This spring’s stay-at-home orders have affected almost all of us in different ways. For Glenview’s Kevin Pollack, life changed pretty drastically.
With his hands all over Chicago’s entertainment stages — music, theater and booking music festivals — he found his work and creative lives flipped when they all went dark.
“If you think about it, it’s hard not to bring yourself into a depressive state in this whole pandemic,” Pollack said. “And by staying busy I was able to bring myself out of that. I was at that point when I figured out ‘OK, let me turn this around and think about how I can give back. What is something that I can make people feel good about?'”
Known in Chicago circles for playing Jake in the long-running Blues Brothers tribute act The Blooze Brothers, for his musical theater roles and for his own Motown-style pop releases, he turned to other outlets.
At 7 p.m. Friday, July 17, Pollack and the NuTown Band will be featured on Ravinia Festival’s RaviniaTV streaming broadcast. The weekly broadcast features performances, interviews, lessons and behind-the-scenes featurettes in a quick variety-show format.
Pollack and the band were filmed performing his original song “Holiday” on Ravinia’s pavilion stage last month.
“Just being out there and playing with my own band on that stage, even if there’s no audience, was a dream moment,” Pollack said. “It’s like, alright, I’ve gotten to play to a sold-out audience in a casino in Vegas already. And now I’ve played on one of the biggest stages in the country. What is happening?”
Pollack also dove right into the accessibility of the internet, premiering the first of his “Zooming the Movies” series not long after the lockdown started.
Gathering a pool of regional and national actors — and even a few from across the pond — he and his cast perform old-time, radio-style readings of modern movies, including “The American President,” “Forrest Gump,” “Shrek” and others. The success of “Zooming” also inspired a TV version. Fans can tune in to see the rotating cast of actors in the “Zooming the Movies” Facebook public group. The stream of “Broadcast News” will start at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 18; two episodes from “The West Wing” will be streamed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 21. And all previous streams can still be watched on the Facebook group.
While the livestreams are keeping Pollack busy (and socially distanced) for the summer, his schedule was supposed to be full of onstage performances. Originally, The Blooze Brothers had a show-heavy season on the books as part of “The Blues Brothers” movie’s 40th anniversary celebration. A few festival slots are still in play for later in the season, and The Blooze Brothers are booked for some private parties, but as with most musicians going through this, he’s found he needs to be flexible.
“The situation is so fluid right now, I’m not putting stock in anything at the moment, because you don’t know what is gonna happen,” he said. “And you just have to be OK with that.”
In normal times, Pollack would be in the midst of planning for the annual ProgtoberFest prog rock festival at Reggie’s. But he’s rolling with the punches, morphing it into a virtual version of the festival to benefit the Chicago music venue.
“Since I started it there, I want to do something to help that is based out of my home base,” he said.
More details will be released on the benefit show soon.
In addition to still working on his own original music in the background — his new single, “Devil in a Black Dress,” is planned for an August release — Pollack is still focused on performances.
If you happen to go to the Chicago Dogs game Sunday night at Impact Field (9850 Balmoral Ave., Rosemont), you’ll also get to see him in his fourth appearance singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the game.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” he said, laughing. “Because it’s the one song if you (expletive) it up, people will be mad at you.”
Pollack said he’s proud to be part of an institution that’s growing like the Dogs out in the suburbs.
“I consider it an honor. And it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I feel like the Wayne Messmer of the Dogs.”