Like the Lakeview Mayfest that starts the streetfair season, my wife and I always make a point to attend the Guinness Oysterfest that marks the end of the season. Back when we first started going to this, it was held somewhere in Wicker Park. These days, it’s in Roscoe Village, and the music has certainly changed accordingly.
My wife and I usually take the Belmont bus over to Damen and walk up north until we get to Roscoe. When you come in from this entrance, you pay your admission, which was $7 this year, and walk by the “Irish-centric” stage and a big ol’ Guinness. During the day, it was your typical Irish-y stuff that you see/hear at the St. Pat’s parade. On the way out, there was a band playing Whiskey in the Jar, a song that I didn’t realize until just now was not originally a Metallica song.
As we walked through the Guinness Oysterfest, we realized that it has expanded to a size much larger than it had been. This streetfair, likely because of the neighborhood in which is now sits, is startlingly kid-friendly. After you pass about two blocks of street fair vendors and beer tents, there was a huge bouncy house and a climbing wall for kids. Plus, there was also a large area of tables and chairs where many families sat and parked their strollers (my wife and I did quite a bit of stroller spying, as our two top contenders for the stroller we want to get (the Baby Jogger City Mini and the Uppababy Vista) were there in abundance).
Every time I go to this streetfair or Roscoe Village in general, it seems like a more and more fitting place for me to be living. I think that, if I did ever want to leave our current hood of Lakeview, and if my wife and I are ever fortunate enough to be able to sell our current condo, we would probably look first at Roscoe Village. Because in essence, going to this streetfair in Roscoe Village was probably a little bit like a sneak peak into my wife’s and my future. Everyone seemed to be about 5 to 15 years older than us. They were all yuppies. And they all had young children.
We kept walking past more food and your typical street fair crap vendors until we finally got to the main stage. At the time, a band my wife and I have enjoyed at other street fairs, the Spazmatics, were playing. They do a lot of 80s covers, which was fitting, as the musical theme for the night was apparently 80s music.
After getting a guinness for me and a bottled water for my wife, we went over to the oyster tent. For $15, you got six raw oysters – 3 of one kind and 3 of another. I overheard the guy saying that one kind was from the west coast and the other kind was from the east coast. I like that kind of symmetry.
The oysters were served with a lemon wedge; sauce packets for horseradish sauce, cocktail sauce, or hot sauce; napkins; and a packet of oyster crackers (with which I have no idea what you’re supposed to do). I squeezed lemon, a little bit of hot sauce, and a little bit of cocktail sauce in each one. Then, we ate them.
I tasted the oysters first, and they were ice cold and tasted very fresh. So, I let my wife taste one of each of the two kinds. I know pregnant ladies aren’t really supposed to be eating raw oysters, but I am getting very tired of the pregnancy food rules. They seem almost entirely arbitrary, inconsistent, and written by people who don’t seem to even like food. I generally believe that nutritionists don’t actually like food. If they did, they’d be chefs. And besides, it’s not like I was giving her a wad of chewing tobacco.
After the oysters, the deep fryer began calling out my name. Whenever I see a big banner facade for carnie food, I just can’t resist. I don’t know if it’s the primary colors or if it’s the smell of deep fryers working overtime, but I am powerless. So we got my absolute favorite thing to eat at a street fair – cheese fries.
We usually don’t get the bucket o’ fries. But at this particular tent that I went to, they only seemed to have the bucket size. My wife insisted that I hold the bucket because, with her baby bump, she’s a little self conscious about public displays of conspicuous culinary indulgence.
The bucket o’ fries was indeed massive. And it was a very large and very salty amount of neon yellow cheese to eat. But I was hungry. And it was so good, I pretty much scarfed the whole thing down before my wife could get a fork in edgewise. But, I did let my wife have a little of it, though. After all, she is carrying my baby.
Several guinnesses for me later, the first of the two main bands of this 80s-inspired evening took the stage – Men Without Hats.
I had never heard of them before, but an earlier YouTube search informed me that I did know at least one of their songs, Safety Dance. But to get to the Safety Dance, you had to listen to about 45 minutes of their other songs that I had never heard before but did actually enjoy. And now, having listened to 80s music in person, I can report that it does, at least, sound much better live.
The final act for the night was The Human League, another band that I had not heard of but did recognize upon doing a youtube search. This band was also pretty fun to see live. At one point, the lead singer announced that they have been a synth band for the last 30 years, and I believe him. I saw two keytars and an electronic drum kit, which made this show one part music and one part culturo-historico-reenactment.
I didn’t like The Human League as much. The vocals and lyrics always seemed haphazard and impromptu. But I did like the instrumental portions because it reminded me of the Tron Soundtrack, which I do like.
By this point, we had been at the Guinness Oysterfest for about five hours. The streetfair was over, my feet hurt, and my pregnant wife had to pee. We had made it through another streetfair and another streetfair season.
Even for my pregnant wife who had to go through it all without a single drink, the 2011 streetfair season was a good one. We ate a lot of food, drank a lot of drinks, and met up with a lot of friends. And in 2012, we look forward to the next summer streetfair season when we can bring our kid.