First Zima, Now Sparks?!

December 18, 2008

How are we supposed to get all hyphy before we ghost ride now!?!?!?!

Sparks Spokesmodel by Ryanwiz Sparks by Al Bar 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-ap-energy-drinks,0,4219784.story

MillerCoors to remove caffeine from Sparks energy drink in deal with states
By EMILY FREDRIX | AP Food Industry Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) — MillerCoors LLC announced Thursday it will remove caffeine and three other ingredients from its Sparks alcoholic energy drink in a deal with 13 states and the city of San Francisco, who had contended the drink targeted young drinkers.

A coalition of state attorneys general had complained the stimulants reduced drinkers’ sense of intoxication and were marketed to young drinkers, who were already more likely to have risky behaviors in driving and other activities.

*cough* BULLSHIT *cough*.  What the hell.  I’ll have to go back to slamming a pot of coffee, and then slamming a pint of Guiness.  Actually, that doesn’t sound that bad.

Attorneys general and advocacy groups have long been targeting MillerCoors, a joint venture of SABMiller’s U.S. unit and Molson Coors Brewing Co., and market-leader Anheuser-Busch due to the making and marketing of such drinks.

As part of the agreement, MillerCoors agreed to remove caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng from Sparks, the leader in the alcoholic energy drink category, and not produce caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future. The company also will pay $550,000 to cover the cost of the investigation into Sparks. The agreement does not mean the company was found to have engaged in unlawful behavior.

I’m glad they’re getting rid of the guano though.

“They are fundamentally dangerous and put drinkers of all ages at risk,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement of the drinks. “Today’s agreement will ensure that from here on out, these drinks are kept off New York shelves and away from New York consumers.”

The MillerCoors settlement also includes the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma and the city attorney of San Francisco.

“We are always willing to listen to societal partners and consider changes to our business to reinforce our commitment to alcohol responsibility,” Long said.

Time to head back to Wisconsin next time I want to make Hyper Vipers.

The money will be split between the states and San Francisco, MillerCoors spokesman Julian Green said.

MillerCoors noted that labeling and all formulas for Sparks had been approved by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It said it marketed the drinks only to legal drinking-age consumers.

MillerCoors President and Chief Commercial Officer Tom Long said in a statement the changes mean the company can keep marketing and selling the brand to legal drinkers.

Thanks for the photo Sikanna! — http://www.flickr.com/photos/sikanna/

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch said in June it would reformulate its Tilt and Bud Extra drinks to remove the stimulants as part of a settlement with 11 attorneys general.

Groups say these drinks target young drinkers, even those underage, because those consumers are already drawn to highly caffeinated drinks like Red Bull.

As part of the agreement, MillerCoors will sell through its remaining Sparks products and stop making them by Jan. 10.

Green said the company will then start brewing the new formula after that.

Random drunk guy by charleym143

Marketing of the brand will also change, the agreement said. The company must also eliminate all references in advertising to caffeinated formulations and not promote Sparks as a mixer for caffeinated drinks. It will remove the plus and minus symbols — which evoke a battery — found on the blue and orange cans for the product. The company also agrees not to use batteries, rockets, lightning bolts, or the terms “powered by” or “ignite” in marketing the new formulation.

sparks! by minicloud

The company also took down the Web site for the brand, as part of the agreement, which said MillerCoors may launch new Web content for Sparks to promote only the reformulated version.

Green said the company will continue to expand the brand. SABMiller bought Sparks and Steel Reserve, a slow-brewed lager, from McKenzie River Corp. for $215 million cash in 2006.

Sparks holds about 60 percent of the alcoholic energy drink category, he said. But in MillerCoors’ portfolio it makes up less than 1 percent of the brewer’s total volume. The brand is growing, though. Data from AC Nielsen in a recent 12-week period showed the brand’s sales in convenience stores were up 15.9 percent from the same period last year, Green said.

drunk by ksosmall 

He noted that advertising for the brand was minimal, compared with the company’s other brands like Miller Lite, and said there had never been any television ads for Sparks.

“We remain committed to the Sparks franchise, including the possibility of line extensions,” Green said.

Steve Gardner, litigation director for public advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest — which has a suit against MillerCoors over Sparks — applauded the agreement. In September the group filed a suit against MillerCoors to stop the brewer from selling Sparks, saying it’s going after teenagers with the drink.

Noah rocks Sparks Lite in the ZML by justin 

“It’s a devil’s brew of a product because it combines caffeine with alcohol,” Gardner said.

He said much of what the group wanted from MillerCoors — to remove caffeine, guarana, ginseng and taurine from the product — was accomplished in the agreement. He said he was not yet sure what the agreement means for the case, which was pending in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Randall + Sparks = by Phil Sharp.

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Exquisite Cardboard

December 8, 2008

ExquisiteCityBlock
In their ongoing efforts to become a “non-typical” venue for the arts, The Viaduct Theatre on Western Ave has been hosting an exhibit called “Exquisite City“… a play off of the art game “Exquisite Copse” in which different artists depict parts of a body without seeing the whole — E.C. invited artists from across the city to depict their view of the city completely in cardboard, and then compile them together as individual, miniature city blocks.  Lots of great work, including from one of my favorite poster artists Dan Grzeca, musician/artists collaborator Sally Timms and TONS of others. 

The finished product of Exquisite City is very interesting… some abstract, some apolcolyptic, some detailed down to sidewalk curbs and little dramas taking place in little aprtment windows… wonderful stuff. 

I’ll upload more photo’s later, but here’s an impressive foot-tall appropration of The Hideout:

and the real one c/o the blog “The Inside Clam Digger“…


Chicago Music Venues in Trubbs?

May 13, 2008

Dear Anyone Who Cares about Culture in Chicago,

On Wednesday 5/14, Chicago City Council is planning on (quickly and quietly) voting on an ordinance that would “severely impede small music venues from hosting and promoting live music.”

The ordinance would require all venues with a capacity of over 100 people to:

  • Purchase an event promoter license that could cost as much as $2000 every two years
  • Possess liability insurance of $300,000.
  • Subject the possesor of the license/insurance to finger-printing and background checks.

The idea is to crack down on illegal promoters and make venues safer for the public, but the steps involved seem poorly thought-out, and hastily assembled.

The new ordinance will make it even more difficult for DIY promoters,and smaller/non-established venues to put on a performance (be it music, theatre or art) without some very expensive regulations.

As written elsewhere, “It could effectively nullify Chicago’s music scene, fracture our creative communities and send young artists to other cities that are more supportive of local […] events.”

From Sun Time music critic Jim DeRogatis’ blog:

“’The language of the ordinance as drafted unnecessarily and perhaps prohibitively increases the cost of doing business for any promoter seeking to work with PPA- [public place of amusement] licensed music venues, including, among many others, Schubas, Buddy Guy’s Legends, the Vic Theater, the Riviera Theater, the Metro, the Hideout, Uncommon Ground and Martyrs,’ said Alligator Records founder and CMC board member Bruce Iglauer.”

Spread the word, call your Alderman, do whatever but DO IT FAST please.

Gracias,

-B

Find your Alderman here: http://www.chicityclerk.com/citycouncil/alderman/find.html

Offical Website: http://savechicagoculture. org/

Jim DeRo’s Blog: http://blogs.suntimes.com/derogatis/2008/05/update_musical_advocates_gear.html


Middle-By-Middle Middle

March 7, 2008

originally posted on URChicago here.

Chicago’s fortunate to have a super-supportive (nay, incestuous?) music scene, many of whom have roots back to a lil’ place called The Hideout. So who better than Hideout to host “Sending the Four Star City to the Lone Star State” party? The mini-fest is a fundraiser for all the bands travelling’ down to the Sundance Film Festival, oop, I mean South By Southwest in Austin.

Performing is a laundry list of the city’s faves, some of whom will soon be called “indie buzz bands” by Entertainment Weekly or something. A mere $10 gets you into this shizzle:

12:00 – Sybris
12:45 – Apteka
1:30 – Cameron McGill
2:15 – Mittens on Strings
3:00 – JT and the Clouds
3:45 – The Hood Internet (DJ STV SLV)
4:30 – Hollywood Holt
5:15 – Bound Stems
6:00 – Make Believe
6:45 – Reds and Blue
7:30 – Pit Er Pat
8:15 – Waco Brothers
9:00 – Tight Phantomz
9:45 – Killer Whales
10:30 – Icy Demons
11:15 – Tom Schraeder & His Ego
12:00 – Ezra Furman & the Harpoons
12:45 – Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

Rounding down, that’s like, $0.72 a band. Your door cover will let you go in & out for the whole day (like there’s anything else to do on Wabansia & Elston), but it will be packed by the end of the night.


Rodrigo y Gabriela at The Hideout

January 28, 2007

Another random weekend night landed me in a hilariously long line outside one of my favorite spots: The Hideout. The bar is aptly named; hidden in an industrial area of town near North Ave and Elston and it’s not an easy find if you don’t know where you’re heading. Then again, judging by the queue, the place isn’t exactly “hush-hush”. Hideout has a stellar entertainment reputation (comedy, poetry, music, etc), a great low-key vibe and a line that stretched out the door and down the block.


(Images taken From http://www.RodGab.com)

My pal Kate had tipped me off to a free early show hosted by WXRT. It’d be fair to say that XRT is “slipping” a bit as far as being a relevant Chicago music resource goes (XRT listener pole, the loss of Sound Opinions), but they’re still an authority if they highlight fabulous musicians like Mexico-via-Dublin’s Rodrigo y Gabriela. Hell, before I even saw them I relished saying their names in a thick, fake, latin accent: “Rrrodureeego Eeee Gabreeeeyayla.”

While we’re trying to keep warm out on Wabansia, there’s terrific music floating out the windows of The H/O… more slackers (myself included) begin to line up outside, annoyed that we’re not being let in. While we’re standing, and shivering, and smoking, snippets of gorgeous guitar work emanated though the open window facing the front patio. Intrigued outsiders started taking turns peeking into front window in hopes of catching a glimpse.

Within 10 or so minutes the crowd thinned out and the kindly Hideout staff let us in, so long as we promised to stay at the front bar. All of us promised and about half of us complied. Being a good kid I took a seat at the front bar, ordered a round of Old Styles, and took it all in: The bar aglow with homemade paper snowflakes and Christmas lights, the mixed-bag crowd, and the gorgeous acoustic onslaught that was filtering in from the crowded room behind us.

Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I joined the dozen or so that opted to just stand on chairs and tables in the bar in hopes of seeing the stage. The backroom was packed with the exact type of people I picture listening to XRT and some terrible world music CDs. (Also, side note: RodGab would politely punch you in the gullet for saying they were “world music”). Peering over the adult-contempo crowd, I spotted two mild-mannered guitarists laying out beautiful, seemingly effortless classical guitar picking with a flair that married Latin and Led Zepplin.

When Rodrigo Sanchez would occasionally drop into complicated fretwork, the capacity crowd remained absolutely silent. At other times the sound assault was so dynamic you’d think there were more than a pair of acoustic guitars on stage. Part of that sound is Gabriela Quintero’s percussive style–occasionally punishing her guitar strings to create jagged rhythms and using the hollow body of her guitar in substitution of a proper drum kit. The combined effect of the duo was overwhelming–a full sound that belied the two dexterous and mild-mannered performers on stage.

The show ended (after a superb rendition of Stairway… NOT joking), and Gabriela graciously thanked the crowd in charming, broken English. A few minutes later, (and after a much-appreciated appearance by those Nomadic Tamale Guys) the pair waived goodbye to the handful of onlookers and hopped into a waiting cab.


Office – Live at The Double Door

January 4, 2007

“If you don’t know by now… ask somebody else!” frontman Scott Masson exultantly sings to a home-team crowd. The line seems like a rallying chorus for his band, Office, and rightly so. For well over a year now the talented and peppy rock outfit was the worst-kept secret in Chicago. A group that, apparently, was only a mystery to A&R types.


Apologies for the lame cell-phone camera pics. Hey. They’re better than nothing.

Yeah, everyone at The Double Door on this mild Friday in December knew by now — including James Iha, Smashing Pumpkins’ guitarist and Office’s new best friend. The bash thrown at the Wicker Park club Ohm after the set was heralded as a label-signing party, as Iha nabbed Office for his own Scratchie record label. (The signing itself is old news as Office’s website let word slip in October.)

Thank god the show was fabulous. Pre-show, the night was looking pretty dismal for me. Our plan to stake out the paradoxical “hi-concept dive” Empire Liquors failed when they were having a private party. Instead, our group set up camp at Debonair Social Club just down the street. The place was vacant — a hollow space which I immediately realized was the former (and equally uncrowded) Tre Via.

From what I read, I liked the concept behind Debonair, but the high ceilings and non-intimate setting made the place feel more like a cavernous gallery than an enjoyable social setting. That said, my impression might not be a solid one as we were there at 8ish –well before the W.P. crowd started filtering in.

But there was definitely one dude that stood out from the crowd. Prettymuch looking like Fat Joe (give or take some bling) he decided to stand up on one of the booth seats near us and take a biiiiiiiig stretch. Those of us with ADHD who’d been watching film projections of balloons and androgynous twenty-somethings were instead distracted by this guy’s ill-fitting hoodie creeping up his torso to reveal his weird, pale, PBR-belly. I tried not to think much of it and considered him merely an effective confrontational installation piece.

So, yeah, post-tubby’s striptease we hightailed it to the Double Door, missing Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and walking in just as Mannequin Men took the stage and efficiently rocked the place. I concurred with my two pals that they were not too shabby, but the set was more spot-the-influence than we’d hoped — not that MC5, Jet-like AC/DC, 60s Mod, and New Wave are bad influences to work with. All-in-all, a good band to check out, but it was clear the crowd was there to see the other hometown group on the bill.

The collective venue had high expectations, and Office delivered, projecting the kind of confidence and enthusiasm that creates a magnetic live experience. With sharp guitars and punchy delivery, the fivesome keys off each other’s energy — all seemed so excited to be on stage they could probably make a desolate rehearsal space the most exciting place to be in the city.

Regaled in a Santa cap and a god-awful sweater, Scott Masson delivered snide commentary and sing-along choruses, while guitarist Tom Smith switched between jerky Cars-like chords and playful Guitar Hero posturing. Meanwhile bassist Alissa Noonan battled illness to pump out bouncy basslines and bop around shoeless. Team cheerleader and universal rock-crush Jessica Gonyea switched from keyboard to tambourine to cowbell and played most of the show jumping up and down to the beat played solidly and exuberantly by drummer Erica Corniel.

Office called Mannequin Men and SSLYBY back on stage for a joyously amateur rendition of John Lennon’s Happy Christmas before crowds emptied out onto North Ave. The night for me ended with some cheap drinks at Estelle’s (a fairly unremarkable bar which manages to get LINES outside it), and a half-serious razzing at Western & Armitage’s Green Eye for rocking a tie on a Friday night. Pshaw.


Hot Chip, Cool Bar

November 14, 2006

Remember the time when people said “synthesizer” instead of keyboards? Incidentally, it was also when fashionable gals were wearing like, tights under skirts, and um, leg-warmers. Well, my nostalgia-prone friend, for better or for worse, that time is back.

When Hot Chip (nay “Hawt Chip”) took the stage at The Metro earlier this month, four-fifths of them took their stations behind a wall-o-synths. Shaking the venue’s collective booty as much as 5 pasty Brits can shake an equally pasty crowd, they started the set with the throbbing dance-funk of “Boy From School” and carried the energy through the set. Mind you, Hot Chip is NOT a poke-around-behind-a-laptop band. The emphasized live element makes for a terrific show — for every electric drone and bass beat there’s dreamy pop harmonies, guitar hooks, and yes, even the beloved cowbell that’s all the rage these days. Can’t wait for the triangle to make it’s homecoming.

For the encore they banged out a riotous version of “Over and Over” and a few days later someone reminded me I screamed “SYNTH GODDDS!” at some point. Probably when the song segued perfectly into a cover of New Order’s “Temptation” — a well-deserved nod to the Kings of Pasty Dance-Pop.

While my friend was busy slurring tequila infused come-ons downstairs at Smartbar, the remainder of our group took two quick lefts out the door and ducked into arguably the most tolerable bar in Wrigleyville: The Gingerman Tavern. An oddly shaped spot that occupies the wedge between N. Clark and Racine. It’s no coincidence this bar is stumbling-distance from The Metro. The mix-matched chairs, tables and billiard balls complement it’s equally eclectic clientele. That said, if anyone knows of a better Wrigleyville bar, I’d like to hear it, drink there, and then tell you why you’re wrong.

photos by Pegs. Thanks Pegs.