The people I profile today (Philip Toscano, Model Stranger, Pete Falknor) are formative characters in my life. I’ve spent many hours with these folks, and in the case of Model Stranger, many hours in tight quarters. These are creative people, and together we created many things from films to music albums, to live events. I got to see them all a few weeks ago in a single night that began with a show at The Hideout in Chicago. They’re all still creating amazing things, and it was incredible to catch up with them all, and to introduce Jill to people who spent a lot of time with past versions of Coate.
Philip is a person I’ve known most of my life but didn’t really get to know until our junior year of high school, when I walked up to him in the cafeteria one day and said “wanna make a film together?” We ended up scribbling down some ideas for a film we eventually called Pill Poppin’ & Train Hoppin’. While the final film was nowhere close to the original concept, it was still an ambitious attempt for a pair of high schoolers working with a bunch of other high schoolers, none with any training in what to do of any kind.
From that point on, Philip and I realized we shared many creative interests and inspirations. We hung out a lot over the final years of high school, dabbling with other (often weird like below) film, photography, music & other art projects, and forming a lifelong friendship. Philip is among the more multi-talented people I know and these days has turned a larger focus toward music. He has a band called The Bribes, which packed The Hideout the night we were there. You see a lot of potential in his tunes, and I’ll be excited to watch the continued growth of Philip as an artist.
Shortly into Philip’s set at The Hideout, I got a tap on the shoulder, and was excited to see a familiar, goofy, mustache-clad face belonging to Stephen Francis of Model Stranger - a band I used to manage. I had been texting Stephen’s bandmate Kevin James earlier in the day but wasn’t sure they’d end up making it to the show. They did, and brought a few friends with them, which was no surprise to me.
The Model Stranger guys (including drummer Vincent Joseph) are among Chicago local music’s most avid supporters. These guys know the meaning of hustle. On top of working full time jobs and finding time to book and promote their own shows, they constantly attend concerts - both of local and national touring acts. They understand you can’t really call yourself part of a “scene” if you’re not giving as much as you take from it. They know the more live music they absorb, the more conversations about music they have, the better they’ll become.
While they haven’t had that “big break” yet, it’s not for lack of effort. Model Stranger is probably the hardest working band in Chicago. I may be biased, having witnessed their work ethic and focus up close and personal over 2009-2011, but I doubt I’m the only one with that opinion. Of the craziest stories I have to tell, quite a few involve being on the road with Model Stranger It was good to catch up with these guys a bit, and hear about some of the new things they have going on - including some upcoming tours in support of their newest EP The Changing Score.
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Just prior to leaving the Hideout and calling it a night, I received a text from my great friend Pete Falknor, a man who makes the busiest person seem lazy with ease. Pete’s a man of many, many hats. For a living he’s the Production Manager at an amazing music venue in Chicago called the Empty Bottle. He’s also a member of the bands Martin van Ruin and Planetsexploder, while formerly playing with The Innocent, Bare Mutants, Derek Nelson and more.
More recently, he helped restore a turn-of-the century building in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and turn it into multi-level restaurant/lounge/music hall called Dusek’s Board & Beer/Punch House/Thalia Hall. We met Pete there to tour the recently opened venue and catch up on his ever-in-motion life.
The place is INCREDIBLE, and I’m not surprised Pete’s a big part of it. Since our days at Columbia College Chicago together, Pete and I connected over large ambitions to do something head-turning in Chicago. He’s done that a few times over already and I’m proud of him. Visit Pete at the Empty Bottle or Dusek’s or check out the new album from Martin van Ruin.