“I’ve got an insane, secret place to take you,” my date tells me. “You have to message for details, but I think it is at the regular spot tonight.” I didn’t know what to prep for. Was it classy? Did I need an ID? Where even was this place?
A short Uber ride took us out of Lakeview and into the Old Irving Park neighborhood. As I jumped out and looked around for a place I thought could be Shithole, I was starting to wonder if my date had brought me somewhere terrifyingly secluded. Had I made a grave mistake? He urges me on, motioning that we continue down the block a bit. I begin to hear uproarious laughter and notice a fence covered in paintings. As I walk in the yard, people hug me and welcome me to Shithole.
Later, I find out that these are the masterminds behind this artistic phenomenon. The yard is filled with art and twenty somethings, all talking and laughing as if it was a casual gathering with old friends. Art graces everything; from mangled tables with decorated chairs to life size paintings hung on the fence. A tall man with a big beard rounds people up and tells us they are ready to start, and I am led up the stairs of the three story house. Continually I am greeted by smiling people and a cluster of art splashed upon the walls. “Everything on a tac is for sale!” someone else tells me. The top level is where the magic happens. A few folded chairs are set up facing a “stage,” which is nothing more than the end of an attic with curtains covering the windows and lights wired to the ceiling.
Chairs are filled immediately. As far as the other twenty or so people, we are left standing. Chicago humidity creeps in instantaneously and everyone is crowded shoulder to shoulder, dripping in sweat. The show is introduced and we are asked to be supportive, excited and respectful. Staying true to the essence upon which Shithole was created, there are no set rules or expectations. The majority of the show is comedic based, ranging from stand-up, to improv groups, to musical comedy. On this particular night there was also a spoken word piece, a guitarist, and a Satanist-style comedic induction to honor Shithole’s three year birthday.
Every person and every art is welcomed here. The crowd erupts to welcome and thank each artist for gracing the stage. “Whoo!” “mmmhm” and “ha-ha’s” burst in from the group, complimenting each word as they flow out from the artist to the patron. Gnar Gnar Shredtown is the last to perform, and I find out that this team is made up of Kevin Gerrity, Zach Bartz, and Dan Wilcop; three of the men behind the magic at Shithole. Zach and Kevin are improvisers who follow no traditional set of rules, making their shows truly individual. Dan operates the lights and sounds throughout the show, but really shines when he collaborates with Gnar Gnar Shredtown. It is almost as if Dan knows what the guys are going to do before they do it, complimenting everything they do on stage with the right sound affect in flawless timing. Together, they are an unstoppable team.
Shithole commands an audience like I have never before seen. The energy that flows through that little attic is more contagious than the energy at a $1000 concert. Every single person there wants to be there. When you walk in the door you become part of a creative family, filled with tons of unimaginable styles of artists. Not a single show is the same as the last, and yet I always leave feeling inspired. May Shithole continue to provide a safe space for artistic creation and experimentation for many years to come! (Bella Crum / City of Stories Student)