Dave Biggs

Dave Biggs

Exploring Chicago for all it has to offer..



MB Financial Park at Rosemont is a 200,000 square foot entertainment complex in Rosemont centered around the very popular Muvico Theaters nearby O'Hare Airport.

Although a little difficult to navigate currently, construction will soon wrap up on this dining and entertainment megaplex and it promises to provide something for everyone. Although the list contains everything from billiards and bowling (King's Lanes & Lounge) to full-fledged comedy club (Zanie's), the most attractive offering to many will certainly be Adobe Gila's.

Billing itself as the "Margarita Fajita Cantina", it's impossible not to agree upon walking in to the smell of sizzling spices in their char-grilled fajitas (I recommend the blackened shrimp or mahi for a nice change from the too common chicken or steak) and the huge wooden bar that makes up the majority of the restaurant's 5,000 square feet. 

Along with a few hundred other locals, reviewers, bloggers, and executives I was given the opportunity to attend Adobe Gila's informal opening, a charity event benefitting the Helping Hands Foundation and the American Diabetes Association. 

Sampling the margaritas that the restaurant offers (on draft!) was a real treat, and I know that I'll be back for a few more when I get the opportunity. I was also impressed by the extremely rich selection of tequilas that were offered behind the bar. Whereas I am only intimately familiar with a few brands, Adobe Gila's offers at least 30+ different kinds of tequila that I could see - another enticing reason to return at a later date. 

It must be said that this is more of a bar that also serves food rather than a restaurant that also serves drinks, but the menu items available are definitely a step up from most bar & grills and worked well to compliment the bite and sweetness of the margaritas. In particular, the Baja Coconut Shrimp were a real crowd pleaser and I heard comments all night about the mango sauce that they were served with. I wasn't overly impressed by the chicken wings, and the sauces didn't seem like they were trying too hard, but the grilled quesadillas really hit a good note with me and I also enjoyed the chips & salsa (your choice of up to 5 different dips!). 

It looks like live entertainment will be a staple offering here, and the setup is just perfect for it. The stage is firmly placed to one side of the room so that everyone can hear the band, and the raised platform allows the entire restaurant to have a good view of the action on stage. I can definitely see sitting at the bar for a show here, a margarita in hand, being a regular Friday or Saturday ritual. Keep in mind that there will be several other restaurants and bars opening up in this complex before its grand opening this Summer, but my money is on the Gila to stand the test of time.

Saturday, 04 December 2010 15:06

Dredg shows up headliner at House of Blues

The world is an amazing place - but also, sometimes, pretty lackluster. I had the opportunity to see Dredg at the House of Blues in Chicago last week, but this show was unlike any other show the band has played in Chicago. Since achieving a fair amount of success earlier in their career and being signed to a major record label (Interscope), the band was given little to no promotion and subsequently dropped from Interscope.




Several years ago, Circa Survive went on tour with Dredg as the opening act - but this time around, Dredg opened up for them. An interesting role reversal to say the least - after talking to quite a few people in the crowd, half of the people were huge fans of Dredg and the other half were only attending the concert to watch Circa Survive and had no idea who Dredg was.


The guys from Los Gatos, CA put on a great show - featuring material spanning their discography and introducing the crowd to a new song from their upcoming album. The sound at the House of Blues for Dredg was terrific, and rivaled any other group I've seen at the venue. It was great to see the fans of Circa Survive who had never heard of Dredg getting into their music and generally enjoying themselves. I wasn't originally sure if the genres of music the two bands play were particularly compatible, but I'm happy to have been proven wrong in this instance.


It's very infrequently that an opening band outshines the headliner, but this show belongs in that handful of discrepancies. I would encourage everyone to listen to Dredg, but above all else, you NEED to see a show. Having been a fan of live music since attending my first concert, Dredg is a band that exhudes more pure energy in their performances than any other I've seen. In my opinion Dredg is far overdue to become a household name like Incubus, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc and they have absolutely no business opening up for flavor-of-the-week bands like Circa Survive.. but hey, as long as Dredg is playing music I will go and see them - whatever the ticket may be.. and you should too.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 16:45

Eric Johnson on "Acoustic Masters" Tour


Eric Johnson, Peppino D’Agostino and Andy McKee are setting off on the "Acoustic Masters" tour starting October 21, 2010. Heading through the Midwest to the East Coast and finishing up on multi-date tour of California venues, the three talented guitarists will be bringing their particular brand of acoustic guitar mastery to a town near you. We talked with Eric Johnson briefly about the tour and touched on some other subjects as well.


Can you tell us a little bit about the Acoustic Masters Tour?

Yeah, it’s Peppino D’Agostino, Andy McKee and I – all of us doing a 3-way acoustic thing. It’s going to be fun, we’re doing a few weeks in the midwest and the east coast and then we’re going to do it again in California in January. I’ve toured with Peppino before – I’ve never worked with Andy, but we’ll probably all just do an individual set a piece and then all come out and play a song or two together at the end of the night.

How is it for you to come in and play together with someone new like Andy McKee?

Well, I kinda do it off and on with different people – I’ve never had the opportunity to do it with Andy before or Peppino (though we have toured before), but it’s always nice to do that, you know, just jump in with somebody else and see where it goes. We’ll probably leave the songs we play together kind of open and improv a bit.

Andy McKee gained a lot of popularity on YouTube – what’s your opinion of this new medium and how it’s being used?

I think it’s great – it puts it where it really should be and gives anybody an opportunity to showcase their talent. They’re not under the constraints of who they know, or funds, or anything else. It’s an immediate window.

What have you been listening to lately?

I’m just all over the map – I’ve been checking out Chopan and listening to a bunch of old Motown and Stevie Wonder.. been listening to Sam Cooke a lot lately, trying to check all that out.

Is your playing still being changed and influenced by other sources of inspiration?

I definitely am keeping it open and trying to reinvent myself or to, you know, open up and try to be more musical.

I read that one of your influences was Chet Atkins, do you have other guitar influences from when you were first starting out?

Yeah, yeah – Hendrix was a big influence.. Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Wes Montgomery, John McLaughlin, Les Paul, Jerry Reed, yeah.. I love all those guys.

Jimi Hendrix is often described as an innovative guitar player, but talking to you now.. is he that great of a technical guitarist?

Yeah, there are certain songs that you hear of his that are extremely technically great, and it would be difficult for anyone (no matter how technical they are) to play them as well as he played them. In addition to that, I think that he was such an emotional, innovative player that stuff like that didn’t really rule him. So a lot of that stuff isn’t so technical, but is extremely emotional or extremely different, unique and innovative. I think he really crossed all of those bridges. And in addition, put in perspective what he was playing and doing 43 years ago.. it’s just mind boggling. At the time that he came out - with the knowledge and what we had learned and gained on guitar style and technique at that time... he just came out of left field with something that was light years different, and beyond what anyone else was doing.

Can you tell us a little about your new album?

Yeah, it’s called "Up Close" and it’s 15 pieces of new music. We finished it a couple of nights ago, it’ll be coming out on AMI Records in late October, I think. And so we’ll be touring off of that probably early next year right after the January leg of the acoustic tour finishes up.

Ok, and how does the new album "Up Close" differ from recordings you’ve done in the past?

I think mainly it’s a step in me trying to let go a little bit of it being too "studio-ish". There’s still a little bit of that in there.. there will always be a little bit, but it’s a step towards trying to just perform more in the studio and kinda let go a bit. We had other artists guest on it as well and try to let it just go where it’s gonna go. It really brought a different type of integrity to what’s going on. I’m kinda looking to go that way more in the future.

What guests did you have on this album?

Sonny Landreth, Jimmie Vaughan played on songs, Steve Miller sang on a tune and Jonny Lang as well.

We’re looking forward to the show in Chicago, thank you for giving us a moment of your time!


Guitar Masters tour itinerary:

Oct 1                        Milwaukee, WI                                    Northern Lights Theater
Oct 2                        Indianapolis, IN                                  Clowes Memorial Hall
Oct 3                        Ann Arbor, MI                                    The Ark
Oct 6                        Salina, KS                                            Stiefel Theatre
Oct 7                        Iowa City, IA                                       Englert Theatre
Oct 8                        Kansas City, MO                                Uptown Theatre
Oct 9                        Rochester, MN                                   Mayo Civic Center
Oct 10                      Evanston, IL                                       Space
Oct 13                      Phoenixville, PA                                 Colonial Theatre
Oct 14                      Lebanon, NH                                       Lebanon Opera House
Oct 15                      Bethesda, MD                                     Music Center at Strathmore
Oct 16                      Westhampton Beach, NY                  Performing Arts Center
Oct 17                      Ridgefield, CT                                    Ridgefield Playhouse
Jan 14                      San Luis Obispo, CA                        Spano Theatre
Jan 15                      Mission Viejo, CA                             Norman P. Murray Center
Jan 16                      San Rafael, CA                                    Marin Center
Jan 17                      Visalia, CA                                          Fox Theatre
Jan 19                      Arcata, CA                                          Van Duzer Theater
Jan 20                      Chico, CA                                            Laxson Auditorium
Jan 21                      Napa, CA                                             Opera House


Tuesday, 22 June 2010 17:30

Killer Joe: Rethinking Theater

Killer Joe Show PageWhen I was younger, I thought that plays were these boring events that boring adults went to when they felt like socializing with other boring adults.

As I’ve grown older (and wiser?) I have come to learn that sometimes this premise is not too far off from the truth.. but in the case of Killer Joe, “boring” could not possibly describe one second of this masterpiece written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts.

The Smiths hire “Killer” Joe Cooper (Darrell W. Cox), a detective who moonlights as a hitman, in order to cash in on a scheme hatched by the troubled son, Chris (Kevin Bigley). Chris gets himself into a situation where he owes some money to a group of local thugs, and to get out of it he persuades his father Ansel (Howie Johnson) to hire Killer Joe Cooper for the murder his biological mother (whom Ansel has long since divorced). The insurance policy is set to go to Dottie (Claire Wellin), Chris’s mentally unbalanced sister. Sharla (Somer Benson), Ansel’s new wife, is also in on the deal – and the Smiths tentatively agree to split the money.

Killer Joe @ The Royal George Theater

Of course, everything does not quite go according to plan – and this results in a lot of pain and suffering for everyone involved. The Royal George Theater is not admitting guests under 17 for this performance, and for good reason – nudity, graphic violence, and adult language abound in this production. But that’s not to say that they are without reason.. in fact, these scenes are absolutely necessary in order to believe that this family exists in a real space – because every moment of what happens on stage is incredibly real.

The best aspects of theater were in play here: broad swings of emotion, twists and turns, comedy, tragedy, staging, lighting, effects, etc. In fact, the players in this production were so talented that I find myself unable to pick out individual moments of the piece to talk about.

What I will say is that the use of the set and props in Killer Joe was head and shoulders above any other production I’ve seen in recent memory. The actors brewed real coffee, smoked real cigarettes, ate real chicken, and watched real television (this and other aspects of the direction were surely the work of the brilliant Rick Snyder). For me, this took the play an extra step towards reality.. and wow, reality can be a scary place.

This is a play about a family. Sure, it’s a dysfunctional family living in a dilapidated trailer and hiding quite a few skeletons and more than one bag of dirty laundry.. but a family nonetheless. Plenty of attention is paid to the character development here, and that really shines through. Anyone and everyone who appreciates good theater should find their way to the Royal George Theater and see Killer Joe.
Saturday, 29 May 2010 13:19

Crisis: A Game Show Revolution!


From the Neo-Futurists website:

Do you have what it takes to lord over your employees or are you doomed to a life in the mailroom? Find out in the Neo-Futurists' new interactive live musical game show. CRISIS is modeled after classic game shows of the 70's, 80's and 90's, challenging players in areas of corporate ethics, percentages, creative potential, economics, and of course, pop culture. Players climb the corporate ladder and the top executive takes home up to a third of the door sales in cash! (With a sell-out house, that means over 500 bucks to a single winner!) Also, 3% of all ticket sales are donated to charities of the winners' choice.

From the moment you walk in to the Neo-Futurarium (5153 N. Ashland Ave. -- corner of Foster and Ashland Aves -- Chicago, IL 60640-2831 -- Show Hotline: 773-275-5255), you're aware that something memorable is about to happen. The floor twists and turns down a hallway lined with wonderfully bizarre pictures leading to "The Kitchen", where tickets are purchased and you are presented with the option of taking a scantron test to be a contestant on the show. In the next room, projectors shine the test questions on surfaces scattered about the room (walls, ceilings, etc) while members of the troupe entertain and amuse.

The questions on the test ranged from movie trivia about Back to the Future to political history to physics.. it certainly takes a well-rounded individual to achieve a great score and win the right to play the game that evening.

With the tests complete and the top contestants read off, everyone files into the theatre itself to begin the evening's festivities! I won't spoil the show, but it was easily the most entertaining couple of hours I've had in a long time. Players compete in a series of off-the-wall games and competitions almost designed to be unfair (but in a good way.. not sure what that means? I"m not really either!). There are a scattering of well-performed musical numbers, backed up by the very talented band (who also add to the performance in a variety of ways, including at one point in the show when there were some technical difficulties and they had to kill a little time with an improv jam that I would call "Technical Difficulties"), and all of the performers absolutely killed their respective parts.

What's not to like about the topics discussed in the show? Globalization? Socio-Economics? Why not learn a little bit while having a night out on the town.. And what other show gives you the possibility to make hundreds of dollars in cash as an end result? Gripping.

I liked this show more than I like Mint Chocolate Chip icecream.. and that's my favorite flavor. I'll be seeing more of the Neo-Futurists, and I have no doubt that they will continue to be successful in their endeavors.

Monday, 03 May 2010 11:58

Transatlantic Thrills Chicago!

Transatlantic takes a bow after their frenzied show at the Park West in Chicago (photo by Tom Crambes)

Music lovers need to be aware of this amazing Whirlwind of a band on tour - Transatlantic is the combined artistry of Neal Morse (formerly in Spock's Beard), Roine Stolt (from the Flower Kings), Pete Trewavas (Marillion), and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater). Currently on a small US tour supporting their most recent album, The Whirlwind, Transatlantic plays a combination of progressive and psychedelic rock conjuring up bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Genesis.

Originally forming and releasing their first album SMPTe in 2000, Transatlantic now has a total of 3 albums and usually does a short tour after releasing a new disc. In this case, they're doing 5 concerts in North America and 17 in Europe. Fans of the supergroup have been waiting for a tour for quite a few years now and definitely came out en force to the Park West in Chicago.

There was no opening act and Transatlantic played for several hours - opening with the title track from their new album, The Whirlwind. The entire concert hall was singing along with the band and this left no doubt in my mind that most of the people in attendance could be called dedicated fans. Filling out the sound was Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), who added backing vocals, guitar, and percussion to the mix.

Highlights of the show were "Is it Really \Happening", "All of the Above", "Bridge Across Forever", and (because it was Mike Portnoy's birthday) there was a good amount of horseplay during the middle of the concert and the band all started up with "Birthday" by the Beatles and got the crowd jesting with Portnoy as well. The Park West is an amazing venue to see such a high caliber band at because of the intimacy of the show. At a concert where there are only about 700 seats, one would not expect to be able to see such amazing musicianship as witnessed here in Transatlantic.

Of course all of these musicians will be going back to their regular gigs after this tour ends - but I can only hope that there won't be such a large wait until the next album release and mini tour! If you can catch Transatlantic before they have finished this tour - do yourself a favor... Go, go, go, go!



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