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Five Great Things to Do in Chicago This Week

Arcade, Video, and Game Room Expo 2016, Master Drawings Unveiled, Midnight Circus in the Parks, Oh, Coward!, and Ryley Walker Record Release Show

TWILIT REVELRY Midnight Circus in the Parks hits Englewood this weekend.  

The Five

Don’t-miss picks for Wednesday, August 24 through August 30, 2016

1 Arcade, Video, and Game Room Expo 2016

Convention: Retro gamers rejoice. This massive event features more than 200 classic arcade games, all set to “free play” mode. Quarter-pushing big shots like Billy Mitchell (famously antagonized in the video game doc The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters) will be in attendance, along with an A-list of all-time high-score holders. If you collect vintage gaming cabinets, a variety of vendors will be there to help feed your habit.
8/25–27. $30–$60. Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel, Rosemont. avgrexpo.com

2 Master Drawings Unveiled

Art:For more than a century, the Art Institute of Chicago has quietly collected some of the world’s best drawings by Renaissance and contemporary masters. Never before displayed in the museum, the works in this treasure-hunt exhibition include the toxic gaze of Jean Delville’s La Méduse and a study for Caillebotte’s iconic 1877 painting Paris Street; Rainy Day.
8/27–1/29. $14–$25. Art Institute of Chicago. artic.edu

3 Midnight Circus in the Parks

Circus:When the clock strikes midnight, this 10-year-old tradition takes to the high wire to raise money for the Chicago Park District. Acts include aerialists, jugglers, hoop dancers, and an impressive pooch named Junebug Jenkins.
8/27–28. $5–$20. Ogden Park. midnightcircus.net

4 Oh, Coward!

Theater:The dry-martini wit of Noel Coward turns to song in Roderick Cook’s elegant revue showcasing the playwright’s whip-smart words on sex, women, England, and the follies of all. You needn’t be a Coward fan to appreciate the music—but an appetite for droll humor will help.
8/25–9/18. $22–$42. Dead Writers Theatre Collective at Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. deadwriters.net

5 Ryley Walker Record Release Show

Folk:Ryley Walker’s jazz-injected fingerstyle guitar takes him further and further afield each year—but Chicago remains his home base. Where better, then, to toast his new album (Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, out last week on Dead Oceans) than the Bottle, a venue that considers him “damn near family”?
8/25 at 9 p.m. $10. The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. emptybottle.com

What I’m Doing This Weekend

Ryley Walker
Ryley Walker Photo: Dusdin Condren, Courtesy of Dead Oceans

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals: Ryley Walker, who’s latest album, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, came out August 19 on Dead Oceans. Walker celebrates the album’s release with a performance at the Empty Bottle on Thursday, August 25.

“A lot of the songs on this record have been in the works for almost a year and a half, so it’s exciting to finally have them all out there. We recorded last Christmas at Minbal Studios, out on the West Side—it’s a great place to get out and isolate yourself, especially when everything is keyed up over the holidays. I hang out with a lot of people from the musical improv scene here, and that really informs my songwriting. In the past, we’ve gotten pretty jam-happy in the studio, but this record is more composed. But that’s not going to stop us from really opening up when we perform—we love to get out on stage and just play.

“There are two great bands opening for us at the Bottle: TALsounds, which is Natalie Chami making some really far-out synth music, and Luggage, which is my buddy Michael Vallera’s band. They play some really noisy, angular rock tunes. I feel like shows in Chicago typically have some diversity in the lineup, which is awesome—I hate going to a show and just seeing, like, three of the same band play.

“Being a part of that scene, I try to support as many of my fellow musicians as I can. I really think that’s half of being an artist—going out and getting your brain switched on by someone else’s work. Places like Constellation and Hungry Brain always have good jazz combos. I also like Cafe Mustache a lot—they have a lot of up-and-comers there. I’m always on the look out for people like Tim Stine—an amazing jazz guitarist—and sax player Nick Mazarella, because they just bring it every time they play. Also, the guys who perform with me on tour have their own band called Health & Beauty. They never disappoint live, and they just put out an awesome new record called No Scare.

“When I’m not touring or playing music, you can usually find me either at the Empty Bottle or at the Rainbo Club on Damen. Being at Rainbo is like Saved By the Bell or something—there’s the original crew, the next generation, and so on. Generations and generations of Chicago musicians have called that place home base. A lot people don’t like that kind of divey bar, but it feels like home to me. For a quick bite, Odge’s on Damen does a great hot dog. Late night, I’ve been known to swing by Don’s Grill on Western. It’s a total dump—with all due respect—but it’s cheap and open late, and sometimes you just need some decent biscuits and gravy to make it through a long night.” —As told to John Hardberger

Freebie of the Week

In the Wurkz

Dance:Local footwork dance trailblazer Jamal “Litebulb” Oliver and his crew, the Era, premiere this piece—an on-stage fusion of dance, film, music, and poetry—funded by a $15,000 Chicago Dancemakers Forum grant.
8/27 at 4 p.m. Free. Hamilton Park. chicagodancemakers.org

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