least one serendipitous moment in the set which would otherwise have gone unnoticed in a more bustling venue. During "What Am I To Do," one of Rebecca Sometimes’ new tunes, she reached a short instrumental caesura- which Joey the house cat occupied with a perfectly-timed "MEOW!"- his only comment of the night. The first set closed after Sometimes worked patiently through several more songs, each time capitalizing on her unique opportunity to hit soaring and soulful highs without ever really needing to pick up the volume.

After a brief break for desert (there was enough apple strudel and brownies that audience members didn’t have to choose just one or the other), Howie Kantoff counted off time to launch Starina’s act- another rare treat featuring a rock duo playing a low-key unplugged set. Despite stomping with his right foot on a phantom bass drum pedal that didn’t exist for this gig, drummer Howie complemented Starina to create a full sound even without the bass player who ordinarily rounds out the trio. The sound was too full for Joey, who abandoned his seat and scurried away. After their fourth tune ended with a cymbal crash, it occurred to Starina to ask the host, "Do you have neighbors below?" Jack answered this the way any savvy house concert host should. "Yes, but I invited them."

Oxymoronic as it may sound, Starina at age 28 has a distinction of being a "young veteran" of the music scene, having already hit many of the better known venues in Chicago and having been featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered. But, unlike her January show at Bottom Lounge (preceded by a promotional email noting, "Rock will be made. Please bring your own helmet,") this set showcased her ability to convey emotional intensity (her MySpace catchline: "washing her dirty linen in public") without cranking up the volume and without the benefit of Jeff Freling, her band’s low frequency fanatic on bass. Selflessly, she even indulged a request from her drummer.

"Do you want to do 'Broken Moon?'"

"Oh god, I hate that song." she fretted briefly. "But we’ll play it." This led to an encore, and a few songs later, the night came to a close.

Rebecca Sometimes

Why are these photos so blurry, you might ask? Because checking out these performers live in person is much better than reading about them in a blog. To see Rebecca Sometimes and Starina in high definition:

The Sometimes Family Band (Rebecca Sometimes)
Beat Kitchen
Thursday, April 29 @ 11 PM
2100 West Belmont
Chicago, IL

Reggie’s Rock Club
Saturday, May 29 @ 9 PM
2109 S. State
Chicago, IL

The Rockwell Crossing House of Folk is a monthly house concert series. Contact us to RSVP. Coming next:

Eric Nassau
Rockwell Crossing House of Folk
Friday, April 30 @ 7 pm
Chicago, IL ShareThis

Comments (3)


Do the Nicktators have a website with listed music for listening? Go ahead and send an e-mail with the link to the band's website:

Thanks for your interest.

Thanks for the great review, Rob. Anyone who is interested in playing a house show should send their info to me @, preferably with a link to samples and some possible dates. We are trying to keep the concerts on Saturdays and Sundays to maximize the accompanying potluck action. But sometimes a weeknight works, too.

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