Friday, April 19, 2019

Chicago festival to entertain, educate on benefits of marijuana


If you're wondering where Waldo is this weekend, he along with many other Waldos will probably be at the Waldos Forever Fest on April 20 near Dispensary33 at 5001 N. Clark St. in Chicago.

For the second year, Do312 is organizing the event, with the Chicago Cannabis Alliance being the co-sponsor of the event. The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the event is free to those who RSVP at

4/20 is slang in cannabis culture for the consumption of cannabis, especially smoking cannabis around the time 4:20 p.m. The festival will feature a variety of entertainment, including headliner Big Freedia, known as the Queen of Bounce.

Chicago acts Tatiana Hazel, Air Credits, White Mystery and Akasha will also perform. The festival will also feature DJ and comedy sets and drag performances. Chicago-based Verano, will be sponsoring The Chill Lounge, a relaxed setting outside of Dispensary33 where festival-goers can take a break from being on their feet and enjoy some free swag and other perks. 

I had the chance to talk to Scott Cramer, founder of Do312 and Richard Park, a member of the board of directors for Chicago Cannabis Alliance, about the festival.

Q – Great talking to you. This is the second year of the Waldos Forever Fest. What was your vision for putting on the festival in the first place?

Richard: The Chicago Cannabis Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to educating people about qualifying conditions to receive a medical cannabis card in Illinois and helping Chicago patients access the medicine they need, saw legalization of cannabis in Illinois as an opportunity to destigmatize cannabis by educating people about it.

We partnered with Do312 to create the event in a streetfest format that Chicagoans love. The premise is a the celebration of cannabis culture and all the benefits of cannabis that we can now share openly.

Q - Did last year's festival meet your expectations and what are your expectations for this year's festival? For those who are attending the festival for the first time this year, what should they expect?

Scott: Yes.  In our first official Waldos Forever Fest, we had approximately 1,500 attendees. This year we are expecting 3,500 to 4,000 attendees.

Chicago is famous for its street fests and we believe Waldos Forever is very much in this tradition, but with a unique cannabis-themed flair.

Richard: Ironically, this is a 4/20 celebration where cannabis cannot be consumed on site, but we want to share information about cannabis, unite cannabis fans to celebrate advancements in legalization and destigmatize it.

Major cannabis cultivation companies are rolling out the “green” carpet with Cresco Labs’ lush green entrance giving way to the high energy music sets crossing rap, bounce, hip hop and more genres, outrageous comedy and drag acts interspersed with trips down memory lane with the Grassroots Gaming Tent with vintage video arcade, and the Verano Chill Lounge, complete with a larger than life walk-in igloo.

Vendor booths will run the gamut of providing information regarding every aspect of cannabis and specific products to offering clothing and accessories sure to appeal to cannabis fans. The festive atmosphere wouldn’t be complete without lots of munchies in the Food Truck court and giveaways of swag throughout the day.

Q – This year's festival seems to feature a pretty diverse lineup of artists. How did you go about planning this year's lineup?

Scott: Booking the acts is based around being as intersectional and eclectic as possible.  We want to make sure that all the artists we select really “get” cannabis culture.

We don’t pay attention to whether they are underground or mainstream, but instead look at whether they are entertaining and represent the full spectrum of cannabis users.

Q – There also will be other entertainment as well, including comedy sets, drag performances and DJ sets. Were you trying to have something for everyone attending the festival?

Scott: Yes.  Cannabis cuts across all demographics, cultures and political and sexual orientations so we looked to showcase an intriguing, playful mix that will entertain everyone.

Q – What do you hope people will get out of the festival?

Richard: For those already using cannabis, it is a time to share  stories about their favorite products and what it has done for them, as well as celebrate  how far we have come in the battle for legalization.  For those curious or new to cannabis, it provides an open, welcoming environment to explore and get answers to all the questions they might have about using cannabis and dispel some of the falsehoods perpetrated by society under prohibition.

Ultimately, this is an event where people from all walks of life can set aside their differences and come together to learn about and celebrate all that is good about cannabis.

Q – Do you anticipate the festival will grow every year and will become as much of a tradition as Taste of Chicago or the Chicago Blues Festival? 

Scott: Chicago is in its infancy for 4/20 festivals compared to some other areas. With pending legalization of cannabis around the world, we see it becoming more of a national or international festival – perhaps on the scale of  Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Day, where the celebration grows to cross geographic and cultural boundaries and provide an outlet for expression for everyone who wants to join the fun.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Taylor Scott Band to perform April 9 in Chicago in support of new album


Taylor Scott's electrifying guitar playing and soulful vocals have garnered him wide acclaim.

It shouldn't be a surprise then that Steve Berlin, of the band Los Lobos, would want to produce the Taylor Scott Band's new album, "All We Have," which also features an appearance by Los Lonely Boys member Henry Garza.

The band will perform April 9 at The Bassment, 353 W. Hubbard St. lower level, Chicago, as part of an album release party for "All We Have."

The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are free at

I had the chance to talk to Scott about the new album.

Q – In sitting down to make "All We Have," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

We wanted to really give people a portion of what we do, the kinds of ins and outs of our music, which is coming from a lot of different places all at the same time.

When I sat down with Steve Berlin, who produced it, we just decided to kind of throw out the window anything we had done before and just pick the best tunes I had written. We just tried to get the best collection of songs that best represented who I am.

And I think we did. The record is pretty diverse. There's a lot of different flavors on there coming from different places. Steve did a great job pulling all that together through his lens.

It's just a great initial profile of sort of our musical personality, you know?

Q – So it kind of reflects where you are at these days musically.

Yeah. There's so many different influences that sometimes it can be hard for us to all draw into one thing. But I think on this record, we did that well, especially with the help of Steve on the producing side. 
It feels like one full statement even though there's all these different sounds on it. I'm proud of that.
Taylor Scott, left, and Henry Garza, right, of Los Lonely Boys, play in the studio.
Q – I know that you've worked with Otis Taylor in the past and it seems like maybe that rubbed off on you on this album. There are a couple parts on this album that kind of sound like something he might do.

Do you think that people you have worked with over the years have kind of rubbed off on you?

I think that happens whether you mean for it to or not. There's no way to really avoid that if you're all the way in to the music.

I toured with Otis internationally for several years pretty much right after I got out of high school. So that was obviously a formative time for me and that music is still very much a part of my life.

I don't think was intentional but anytime you spend that much time with certain artists and certain types of music, it's probably going to come out for years to come in one's musical personality. It's sort of part of my makeup now.

Q – Did he give you any tips? What do you think you gained from working with him?

He definitely didn't give me any tips. He plays things pretty close to the chest. 

We didn't really have a whole lot of those types of conversations. That doesn't mean I didn't learn anything, but those sorts of conversations never really happened.

I learned the power of having a really great band behind you that really knows how to get into the sound you're looking for. He was the first person I worked with as an adult musician who really had that dialed in, which was cool to be a part of. 

He knew the sounds that he wanted and knew how to draw that out of people. So I learned a lot from him just bandleader wise.

Q – Of course Steve Berlin, from the band Los Lobos, produced "All We Have." Did you seek him out?

Yeah, we just gave him a copy of one of our earlier records and he was into the writing and everything. So he gave us a shout and said he would do this one.

We've been friends for a couple of years now. We started making this record the summer before last. 

Q – What do you think he brought to the table?

Until this record, I've always self-produced, which is cool. But there are a lot of things that you sort of miss because you are wearing a lot of hats at one time.
The cool thing about having a good producer is you can kind of lay that in their hands and just do what you do. There has to be trust there.

With Steve, the first day we came into the studio together, it was just like fire right away. After we finished one track, it was like, OK, there's trust there, there's mutual respect, and I was able to just sort of lay part of the creative process in his hands because I had already written and arranged the tunes.

He kind of helped put a sound to whatever this music is I'm trying to get across. Because it's coming from so many different places for me. And I think that's important.

He just had a way of packaging it to where it all sort of made sense and was fluid and seemed like one big thing rather than a bunch of little things. That's probably what I am most proud of as far as working with him on this one.

Q – You talked about your music encompassing different genres. How would you describe your music?

I kind of let people decide for themselves. Right now, it's somewhere sort of in the Americana world. There's funk and soul in there and rock.

But it's hard for me to just narrow it down, which is why I just leave that to the management or whatever. 

There's so much music and it's all in there somehow. I suppose it's sort of like an Americana record in that it draws from all those influences. 

Q – Who would you say your biggest influences are?

Guitar wise, I'm super into all the great blues players, you know, Hubert Sumlin, Freddie King, those sorts of people. The blues stuff is super important to me as far as my approach guitar wise.

As a writer, I'm super into Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and people like that. I'm also a Tom Waits fan.

Vocally, I'm a huge Ray Charles fan. David Hidalgo is like one of my favorite living vocalists and has become a huge influence too. I feel like he gets passed over in that conversation unjustly.

I'm super into Allen Toussaint,  especially production wise and writing wise. 

Q – There also seems to be some Allman Brothers influence in your music.

The Allman Brothers Band is probably my favorite band of all time. 

Q – You moved out to Denver four years ago. You are originally from St. Louis, I understand. 

St. Louis and then Wyoming. I really grew up in Wyoming, so I'm more so from there.
There's a little bit of that sound in there, too, if you're looking for it.

Q – As far as wanting to move to Denver, what was the reason to make the move to Denver?

I grew up two hours north of here in a small town in Wyoming, just across the state line. From the time that I started playing, I've been coming down here to meet musicians, to go to shows and to play shows because the town I loved in didn't have much to offer longevity wise.

And I had already made all these relationships with all these great musicians in Denver. So it was sort of just a natural jump. There was nothing left for me in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

And I can be close to my family, which is important to me. This is home for now, and I like it a lot.

Q – So you wanted to be part of a bigger music scene?

Yeah, yeah. I already knew a bunch of great musicians. My whole band was from here.
I just wanted to be in a city that's a little more diverse, with a little more going on. And Denver was sort of the natural choice, proximity wise.

And now I've found this really wonderfully diverse music scene. There's a bunch of great jazz players here, which is probably the coolest of the music scenes here.

But I don't know if I'll be here forever. I'm glad to be here now, though.

Q – So what should people expect when you are in Chicago. Are you going to be concentrating on the new album?
We'll play a bunch of stuff from the new album, of course. But the thing with us is that you never quite know what you're going to get as far as setlists go.

We like to throw in surprises, you know. The other thing is that we're always working it out on stage and trying to shape it differently and improve and see where things go.

We are very improvisational. The guys in the band can go any direction at any time. 

So I don't know exactly where we are going to go that night. But I know we're play a bunch of stuff from the record and then we'll improvise and see how the room feels.

Q – Do you take audience requests?

Sometimes, if they're our songs, which happens now, finally.

Q – That must be a pretty cool feeling, that people will yell out that they want to hear one of your songs.

Yeah, it is man. We were on the road a few weeks ago, and we were in all these random places – St. Louis, Kansas City, northwest Arkansas and in all those places and more, people were coming up and saying, "Play this song off the new record" or whatever and the record had just come out.

So that was a super cool feeling, being in northwest Arkansas, where I have never played before, and having somebody come up and request tunes from the new record.