You would expect to see more airships sailing over the prairie, bound for the badlands or the Pecos River. There should be a speck of a dirigible hovering in the wide-open skies of the big country. Considering that Chicago is a Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler with painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys (thank you Carl Sandburg), this beefy burg seems downright citified. We could use a little more rustic and a little less brassy. Fortunately, we have options.
Alcala’s Western Wear at 1733 W Chicago Avenue (www.alcalas.com) is something of a local go-to store for western shirts and cowboy boots. Their range is extensive. At one of their annual 20% off sales, I picked up a pair of motorcycle boots. The selections for steampunks are surprising. Dusters begin at $34.99 (vinyl) to $1599.99 (hand tanned bomber). Top hats come in wool or leather, and stovepipes are available. The most surprising thing that I saw was a custom-made ray gun belt buckle for $75.
BoneWhiskey (www.bonewhiskey.com) is a local band that bills itself as “steam-powered country music with a dangerously sexy edge, tamed but not domesticated.” Think hard country. Shows feature props, costumes and innuendo. Their Facebook info page features extensive histories for the entire group. They will be playing January 11 at the Penny Road Pub in Barrington, January 18 at Bungalow Joe’s in Hanover Park, February 15 at the Firewater Saloon in Chicago, and March 28 at JW Hollstein’s Saloon in Tinley Park.
For those of you with booklarnin’, Quimby’s at 1854 W North Avenue in Chicago has alt-western anthologies like Gunslingers and Ghost Stories, Six Guns Straight from Hell: Tales of Horror and Dark Fantasy From the Weird West and Low Noon: Tales of Horror and Dark Fantasy from the Weird West. All are edited by David B. Riley, who also authored The Devil’s Due.
For a real rootin’-tootin’ time, escape the city and take a trip out to the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention III in Old Tucson, AZ. It runs March 7-9, 2014. Old Tucson is a western-themed amusement park and movie studio set built in 1939. There will be vendors, panels, rides, a Land vs. Sea Ball and performances by The Cog Is Dead, Steam Powered Giraffe and Professor Elemental. Tickets for the con are available at http://wwwc3.com/tickets-2/.
Now it’s time for someone to break out the embroidery thread and customize a steampunk Nudie suit.