Ribfest Chicago, at the Damen, Irving Park and Lincoln intersection, is a friendly conglomeration of neighborhood-ites, cheap beer marked up to absurd prices and a lot of relatively mediocre music spotted with a few decent bands to draw those for whom the meat ain’t enough. The day has experienced a mix of windy, wrecking rain and humidity, but now it’s sunny and pleasantly warm. The air, slightly thick, hangs with a smoky, charcoal and salty scent of grilled meat. The five-dollar cover charge is easily avoided by those who sneak in through the Starbucks.
A crowd gathers for tonight’s headlining band, indie-pop trio Nada Surf. Bouncing and swaying out of sync, two soccer-mom middle-aged women take in the show grasping cheap plastic beer cups. They giggle and cheer during Nada Surf’s upbeat choruses, then immediately turn to face each other and converse and giggle during the less-animated verses. In front of them, a guy in his early twenties swings his messenger bag around to the front of him, reaches in and pulls out a beer brought from home. The bottle makes a high-toned hollow snap as he pops off the cap with his lighter. He sips.
After of an encore, the festival ends with the twenty-something crowd chanting “fuck it” in unison along to the band’s “The Blankest Year.” Within minutes the temperature drops ten degrees. Firm winds sweep through, creating garbage tornadoes of discarded plastic cups and sauce-covered paper plates. (Stephanie Ratanas)