As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of burlesque. So, I was really excited when I noticed an upcoming Obscura show. Now, Obscura is not your regular burlesque show – it has a dark arts / gothic theme, which, as you might imagine, is a unique combination. Also, the 4 performers scheduled for that that night are folks I’ve followed online for quite some time and this would be the perfect opportunity to see them all at once. So, I got in contact with my bff, Jessica, and we made plans for a simple Sunday night, just the two of us.
Coming off of my last outing, where I made an attempt at the rocker girl look, I decided I wanted to attempt more of a goth look for this outing. I don’t have much along those lines in my wardrobe, but fortunately an awesome looking dress popped up on my Facebook feed – might just work and it’s on sale from Nordstrom Rack. It had black trim with black lace over a hunter green base. Pretty feminine cut, but the dark color suggested that it might work perfectly for this evening.
The only issue I could see was that many of the reviews indicated that the material has no stretch and is a bit unforgiving – usually not a good sign. Despite that concern, I put in the online order and it arrived a few days later. OMG! The fabric a color was so much better than expected. Unfortunately, the no stretch concern was completely founded, as it was very tight in the shoulders and I had a lot of trouble getting zipped up all the way. I might have been able to make it work, but it’s always so much better to have properly fitting clothes. So, I immediately got back online to see if I could get a larger size – Nordstrom Rack is really good about in person returns, so I had no concern there. Unfortunately, they only had size 8 and smaller left. I’m usually a size 12, which is what I originally ordered.
Okay, let’s look at other retailers. Amazon had one in size 14, but twice the price. Walmart had almost the same dress and at a lower price. But, upon closer inspection I noticed that it was made of a different material – that scuba material, which always makes me over heat and I’ve learned to avoid, especially for an outing in July. So, I decided to go with Amazon at twice the price, because, at this point, I was totally infatuated with that dress.
When it arrived, it fit a bit better, but the zipper immediately broke and I had to pull it over my head just to get it off. Of course, I was crestfallen. It didn’t help that over the next few days the dress in question kept popping up in my Facebook and Instagram feeds – it was taunting me. Actually, it’s a good thing it kept popping up, because on a lark, I checked again and by some miracle Nordstrom Rack now had available a size 18 and still at the sale price, which by the way was about $50. Time was getting short, so I paid extra for 2 day shipping and … it … fit …. perfectly. OMG, I’ve never had so much drama about one dress. But, in this case, totally worth it. Here’s a few pics from the dry run test without makeup.
After that test run, the only thing missing was earrings – I wanted a green pair to match the dress. So, a day or two before the big night, I did some boy mode shopping, where I did find some good earrings at Francesca’s in Block 37. But, before going there I had stopped at the Target on State Street to see what they had any suitable earrings. Not so much, but I did find a small black crossbody purse, which was only made possible by the tiny credit card size wallet I got at Nordstrom Rack while returning the size 12 dress. But, none of that matters. What matters is that when I was on the down escalator at Target, I noticed a rack of cheap sunglasses. Intrigued, I rode back up thinking, “Julie could use some sunglasses. She’s too cool to not have some badass cheap sunglasses” (yes, cue up the ZZ Top song).
The burlesque show was at 7pm in the Wicker Park neighbored. So, we got dinner reservations at a place called Mama Delia. I had kinda been there before, because a few years earlier I went to a burlesque show at the club above this restaurant (that place is called Bordel and Sally Marvel – who should not be missed – performs on Thursday nights). The restaurant seemed really cool and I always wanted to go back. It’s also in Wicker Park and not only has a Spanish theme, but is a bit of a tribute to the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who is known for his gender bending plot twists (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Almodóvar). While Julie almost always enjoys upscale restaurants, the small portions here left us with that cliché feeling of wanting to go get something to eat afterwards. Let’s just say … a really great one time experience. On the positive side, I looked totally badass, strutting in there with my new cheap sunglasses.
The burlesque show was in a space called The Brass Ring, which is a dance studio, but hosts shows under the name the Tiny Stage (https://tinystage.org/). As you might imagine, it’s an intimate space with room for about two dozen audience members. Lighting wasn’t great for pictures, but here’s a couple cute ones of yours truly.
Sio Bast (@sio.bast) produces these shows and serves as MC as well as a performer. She’s one of the true veterans of the Chicago burlesque scene. While I’ve seen a number of her video performances, especially during the pandemic, it was a special treat to see her for the first time live. Of all the performers, Juju Valentine (@_juju_valentine_) played to the dark arts theme the best. Her character that night was disturbingly dark, but she still managed to make it erotic and sexy. The headliner was Eva la Feva (@evalafeva). If you’ve been following my posts, you might remember her as the theater manager at the Newport Theater. While she devotes much of her time to keeping that institution afloat, she is an incredible performer in her own right. Don’t know how she finds the time to do both, but it seems to be working for her, cuz she was totally on point that night. For me, the pleasant surprise of the night was Renee Ryder (@thereneeryder). She was the co-producer of the show and fill-in MC when Sio was getting ready to perform.
Before this show, I was not all that familiar with Renee, even though I have been following her on instagram for a couple months. Her routines didn’t depend on any special costume or elaborate makeup. She simply focused on choreography that was perfectly in tune with the music. It’s a bit hard to explain, but it evoked an amazing amount of emotion in a very no nonsense kind of way. It seems she has an enormous amount of natural talent. While she was MCing and trying to stall for time, she asked the audience how they heard about the show. One person said random internet search, another said from a friend. She came to me and I said from following you on Instagram. She said, you mean following the Obscura page, and I said no, following *you*. After the show, I thought my answer might have sounded a bit stalkerish, so I approached her to clarify and mentioned that I’m an aspiring burlesque performer myself. She was super sweet and gave me plenty of advice and I learned that she is still pretty new to burlesque, actually a protégé of Sio – clearly I am not the only one to observe her natural talent. Here’s a couple pictures with me and Juju (left) and Renee (right).
During the intermission we were hanging outside the theater, getting some fresh air, chatting with other audience members and I got several compliments on my black patent strappy heels. Not much else to say here, other than making sure those shoes get some acknowledgement. They also suggested I take some classes at Brass Ring. I’d very much like to take a stretching / flexibility class, something I’ve been focusing on quite a bit lately.
After the show, Jes and I had a few drinks at the bar next door. About 10 pm she was ready to head home as she had a not so short drive ahead of her. I, however, was not ready to pack it in and convinced her to drop me off at the L&L Tavern at Belmont and Clark. I figured I could probably find some interesting folks to talk to at that notorious dive bar. Even though it was a Sunday night, I was not disappointed. I ended up sitting right next to a trans girl named Evangeline (although she might actually be non-binary). In any case, we hit it off immediately, chatting about life, taking turns playing Bowie songs on the jukebox and arguing with some random guy about Quentin Tarantino movies. Like I said, dive bars rarely disappoint. Definitely, a fitting ending to a simple but awesome night.