By James Currie
Yes, you read that right. Tonight, December 16th, 2015, Star Wars fans united for one night in Chicago, not at a Mos Eisley space port, but at The Whistler in Logan Square for a pre show party of sorts to celebrate the opening of Star Wars The Force Awakens. Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (Silent Reading) playing all the galactic hits!
This special event was put on by the folks at The Whister, at 2421 N Milwaukee Ave, to honor and have a little fun for the premier of what will most certainly be the most hyped movie of the year, if not decade. They dressed the inside of the small pub up to resemble the Cantina Bar in the 1977 Star Wars, A New Hope movie. You know, the place where Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi went in search of a way off of Tatooine. Ben sliced the arm off a jerk in the bar and Han Solo definitely shot first. The only real difference here being that droids were allowed (and it was last night vs a long ago or in a galaxy far away) but hey, it was the first of it’s kind in this galaxy and the fanatics absolutely lapped it up.
Costume dressed fans started lining up around 6PM to get in. They came dressed in everything from classic R2-D2 to the newest villain, Kylo Ryn and babydoll Chewbacca to Mortal Combat Yoda. If your midi-chlorians weren’t buzzing by now, they soon would be. There were two shows scheduled for the night. One at 8:30PM and another at 11:00PM. And wow did they wait! Some people said they were standing in line for 3 hours to get in. And it wasn’t a Tatooine kind of night, not quite a Hoth one either, but pretty damn close. It was about 35 degrees with a strong south eastern wind. Not a great night to be standing in any line much less one for hours, but they did. To pass the time, you’d often see fights lightsaber battles break out and overhear stories of intergalactic tales banter back and forth.
Once inside the tiny club, you found tables, drapery and lights set up like the movies bar scene. People, creatures and bounty hunters all clamoring in to get warm and check out the sights. Jedi having drinks with Sith. Rebels dancing with The Empire. Something you’d never expect in the Lucas galaxy, but in Chicago, we take things to a whole new level.
Time for a drink! It took a while, but once you got to the bar, you found the barkeeps in robed outfits like the movie characters as well. The Whistler had a special menu of drinks available that night complete with Blue Milk and bubbling tonics.
On stage, you saw the main event, the Cantina Band. Lead by Figrin D’an and the boys, you heard classics from the soundtrack as well as other sic fi classics and other tunes that resembled something you would expect to hear from the alien brigade rockers.
All this came at a price though and I’m not talking about the $12 Tatooine Sunsets. Time and space was very limited here and caused some disturbance in the Force. This was obviously much larger than the club had expected. After all, it was a Wednesday night in the middle of December (normally a slow night in any business), but come on, it’s Star Wars. The biggest movie franchise and largest fan based sci-fi mega movie ever! This was a prime example of, if you built it, they WILL come. The event planning could have been a little better.
The Whistler billed it as 2 shows happening that night with two specific times for each. The problem was, they didn’t treat it as a traditional show. They didn’t let people in for the first act, clear house and let a new batch in. That didn’t sit well for fans. Once people got in, understandably they didn’t want to leave. Once the capacity was met, no one else got in. And they filled the house to the Rodian gils. It was tentacles to tails in there. So patrons had to stand in line until someone left, then they got to go in – one or two people at a time. Since the line was around the block and down the street into the residential area, that didn’t sit well with some who decided after a few minutes to leave.
Another problem came with the bar layout. It was a small, narrow room with seats at the bar and people sitting in them. So if you wanted a drink, you had to wait, again, to work your way to the bar and lean over and in between seated people to get in an order. The crowds surrounded the bar completely wall to wall and back to the bathroom. If you were one of the lucky ones to get in the back of the line, you unfortunately had to smell what can only be called, “a Wookies death” emanating from the bathroom door you were smashed against. Two people said they waited 30 minutes to get a drink after waiting 2.5 hours in line and kinda ruined the mood for them, but once you got a drink, they were pretty amazing. How can you not love a Blue Milk drink, or a bubbling red lava inspired cocktail?!
The final issue with the night was the bands playing time. They didn’t play very long sets. With a crowd of people still wrapped around the block, they called it quits around 11:30PM but still advertised they would be open until 2AM. So now you’ve got very angry Jedi on the verge of turing to the Darkside because after all the wait and they finally get in, there will be no Cantina Band playing. The main reason for this event. By 12AM the place was still packed and at 1PM a line was still outside down the side walk.
Overall it was a really great idea. One that if planned out properly, or at least managed differently during the night, could have been an even better experience for the hundreds of Star Wars fans who braved the cold late night to attend. In the future, maybe this could be something held at a much larger venue, with specific time slots for groups and longer than one night. For those who did make it, the Force was with them and it will be a lasting memory for a long, long time.