Just outside Millennium Park, a young man stands in the shade, trying to stay cool in 100-degree weather. His black hair is cut short. Dressed in a t-shirt, sandals and shorts, he looks a lot like many of the people downtown. But he’s doing something they’re not: playing the guitar. He’s not taking requests, but the chords he’s strumming out earn him a few dollars.
Gabriel Montain, 21, isn’t a Chicago native, but he takes the opportunity to make some cash whenever he visits the city.
“Where I’m from is Atlanta and we can’t panhandle,” said Montain. “It’s illegal. So I make some money whenever I come here.”
Montain has had success playing downtown.
“Last Thanksgiving I made 75 bucks in like two hours, on Michigan (Avenue),” he said. “Now I’m just trying to stay cool in the shade.”
Montain recently celebrated his birthday, one of his reasons for making a trip to the city.
“My aunt lives in the South Loop, so I chill with her for Thanksgiving typically,” he said. “But I just turned 21, so now I’m taking a vacation!”
Montain has been playing the guitar for six years, but isn’t looking to make a career of the hobby. Instead, he’s a college student.
“I’m a nutritional science major and I’m a cook,” he said. “I go to Georgia Perimeter.”
Montain says he plays for fun, but he also draws upon some inspiration.
“Music is just so important to my life,” he said. “What inspired me? Ray Charles. And what kept me going? Ray Charles, I don’t know.”
Montain is only in the city until early next week, but has a task he hopes to complete before then.
“I went to the Contemporary Art Museum,” he said. “I’m going again, ’cause I don’t have an appreciation for art anymore, I guess. ‘Cause I see a telephone and a bone and I just don’t understand. That’s something I can do. Or I see a clothes hanger and dim lighting and a pile of bricks. Is that art?”