CAT | Entertainment



Changing Taste for Street Performers

by Dave Brankin

The thirtieth annual Taste of Chicago is an enormous production. Vast crowds, mighty portions and soaring heat indexes are some of the mainstay characteristics of the world’s largest ten-day food festival. A great venue to satisfy that hard to quench craving for fried alligator, the Taste is also a destination for those looking to find some of the more unusual talents in the city.

Street performers have become one of the Taste’s understated and beloved attractions in past years. Along the outskirts of Grant Park passersby are likely to glimpse a diverse lineup of one to two men shows featuring everything from puppeteers to the Tin Man. Each year performers young and old don their flashiest attire in hopes of winning the attention of an audience constantly on the move.

But for Taste of Chicago and street performance veterans like Emmett Miller, the Taste is changing. At the corner of Michigan and Van Buren, Miller’s artfully constructed balloon figures sway above the hundreds of heads filing into the park to see Thursday’s musical headliner, Trey Songz. In past years Miller’s balloons and accompanying magic tricks roused and puzzled Taste goers from inside the park. This year, however, street performers are being relegated back to their most frequented stage, the street.

For Emmett Miller, the decision of Taste organizers to keep the majority of performers outside of the festival is understandable, but disappointing. “We pay the $100 permit fee like every year, but the sites are being moving further and further away from where the people are,” says Miller, referencing a map of the festival grounds.

A few performance sites still remain within the park, but they are in what Miller describes as “wastelands,” void of much foot traffic and reprieve from the sunshine. It’s very important to pay attention to your venue, says Miller, whose partner and first time Taste performer went ill from the heat earlier in this week.

The difficulties for street performers like Miller don’t end with the weather or the relocation. As crowds break into the millions and temperatures climb, public safety is the first concern of Taste organizers and their partners, the Chicago police.

Perhaps the ultimate irony of Miller’s craft, as his audience grows the more likely it becomes that the police or security persons will interrupt the show, he says. Large concentrations of people have been areas of tensions in the past, and if Police believe him to be a potential source of the tension they step in, Miller says. But he insists that police aren’t the enemy of the street performer, applauding their efficiency and oft willingness to work with rather than against the performers.

While Miller would rather perform his magic and make balloon art within the park, he ultimately understands this year’s changes to be for the sake of safety. As long as everyone’s safe, we’ll continue to perform no matter where we are, he says. “And so I always tell the cops, ‘I hope you have a very uneventful day.’”

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By: Crystal Lee

“When you want something so bad that you just can’t say no and you think that you got it all figured out but you just don’t. When you have nothing left and you feel that they have won, well, don’t put the gloves down, don’t put the gloves down.”

The chorus of the track, “The Gloves” comes through my speakers as I send an @ reply to R.O.E., hoping that he will be interested in doing an interview. To my surprise, he responds, giving me his email address. After a short introduction, he gives me his availability and his cell number so that the interview can happen soon. My first attempt to do an interview is halted by a show and after a second attempt I decided it will be easier to complete everything through email.

Roosevelt Sledge is a local hip hop artist who has been making music since the 2009 release of his single “The Gloves (No Quit)” featuring Chris Mathien, another Chicago artist. Now 22-years-old, Sledge is a college student working to build a following of fans by performing at venues all over Chicago. He is determined to continue with his career no matter what challenges he might face.

Sledge is currently pursuing a college degree through Devry University’s online classes, where his major is Business Information Systems. He plans to use the degree he receives as a backup, in case music fails. He’s a part time student and although it’s difficult, he makes time for both music and school.

“It’s tough sometimes with the music schedule and travel but having online classes is convenient because I can take them wherever I am,” he said.

Throughout his childhood he was surrounded by music and by the time he was a teenager, he realize that making music was something that he wanted to do.

“I grew up around music. She [My mom] had music in my life, all my life so it’s had an effect on my soul sound. Her and my aunt had me listening to music I knew nothing about at an early age. It’s definitely showing in my music now. Most of my family sings. I took a different road at about 13 when I decided I wanted to rap. I haven’t looked back yet.

Sledge started off writing poetry when he was younger. After he was introduced to hip hop, he decided to take those poetic skills and put them to beats. Today, he’s an independent artist, with a memorable name, which comes with a story.

“The name came from my real name, Roosevelt. All my friends in high school called me “Roe.”I decided to get creative with it and create the acronym “R.O.E.” which stands for Rising Over Envy.

His unique sound is also making him need stand out in Chicago’s music scene.

“A lot of people find it hard to characterize my sound and I enjoy that. We live in an era where everyone wants to compare artists. It’s tough to compare me to just one artist.”

“I describe my sound as being boom bap hip-hop, neo-soul, and jazz rolled up into one.”

Of these genres one that many may not be familiar with is boom bap. Boom bap is a hip hop term which usually refers to beats with heavy drums (bass and snare).

“The sound is similar to that of J. Dilla, DJ Premier, and Pete Rock.”

Even though he has faithful supporters, R.O.E. is still working very hard to increase his fan base. He’s also working to get more attention for his single, “The Gloves”, something he did after entering the Track-Off featured on Kyles Files, a RedEye blog.

Local artists are given the opportunity to send their tracks of any genre to Kyra Kyles, author of the blog, who then picks two singles to compete against each other on Monday. “The Gloves” went up against FM Supreme’s track “Crazy Mama” on June 21st. As voting went on throughout the day, there was word that people were voting more than once on behalf of FM Supreme, who had been trying to win the Track-Off for some time. By midnight, FM Supreme had earned 69% of the votes, winning an opportunity to be featured in the RedEye.

“Initially I was disappointed, but at the end of the day, I was just happy people enjoyed the music. I know other opportunities will come so I wasn’t as upset as some of my supporters were.”

“The Gloves” is an inspiring song that R.O.E. can personally relate to. Its message is also one that others can relate to as well.

““The Gloves” is my testimony on record. It discusses my journey as a music artist, the ups and downs. It also shows how I don’t plan to quit. I think it relates to many people because it speaks beyond music. Anyone can relate to not wanting to quit on a dream or goal.”

In line with the message of his first single, R.O.E. doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. The music that he’s making is going towards his efforts to complete his debut EP, which will be entitled A Backpacker Named R.O.E. R.O.E. is leaning towards an early Fall 2010 release.

“It’ll be a free project I plan to release via my site (

I plan to continue to grind and get better. I’m never content and the new work will show that.”

For those of you reading who are young aspiring artists, R.O.E. has some words of advice. “Work hard and never let anyone deter you from achieving your goal. Hard work pays off, so know that if you work hard you’ll reap the benefits of it.”

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Three Children Nearly Killed by Quackle Tree at Convention

By: Derek Lyon

Phoenix, AZ – Three young children narrowly escaped certain death at the hands, or, well, branches of a Quackle tree on Tuesday.

The incident occurred around 4 p.m. on Tuesday at the 5th annual Children and Chiropractors Convention. According to Convention officials, the Convention is held each year in order to foster long-lasting friendships between children and chiropractors, in order to instill in children at a young age the benefits of bone health and proper alignment. But organizers made a grave mistake when they chose Phoenix’s luxurious Quackle Hotel and Resort as the venue for this year’s event. The hotel is designed in line with its name. Quackle trees line the front entrance, and occupy many of the interior rooms and halls.

Around 4 p.m., while the event was in full swing, three young children entered the main hall of the hotel, which is occupied by the oldest and largest Quackle tree in the hotel. One of the children, Cranker Larkens, was carrying a box of the complementary doughnuts provided by the Convention organizers, chomping away happily as any young child might.

This entire incident may have been avoided had the Quackle hotel administration been more alert, for it is well known that doughnuts are the mortal enemy of Quackle trees. It is also well known that Quackle trees are not to be provoked. Johnny Flowers, author of the 2003 seminal work on Quackle Trees “I Love Trees,” describes the many frightening elements of the trees: “The Quackle tree, an indigenous species from Venezuela, has the power to kill up to thirteen people per hour… [it] uses its venomous sap as protection and intimidation.” The tree’s sap is unique in that it bears a strong resemblance, in odor and sight, to fruit juice. But the resemblance ends there—Quackle tree sap is well known to be both flammable and toxic.

As Cranker and his friends entered the room, the Quackle tree apparently sensed the approach of its most feared enemy and immediately spewed its juice-like sap all around the room. While his two friends managed to escape, Cranker was not so lucky, and was ensnared by the Quackle tree’s branches. The situation was dire, as the noxious sap prevented help from entering. One woman standing just outside the hall, wishing to remain unidentified, cast some light on the events: “I heard a loud band followed by three pops, and then the children came running out the door. Also, the air smelled like doughnuts.” Mrs. Jenny Larkens, a Phoenix resident and mother of Cranker, described the horror she experienced: “I was terrified for my son Cranker – he was trapped inside of there with the flammable juice!”

Luckily, young Cranker kept his wits about him. Perhaps noticing that the doughnuts had provoked the tree, he quickly flung the box at the tree, which immediately released him as doughnuts rained upon it. Cranker quickly fled the room, sustaining only minor exposure to the deadly sap.

The incident has been met with mixed feelings. One attendant of the convention, a man wishing remain nameless, said, “I was honestly terrified… it was such a loud noise and such an intense smell. I’ve never seen something so scary yet fruity. I definitely won’t be bringing my kids or my chiropractor back here any time soon!”

But as Flowers mentions in “I Love Trees,” “The Quackle has long been misunderstood; it is a tree to be respected, not hated.” While this incident was undoubtedly terrifying, perhaps it is possible that it was only the unfortunate result of a misunderstanding between people and Quackle trees.

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