Sunday, February 21, 2010

Planet Earth's Flipside



Here is the text of the story that I wrote for the Sun-Times (Feb. 12) on Late Bar, the new nightspot run by Dave and Kristine, who I've mentioned here recently.

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For two decades, Dave Roberts has kept the New Wave music torch alive in Chicago. Residencies at Club 950, Spin, Neo and Holiday Club gained him a legion of followers for his weekly “Planet Earth” night.

But when he was asked where he went when he wasn’t working, he’d say, “I stay at home,” because there was no place he knew of “where I could go to have a nice drink and hear music I wanted to hear.”

Late Bar, which he and his partner Kristine Hengl opened on Dec. 26 in the Avondale neighborhood, may be that once elusive place.

The two have “always wanted a nice place for people who didn’t like to go to sports bars or Top 40 places,” he says. “A nice bar that’s comfortable and you can still hear the music.”

Late Bar is open late (until 4 a.m.) but the name has a more significant meaning.

“Late Bar” was the flipside to the Duran Duran single “Planet Earth,” and “this bar,” Roberts says, “is the flipside” to his “Planet Earth.”

He still spins New Wave, on Saturdays at Late Bar, but there’s also an array of alternative and independent music throughout the week there, be it ska, psychedelia, electronic, industrial, or 50s and 60s rock and soul.

“This is the house that Planet Earth built,” Roberts says, but the music, avant garde videos and d├ęcor (subdued shades of purple and framed black and white photos of the likes of Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich and Siouxsie Sioux) span the generations of what he calls “subcultural.”

The look is a far cry from the carpeted, wood-paneled neighborhood bar that had been there for the past 40 years, but Hengl says what they liked about the space was its neighborly vibe, something that they’re working toward in their own way, for a different crowd.

It’s a place to hear alternative music and have a beer, but where you can order “a martini and not have the bartender roll their eyes at you,” she says. The bar also stocks gluten-free and organic beers, as well as soy milk, for vegan-friendly cocktails.

“We know there are people out there who are looking for something like this,” Roberts says. “The vibe and the reputation are just what we want them to be.”

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Late Bar, 3534 W. Belmont Ave., is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.

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