It’s Lincoln Park and Nina Simone plays over the stereo. Lilly’s, maybe most notoriously known for their “All You Can Drink PBR for 35 Dollars,” has recently been playing host to the Lethal Poetry’s “Words That Kill” monthly showcase and poetry slam. It’s a small venue. Maybe there are twenty people, but they all seem to know each other. The girl in the not-quite-pillbox hat will wander over to your table, and even though you don’t know her, she’s comfortable enough to remark on the chilly draft let in by the windows. Twenty minutes later you’ll crane your neck around one of the oddly placed pillars as she lies on the stage and recalls a poem. One of the two guys talking about the video game Halo will get up to hit the big gong in the corner. Lilly’s is devoid of egos tonight.
The evening’s advertised to start at seven. That’s when Nina Simone stops crooning. The lull sends necks craning around the softly lit green and wooden interior. Fyodor Sakhnovski, one of the night’s organizers, greets late arrivals and collects their canned food donations. Someone yells for some more music. Sublime begins to seep out of the speakers.
“We used to be at The Spot, but when the lease ran up we moved to Lilly’s,” Sakhnovski says of his event. “We’ve been here for a couple months. It’s got that gong, and we definitely put it to use.”
Local comedian Brian Babylon emcees the first part, calling up the readers for the open-mic portion of the evening. He’s a little unorganized, but when he tells the crowd of his plans to get out of work using white guilt everyone is laughing and forgets that he read the wrong name five minutes earlier. The performances are spotty and reminiscent of Lil’ Wayne or Ol’ Dirty Bastard, in as much that when they’re good, they are good and when they aren’t, well…
Robbie Telfer acts as the transition piece. An established Chicago poet, he goes through several poems from his recently released book. There is an awkward moment when he addresses two people in the front row who will not stop talking.
When Telfer finishes, there is a break long enough to get some beers, and then D-Nick the Microphone Misfit takes over. He opens by tearing through a not-quite-spoken-word not-quite-rap about some home-brewed folklore. The crowd is hooked, and when he says he’s going to the Apollo the next day, no one doubts him.
Three volunteer judges, including the bartender, gingerly vote for their favorites from the night. The top two come back to the stage and go off once more. The automatic stage lights don’t fit the occasion. They flash on the poet green, then blue, then red. Fyodor lugs around canned goods and smiles his quirky grin. (Peter Cavanaugh)