Leo Kottke and Kim Churchill at City Winery Review – A Venue Made for Acoustic Guitar and More


To learn that Leo Kottke describes his voice as “geese farts on a muggy day” doesn’t explain why over 300 fans eagerly awaited him in the beautiful City Winery concert venue.  His ability to wield 12 strings into sounds that burrow their way through your ears to that zone called pleasure have far more to do with it.  Born on September 11, 1945, by now he’s earned the touch of cantankerousness that has also been a bit of a trademark too.




At City Winery, the wait to hear Kottke perform was anything but dreary. 










Yes, you are sitting at small tables where you no doubt will get to know your neighbors—for better or worse—long before the warm up act comes on. 





There is no shortage of small plate delicacies to crowd onto these small tables and even less of a shortage of wine—made on site in the city’s only winery within city limits. 


All was absolutely delicious—neighborly chats, small plates, and assortment of wines.


Being of the demographic that goes to what City Winery calls the “legacy” performers nights, we were pleasantly surprised to hear the next Bob Dylan, no—the next Leo Kotkke—no, the next no one. 

Kim Churchill is his own man, barefoot and bursting with talent. 

His official bio puts it well, “Kim’s style is explosive, with intricate fingerpicking, percussive beats on the body of the guitar, and two handed tapping intertwined with an earthy stomp box, powerful harmonica melodies and soulful voice.  His songwriting reflects his coastal lifestyle—growing up on the East Coast of Australia, with the surf at his front door – and his new nomadic life on the road.”


This is one warm-up act that took over the room—entirely.  When he broke a string and gave us little patches of monologue to fill the time we learned his school guidance counselor had warned him not to be a musician.  Good thing her words were lost on him. 


The mixed demographic of the crowd and the numbers of fans who seemed to know his songs suggested he was a headliner in his own right.  Word to the wise—if you see him on a marquee get to his show sooner than later.


Leo Kottke did not disappoint.  Time seemed to flow by quickly as he performed a mix of vocal and strictly guitar numbers, tuning  and re-tuning in between each song. 



Kottke’s loyal fan base was there, in fact some learning of the City Winery gig through Kottke’s official web site and chatting about his next gig in the suburbs later this year. 


Kottke’s baritone would never have been stellar on the Metropolitan Opera’s stage but it more than fits the slides and picks of his rapid fire 12 string (and six-string) songs.   His style isn’t jazz, it isn’t folk, it isn’t blues—it’s pure Kottke.  For those of us who go back with him to the early 70’s, it is a signature sound well worth the trip.  



My preference will be to wait until his return to the great wine and great food combination of City Winery.  If his voice really does fly like geese air, then he’s sure to land there again. 


Photos on site:  Peter Kachergis; Performers' photos courtesy of City Winery Chicago.


City Winery – Performances Nightly


http://www.citywinery.com/chicago/ for schedule and tickets


1200 West Randolph, Chicago

312 773 – WINE (9463)


Food and wine served in concert hall from 6 PM until concert end



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