Mike Alvarez speaking with a person at Toci, La Diosa on Saturday, March 12, 2022. Credit: Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago

HEGEWISCH — A Chicago couple behind a podcast that celebrates the Southeast Side is fulfilling the ultimate listener request this weekend: a community festival.

Christa and Mike Alvarez, the founders of the South By SouthEast podcast, are hosting the first South By SouthEast Fest from 2-10 p.m. Saturday at Old Time Tap, 13501 S. Brandon Ave. in Hegewisch.

The festival will feature local musicians, including Cojack and Co, East Moon, Artison Fire, Skyway Stereo, Mass Attack, Eddy and the Arsons and Afternoon Delight. 

There will also be a vendor fair with local small businesses, including Crystal Visionz, Poco Picoso, Voyager 983, Burgers and Dogs By Poco, Luna’s Enlightenment, DMoreArt, Toci La Diosa, Up in Smokers, Brite Eyes and Stevie’s Michie’s. They will sell custom jewelry, candies, horchata and agua de jamaica, burgers and hot dogs, clothes, candles, art and more, Christa Alvarez said.

“A lot of the people that are on the bill are going to be local artists, and everybody’s going to be from the neighborhood,” Christa Alvarez said. “If you’re coming to see one person, you’re definitely going to know somebody else in another band. A lot of the local vendors are a lot of our patrons and the patrons that we’ve had for quite some time. They are people who have contributed to the podcast in some form or another.”

South By SouthEast Christa Alvarez speaks with Mike Alvarez at a Toci, La Diosa pop-up event on Saturday, March 12, 2022. Credit: Maia McDonald/Block Club Chicago

The couple has been working on the festival for months, Mike Alvarez said. 

It is an extension of the couple’s livestreamed “On Air” podcast segment, in which they feature local musicians who give performances, answer audience questions and talk about what inspires their work on the South By SouthEast Facebook page, Mike Alvarez said. The couple said their supporters began asking if an entire event could be created to spotlight the many musicians they feature, he said. 

The couple was initially hesitant after previously helping to organize another local event, Nest Fest, Mike Alvarez said. But the increasing interest and pledges of support from community members were enough for them to move forward with South By SouthEast Fest, he said.

“At first, we were just helping with the whole Nest Fest thing do its thing, so we were not going to really, like, step on toes or anything like that,” Mike Alvarez said. “[But] then people just kept asking, and then we started doing the musical segment part, and we just decided it kind of like, by now, it kind of makes sense to do it.”

The Hegewisch neighborhood on Aug. 9, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

With the growing number of local musicians featured on the podcast, the couple had enough to book a music festival lineup, Mike Alvarez said.

“We just kind of like built a little arsenal of local artists. And it just kind of made sense to just take them and do our own festival,” he said. “A lot of these bands and a lot of these vendors are off from the local community within that 3-mile radius of the South Side. So it’s kinda going to be like a big family reunion.”

Entry to South By SouthEast Fest is free, but attendees must be 21 and up. Mike Alvarez hopes those who attend see it as an event akin to the Taste of Chicago or other community events hyper-focused on particular neighborhoods. 

“We’re hoping it’s just kind of like a really good get-together where everyone could just enjoy their time together,” he said.

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