Los Angeles Times

Open all night

Now an annual event, the Old Town School of Folk Music's All-Night Party turns the Lincoln Square neighborhood spot into a doze-free adult romper room complete with guitar jam sessions, open mike performances, live concerts and more.

Guitar teacher Mark Dvorak reigns as sing-along maestro for the Saturday, March 30, event, leading folk music lovers through 108 tunes from the official Old Town School Songbook. There are drumming, strumming and singing rooms that welcome those "up for spontaneous jamming," according to Colleen Miller, special events director for the Old Town School. Other scheduled music activities include a mandolin roundup, deejay-spun ambient music and karaoke.

The event dates back to 1971, when the School threw its first all-nighter to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. "People like Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and other singers came here after their gigs," says Miller. "They would just stop by and play together."

These original all-night sessions fizzled after a few years. The event was then resurrected in 2001 in response to the success of other round-the-clock bashes, such as Summer Solstice at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Marshall Field's Day of Music at the Symphony Center, according to Miller.

It's a new era of all-nighters, to be sure, and the School proves savvy by putting breakthrough talent on the bill for the duration of the evening. A local music marathon is set to consume the concert hall for three hours straight. This year also marks the second appearance of Environmental Encroachment (EE), an ensemble that Miller refers to as the "pied piper of music." "We take the music on the move and incorporate a marching band concept," explains EE member Mike Smith.

While EE might be leading a venerable hit parade throughout the building, 1:45 a.m. finds the band firmly planted on the concert hall main stage. The musicians couldn't be more excited about their ultra-late time slot. "You'd never think it, but this is when the place is packed," says Smith. "People are roaming around the whole building and they'll come when they see us rocking hard on drums. We'll just have fun."

Kurtin is a Chicago area freelance writer

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