The First Time

So. I’m unemployed again. Did I tell you that here? Not sure. I talked about it on the usuals — Facebook, Twitter and all that — but I’m not sure if I said something here. Anyway, I can get to that later. But, I’ve found myself with more time to dedicate to Coffee Club and CHIRP. Good thing, because the reading series I created and curate as a benefit for CHIRP is going on our 5th go around tomorrow night. Pretty exciting, if I do say so myself.

So, here’s the deal. Every three months (or so), I present a reading series called “The First Time” to benefit CHIRP. I’m in charge of the theme and the readers. I emcee the night and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. We’ve done the First Time (ahem), First Jobs, Back to School (first teacher, first college, etc.), First Car and tomorrow will be First Concert.

Here’s how the evening unfolds. Performers write original pieces on the theme — how they interpret it is up to them. I originally started the idea telling people they could write non-fiction or fiction pieces, but no one has written a fiction piece yet. How they interpret the theme is also up to them; I don’t edit or inspect the written pieces beforehand, which is nice, because it allows me to have the same sense of anticipation and reveal that the audience gets. The stories are just as fresh and new to me as they are to them. I laugh, gasp, cry and wince right along with everyone else.

Along with the written word, the performers have picked out a song that accompanies/represents their piece. Immediately following the reading, the house band, “The First Time” (former Frisbie members Steve Frisbie, Liam Davis and Gerald Dowd) plays the song they’ve chosen in a stripped-down fashion. Acoustic guitar, electric bass, basic drum kit. Again, no one knows anyone else’s song but me and the band. It’s proven to be a really great concept and really successful.

This time out, we’ve got Matt Priest of Canasta, writer Leah Jones, Gerald Dowd of said house band and many other musical endeavors, Dag Juhlin of Poi Dog Pondering and other musical pursuits, Karl Klockars of Chicagoist, writer Amy Hayden, and Dan Phillips of Zapruder Point. We’re throwing down at the Beat Kitchen and everything gets underway at 8 p.m. Cover is $10 and all proceeds benefit CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project). I promise you, it’s a great time and something really special. Come on out and you’re going to want to come again. You can get tickets right now, right here.

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