Daily Southtown - January 1, 2009

Chi-Town Kids ready to crank it up for hometown
BY Jessi Virtusio, Gig of the Week

When it comes to local bands, the Chi-Town Kids could not have a more perfect name. Swing Master M aka Mark Wlodarski (rap vocals), Soul Daddy C aka Chris Walsh (singing vocals, music and beats) and HoneyWell R aka Ryan O'Malley (rap vocals) all grew up in Chicago's Beverly community. And the next gig for the trio of 27-year-olds - who perform what Wlodarski calls "fun pop songs about everyday life" - will be on Saturday at Chicago's Beverly Arts Center.

"We have all grown up on the South Side and have lived here pretty much our whole lives," said Wlodarski, who still resides in Chicago's Beverly community "Its people and places are so much a part of our everyday life, it's hard not to write songs about it."

Regular SouthtownStar readers may remember Chi-Town Kids from an article staff writer Kim Janssen penned in June 2007 about the group's song "Cicadas. "At that time, the band appeared at U.S. Cellular Field where the Chi-Town Kids were honored as official "Sox-Cadas," received a certificate from White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and had their timely song played for all to hear. "Mark and I specifically are huge Sox fans," said O'Malley, who still lives in Chicago's Beverly community. "I've been a season ticket-holder for a certain period of time. To be able to go on the field and be honored by that was unbelievable, definitely unexpected. "It kind of came out of nowhere. It was awesome.

"With ages 10 to 50 heading to Chi-Town Kids gigs at venues such as Chicago's Beat Kitchen and the defunct Note and Blue Island's Kelly's Irish Saloon, there are plenty of people who think the group is awesome. "I'd say the average age is somewhere in the middle, like kids but also older adults," said Wlodarski, who graduated from St. Rita High School in Chicago. "I think the lyrics hit home with a lot of people and melodies are catchy, and that's why we appeal to a large age range."

Chi-Town Kids have released three CDs: 2002's "White Boys Shmite Boys," 2003's "James Cobbins Where Are Thou?" and 2006's "Pottie Scippen." All of the releases were recorded at Walsh's Table Cat studio in Chicago, and the group's untitled fourth release should be hitting the streets sooner than later. In the meantime, O'Malley - a graduate of Brother Rice High School in Chicago - said the Beverly Arts Center gig is a great way for fans to check out the Chi-Town Kids. "With it being in Beverly, it gives a chance for the local fans to come and see us play," he said. "We have a pretty solid group of fans that are younger, so an all-ages show gives them a chance to come. The shows before were at bars or 21 and older."

Given how rooted to the Southland the Chi-Town Kids are, it is no surprise that the guys in the group advocate supporting the local music scene. "There (are) so many good bands everywhere, but most people never hear of them because radio refuses to play them," said Wlodarski, who went to St. Xavier University in Chicago. "People should support good music that is being made by local bands inspired by the place that they're from." As for how to show support, he added, "Calling and e-mailing radio stations is always good, but I think just by showing their friends songs they like is the best. "Word-of-mouth has helped us out a lot with the success of our songs."

O'Malley, who attended the University of Iowa, said music is the perfect escape from everyday life. "Getting older, a lot of things change from when we were kids," he said. "It brings us back to our childhood, and we obviously express that in our songs."

"We just want as many people as possible to hear our songs," Wlodarski said. "If we get a record deal that would be great. But, if we don't, we'll just keep on making songs and having fun. "With the amount of fun and good experiences that we've had, it's all been worth it even if we never get that record deal."

And Wlodarski looks forward to sharing the Chi-Town Kids' spirit of fun at the Beverly Arts Center, where the group also performed a sold-out show in August. "I love running back and forth on that big stage," he said. "Sometimes it gets a little crowded up on stage, so it's nice to have so much room to work with. I also like the fact that it is an all-ages venue on the South Side.

"There's nothing like a South Side show."