LOGAN SQUARE — The soulful sounds of live jazz, blues and roots will fill Palmer Square Park every Sunday this summer thanks to a longtime neighborhood resident.
To help struggling musicians during the pandemic last summer, Sergio Castro put on weekly jazz shows in front of his home on Logan Boulevard. Even though music festivals are returning citywide, Castro has decided to keep his shows going this summer — but move them to Palmer Square Park, 2200 N. Kedzie Ave.
The third installment of the series, called Live on Logan, is noon-4 p.m. Sunday. There will be a jazz trio made up of drummer Greg Fundis, keyboardist Vijay Tellis-Nayak and bassist Alex Austin.
“We’re just trying to provide a nice thing for the neighborhood,” Castro said.
Castro is a location manager currently working on the set of the Amazon sci-fi show “Lightyears.” He’s also a big fan of live music; he and his wife have been going to see shows at Millennium Park every summer for years. When the pandemic hit and abruptly shut down all events, Castro sprang into action and launched his own music festival. He built a wooden stage in front of his Logan Boulevard home and booked musicians whose gigs had dried up.
Every Sunday, locally known musicians, from Brazilian jazz guitarist Luciano Antonio to keyboardist Danny Bauer, performed for a crowd of neighbors.
“Everyone was really worried about the stages, and nobody was really talking about the musicians,” Castro said.
The live music showcase was a huge hit. At first, the shows drew a small group of people; but as the weeks went by, the parkway was filled with neighbors in lawn chairs. At one point, the shows were drawing up to 150 people, Castro said.
Musicians were benefitting, too. Though the shows are free, Castro puts out a bucket with a Venmo code on it, encouraging people to give what they can to support the musicians. Last summer, one group of musicians took home $1,200, Castro said.
Castro did hit one snag, though. With the pandemic limiting indoor interaction, Castro wasn’t the only one putting on a show outside. Last summer, weekends on Logan Boulevard were filled with Castro’s show, a comedy show, a house music event and more. At the end of the summer, after what was mostly a successful run, a neighbor complained about the confluence of noisy events.
Undeterred, Castro decided to shut down the series for the summer and relaunch in 2021 in a new spot.
“I could see the neighbor fatigue with this. I tried to work it out. I wanted to be a good neighbor,” he said.
This summer, Castro has taken the series to the next level. He linked up with the Palmer Square Advisory Council and secured city permits and a certificate of insurance. Before, it was merely a “guerilla” operation with verbal support from the local alderman and police, he said.
“Now I have the support of the [city] … so nobody can call the police and shut us down,” he said.
Music venue operators have resumed putting on shows under the city’s reopening plan, but Castro said that hasn’t translated into a dip in interest in Live on Logan. He said musicians are still “very excited about doing it because it’s the only jazz series in the city of Chicago that happens every Sunday.”
Castro is aiming to keep the series going through Labor Day. He needs volunteers to set up and break down the stage on Sundays.
While neighbors have more options for summer activities this year, Castro said he hopes neighbors will continue to “come out and listen to a little jazz.”
“It’s going to be a great summer,” he said.
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