DJ PHNM Queues Up the Inside Scoop on Chicago’s Wicker Park Fest

Words by Chris Zimmerman

From experiencing new cultures to stuffing your face and getting your drink on, traveling to new cities is always a good time. The downside of showing up with no local knowledge is how easy it is to end up at the typical tourist destinations or a bar inspired by Taken. Research via the web can only get you so far, and that’s why it’s best to refer to a local. In preparation for this weekend’s Wicker Park Fest, we reached out to Chicago local, Colin Rebey, better known as DJ PHNM. Between spending his time as a weekly resident DJ at five Chicago clubs to keeping up on the local food scene, Colin is a great dude to know. Read on to learn what makes Chicago unique, why you should check out Wicker Park Fest and the best spots to eat and drink as Colin drops some local knowledge. 

How long have you lived in Chicago and what do you think sets it apart from other cities?

I’ve lived in Chicago for almost six years now, having moved up from Indiana after graduating college. Chicago is so unique because of our yearly calendar. If you move here you need to be able to rage through all four seasons, sometimes getting them all in one day. Once summer hits it’s absolute chaos with a different street fairs or music festival every week. There’s truly no other feeling like summertime Chi after waiting through brutal winters.

What is the biggest misconception about Chicago you want to set people straight on?

We have so much more to eat than deep dish pizza. Go to any neighborhood in Chicago and try what they’re known for. A night in Chinatown is absolutely the move if you’re trying to grub like a king.

What is the Wicker Park Fest all about? What makes it special?

Wicker Park Fest is a weekend festival on Milwaukee Ave that brings together local and national acts right to your doorstep—if you live over there. There’s awesome food, plenty of alcohol and it’s another solid summer option to day drink with homies.

The Chicago music scene seems to be blowing up right now. Has this always been happening and people are just taking notice, or has it been increasing locally?

Chicago has always had amazing talent but in my opinion, never gets the full credit it deserves. The conversation is always directed at NY or LA, but we have so many rad acts here grinding night and day to be on the main stage. People are finally noticing just how much talent is coming out of our city.

Who are some local Chicago acts that should be on our radars right now?

Air Credits and Intermodal are a good place to start.

What are some of the best places in the city to catch a show?

Metro, Smart Bar, Bottom Lounge and Reggies are some of my favorites.

How would you describe the Wicker Park neighborhood to someone who’s never visited?

It’s hip and very eclectic.

We were trying to hold off on asking this, but what’s up with deep dish pizza? Is it as popular in Chicago as the rest of the country thinks it is?

Hahahaha deep dish pizza is the jam but honestly, I only get it when I have out-of-town friends visiting who have never had it. It’s kind of like going to The Bean. Deep Dish is definitely the jam though. But be prepared for a food coma. Check out my homies at Pie Eyed Pizza – tell them I sent you.

Aside from deep dish, what are some of your favorite places to grab a bite or get a drink in the Wicker Park area?

Big Star is a great taco spot with a good late-night scene in Wicker Park. Oiistar for ramen, Harolds, a fried chicken institution in Chicago, and Taco Bell Cantina—a Taco Bell that serves alcohol!

For someone who is headed to Chicago, can you provide some local knowledge on how to best experience the city? Should they buy a train pass or simply enjoy some day beverages and wander around by foot?

Both, actually. Buy the train pass, go to different neighborhoods, drink and eat everything. Every neighborhood is a completely different experience.

A huge thanks goes out to DJ PHMN for dropping some local knowledge for us. If you’re going to be in the Wicker Park area this weekend, stop by Wayward Chicago and take a break in our air conditioned lounge, check out the photo show featuring work by Nicolas Lipton and fuel up with nitro coffee from ipsesnto. We’ll be hanging out all weekend during the festival and of course, every day after that.

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