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Wicker Park Expat's Ode to the 'Hood Playlist a Social Media Sensation

By Alisa Hauser | February 3, 2014 3:16pm | Updated on February 3, 2014 3:33pm
 Brennan McDowell's Wicker Park mix has received more than 8,000 "upvotes," 6,300 downloads and 23,000 subscribers.
Brennan McDowell's Wicker Park mix has received more than 8,000 "upvotes," 6,300 downloads and 23,000 subscribers.
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Kevin Nester

WICKER PARK —  One week before he packed up his apartment and headed to new digs in Logan Square, a man who spent two years living in Wicker Park made a playlist of songs inspired by the neighborhood — and found quite an audience for his mix online.

Since posting his "Wicks" playlist to Reddit last week, Brennan McDowell's mix has received more than 8,000 "upvotes," 6,300 downloads and 23,000 subscribers.

"I really made a connection to a lot of people. All because I wanted to chronicle what it felt like to live and love in Wicker Park. To entertain all these strangers is really cool," the 27-year-old said.

The 462 song playlist offers 30 hours of music, and McDowell said he considers it a "soundtrack for being here."

Listen to McDowell's playlist on Spotify here.

The title of the playlist was a play on words between Wicker and "licks," referring to Blues guitar licks, McDowell said.

Listeners will find newer bands such as Cass McCombs, Spiritualized and Girls as well artists like Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and The Marvelettes.

One of McDowell's favorite songs on the mix is "Tonite Reprise," a Smashing Pumpkins demo from 1990. 

"I like it so much because there's hope packed into it and he mentions Chicago in the lyric, 'the embers never fade in the city by the lake.' It gives me this feeling that anything can happen," McDowell said.

He added "Second Hand Girl" by the Shocking Pinks, inspired by a break-up with a woman he dated for "a month or two."

"It was Halloween. I had the whole night planned: we'd go to to Red Door to have a cocktail and Coast for dinner and then Logan Theater to see the movie 'Halloween,'" he said.

But while he waited for his date at Filter Cafe, 1372 N. Milwaukee Ave., he got dumped over the phone.

Dejected and "stranded at Filter with masks," McDowell spent the night alone and added the song to his playlist with that relationship in mind.

Other "Wicks" songs were inspired by soul nights at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., and at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., and remind himself of "having fun with friends."

"If you can't move to these songs, you need to see Dr. Funk right away cause something is wrong," McDowell said.

McDowell, who works Downtown at an advertising agency, was surprised at the attention his mix received on Reddit, and said he has gotten hundreds of messages about it. Before his Wicker Park-themed playlist, he hadn't made one since college.

"I used to do playlists back in school. I would DJ house parties at Illinois State and got good at it," he said.

During the two years he was in the area, McDowell lived near Damen and Armitage in Bucktown and then moved to North Avenue near The Trencherman at 2039 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park.

"It's an epicenter of cool and some really hardworking and creative people live here, this area has its place and people are proud of it, " McDowell said of Wicker Park.

But Logan Square was calling his name, and he moved on Saturday.

"I feel like Logan is blossoming right now and want to see what it's blossoming into," he said. "It's a new frontier."