Chicago Touring Authority
Abandoning normalcy was not a unique experience in 2020, but some lost more of a routine than others. The '70s progressive rock band Chicago suddenly dropped a more than 50-year-old routine in entertainment, an industry that was quickly deemed non-essential – although sorely missed.
Austin director Peter Curtis Pardini brings light to this story — a nearly universal one aside from its heightened sense of disruption — in The Last Band On Stage, a documentary screening on October 8 at the Austin Film Society. Pardini, and Chicago drummer Walfredo Reyes Jr. will attend the screening in Austin, while Chicago founding member Lee Loughnane joins via Skype.
The title points out the film’s hook, which claims that Chicago was the “last band playing in the U.S. as COVID lockdowns begin” — something that several local bands out of any city could dispute, were they unconcerned about sounding irresponsible. However, the veteran rock band, a Grammy Hall-of-Famer and one of Billboard's Top 125 Artists Of All Time, were not just conspicuous; they were virtually inextricable from live music until the pandemic achieved the impossible.
Austin in particular is constantly reminded of the shutdown of South by Southwest, one of the most drastic and immediate individual lockdown consequences in any industry, anywhere. Yet past its Austin provenance, this documentary offers a wider perspective from a touring band exposed to national expectations and logistics.
Not many can discuss the magnitude of system shock that comes from the sudden end of a five-decade work habit — touring, that is — let alone for players who found themselves among one of the most vulnerable populations, considering age. Few can discuss touring for 50 years in any conditions, nor compare each year to the next with the first hand historical consistency Chicago can, now aged 55 as a group.
The story offers not just a rehashing of pandemic struggles, but insight into the group and the industry coping skills it developed over many eras of popular music.
The short description of the film, narrated by Tony winner and “Chicago super-fan” Joe Mantegna, promises survival, and in its current collective career, the band delivers. A new 2022 single, “If This Is Goodbye,” echoes the 1976 hit “If You Leave Me Now,” but with a more eclectic, upbeat arrangement.
The band has been announcing concerts in a steady stream since August of 2021, with Southern dates across mid-fall including three dates in Texas: Tyler on October 29, Midland on November 1, and Lubbock on November 2.
Tickets ($11) for the October 8, 1:30 pm screening at AFS Cinema are available at austinfilm.org. The film runs 90 minutes.
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Do the foxtrot
A new kind of convenience store is coming to Austin. Chicago-based Foxtrot combines neighborhood retail and cafe with an e-commerce delivery app for extra convenience. The brand already has two locations in Dallas, and plans to bring four to Austin by 2023.
Austin's first Foxtrot location will land at 1804 S. First St., coming later this fall. Taking over a vacant auto repair shop, at the intersection of South First Street and Annie Street, the spot will be the brand's largest store to date. The 6,000-square-foot space will include a spacious indoor-outdoor covered courtyard patio, plus an all-day cafe and market.
On its heels will be a 2,500-square-foot location at 4800 Burnet Rd. later in the fall, followed by a City Hall outpost and a spot on the The Drag near the University of Texas at Austin in early 2023. Following the brand's strong sense of place with existing stores, each new Austin site is uniquely designed for the neighborhood it supports while incorporating signature design elements like concrete floors, wood paneling, warm color palettes, and local artwork.
Foxtrot co-founders Mike LaVitola and Taylor Bloom first met while studying and working in Austin. The pair launched Foxtrot in 2014 with a mission to modernize the corner store experience while adding an e-commerce aspect to bring added convenience. The brand prioritizes local purveyors alongside trending global brands from around the world, and already carries some Texas-grown favorites such as Siete, Lick Honest Ice Creams, Kosmic Kombucha, and more.
"It's been a dream of ours to come back to Texas and open our first Austin location in the neighborhood where Foxtrot was dreamt up over long nights and Lone Stars on our East Live Oak Street porch,” says LaVitola in a release. “We're thrilled to open our biggest location yet to showcase old friends and new partners in the Austin culinary community, and a great space to enjoy the neighborhood any time of day."
According to the release, Bloom and LaVitola knew they were ready to come back to Austin in a big way after a year of pivotal growth. The pair waited for meaningful Austin spaces to become available, ultimately deciding on four distinct locations to allow for a larger delivery radius to create the most impact in the Austin area. Each of the new Austin locations will have support from the brand's commissary kitchen, and the brand hopes to employ more than 125 people over the course of the next year.
Foxtrot currently has 21 locations across the country, with a third Dallas location coming to the Knox-Henderson neighborhood this fall. Carrying everything from coffee, smoothies, breakfast tacos, salads, bowls, and grab-and-go options for lunch and dinner, every Foxtrot offering is available for pickup or delivery through the brand's proprietary app. Each store also carries local craft beers, a curated wine selection from an in-house sommelier, and everyday essentials.