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The Out of Space concert series blasted off Labor Day weekend at Temperance Beer Co. at 2000 Dempster St. in Evanston’s West End neighborhood. Three out of the four nights were sold out for the eclectic and excellently curated concert series that’s been going strong since 2018.
The impressive roster of headliners this year made for a stellar weekend of live music on a single stage. The casual pageantry of a final summer Labor Day weekend hurrah was on full display as the crowd eased into the event, eager to get down, unwind and take in some spectacular performances.
Now in its third year, The Out of Space summer concert series, put on by Evanston’s ever-tasteful music venue SPACE, takes place on two dates at Temperance Beer Co. and Canal Shores Golf Course. It’s a highlight of the Evanston summer concert scene. The series continues to host an impressive lineup of favorite local acts and big-name headliners each summer.
The open lot adjacent to Temperance Beer Co. is the perfect-sized venue to hold the thousands of concertgoers in attendance and is spacious enough to still hem in the buzz of a large outdoor festival while still leaving enough room to spread out and enjoy the open air of a beautiful evening with company.
For the opening night, Chicago’s own Twista opened for legendary Atlanta rapper Big Boi who cracked it wide open and sailed the vibes all the way through until the Mother Ship landed on Sunday night and George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic tore the roof clear off the stage to close out the weekend. Other acts included the slick rocking JD McPherson and Southern rock favorites Drive By Truckers, as well as Chicago deep funk favorites Liquid Soul and others.
There was an ample supply of Temperance’s signature beers on tap. Various sponsors and tents lined the perimeter and an array of food trucks dotted the back, providing the crowd with the proper ballast to accompany the cold beer that was flowing as the feature entertainment of the weekend got underway.
All of the necessary COVID-19 precautions were in place, with proof of vaccination or a 24-hour negative test result being required for entry. Although the ground area at Temperance was sizable enough to comfortably accommodate the crowd of a few thousand, the weekend didn’t go off without a reminder of the continued challenges of the pandemic.
To much dismay, the sold-out Saturday night headliner, Neko Case, made an official statement at the beginning of the weekend that her performance would be cancelled as the result of a member of her touring party testing positive for COVID-19.
On Thursday night Atlanta rap icon Big Boi, one-half of one of the most regal rap duos of all time, Outkast, took the stage with the ever-dapper Sleepy Brown amid a flood of purple stage light, blaring fog and heavy smoke.
With a full slab of turntables, the group whipped through an array of new material from his latest project and peppered the set with a generous smattering of the hits. “So Fresh, So Clean,” “Ms. Jackson” and a surreally timed “Bombs Over Baghdad” cranked the sound system. The rhymes and hooks all maintained the signature freshness that keeps Big Boi one the most original and beloved hitmakers in the history of hip hop with an unstoppably energetic and athletic live presence.
Slick haired rock and roller adonis JD McPherson opened Friday night with a backing band that ripped with all the torque of a V-8 roaring down a drag strip. Chicago jazzers Beau Sample on the bass and Alex Hall on drums pushed the rhythm section into overdrive
Looking like some of the most well-read and kind-hearted bar brawlers you’d ever hope to meet, they closed out their set with their much-loved hit “Let the Good Times Roll,” which got the crowd moving.
It was a fitting opener to pave the way for headliners Drive By Truckers. The wind picked up and the ’90s rockers from Athens, Georgia, played their gritty rolling Southern ballads into the night and clipped into more rollicking uptempo rock numbers as well.
As a swift alternative to the cancellation on Saturday night, the festival put on a free block party, billing Chicago’s favorite celestial art rock duo OHMME and Son Little for the night’s entertainment.
To close out the weekend, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic took the stage and basically strapped the audience’s collective cranium into the hot bed of a flying comet and sent it careening into the center of a solar flare.
As the Mothership landed, the latest incarnation of the Parliament Funkadelic troupe emerged from the wings in a stomp replete with flashing horns, troupes of electric backup singers and a screaming guitarist. One observer in the audience commented, “This is the most insane thing I have ever seen,” as they launched into a classic, their early cut of “Cosmic Slop.”
At 80, The Supreme God Father of Cosmic Funk, George Clinton came out like an interplanetary ambassador, in a glittering begoggled captain’s hat and silver-studded Atomic Dog jacket, waving his hands in the air and welcoming the crowd aboard the party. “Everybody’s gonna make it this time,” he reassured the crowd.
A heavy cooing and sludgy version of favorite “(Not Just) Knee Deep” was an early highlight of the set. With the chorus bringing everyone into a hypnotic state that spun out into a 12-minute jam. A cover of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” followed, which was a ball. During a pause Clinton spoke to the crowd and the guitar pierced the air with the eerie opening wails of “Maggot Brain” and carried the tune all the way to a pulverizing crescendo.
They rounded out the set with the endlessly infectious vamp “(Give up the Funk) Tear the Roof Off Sucka” and finally ended the night with “Atomic Dog” in a cavorting jam that just about melted everything.
The audience applauded in total stupefaction and celebration for Clinton, undoubtedly one of the most influential and original figures in the history of funk and popular music in general. And he shows no signs of slowing down.
All in all it was a beautiful weekend. It felt like the best possible way to cut the summer loose and bid it farewell. The crowd ambled out into the night, the last whirr of dying cicadas went mum in the grass and the final splitting notes of the evening gave a slight tinnitus to the ear that made the early September breeze sing out in a joyful welcoming of autumn.