Monthly Archives: September 2012

Tavi Gevinson at Unity Temple in Oak Park

Last evening, Oak Park was treated to a double dose of style when the Frank Lloyd Wright designed landmark Unity Temple played host to wünderkind fashion blogger/online magazine maven Tavi Gevinson.

Being about as far removed from from her demographic as is humanly possible, I was unfamiliar with Ms. Gevinson and her popularity until recently. But the story of her rise to prominence in her field is intriguing.

Four years ago, as a 11 year old Oak Park student, she took it upon herself to start a blog called Style Rookie, mainly commenting on fashion and style from a pre-teen’s perspective but also touching on topics of feminism, relationships, and high school drama. Before long, Tevi’s blog not only amassed a following of like-minded teen and pre-teen girls, but also caught the attention of some prominent fashion designers and editors who invited her to some of the world’s most exclusive runway shows. Tevi’s parents first became aware of her growing popularity when she asked their permission to appear in a New York Times magazine story.

Now 16, Tavi has started a new and wildly successful online magazine aimed primarily at teen girls, Rookie, which is edited by Anaheed Alani, wife of NPR radio personality and host of “This American Life”, Ira Glass. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Tavi and Ira, who has served as one of her mentors, trade tales of mutual admiration. This month alone, besides the Wall Street Journal article, Tavi appears in the current issue of Newsweek and on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

At Thursday’s gathering, Tevi and three other writers from the magazine took turns reading selections from the just released Rookie Yearbook covering topics as diverse as a friend’s death, kindergardeners caught discovering each other’s bodies told from the teacher’s viewpoint, and a hilarious overview of Burl Ives’ acting career. Tavi possesses a poise and self assuredness that’s rare in someone who’s still a high school sophomore. She was dressed fairly conservatively compared to some of her pre-teen outfits, in an subdued orange shirt with hair pulled back and wearing glasses.

It will be interesting to see where her path heads next. After appearances in a Wilco video and rumors of an upcoming feature film role, it’s clear that road may take her well beyond the teen fashion world, though in answer to an audience question regarding her “2-year plan”, Tavi expressed her great satisfaction with what she’s doing with Rookie magazine and didn’t have a vision beyond that.

As a side note, my daughter was originally supposed to join me at the event, but was unable to attend because of last minute work duties. I ran into graphic novelist Chris Ware before the reading and was happy to find that I wasn’t the only male in attendance. Chris, whose latest work, “Building Stories” comes out soon, is giving a presentation next month at Unity Temple.

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David Byrne and “How Music Works” at the Music Box Theater

The “big suit” may be gone, and the hair has turned white since his days as front man for the Talking Heads, but David Byrne still possesses the same creative energy that fueled one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the 80’s, and lead to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Coming from an art school background background, it not surprising that Byrne’s creative work includes books, photography, and film in addition to his music. Since 1986, he’s written or contributed to nine books, including the Tabloid inspired “True Stories” and 2009’s “Bicycle Diaries”, which chronicles his experiences pedaling through the streets of New York City and other cities around the globe.

David Byrne’s latest book, “How Music Works”, explores the business and the process of making and experiencing music . Last night, I attended a talk by Byrne and Bettina Richards of Thrill Jockey Records at Chicago’s beautiful Music Box Theater. Music critic Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune MCed the proceedings and he did a terrific job of coaxing some thoughtful answers out of his sometimes bemused subject. Byrne, looking fit and more youthful than his 60 years, still has some of his trademark quirky mannerisms,and his occasional spontaneous chuckle makes you think there’s more going on his head than he sometimes lets on.

Some topics that came up in the discussion:

•On mp3s: Though he knows many musicians who despise the artificial sound quality, Byrne doesn’t see it as a big issue and thinks it’s remarkable how up to 80% of redundant sound information can be tossed out and still retain an enjoyable listening experience.

•Licensing music out for advertising: Given the declining revenue generated for record sales, Byrne sees the need for modern bands to sell music rights to advertisers, though he’s steadfastly declined commercial offers himself, saying simply “I don’t need to”.

•Visual aspects of performing: Byrne believes that every music act, even those bands that opt for street wear and no frills,  makes a conscious decision regarding what the audience will see as well as hear. He related a couple of anecdotes regarding his own “performance art” including a pre-Talking Heads’ performance which involved shaving his Amish-style beard onstage to the accompaniment of an accordion player, and more recently, emerging onstage in a tutu.

In all, Byrne came across as analytic but amiable, like a seasoned Sheldon Cooper.

David Byrne will perform this evening with St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) at the Chicago Theater, which he will presumably commute to via bicycle.