Photo Preview: Sounds of Chicago’s Lakefront

July 16, 2009

The beauty of the book is the visual material, which includes old concert posters, cartoons from the 1930s depicting audience members, and early conceptual sketches Frank Gehry.

Continuing the celebration of its 75th season, the Grant Park Music Festival has released Sounds of Chicago's Lakefront: A Celebration of the Grant Park Music Festival, a 219-page look back at the history of both the Festival and the downtown lakefront area. For a coffee table-ish book, there's plenty of food for your noodle. The first part of the book is a history of "Chicago's frontyard," from the 1850s, when outdoor concerts began in Lake Park (as it was known then), through the countless landfill and construction jobs that brought Grant Park and Millennium Park to the museum- and concert-filled expanse of today. The second and larger section is a decade-by-decade look at the Festival's development, major events, and guest artists, with quotations from musicians, concert-goers, city officials, and other local notables, as well as archival excerpts from newspapers and magazines.

The beauty of the book, though, is the visual material, which includes old concert posters, a 1937 Daily Tribune cartoon depicting audience members, and an early conceptual sketch of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry (which is hilariously reminiscent of the episode of "The Simpsons" where Gehry designs Springfield's new concert hall by crumpling Marge's beseeching letter to the architect).

The best part, of course, is the photographs, many of which were previously unpublished. For our money, no American city looks better in old pictures than Chicago. There's something enthralling about seeing our fair burg in mildly chaotic, primitive state - polluted, crime-ridden, and gritty, yet still functional. And it looked cool before the 1970s, too! BA-DUM CHING! Anyhow, the photos we've put here are a few of the hundreds of shots from the book. Check out the rest by buying it at a local book store, one of the usual online retailers, or through the Grant Park Music Festival. Read the article and check out the photo preview at chicagoist.com. 

Alexander Hough, The Chicagoist