Art Makers Outpost, a space for making art and community connections, will transform into a nightclub this Sunday, Jan. 22, for its Outpost After Dark concert series. Co-founder and creative director Valerie Kahan said “twinkling lights, intimate seating, swanky bar tables and a welcoming, inclusive vibe” will create a “magical evening” for everyone in the community.
Kahan has been friends with Anna Soltys (an artist and musician) and Chris Greene (also a musician) for decades. The three grew up in Evanston. After visiting Kahan at the Outpost, Greene suggested to her that it would be an ideal spot for an occasional salon series featuring local musicians. Kahan also enlisted Soltys, and together the trio are curating the concerts.
Singer-songwriters Michele Thomas and Vivian Garcia will be featured at the Jan. 22 concert at the Outpost, 609 South Blvd., one half-block west of the South Boulevard Purple Line stop.
Greene recommended Thomas and Soltys recommended Garcia for this concert. Thomas used to perform at Pete Miller’s restaurant and has performed with Greene in her band. Garcia has performed with folk musicians in Madrid and with bands at venues all over Chicago.
Thomas has been performing in the Chicago area for 25 years. She blends a background in gospel music with her love of jazz and R&B. Her third album, The Assumption, came out last year and features several of her own songs. It deals with themes of trust and love in relationships, social justice, racism and sexism, and our roles within society.
In Something Else Reviews, Preston Frazier’s “Best Jazz of 2022” column said the album is “a labor of love from start to finish” and described it as “bold in concept and brilliant in execution” and “an album of originals and covers that dazzle from beginning to end.”
On Sunday, Thomas will be accompanied by Darren Scorza on drums, Tim Fitzgerald on guitar and Clark Sommers on bass. Those musicians and many others, including Greene, contributed to tracks on The Assumption, which Scorza co-produced and directed.
Garcia, a Cuban American singer-songwriter, is a former high school English teacher who took up guitar after college. She’s been a professional musician for 20 years, including writing her own material for the past 10 years. She said her musical style is hard to describe but called it a mix of “Spanish ballads, folk, jazz, blues and rumba flamenca, a type of music from southern Spain.”
Garcia described a process of constantly pushing and trying to reinvent herself musically. And she’s willing to take big risks: When she decided she needed to study flamenco guitar in Granada, Spain, she packed a suitcase and her guitar, got on a plane and traveled there, she said. She did not know anyone in Spain, but stayed in hostels for a few days until she figured out where she should live and made it work.
Garcia is working on a new album she expects will be released this spring. She also recently found out one of her original songs will be featured in a film, The Persian Version by Maryam Keshavarz, which was set to debut Jan. 21 at the Sundance Film Festival.
Tickets for the Jan. 22 concert are $25 and may be purchased online. The evening is all ages and BYOB, though Sketchbook Brewing Co., one of the corporate sponsors, provides complimentary beer while supplies last. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. Seats are not reserved and there is some standing room.