Street Smart Chicago

Smoke ‘Em Out: Wicker Park Fest crams into Milwaukee Avenue

City Life, Wicker Park Add comments

This was a mistake.

Enter the north end gate of the Wicker Park Fest Sunday evening and you’re immediately slammed with crowd, seemingly herded to no place at all as Milwaukee Avenue boasts an endless sea of patrons. Moved this year from its usual Damen Avenue home, the event’s suffocated by restaurant patios on the sidewalks, food and beer tents in the middle of the road and a centrally located stage, where local pop-punk quartet Smoking Popes explodes into “Midnight Moon.”

Can’t enjoy it, though. Strollers are out and the crowd gets beefier. A young girl with a bicycle struggles to maneuver through the titanic mound of flesh and beer-stink, only to slightly jar into a bearded fellow. “Excuse me,” she offers. He notices her sleeve tattoos. “Yeah, excuse you,” he elegantly retorts. “Good luck getting a job ever.” Nice guy.

Poor Myopic Books is raped; the Sunday night poetry series seems intimidated by the street noise seeping in from outside. The air is tense.

Exit after twenty minutes. Just past the gates outside Violet Hour, an altercation erupts. In the confusion of mass exodus and poorly planned detours, a cabbie has cut off some bicyclists. He yells from the car, “What the fuck you say?”

“Yellow Cab…move the fuck on!”

He peels out south past the park, waits for an opening, and whips a u-turn, heading back to fight some more.

Time to get the hell out of here. (Tom Lynch)

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