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VINYL ME, PLEASE: A SUBSCRIPTION BOX REVIEW
Reviews, Subscription Boxes,

Vinyl Me, Please: A Subscription Box Review

Vinyl Me, Please bills itself as “The Best Damn Record Club Out There”.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

Given the care that goes into every single package they send out, I’d be inclined to agree.

If you’re not aware, Vinyl Me, Please is one of many vinyl subscription services out there that offers delivery of a curated record for around 20 or 30 bucks a month. This begs the question:

Why?

Who in their right mind would want this? Who would pay between 23 and 27 dollars a month to get an album that somebody else chose for you, when you can walk down to Transistor Records and get one that you know you want for $20 or less? Who could possibly want that?

Well, me, for one.

For the purposes of this review, Vinyl Me, Please was kind enough to send over the records chosen for their August and September deliveries. From the box the records were shipped in to the hand-signed slipcovers that they’re covered with, it’s obvious that care goes into every step of the process here.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review
Inside each box, subscribers will find a hand-picked album, a custom 12”x12” art print inspired by the record, a short piece of prose, liner notes, and even a cocktail pairing created by the lushes over at Vinyl Me, Please with the goal of enhancing your listening experience.

If that still doesn’t seem worth the price tag, consider that each and every Vinyl Me, Please record is a pressing exclusive to VMP subscribers, meaning that these albums are pretty much one of a kind.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

It’s understandable that some will still balk at the fact that somebody else is choosing your music for you. I won’t lie, I was kind of afraid I’d get, I don’t know, an LP of Limp Bizkit B-sides. Luckily, my fear was misplaced.

If the albums they sent us are any indication of what they send month-to-month, Vinyl Me, Please is interested in supplementing and filling out your existing vinyl collection with essentials that music lovers may not have, as well as albums yet to find a huge audience. You can follow this link to see their back catalog.

The past two Vinyl Me, Please boxes included two relatively well-known records, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to score any indie cred by showing them off. That said, both of the albums are unquestionably well-reviewed, interesting, and staples of their respective genres: a 20th anniversary pressing of the brilliant Wilco album A.M., as well as Four Tet’s 2012 album Pink. The Wilco LP was a beautiful clear-ish creamsicle color, while Pink was a 2 LP set complete with MP3 downloads.

The two records couldn’t be more different, and that speaks to Vinyl Me, Please’s sense of taste. Every album will be a surprise, yes, but this service really isn’t for people who care about that. It’s for people who want to be surprised, who want to
discover (or rediscover) an artist or album, for people who would be happy with experimental electronica one month and early ‘90s hip-hop the next.

The prose is beautiful. So is the art. So is the music. It’s completely understandable to not subscribe to this service if you’re on a tight budget, and don’t really want to risk getting an album you’re not into.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

But honestly, if you want to start building a record collection or supplement an existing one, 23-to-27 bucks a month isn’t a whole lot to ask. And for me, as well as many of VMP’s subscribers, the surprise is part of the fun. It feels like those halcyon days of childhood, where you’d show up to school one day and an excited, music-loving friend would hand you a CD-R with “KAYNE WEST: COLEGE DROPOUT” scribbled on the front in blue sharpie, and you’d spend the next day talking about the music. Except now, you’re supporting the artists, and you’re getting the records from someone who can spell correctly.

And hey, worst case scenario, if you don’t like the album, you can always drown your sorrows with a stiff drink.

Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review Vinyl Me, Please Subscription Box Review

Have you tried Vinyl Me, Please? Click here to learn more and sign up!

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Reviews, Technology,

Save or Splurge? Panasonic Solar Charger Review

We’re neck-deep in Chicago’s music festival season with plenty more to look forward to until the summer is officially over. Earlier this summer, I wrote about what you need to survive a Chicago summer festival in style. Among what I’d consider one of the most important things to consider was a portable battery charger for phones and other devices. You don’t want to be separated from friends or lost while trying to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with the city when the festival is over.

I recently had the opportunity to review the Panasonic Solar Charger, and put it to the test during my three day stint at Lollapalooza.

Let’s start with the good.

What I really like about the Panasonic Solar Charger is that it has a lot of very useful features that compliment each other. Obviously, one of the main features is that you can use the sun to charge your device when traditional outlets are unavailable or in short supply. Most music festivals have charging stations of some sort, but I’m hesitant to leave my phone out and vulnerable on a charger in a heavily-trafficked area, or even just having to force myself to stay in one spot when there’s so much else going on. And if there’s a line… all bets are off. Empower yourself to not have to deal with that.

The Panasonic Solar charger also has a USB outlet for charging. This is a great option for making sure that you go into a festival with juice… even if it starts raining. There’s also a flashlight function which produces a very bright LED light. Perfect for if you’re at a festival at night and are trying to navigate in the dark, or find something you dropped.

A recommended use scenario would include setting up a space where you can sit for awhile and lay out the charger in front of you in full view of the sun. Another idea would be to secure it to a backpack or purse on the outside with some zip ties.

Let’s talk about the not-so-good.

Although the battery life on the charger seems good (it basically has a never ending energy supply), it charges my battery slower than free portable battery chargers I’ve gotten at various events. The free chargers I’m referring to, you could get on Amazon for less than $10.

It also takes up more space than the portable battery chargers I’ve just referenced, and many others I’ve seen friends carry. It’s skinny but long and wide.

My recommendation is that you should get this charger if you’re going to a camping festival, like Bonnaroo… You stand to benefit from the fact that there will be no outlets. The flashlight setting wouldn’t hurt, either. For all other situations… get yourself a cheap portable battery charger.

 

What portable battery chargers have worked the best for you… and why?

The Panasonic Solar Charger was provided to me by Verizon to use for free during a review period of one month.

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Events, Food, Life, Transportation,

Chicago Ideas Week: Exploring Chicago on the Cheap

It’s no secret that I love participating in Twitter Chats.

Yesterday, I was asked to cohost Chicago Idea’s Week Twitter Chat: #Ideaschat (Tuesdays at 11am CST). In a nod to this blog, the topic was “Exploring Chicago… on the Cheap.”

In addition to just documenting this momentous occasion (my first time hosting a Twitter Chat!), I’d like to share some of my favorite responses for each of the questions, which all revolved around topics my blog holds dear!

Question 1:  What is your best tip for living in Chicago on a Budget?

Question 2: Festival season is approaching! What’s your best tip for attending on a budget? What festival will we see you at this year?

Question 3: What’s your tip for getting from one place to another in Chicago (on a budget, of course!)?


Question 4: Where do you go when you want the most bang for your buck for a meal?

Question 5: What’s your favorite free Chicago activity?

Thanks for everyone who participated and made this chat useful and informative! I know I learned something new about the city I call my home.

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Events, Life,

How to Survive a Chicago Summer Festival (in Style)

Fellow Chicagoans… Festival season is upon us (click here for a pretty definitive list)! I’m a huge fan of music festivals like Lollapalooza, and have a few I plan to attend this year (Pitchfork, Lollapalooza and Piqniq).

The Top 5 Chicago Summer Festival Necessities

Chicago Summer Festivals

1. Camelback. The Camelback (or whatever off-brand strikes your fancy) is the quintessential music festival foundation piece. It’s important both because it holds the rest of the items on this list AND provides a steady stream of water once filled up. I usually work at the water filling stations when I volunteer at music festivals and those lines get long. Plan accordingly, and make hydration easy since it’s usually pretty hot and you’ll be moving around a lot.

Chicago Summer Festivals

2. Solar Phone Charger. A regular external battery charger is fine, but has limited recharges. Music festivals are notorious battery sucks. You don’t want to be in the position of trying to meet up with someone as your phone’s battery is in the dreaded red zone. If you’re willing to splurge, give the Panasonic Solar Charger a try. It’s $70 and good for multiple recharges. You could make up the cost by asking friends for a beer in exchange for using your nifty device. 😉

Bonus Tip: Knowing that phone connections can be a little jank, set a predetermined meeting spot if you lose your festi-besties (I just wanted to use that word).

Chicago Summer Festivals

3. Snacks! Festival food is always expensive, and never nutritious. Look at the guidelines provided by the venue for the festival you’re planning to attend to see if outside food is allowed. If so (score!), I would suggest a mix of fruit (healthy! refreshing!) and calorically-dense snacks like granola bars since you’re going to get hungry after moving around and being out in the sun all day.

Chicago Summer Festivals

4. Rain Jacket. The reason I suggest a rain jacket over an umbrella is because it’s easier to move around in and to store (in your Camelback). With Chicago summer festivals, the weather can change on a dime. It’s much more enjoyable to come to a festival prepared than to get drenched in a downpour (lookin’ at your Lollapalooza, basically every year). Make sure you’re also wearing shoes that can brave the elements – I always wince when I see a girl wearing sandals that inevitable cause blisters.

Bonus Tip: Your phone needs a rain jacket, too! Bring a plastic bag just in case.

Chicago Summer Festivals

5. Sun Protection. Even more likely than rain is SUN. Pack a travel-sized bottle of sunscreen, and wear a hat or sunglasses. You don’t want to be in pain for day two of a multi-day festival (or at work after a weekend of being in the sun all day).

Chicago Summer Festivals

6. Tickets, Credit Card, and ID. Let’s talk about the absolute worst thing you can do yourself when getting caught up in Chicago summer festival preparations – FORGET THE TICKETS. This has probably happened to everyone at some point and it’s the worst feeling to arrive at your destination and not be able to get in. On the fringes are forgetting your ID (no booze!) and a credit card/debit card/cash (No food! No cab afterwards!).

Here’s a checklist for you to save (it looks lovely on a Pinterest board) so you don’t forget the essentials!

Chicago Summer Festival

What else is a necessity for you when attending any of the Chicago summer festivals?

All Photo Credits: Amazon.com

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Events,

Free Lollapalooza Tickets

Free Lollapalooza Tickets

Photo from Lollapalooza’s 2014 Volunteer page (that’s me in the middle!)

The title is a little click-baity but it isn’t untrue.

The secret to free Lollapalooza tickets is to VOLUNTEER at the music festival.

Ok, you’ll have to pay a $10 application fee, and commit some time, but it’s a small price to pay for being a Lollapalooza insider (and not paying a hefty three day ticket price).

Still interested? Read on and I’ll show you how to get into Lollapalooza for free*.

Volunteering: Getting free Lollapalooza Tickets

Every year around May, Lollapalooza starts advertising volunteer opportunities on their website. For the best chance of getting the team and times you want (more on that soon), you should sign up for Lollapalooza’s general email newsletter to have first dibs. If you have volunteered in prior years, you will get a head start (of about a week) on new applicants (nice).

The volunteer application costs $10 to help Lollapalooza fight spam signups and to make sure potential volunteers are willing to commit. Keep in mind – you must have a Chicago address to be eligible to volunteer.

In terms of actually scoring a volunteer gig, you need to fill out a profile. You’ll be asked about:

  • Past Volunteer/Work Experience
  • Past Lollapalooza Experiences
  • Availability

The more effort you put into this, the better your chance of scoring a gig. Basically, the Lollapalooza staff just wants to know you’re jazzed about their amazing music festival and want to see if you have the skill set necessary to deal with the tasks involved in your role.

Availability is extremely important in actually getting selected. You will need to be available the full weekend (all three days, including one non-weekend day) to have the best chance. Shifts are about 4 hours and are roughly one of the following:

  • 10am-2pm
  • 2pm-6pm
  • 6pm-10pm

If you have already volunteered, you can get whatever time shifts you want. If you’re new, you’ll need to be a little more flexible. Seniority rules, but you can still see the bands you want if you’re willing to work a less than ideal shift at least once. Pick an early shift on the day you’re most interested in, and opt for the midday/night shifts on days that are less important to you.

Free Lollapalooza Tickets

Teams range from environmental initiatives, volunteer headquarter operations, map handouts, general festival guides, and more. I personally like working on the environmental initiative teams. They tend to have the most spots available. I have volunteered for both Green Team and Aqua Team in my three years of volunteering, but I prefer Aqua. Green Team is a little intense – you have to stand in the sun half of the time (see the above picture) and try to reason with people who are under the influence about what goes in trash, recycling and compost. It can be so much better than this, people. Aqua team is awesome – shade, a plentiful supply of water, and lots of thankful patrons.

Perks, in a nutshell:

  • Free day pass for each shift worked, up to 3
  • Free food coupon valued around $5
  • Snacks and drinks at volunteer headquarters
  • …not to mention a much less-used bathroom
  • Not paying over $200 for a ticket

There are so many other non-obvious perks that I’ll let you discover on your own. You’ll meet some awesome people who are volunteering by your side and interacting with you as a festival-goer. So don’t miss this opportunity to experience a different side of Lollapalooza!

Have you volunteered at a music festival before? Which teams have you participated in? Share your free Lollapalooza (and other festivals!) experiences and more in the comments.