This time around, I’ve gotten a very special guest writer to talk about C.U.B.E. Dayton’s one and only Kat Blum has written a review especially for this blog. You won’t find a piece like it anywhere else. What is C.U.B.E. you ask? Read on and find out.
The Chicago Underground Blues Exchange (CUBE) is a dance event that takes place concurrently with the Chicago Blues Festival. Dancers from all over the country – and Canada, apparently – come together in downtown Chicago to appreciate and dance to live blues music alongside non-dancing city-goers. After dancing downtown all morning and afternoon, dancers can continue to get their groove on at the late night dances organized by the CUBE committee. The full weekend costs only $25, which covers the costs of the evening dances, as the afternoon blues festival is free to attend.
This was my first experience with CUBE, and what an unbelievable experience it was! My fellow travelers, making the journey from Cincinnati/Dayton to Chicago, got a late start on Friday. We left around 7:00p.m., getting to Chicago close to 1:00a.m. Of course, the evening dance was just getting into full swing (pun intended) when we arrived. The venue for Friday’s dance was the Chicago Urban Arts Society. The venue was great: fabulous DJs, friendly people from all over the country and Canada (Chicago, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, and Montreal), and a floor with just the right amount of slickness. My only complaints would be that it got a tad warm in the main dance space, and a venue with more bathrooms might be desirable. (I missed out on 4 or 5 songs/dances just waiting to use the facilities.)
Saturday was when we really quenched our thirst for the city of Chicago. My companions and I purchased bus passes, as our hostess was within a 15-20 minute bus ride from downtown. (Public transportation is definitely the way to go. $5.75 for a 1-day bus pass definitely beats $25 for a parking garage or attempting to find street parking.) So we dragged our tired bodies out of bed at the crack of noon and headed over to Bennigans, a pseudo Irish restaurant, for lunch. (If you ever find yourself at Bennigans, I highly recommend the “Broccoli Bites.” Best description: like fried broccoli cheese soup. Delicious! Oh! And complimentary seconds on side dishes if you have room.)
Now, I’m from the rather small city of Findlay, Ohio. There are a lot of things in cities that strike me as fascinating: parking meters, revolving doors, and apartment intercom buzzer systems; but we discovered something upon leaving Bennigans that would have caught the eye of any sane person… zombies!! Yes, you read correctly. Upon leaving the restaurant, we discovered a group of zombies who informed us that there would be a zombie walk happening downtown at 5:00p.m. We almost wet ourselves with excitement as we scurried over to the blues fest for more music and dancing.
We really only spent a few hours at the actual blues festival due to our late rising and our need to see The Bean and the horde of zombies. The time we did spend there was… well… sort of annoying at best. The way CUBE works is that someone is in charge of posting a Twitter update telling at which of the several stages the dancers could be found. However, the “tweet” only went out after they had settled at their new location. Upon returning from The Bean after leaving the group for a short while, it took us nearly half an hour or more to relocate our dance friends. (Nobody answers cell phones while dancing.) While the idea was great, I wish the dancers had not changed stages as often as they did, and/or tweeted faster. However, the bands were wonderful and the dancing was extremely fun as always!
Saturday night we decided to do things right and get some real Chicago deep-dish pizza. We walked through the chill and mist to Giordanos (as recommended by my Uncle John). It was delicious – much better than Sunday’s Pizano’s greasy experience. After eating to the point of a short food coma, we trucked over to The Living Room Lounge for some late night dancing. This venue is beyond awesome. The room was much longer than it was wide, which gave an interesting feel to it. If you stayed towards the left for a long time, moving to the right side of the room felt like you entered a whole new dance with an entirely different group of people! Two thumbs up for this great venue with another well-balanced floor.
While attempting to leave the Saturday night dance, we experienced the greatness (not even just the goodness) of the hearts of swing dancers. Our car experienced a little hiccup which led to the exhaust pipe dragging on the ground. Suddenly there were near a dozen dancers (at 4:30 in the morning, mind you) all surrounding our car offering headlights for better visibility, extra sets of hands and eyes, and even the wire from a spiral-bound notebook that someone had ripped out to try to reattach the car part. This is why the swing dancing community is so loved by those who are a part of it. We were able to get things back in order and hit the road again, but not before many hugs and well-wishes from our new friends.
Sunday brought a whole adventure. We did not even visit the blues festival because we were much too preoccupied with the Improv Everywhere MP3 Experiment that would be taking place at Millennium Park. At 1:30p.m. we participated in a massive social experiment that is perhaps the most incredible event I have ever experienced. Among other things, we were asked to: wave, give a thumbs up, follow a stranger, hug, high-five, thumb wrestle, square dance, freeze, play human darts, play “Steve Says,” take naps, play human Twister, freeze tag, move in slow motion, high-five/hug in slow motion, have a dance party, make finger moustache disguises, point in the direction of our home as well as Nicaragua, hug an animal, and hug an inanimate object, all with a group of several hundred strangers. It – was – amazing.
Sadly for us, we had quite a drive ahead of us and could not stay much past the early afternoon. We took lunch at Pizano’s (again, not nearly as good as Giordano’s), and then headed out of the Windy City. As you can see, our experience with CUBE led to as much city exploration as it did fantastic dances and new friends. This is what makes the Chicago Underground Blues Exchange such a unique experience. Because the only cost is for the evening dances, you can feel free to roam through the city in the afternoon without feeling like you’re wasting a paycheck in doing so.
CUBE gets an A in my book. I definitely plan on returning next year and hope to see you there as well!
If you look closely at 2:14, you can see our very own Kat Blum and Travis Hartman.