Chicago Club Celebrates Anniversary Merging New Sound with Old School Influence

Tuesday, 29 May 2012 18:35 Written by  Iya Bakare

In the midst of an economic recession three years ago, Chicago native and club owner Joe Russo created a mecca to pay homage to the Nigerian legend Fela Kuti and to lovers of Hip Hop, R&B, Funk and Afrobeats. The Shrine, Chicago’s South Loop premiere nightclub and lounge, features both mainstream and local, up-and-coming artists. On Friday, two worlds became one as the club’s celebration brought Hip Hop icons De La Soul and Chicago-based musicians Sidewalk Chalk.

“We pay close attention to classic Hip Hop, and De La Soul and Sidewalk Chalk were a perfect fit for us,” Joe comments. “We also pay attention to up-and-coming artists in Chicago.”

Joe says he was introduced to Sidewalk Chalk about two years ago, not long after the eight-member band initially formed back in 2009. Rico Sisney, vocalist and emcee of the band, says members of the band met as Columbia College students. As an opener for De La Soul, the group brought an innovative sound and twist to the Hip Hop genre and to the club.

“Our sound is the evolution of Soul, Hip Hop and Jazz,” comments Maggie Vagle, vocalist of Sidewalk Chalk.

Fronted by MC K’neqta Dots (Rico) and S-Star (Maggie), the band (Charlie Coffen on keys, Garrett McGinn on bass, Tyler Berg on drums, Sam Trump on trumpet, David Ben-Porat on trombone and Jumaane Taylor on taps) admit its sound is influenced by various genres and artists, both old and new. From Stevie Wonder to Robert Glasp er and everything in-between, Sidewalk Chalk gives props to those who they admire and are on their personal playlists.

“We listen to anything that pushes the limit,” David comments.

With the recent release of their first CD Corner Store, the group says it brought them to a new level of solidarity as they continue to share their mutual respect for one another.

“Our sound is cohesive, but it also represents the different sides of who we are,” David adds. “We wanted to make our project sound different from our live shows, but to bring the same energy and intensity. Our brand is our bread and butter.”

As they embark on their first tour since the release of Corner Store on June 1, Charlie says the band looks forward to creating more albums and traveling more to share their work with the world.

As the economy improves, Joe says he plans to continue to promote local talent and bring great music to Chicago.

“It’s a labor of love to support home-grown talent,” he says. “The Shrine is committed to supporting great music and is a great hub for the South Loop.”

Photos from The Shrine Courtesy of Richard Pack Photography

Sidewalk Chalk. Photo by Kristie Kahns


Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare, GMO's managing editor, earned both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in print journalism. She earned her B.A. from Delta State University with a minor in English and graduated with a M.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago. In her spare time, the Chicago native continues to freelance and ponder ways to both inform and improve her community one story at a time.

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