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Joseph Costa

Talking cities with L'altra's Joseph Costa.
Sunday Mar 05, 2006.     By Heather Blaha
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

As one half of the band L'altra, Joseph Costa is a musician, songwriter, visual artist and a self-described playa. Balancing his work between the audio and visual worlds, Costa et al made many ears happy in 2005 with the release of L'altra's "Different Days," while Costa's soundtrack for Alicia Scherson's film "Play" in Chile was coming to life simultaneously.

L'altra is memorable, and the last show I attended was no exception: Valentine's Day 2005 at the Hideout, where the band performed with a strings section and I shared my chocolate heart-shaped cake with Costa without forks.

Dividing his time and work between Chicago and Santiago de Chile, Costa knows both cities well, drawing musical and visual inspiration from the two. We met for tea recently at Milk and Honey Cafe so I could discover some of the things that keep Costa in Chicago, at least part of the time.

Favorite place to see art?
The Edward B. Butler Gallery at The Art Institute. I love all of the large American landscape paintings by George Inness, Francis Silva, Sanford Robinson Gifford and Martin Johnson Heade.

Drink that proves the wonders of alcohol and your favorite place to drink it?
Definitely a sazerac, which is a New Orleans drink of bourbon, bitters, sugar and pastis. The place really doesn't matter if you're drinking one of those. Also, del Toro's on Damen is a great place for Spanish wines.

Best place to hear music?
Danny's hosts great DJs. For live music, I'd say the Empty Bottle is the best.

Place you'd miss most in Chicago if you ever leave?
I wouldn't really miss places necessarily, just the great people I know. I don't define Chicago as a city full of places. When I think of New York or L.A., I identify those cities with where I go when I'm there. But Chicago really is the great city it is for me because of the people.

If I were to come to your neighborhood, where would you insist I visit?
If it's summer, I'd say grab a cup of coffee, go hang out in Wicker Park and people watch because the park is always full of interesting people, babies and dogs. In the winter, I'd suggest grabbing a beer at the Rainbo or Danny's.

Who do you know that our readers should know?
Andrew Martin, an older photographer who has really helped me in my work. I worked with him as a photographer for a while, and now that I work for myself I always call him when I have questions; he's incredibly helpful.

A hidden gem in Chicago that you know about, but most may not?
The Velvet Lounge for experimental jazz is so amazing. It's owned by a great musician, Fred Anderson, and is now raising money to support its move to a new location to 67 E. Cermak. I also love doing a movie at the Landmark Century Cinema and then going out for fish 'n chips at Duke of Perth.

What books or magazines are on your night table right now?
I subscribe to National Geographic and I've always got copies of Fader and Black Book. Right now I'm reading a French novel, A Brief Stay With the Living by Marie Darrieussecq, and an X-Men graphic novel.

Best Chicago-related advice you've ever gotten?
Don't ever move a little chair or random object that someone put in their parking spot after they've dug it out of the snow. If you do, things could get ugly.

Best Chicago-related advice you've ever given?
Put up a little chair or whatnot in the parking spot that you almost had a heart attack digging out.

Check out L'altra at and Joseph's photography at


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