Split a Six Pack with Dan Rico of Close Hits

Want to know more about Chicago’s local music scene? Here’s the plan of attack: one musician, six questions. Let’s check them out, see what turns them on. If you like ’em, turn ’em up.


Photo Credit: Jon Chandler

Our first six pack is split with Dan Rico of, well, a ton of bands. A musical Swiss Army Knife, Dan is currently playing guitar and working the mic with Close Hits as well as playing bass for Caw! Caw!, Snacks and Tender. As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, he can also be found playing solo gigs around the city, performing classic jazz and swing ballads. You know, music to get all lovey-dovey to.  What is a man who lists his favorite artists as T. Rex, the Entrance Band, Prince and Elvis like? Let’s find out.

Dan, what’s your favorite place in the city to see a show?

Empty Bottle, with the Hideout as a close second. The Empty Bottle has a friendly staff, cheap drink specials every night, a pinball machine(!!), and pool. I’m a sucker for pinball. Not to mention lots of great bands and FREE MONDAYS. On Monday night the lineups are often very exciting, though it’s fun no matter who’s playing. It’s refreshing to come to a venue that’s all about the music.

That said, what’s your favorite Chicago venue to play?

This is a tough question because there are so many different things that make a venue fun to play. The Empty Bottle, for instance, has a wonderful green room. They also ask you beforehand how you’d like the lighting on stage and you get extra drink deals, etc. However, I think my favorite place to play is Subterranean. They’ve got a killer sound system and just know how to use it. Also, they provide a cooler of beer and it’s right in the heart of Wicker Park, so it’s no problem to find an audience. That said, underground venues are always the most exciting, though they come and go rather quickly.

We just lost a great underground venue at the end of 2010 when the Mopery closed it’s doors. Those kinds of places tend to put on marathon shows with a ton of bands. What Chicago act has been your favorite to share the stage with?

I’ve played with a lot of great local bands, seen a lot of wonderful bands. The nature of the beast is groups tend to come and go. Which is why it’s important to support live music, go to shows, see the bands you like. In 2003 One Last Walk was my favorite band to go see, and I played with them a few times in my [old] band, No Comply. In 2004 it was the Monroes, who went to my high school, Northside Prep — they did a lot of really cool stuff in 3/4 and the songs were just very heartfelt and beautiful but rockin’. Today there are too many bands to mention them all and there’s a lot of variety, from rock to pop to electronic to crazy polyrhythmic metal. I’d recommend off the top of my head, White Mystery, Blah Blah Blah and Rabble Rabble. But these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Chicago musicians seem to have a hard time keeping the city out of their songs. How has the city influenced you, and has it popped up in your work?

I was born and raised on the north side of the city. Romantic imagery of the skyline, the lake, and the streetlights fill my lyrics and writings. Not only that, but if you’re from Chicago you come from a tradition of music. In high school I listened to a lot of the Smashing Pumpkins, for instance. Rock Music. Then beyond that there’s all the jazz and blues, which aren’t as popular today but if anything are even more important. That history made me realize how important it is to be a MUSICIAN, not just to play in bands.

That’s a lot pf material to choose from — a fat muse. If you were to pen just one song about Chicago, what would you write about?

Laying at the beach over the summer, watching the sunrise. I would write a song about the food but I don’t think I could do it justice.

Can’t go wrong with the beach. Is that your favorite place in the city to unwind? What other Chicago spots are near and dear?

My favorite spot in the whole city is in Montrose Harbor, on a little-known road that leads to a cul-de-sac with a beautiful view of the skyline. I love Wicker Park, but after a few nights in a row it totally wears you down. Pilsen is somewhat exotic and filled with creativity. That can also be said of Humboldt Park — lots of artists living there. Logan Square has some great bars/venues/friends’ apartments which I enjoy visiting, but really there’s no place like home. Generally I prefer Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Roscoe Village, Uptown. Foster Beach, Wilson Beach, Diversey Harbor.

Check out Close Hits performing “Personals” live at the opening of The Yellow Book:

You can listen to more of Dan Rico and Close Hits here. For more interviews with local musicians keep an eye out for new Six Packs, as well as articles and interviews from Mr. Rico himself here at UPchicago.


Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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