SOUTHSIDE CORRESPONDENT NIKKI PATIN UNFURLS INTA'S
Inta's is located at 157 W. Ontario, for directions, call 312.664.6880. 21 & up.
The first Southside venue I decided to review isn't actually located on the Southside. And if you looked at this place, which resides in the same area as Magnum's, Hard Rock Cafe, and the Rainforest Cafe, you'd swear that the last thing jumpin' off on a Sunday night was poetry. Inta's, however, is a complete study in contrasts. Valet for poets, rockin' leather jackets, cell phones, and SUV's? Welcome to the 90's. Now before you write Inta's off as another trendy rip-off of real culture, let me tell you that the glossy appearance is just that. The poets that grace this stage are some of the hardest-hitting, brain-crunching wordmasters I have ever heard.
Inta's is dark and sumptuous, with round, smooth columns, and a curving stairway, and that's just the foyer! Once you get inside, you'll see small tables and two walls of the room taken up with huge, circular booths. There's a DJ booth, plus a full-service bar and candles and incense on every table.
The feeling of this open mic is very intimate and pure jazz. The audience is very respectful of the poets onstage and there's a lot of audience participation. One of the coolest things about reading here is that people will give you feedback as you read, letting you know that they're really listening to what you're saying and not just clapping when it's over. Also, several poets who come up ask for what's known as a "clap check," designed to pump up the energy, if the audience seems too quiet.
Hosting the festivities are Malik Yusef, who I didn't get to see a lot of, and J. Ivy, a very popular poet who can always get the crowd going. J is one of the rare hosts I've seen who feels very comfortable onstage and therefore can take a chance comically AND make it work. He puts everyone in the room at ease and attempts to knock down the fourth-wall that many entertainers hide behind.
Another element that sets Inta's apart is the band behind every poet. I know other open mics use bands, but Mark Stampley and Eclipse of the Moon are exceptional in this capacity. They don't play, at the poet's request, and they interact with the host and poets also. So, when a poet gets up there, oft times it sounds like they've rehearsed with the band, when in fact (like when I got up there) they just met that night.
Overall, Inta's is a cool spot. For poets who like to perform raw or who like simplicity in terms of where they perform will probably not like this place. It definitely feels more like a club atmosphere instead of a poetry reading. For anyone who digs poetry as entertainment as well as a cultural and artistic movement would enjoy it. The most important about Inta's is that it makes poetry more accessible to a wider audience. A lot of people who don't go to readings come here and find that they like what they see and hear. Anything that brings the positive aspects of poetry to the masses is definitely alright with me.
The set at Inta's is long, starting at 7pm and going as late as 1 or 2 in the morning. And if you want to read, getting there at 7 or before is a VERY good idea. I got there at 8 one night and they told me I wouldn't read until after midnight. Also, the cover is steep. $10 for non-reading people and $5 for reading poets.
Hearken the Age of Revolutionary Spirit
Jazz 'n Java
3428 S. Martin Luther King Drive
Open Mic-Wednesday Nights
List opens at 7pm
$2 for everyone
Reviewed By Nicole A. Patin
The name Jazz 'n Java connotes images of blue lights swirled in a smoky haze, chilled-back artists in black turtlenecks, sipping cappucinos, smoking long, thin cigarettes with unpronounceable names, all the while scribbling furiously in a little black notebook. Let me just take a sledgehammer to all of that RIGHT NOW.
Jazz 'n Java, located on the near South Side of Chicago, feels more like a secret underground revolutionary refuge rather than an obvious spot for the notably pretentious. I'd have to say that the best aspect of this place is the fact that most of the regular performers at this open mic. have also been regular performers here for the past few years. Usually, when you come into an atmosphere that has an established list of open mic. performers, there is a feeling of exclusion, of not being part of the family It's different at Jazz 'n Java. There is a very warm familial atmosphere that, strangely enough, does not diminish the strength of the poets.
A lot of the same poets who read at Jazz 'n Java also read at Inta's, but the two venues are a study in contrasts. Inta's is the poetspace of the millennium, while Jazz 'n Java hearkens back to an age of revolutionary spirit that was borne out of that lifestyle, not necessarily the current trend. There is a comfort level in the brownstone basement that poets come to in order to seek refuge, that intellectuals frequent for discussion and chess matches, and that ordinary folk visit for good food, good friends, and perhaps a good book. The open mic vibe embodies all of these descriptions, plus an openness rarely found in other open mics, which are somewhat mired in ego and endless competition.
Anyone can get on the Jazz 'n Java floor (no stages here) and simply speak and truly be listened to. The poets who read here vary in style, language, subject, and presentation. The energy of the crowd is generally high, but also laid-back.
If You Don't Get Out Beyond Your Normal Venue, Take A Chance On Jazz 'n Java
The essence of Jazz 'n Java lies in its name and the performers who embody the spirit of it.
The blue lights and smoke may be gone, but the innovation and revolutionary spirit are as strong as a double shot of espresso.
BY NIKKI PATIN, STAFF WRITER FOR the LETTER eX
NIKKI ON FRAN ON NIKKI AT THE MAD BAR
NIKKI PATIN BY FRAN J. HARRIS
On November 28, 2000 Nikki Patin brought the lights down on the last Women Out Loud for 2000. Hard to believe it's over. But when you consider that plenty of folks have been begging for a millennium for what came busting in Out Loud, you may understand all the excitement when Nikki hit the mic as the in-house Mad Bar Chicago diva.
Nikki P's performance is so refreshing because of the fact that you can't get next to it without it getting on you. If you wonder how people start pouring themselves into words, then you owe it to yourself to check out Nikki Patin. If you wonder where blues begins and where it ends up, winding out of the crux someone's arms, then ask people like Nikki P. to turn a moment into melody and you might come out of it humming your own grassroots version of her song - like the already classic "Rock Me" or the saucy "Retro-Indestructive." I'm saying - this is how it begins: A poet with an unmistakable need for lyrical bellowing winds her verse into infusion at the top of her lungs and what comes out is scale and blues note and song. The result - a poetry that is not afraid to wail. Speaking of intertwine, Nikki shared her stage with Tara Betts and Golda of 8th Wonder from the Bay Area. Nikki and Tara drove home Tara's poem, "Rock and Roll Be a Black Woman" with a twist that gave the audience a no-holding-tongues taste for their new band, Melange. And when Golda's freestyle came blasting from the belly up, there was no mistaking that sometimes we know exactly what we're asking for. It has been one hell of a year out loud. And it's only the beginnium. Don't miss the next Women Out Loud on January 30, 2001.
Nikki Patin has won both Mad Bar and Green Mill's poetry slams and you can find her writing on www.chicagopoetry.com and www.freshpoetry.com.
FRAN J. HARRIS BY NIKKI PATIN
If the word strength could be sculpted into a sound, Fran Harris' voice would be the sculptor's muse. Fran's work is something of an enigma...it is loose-limbed and full-bodied, with subtexts, symbols, and metaphors that do not show themselves completely upon first listening. The audience wants to hear more, though, because of the conviction that reverberates through her words. Fran stands out from most spoken word poets because she actually writes poetry...sometimes difficult, sometimes beautiful, but always engaging work that forces the listener to really pay attention. After hearing Fran read at open mics and at her first Mad Bar feature, her feature at the Wam Bam Poetry Slam (coincidentally, the last Mad Bar slam of the year) gave me greater insight into her writing and her range as a performer. The first thing I noticed about Fran's performance this night was her comfort level. I've never her seen more at ease onstage. From the first moment, Fran commanded the stage, standing askance and aware of only her words. Her set was fluid, calming the rowdy slam crowd into an awed silence. Another pleasant aspect of this feature was the variance of Fran's vocal levels, especially evidenced in her poem about Christmas. As mentioned above, Fran's voice has a distinctive quality that can best be described as strong. The conviction and passion that she pours into her writing, and, thus, her performance gives her work a certain nobility. However, because her voice is so distinctive, some of her pieces lose their own identities. Tonight was the exception. Fran gave a powerhouse performance that knocked the audience on its ass, shaking them loose from the usual before-slam anxiety and wintry malaise. The highlight of the night was a poem entitled, "Reared." Blending social commentary and personal experience to drive her point home, Fran literally brought me to tears. The Mad Bar feature exhibited Fran Harris' upward evolution as a writer and performer. It was a good night.
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Note: Nikki Patin served as our South Side Correspondent. Unfortunately she left us due to our harsh criticism of her publisher. She did leave with us these fine articles regarding venues which since have closed.