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2014’s Best and Worst in Chicago Pop Culture

From a Bowie retrospective to a bumbled music fest, here’s all the grin- and cringe-inducing pop moments of 2014.

Kanye and Common at the inaugural Aahh! Fest   Photo: Travas Machel

For better or for worse, 2014 happened. Ice buckets were dumped. Selfies were taken. The Bears were unbearable, again.

Through all of it, Chicago’s pop savants stayed busy. As 2015 and its own pop mysteries loom—will Kanye West ever release that new album?—here are the moments from music, film, and TV that stuck out in 2014.

The Best

David Bowie Is

By nabbing the sole U.S. date of the Victoria and Albert’s touring Bowie retrospective, the oft-snubbed Museum of Contemporary Art generated a wealth of national attention for itself and Chicago. The exhibit is open through January 4; if you haven’t seen it yet, now’s the time.

Chicagoans take over television

On top of Seth Meyers’s move to Late Night in February, 11 Chicagoans earned Golden Globe nominations in television, including Jill Soloway (Transparent) and Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin).

Aahh! Fest arrives

With a star-studded lineup and a surprise-but-not-really-a-surprise visit from Kanye, Common’s inaugural hip-hop festival took the summer-fest cake in 2014. (Relive the action with Chicago’s photos and coverage of the festival.)

The South Side gets new venues

By opening Thalia Hall in Pilsen and the Promontory in Hyde Park, the Empty Bottle crew began to address a dearth of music venues south of Roosevelt.

A film about a film critic

Faced with the daunting task of making a film about a film critic, the local documentarians at Kartemquin knocked their Roger Ebert biopic Life Itself out of the park and into Oscar contention.

Serial reigns supreme

The first season of WBEZ’s true-crime podcast and This American Life spin-off captured the hearts and headphones of podcast devotees and first-timers alike this fall. Didn’t follow along? Binge away.

Hannibal vs. Cosby

After a video of Chicago comic Hannibal Buress riffing on Bill Cosby’s multiple rape allegations went viral in October, Cosby faced new scrutiny resulting in multiple show cancelations, a lawsuit, new allegations, and, effectively, the end of his career.

The Worst

EDM takes a hit

Between Frankie Knuckles’s untimely death, the city’s ban on electronic music at the Congress, Spring Awakening Festival’s new 18-plus age limit, and a Skrillex concert at Navy Pier that left 16 hospitalized, 2014 will go down as one of the worst years ever for EDM in Chicago.

Lucas unveils his lakefront pile

The first rendering of George Lucas’s lakefront narrative art museum doesn’t just resemble a blobfish. It resembles a 400,000-square-foot blobfish.

Riot Fest Fumbles

Plagued by bad weather and a cluster-prone layout, what could have been the best festival of the summer—that lineup!—was instead a muddy disaster. (Check out our reporting and photos for proof.)

The Real World returns

The 30th season of The Real World—the second to be set in Chicago—premiered this month, and, unsurprisingly, it is even worse the second time around.

Hungry Brain shutters

After 17 years of lovable frump, the Roscoe Village dive closed this month, displacing multiple live lit and music events, including Umbrella Music’s weekly jazz showcase Transmission.

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