Dead DIY Space: 21st & Kedzie

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Some spaces end with a bang, in a blowout, in a trial, with a splash of blood, with a burn-it-down-and-salt-the-earth mentality; others end in a whimper, in a compromise, in an unrenewed lease, in a flurry of cheap spackle and eggshell white paint, in an uphill battle to collect a security deposit, in a passing of the torch, in friendships divided amicably by new experiences and friendships divided angrily over unpaid bills and stolen food. And then some end The Chicago Way, which is a term I just invented for this.

You ever watch a movie about organized crime, it could be prohibition era mobs, crack era gangs, whatever, where some proud, fat cop on the take (you’re already imagining a mustache, right? Of course he has a mustache) strides into some den of iniquity with his chest puffed to remind the top dog in charge, “You’re only here because we allow you to be here” ?

That’s The Chicago Way. It could be the Jersey way or the Vegas way or the Baltimore way, but I invented it so I got dibs. Our mobsters were the best mobsters. Fuck The Wire and fuck Martin Scorsese.

It is sooner than later that any DIY space will start dealing with their local beat cop.

On a stoop in front of the Palzie House in Logan Square, a friend sits with a steaming pot of coffee, which I ask about. “Around this time every show our neighbor over there is going to put in a noise complaint no matter what we’re doing so I like to have this ready to offer the officers.”

Another time, at a flop house in Andersonville unimaginatively named The Place, the cop who regularly shuts down my parties is doing his thing, and stops to let me know, “The alderman knows about this place and what you’re doing here, and you’ve better be on your fucking toes.”

Like all real estate, the most important factor of DIY real estate is that of the Three L’s (“Location. Location. Location.” if I’m being too obtuse). It’s all common sense. You don’t want people to die, you don’t want to be so far in the boonies that no one shows up, but you want to be isolated enough where you won’t piss off your neighbors. You wake too many babies and you’ll be surprised on who turns snitch on you.

The three-story warehouse at the corner of 21st and Kedzie once housed Weiser & Sons, a manufacturer of player pianos right up until the Great Depression wiped out most of the industry, and was apparently the ideal place for a DIY venue as it would go on to host several. Whether the floor was supporting an active half pipe at a hardcore show or a summer festival so crowded it felt more like you were breathing evaporated sweat vapor than air, whether the beams were supporting sexy cenobites raised up by flesh hooks at a gothic rave or anarchist acrobats performing aerials at a black bloc burlesque, the building never wobbled, never wavered. It had “good bones” and, nestled between Little Village and North Lawndale on the southwest side, a block away from the Pink Line, the Cermak bus, and some really choice late night taquerias, the geography was perfect.

Lawndale and Little Village are perfectly lovely working class neighborhoods, but like a lot of neighborhoods in Chicago, they have real issues with crime, and particularly violent crime. Cabs are more likely to hang up on you than pick you up there, and the police tend to operate under a no blood, no foul rule. If they have to respond to something, they come down hard, but they aren’t going to pay a lot of mind to a bunch of anarchist hippies, babyfaced art school kids, alien drag goddesses, blissed out ravers with dilated pupils, or noise weirdos wearing children’s Halloween costumes on a random weekday in April (all of which I’ve seen there at different points). The building’s nearest neighbor is an an imposing looking private motorcycle club with blacked out windows, so there was no one who cared too much about noise.

The rules are different at 21st and Kedzie, because the rules are different in every neighborhood, because Chicago.

An example: The worst fiasco I ever saw happen at a show had nothing to do with the venue or the crowd, just a string of shitty circumstances and one dude’s awful luck. The event was Art War, a multidisciplinary art show whose goal was to fill Treasure Town’s 7000 sq feet with over 100 artists. Performance artists stripped down and spat blood, dancers twirled around each other with handfuls of yarn until they’d become a living cats’ cradle. Hula hoopers and bands and fire spinners and graffiti artists all did their thing. Towards the end of the night, when the crowd had dwindled a bit, a young man ran up the stairs into the space followed by four police officers, in bulky bulletproof vests but otherwise undercover. I don’t know what the guy was expecting to see when he got upstairs but I imagine the scene must’ve been fairly surreal for him, as it soon was for all of us. Before he could talk to anyone the cops had caught up to him, zapped him with a taser that knocked him to the ground shaking, put him in zip cuffs and read him his rights. Soon more police arrived as back up, uniformed this time. They talked to a couple residents and curators, and everyone else kept their distance, and quietly packed up their things. A venue in Rogers Park or Avondale or Bridgeport wouldn’t have survived this but this was the southwest side and this was not even close to shutting down operations.

The Weiser & Sons building had hosted the aforementioned Treasure Town, as well as the co-op space Weiser House, as well as a rave space also named Weiser House, the punk space Fort Kakalak, and the punk (but more garage and psychedelic-y punk) space Casa Donde. They didn’t get shut down for noise violations.

The building had hosted the performance art/anti-art festival Garbage World and the music/anti-music festival Bitchpork, where Lightning Bolt hinted they’d be playing a secret set (as Turd Thrower) during their set at the actual Pitchfork Music Fest and enough people to fill a smaller venue would migrate to flee the claustrophobic heat. They didn’t get shut down for capacity issues or ticket sales.

The building had hosted Mortville, which would transform itself into large interactive installations like an indoor Summertime scene made of wood and cardboard and papier-mâché, replete with a to-scale ice cream truck selling PBR, a heat-lamp beach vignette, and a playground with a giant teeter-totter and jungle gym, and then threw noise bands in the middle of it. They didn’t get shut down for liquor sales or operating without a public place of amusement license.

There wasn’t a bang, or a tragedy, but the spaces didn’t whimper and age out a natural death either. They were shut down.

Leading up to the 2012 NATO Summit, there was a sweep. Our city is famous for riots, police misconduct, segregation, income disparity. In other words, there’s always a fuse ready to be lit, and any protest can get out of hand. Let the police do what they want and you’ve got the 1968 Democratic Convention: a police riot, “the whole world is watching”, and 30 years before a major political convention spends money in Chicago. Reign the police in a little and you’ve got the 2003 Iraq War protest: it’s hardly a blip on the news, but you still have to pay out 11 million in police misconduct and wrongful arrest settlements to hippies. So the feds, working with the local police, working with new mayor Rahm Emanuel, went after potential agitators in part by limiting where they could stay. [Google “The NATO 5” if you want to see an actual factual, not-paranoid punk case of local cops going deep cover as agents provacateur]. In one weekend, Chicago’s most active DIY spaces were gone, including the three then operating at 21st and Kedzie. A friend who was living at a still-active co-op house on the West Side said his landlord was contacted, but defended the residents instead of evicting them, saying, “Ah, they’re a good bunch of kids. I’ll make sure they keep it down.”

So while several laws are broken, none of the rules were. It’s hell on semantics but laws aren’t the same thing as rules in Chicago. Laws only matter when they need to, but the rules, as negotiated, always matter. Imagine a fat, proud cop with a puffed out chest striding in to your home–maybe he’s chomping a cigar, definitely he’s got a mustache– he tells you, “Look I know you didn’t break the rules before, but the rules had to change, and we changed ’em.”

That’s what happened. The house always wins. I’m mixing my metaphors and I don’t even care. That’s The Chicago Way.

Epilogue: Remember that guy who got tasered at Treasure town? There’s more. What I learned later on is that he’d been mugged earlier in the evening and someone had called it in. He matched the description of his own muggers, and when the undercover cops saw him running home, gave chase. Not realizing they were cops and afraid he was about to get jumped again, he ran harder, ducking into the factory when he saw light, an open door, some kind of party. He thought he’d be safe in a crowd but only ended up with an audience watching him receive the punishment meant for the people who’d attacked him earlier. Just a weird case of mistaken identity, like a twisted, sadistic version of an I Love Lucy plot. Just a horrible, fucked up day for him and I hope he was able to sue the city, or has won the Lotto, or just karmically come up since.

Post-script: I have no idea what was happening in that warehouse between the 1930’s and 2008 but older party people have told me they think they’ve been to “tons of shit back in the day” but have fuzzy recollections because of “drugs”. Don’t do too many drugs if you want to be an archivist and don’t try to archive the world of parties if you don’t have patience. Chicago’s underground has been flourishing since that low point in 2012 before the peaceful and lame (and lamely peaceful) NATO summit, with several new venues formed by former residents of the Weiser & Sons warehouse, but these things run on a cycle, so enjoy the good times while you can before the hammer comes down again. We just lost a good one in Young Camelot. ALSO, you can now lease a space in the Weiser & Sons warehouse for $13,000 to 25,000 a month. I don’t know regular realty like I do diy realty but that seems like a (really big) (fucking) ripoff.

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Dead DIY Space: Elastic Revolution

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A sinewy, grey haired man is sitting on the floor of an old church in Logan Square surrounded by a ring of weird electronics wired together, like a circle of protection cast in a cyberpunk movie about witchcraft. [This movie does not exist but it obviously should]. The boxes are effects pedals wired to effects pedals wired to nothing else. He’s literally playing freak electronic impulses and looping them into an aggressive industrial freakout, pressing buttons and twiddling knobs with a gleeful, maniac look across his face. The man is Dave Purdie, a member of Verbal Abuse, one the first punk bands to form in Chicago, an intense, increasingly avant-garde no-wave act profiled in the documentary You Weren’t There. Other members would go on to found Naked Raygun and Big Black; another will die in a motorcycle chase with the cops. Dave Purdie will become Satan 2000. I’ll get back to him and his surroundings in a minute, but I’d like to wax theoretical for a few.

I used to get mad at the label “Scene” (with a capital S) because it felt so self-aggrandizing, even when used in derision, as though one group could define youth culture. There is no homogenous art or music or DIY scene in Chicago; maybe there is in Terra Haute or Peoria or wherever but probably not there either. Punk and rap and dance music and art fracture into a million subgenres defined by fashion, politics and BPM’s, creating a multiverse of scenes that parallel, intersect, mirror and overlap, loosely connected by people and places. Sometimes it seems as if the places didn’t need to be created by the people inside, but existed only to be filled by art. Buddy becomes Happy Dog becomes No Nation in Wicker Park. The Azone becomes peopleprojects becomes Papal Projects in Logan Square. Weiser House becomes Fort Kakalak and Treasure Town and Mortville in Lawndale.

If you want to get mystical about it (and boy howdy do I always) you can point to the plethora of places where art has been created across the entirety of Milwaukee Avenue. Before the dirt road was paved over with wood and then brick and then asphalt, before Jean Baptiste Point DuSable founded the city in the 1780’s, and centuries before Robert de la Salle transliterated the Miami-Illinois (Algonquin) word “shikaakwa” into “Chicagou” in the 1670’s, what is now known as Milwaukee Avenue had been a route of travel for half a dozen societies of Indigenous Americans for generations before. The word Milwaukee translates from Potawamie and Ojibwe Algonquin to “the Good Land”, but we already know that because Alice Cooper says so in Wayne’s World , and Wayne’s World is a rad fucking Chicago rock’n’roll movie.

I’m not trying to invoke the mystical exoticism some people like to place around indigenous cultures but I would like to talk about Ley Lines, the concept that the natural pathways that pre-industrial societies developed around, that were livable, farmable, and walkable, were preordained, formed almost intentionally by the cosmos, a cooperation of the stars, waterways and tectonic plates to guide humans towards places where they could thrive. The land is imbued with the elements of creation, and just as certain land works better for farmers, artists and thinkers are drawn to the places where they thrive as well.

If you don’t want to get mystical, if you want to be completely practical, the city of Chicago was built around the established paths because they existed. It was easier and made more sense. Milwaukee Avenue was developed in a way where working class people could easily get back and forth from their homes on the outskirts to the factories clustered around the center. Chain-migration would mean tight knit immigrant communities would settle, assimilate and disperse, leaving new room for new tight knit immigrant communities, and a revolving door of artists could take advantage of newly emptied homes at working class prices. De-industrialization would empty the factories for underground galleries and practice spaces and communes.There is no mysticism, musicians need environments where they can make noise unencumbered and be heard, artists need room to fabricate and be seen, and thinkers need space that they can afford, because ‘thinker’ isn’t a fucking job. Like finds like. Communities form. Art gets commodified. People move in and the live/work/play spaces become condos and artisinal doughnut shops.

So it’s real world, non-theoretical 2005. A few blocks away from Milwaukee Avenue, I’m in a shuttered Pentecostal church watching Satan 2000 exorcise noise from the air like an aggro Jon Cage surrounded by people eating mushrooms and drinking out of paper bags. Mystically, the church was built to focus and refine people’s concentrated energy into a joyful noise. Practically, it’s a big acoustically-sound building in a pretty cheap part of an up-and-coming neighborhood with its own garage parking space.

The place is Elastic Revolution, but it’s alternately known as 3030, 3030 Revolution, and Elastic Arts. It’s not a rowdy or aggressive space; its primary focus is jazz, and the traditional, uncomfortable, long wooden pews make the space untenable for dancing, no matter how aggressive the music gets when jazz gives way to experimental noise, or how bouncy the music gets when there’s a funky drummer at the helm. Marvin Tate does a series of poetry readings, the Cucaracha Cabaret hosts a monthly puppetry series, there’s an electronic music night and an improvised music night; if you’re a fan of local jazz stalwart Ken Vandermark but you’re not a fan of jazz clubs, you can see a whole fuckova lot of Ken Vandermark in duos and trios and quartets.

Elastic Revolution wasn’t felled by a show that got out of hand, an outraged community, or a tragic accident. It was taken down by a single neighbor who didn’t like the flow of people entering, exiting, and going outside to smoke. After calling the cops out on numerous noise complaints, often resulting in no action, the CPD eventually sent two undercover cops to a show. They determined that the place money taken at the door did not qualify as a donation and that the venue was not eligible for the PPA loophole (that a place can hold events with live sound/performance without a Public Place of Amusement license if they follow a bunch of good neighbor/not-acting-as-a-taxable-business rules) because of zoning reasons, but they didn’t show up in court and, though the Elastic Arts Foundation couldn’t operate the church as a performance space anymore, I don’t think they weren’t punished further.

There’s a happy ending to this one. The Elastic Arts crew became a legit nonprofit, and Alderman Rey Colon helped them find a legit space in the neighborhood, first above the Friendship Chinese restaurant on Milwaukee, and then in a nondescript office complex just west of Kedzie on Diversey, where they’re still operating, and kicking ass today.

DISCLAIMER: DIY Dead spaces is done with little-to-no research, unless I take Adderall and spend a whole day reading about the history of Chicago street paving, but everything else is true as remembered and experienced. Memory is fallible and experiences vary. Names and dates may be completely off. People who I remember fondly may have been total monsters. People who were dickheads to me might have been perfect angels having a very, bad day when we met.

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Going to Shows Alone: A Roundtable on Living (And Partying) with Social Anxiety

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Lorena Cupcake (Editor of Store Brand Soda / Social Media at Do312): Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Most of the people reading this probably know this, but my name is Cupcake, and I help run Store Brand Soda. I’ve been going to shows since my face got smushed against Courtney Love’s boob at age 11, and I also am diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Salvation Emily (Editor of Store Brand Soda): Hey I’m Salvation Emily. I got a late but enthusiastic start on going to shows in my early 20s and have been at it for the last 10 years!

Emily D (Art Director / Designer / Loner at shows): Hey I’m Emily, I’m an art director / designer with social anxiety and a love for live music. I also got a somewhat late start with going to shows (grew up in rural Kansas so not a lot of opportunity) but it’s one of my favorite things to do now.

Lorena Cupcake: I think there’s this common conception of people as either introverts or extroverts. Either you find being in public totally exhausting, or it revitalizes you and is really important to you. For me, I find it’s really a combination; it takes a lot out of me, but I also get a lot out of it.

Read More About Battling Negative Thoughts, Cool Books to Read at Shows, and The Best Corners to Stand In.

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Best of the Fests: Bitchfest, Chicago Summer Psych, and Black & Brown Punk Show

We’re deep into festival season, struggling to keep our heads about an endless sea of body chains, matching crop-top-and-shorts-sets, sole-sucking fields of mud, blurry tattoos, overpriced beers, and nineteen year olds on molly. Over here at the old soda mines, we’re free to train our eye on some of the more unusual and underground festivals that are taking place this summer.

Bitchfest

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Bitchfest aims to celebrate women and their work, but is inclusive of “all Chicago’s brilliant and resilient artists, musicians and writers who tirelessly use creative mediums to express what it means to live in this beautifully fucked-up world.” More than just a stacked bill of not-all-dudes bands, DIY space Young Camelot aims to offer a film program, live screenprinting, zines, murals, and art. Daily schedules have not yet been finalized, so keep an eye on the Facebook event for more specifics.

Bitchfest
Yoko and the Oh No’s, The Iceberg, Strawberry Jacuzzi, She Speaks In Tongues, Bruiser Queen, Oshwa, Beat Drun Juel, Mr. Ma’am, Brenda, WAD, Not For You, BLOOM, Impulsive Hearts, DEADBEAT, The Baby Magic, Night & Gale
Friday August 7th – Saturday August 8th
Young Camelot (ask a punk)

Chicago Summer Psych Fest

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If you read enough of this website, you’ve probably gleaned that I have a weakness for good ole three-chords-and-two-toms rock’n’roll. This is because I am dumb and I have bad taste. However, perhaps you have more sophisticated tastes: a palate that can accommodate gauzy shoegaze guitar, krauty synths, and meandering prog. If that’s the case, my dear, you’re in luck: for the seventh year running, the Hideout is bringing you Chicago Summer Psych Fest, with some superstars and heavy hitters in the line-up.

Chicago Summer Psych Fest – Friday
Djin Aquarian with Plastic Crimewave Syndicate, Vyto B, Shah Jahan, Hands Of Hydra, DJ Psychedalex
9pm on Friday August 14th
The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave
21+ / $10 advance tickets / $18 at the door

Chicago Summer Psych Fest – Saturday
Psychedelic Supersession with special guests, Chicago Triangle, VCSR featuring Bil Vermette, Moss Folk, Carbonleak
9pm on Saturday August 15th
The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave
21+ / $10 advance tickets / $18 at the door

Black and Brown Punk Show

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Black and Brown Punk Show is an annual festival highlighting the black and brown, queer and trans DIY punk scene in Chicago. The collective wants to create a safer space to push back against oppression, bond over a shared sense of struggle, and celebrate the creativity of black and brown musicians, artists, and educators.

Black and Brown Punk Show – Friday
Black Bandits and the Stickups, Vagabon, Moor Mother Goddess, Yva Las Vegas, Bruised, Tigress, Crude Humor, TBA
6pm on Friday, August 28th
Location TBA

Black and Brown Punk Show – Saturday
Kris de la Rash, Aye Nako, L(a)kras, The Breathing Light, Ono, La Armada, Through and Through, The Kominas, Huasipungo, R-Tronika
5pm on Saturday, August 29th
ChiTown Futbol, 2255 South Throop Street

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Imagining a Safer Space: Building Community & Ending Harassment in Punk

At my four thousandth punk show, I was told to “never come to another punk show.” It will take a long time before I feel safe at one again.

My recent visit to Austin started out uneventfully. My vacation was simply a country-fried version of my music-filled life in Chicago, with Lone Star instead of Hamm’s, and Frito Pie instead of cheese fries. I was already infatuated with the venue Beerland, comparing it an alternate universe version of my beloved Empty Bottle.

I had actually been to Beerland two nights running, figuring that those devoted to moderation rarely achieve greatness. The second night, the opener was local band Lower Berth. Their noisy psych rock inspired three dudes in the sparse crowd to utterly lose their shit. No one else even wanted to pit, but the Aggro Trio were throwing trash cans, wrestling on the ground, and falling into people as they hastily backed even further away.

Senseless violence is not my particular favored flavor of Punk as Fuck; plus, all those dudes had at least fifty on me. I decided to enjoy the show from a more chill vantage point and perched in a booth away from the fray. At one point, I trained my eyes on the drummer. Shirtless, with translucent skin and colorless hair, the exertion made him appear bright red. One of the members of the mosh pit stumbled their way on stage to hold their lit cigarette against his bare arm. He kept drumming, unfazed.

At the time, I felt sorry for him.

THE INCIDENT

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Photo by The Austin Chronicle

Later, after the heart-stopping headliner (Lamont Thomas and Orville Neeley’s new supergroup Blaxxx), I felt an unwelcome hand slide around my shoulders as the pink-faced drummer split off from his friends to try to hit on me. I remember feeling like I was picked at random, for being present and presumed female. I remember his come-ons were as generic as they always are; he told his name was Shaun, asked mine, maybe said something about my style. I shot him down relatively gently, asked him to stop touching me, and escaped outside, to the cool freedom and clouds of smoke of the Beerland patio.

Later, he appeared leaning against the patio fence, eyes half closed, slurring into a cell phone. “I don’t know what to tell you, man. I’m way too drunk.” That explains it, I thought to myself, silently.

If my recollection seems blurry here, it’s because the initial incident didn’t seem strange or notable to me. As inappropriate as it was, it’s not an unusual experience for me to have. I was not happy about being touched without my consent, but I wasn’t in full alarm-bells mode. Later in the night, we had another encounter that would change all that.

The drummer came over to where I was chatting with my friend Erin. Again, he took the liberty of putting his hands on my body, despite the fact I had clearly communicated earlier that I didn’t want to talk to him, and that he was not allowed to touch me. I was losing patience, and not interested in meekly relocating to another section of the bar to attempt to escape his dogged pursuit.

“I’m already told you, I’m not interested. We don’t want to talk to you,” I said, removing his arm from around me. “Go away. Leave us alone.”

He immediately switched gears, from curdled attempts at courtliness to aggression. “You probably don’t even listen to Iron Maiden,” he began, referring to my Hot Doug’s shirt. He told me that I wasn’t really punk, and I didn’t belong at the show, and called me a cunt and a poser. One of his friends (dude with long dark hair and a mustache: thank you, from the bottom of my heart) came over to physically insert himself between us, realizing Shaun was acting out of control.

Sensing he wasn’t about to stop and feeling threatened, Erin and I got up and moved to the bar so we could at least be in full view of bar staff in case non-consensual touching wasn’t the only way he was willing to physically engage me.

Shaun disappeared for a second, but when he came back he was angrier than ever. Leaning over the bar to get in my face, he continued calling me a cunt and a poser and attempting to intimidate me into leaving. Erin and I immediately started pleading with the bartender, explaining that he’d been hitting on me and touching me all night, that he’d already called me a cunt a million times, hoping that he’d intervene as Shaun’s friends dragged him away from the bar and toward the door.

“He’s like that,” the bartender confirmed. He didn’t question my story; it was obviously not out of character for homeboy to be ranting across the bar, being held back by friends, about how someone he barely knows was everything wrong with punk. He told me that he knew his bandmates and roommates, and that he’d go talk to them for me.

Meanwhile, from maybe ten feet away at the door, Shaun verbally berated me, loud enough for every single person in the club to hear. Erin and I stayed at the bar, ignoring him; he was blocking the only exit we where aware of, and as two smaller framed people we didn’t relish a physical confrontation with someone who was obviously enraged.

For about five minutes, at the top of his lungs, I was told that I was a poser and everything wrong with the punk scene. He told me that rich bitches like me were what was ruining the scene, and that I wasn’t really punk, and that I should never come to another punk show again.

I wasn’t surprised by the tactics he used to tried to hurt my feelings. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me. At one point, allegations that I was only involved in Chicago’s bike scene as a fake and a groupie were so pervasive that a member of my bike gang wrote an article addressing the misogynist implications of these attacks.

People have difficulty believing that women and trans individuals pursuing traditionally male activities are doing it authentically, for our own reasons. Our motives are cast as disingenuous; we’re called groupies, posers, and hangers-on. Male dominance is established by questioning our right to be there at all.

I don’t need to defend my credentials. First: you’re currently on my music blog where I write about the Chicago DIY scene for little to no reward, simply because I love it.

Second: if Shaun was only interested in heroically defending his scene from an outside interloper, and not simply punishing me for my lack of interest in him, why did he try to flirt with me multiple times?

Third: it honestly wouldn’t matter if I was a major label A&R rep who can’t tell Downtown Boys from The Boys there to scout a new buzz band for an Urban Outfitters model shoot. I still wouldn’t have deserved to be harassed and feel unsafe.

At one point, rather hilariously, he screamed “You probably don’t even know what Pabst Blue Ribbon is,” in reference to the large embroidered logo patch on the back of my jean vest. I was drinking a PBR tallboy at the time.

He chanted “leave, leave, leave, leave” over and over, while still blocking the exit. I was explicitly told, by someone who was paid by Beerland to gig there that night, that I was not welcome at Beerland.

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Notes I made at the bar while being yelled at.

Eventually, he left the front of the bar. I would like to thank everyone who helped that happen, but I am unclear on details of what went down, since we were camped out at the bar for a while trying to wait him out.

I was able to pressure the only person I knew at Beerland besides Erin, a musician I knew from DIY shows he’d played in Chicago, to walk us to Erin’s car, terrified to bike home or walk unprotected when someone that angry with me was at large. Later, I figured out the guy who reluctantly walked us to the car is Shaun’s friend, bandmate, and roommate. I felt dumb.

THE AFTERMATH

In the morning, I woke up crying, dealing with the emotional aftermath of the trauma I had experienced. Having my physical space violated over and over by someone who heard the word no, ignored it, and escalated put me on high alert for days, until I boarded a plane and left Austin and could finally begin to relax.

I got scared every time a stranger walked in my direction, paranoid they were coming for me. Every time I saw someone I recognized from Beerland at another show, my heart stopped, terrified Shaun would walk in after them.

I stopped into Beerland day after the incident to talk to the staff about what happened. “That shouldn’t have happened. You should feel safe here,” a bartender who had been off the night of the incident reassured me. She provided me with a method of contacting the bar manager.

I contacted the bar manager to ask three questions. I wanted to know whether he’d be allowed to attend shows at Beerland again. I wanted to know whether he’d be booked to play shows at Beerland again. And I wanted to know whether Beerland had an employee policy of how to deal with harassment in their space.

Beerland’s response:

I’ve been at Beerland for ten years and have dealt with a variety of situations. Some very serious. We handle things on a case by case basis because there is no way to predict all of the scenarios that can possibly occur in a dive-y punk bar.

I followed up to ask what the case-by-case response would be to this particular incident. There was no answer. It’s easy to misinterpret silence, so all I will say is that I continue to be interested in hearing Beerland’s response.

I would love to patronize it again in the future. I hope, someday, I can. It felt so much like home; until I was told I didn’t belong there.

THE MISSING STAIR

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Screencap of Shaun’s Facebook, the morning after the incident.

I am aware that people will see my frank and detailed discussion of this incident as too embarrassing or personal to be made public. Please understand that the dirty laundry was already aired when this took place in front of about 20-30 people. I’m not the one who did this in the middle of a show filled with their friends. I didn’t choose for it to happen.

For all I know, Shaun Nelson was an angel every moment leading up to the night where he violated my personal boundaries and verbally abused me, and has dedicated his life to public service since. I am not judge or juror. I sincerely hope he learns from this incident.

The heart of this article isn’t one incident, with one guy, at one time and place. This one story only serves as an illustration of how a lack of anti-harassment policy in a space, and a community that doesn’t provide consequences for those that violate community norms, can allow harassment to happen.

In 2012, blogger Cliff Pervocracy coined the term “missing stair” to describe individuals who pose a danger to others, but are tolerated within a community because everyone is aware of their issues. If you know about a missing stair in an unlit stairwell, you can work around it and avoid it. No one bothers to fix the missing stair because jumping over it works just fine.

But if no one told you that there was a missing stair, and it’s just assumed that you’re aware, it’s all too easy to be hurt.

Every time you allow someone with a known history of harassment to drum for your band, or play at your venue, or come to your party, you’re saying that their presence matters more than other people at the event feeling safe. You’re putting the onus on potential targets to be aware enough to leap over the missing stair, rather than roping off the stairwell with caution tape. And if someone does get hurt, it’s their fault; that’s what happens when you use a shitty, jacked up staircase, dude.

I wish I had been warned about this guy. It seemed like everyone got the memo but me. I wasn’t there for his history, but the resigned way people talked about him – “he’s like that” – “oh, that guy” – suggests that people are more aware than I was.

The Austin punk scene has a missing stair, and this is my best attempt at a hammer and nails.

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS

Beerland graffiti
Beerland Graffiti by Nika Vee

There are many organizations, all over the world, that are working specifically in the realm of making public arts spaces safer and supporting those who have survived harassment and assault.

Feminist Action Support Network is a group working to address sexual and gendered violence in Chicago’s music, DIY, art, and literary scenes. They facilitate accountability processes for perpetrators of rape and abuse, act as support liaisons at shows and other events, and develop healing approaches to transformative justice.

I spoke with a writer friend about how FASN’s approach to safer spaces inspired Chicago Feminist Writers & Artists as they attempted to resolve similar issues. The approach they developed defines 3 levels of space, as defined here. At all levels, harmful and oppressive behavior is not allowed.

Level Two and Three give organizers additional power to fight against these behaviors at their events. While they have the power to ask people to leave an event, if they’ve been informed in advance that someone’s presence makes others uncomfortable, they can also contact that person in advance to ask them not to come.

Explicitly outlining the expectations for respectful behavior has had a positive effect on events that Chicago Feminist Writers & Artists hosts in tandem with a local bookstore. Those who have been contacted by organizers and been asked not to come have respected those wishes, and if anyone at the event feels uncomfortable, they are reminded that CFWA representatives are available to listen.

Good Night Out is an independent campaign working with clubs, bars, pubs and venues around the UK and Ireland to end harassment on nights out. They train staff, security and management on how best to handle and prevent harassment and work with establishments on establishing a “zero tolerance” policy on groping, leering, grabbing, sexually aggressive behavior, stalking, humiliation, or homophobia.

Fabric, a famous dance club in London, worked with Good Night Out to put a written anti-harassment policy in place. All their staff are trained to remove men who are leering, making rude comments, touching, or committing any other behavior that makes women feel uncomfortable. They also have a feedback form online, and encourage attendees to contact them regarding their experiences.

MOVING FORWARD

Bathroom of the bar and music venue Beerland, Austin Texas.
Photo by Alex Wright

Community norms give us a lot of incentive to minimize abuse, both in relatively mild incidents like the one I experienced as well as more serious violations. It allows us to maintain the status quo, without reshuffling our invite lists or questioning our loyalties.

If we shame the person who is trying to seek justice enough times, if we question their story enough, if we minimize the effect of the trauma on them, maybe eventually they’ll just shut up and go away, no longer feeling safe or supported. And then we don’t have to think about it anymore.

The reason I’ve chosen to make this incident public is to make a larger point about the work that still needs to be done to make punk spaces a welcoming safer space for those who do not identify as or who are not perceived as men. This is not the first time this has happened to someone. It’s not the last time, or the worst time. It’s simply one example of a large, systemic issue of how a lack of community accountability allows abuse to thrive and abusers to operate unchallenged.

We all have a responsibility to make the scene a better place for everyone to exist safely, without harassment. Creating our own rules and challenging existing power structures: what’s more DIY and punk than that?

BONUS: THE STORE BRAND SODA GUIDE TO COMBATING GENDERED OPPRESSION IN YOUR LOCAL PUNK SCENE

Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, you’re someone who is committed to making their local scene a better place where incidents like this aren’t tolerated and where women and trans people feel welcome and safe. Here is an incredibly incomplete list of some ways you can help make that happen.

DON’T TOLERATE HARASSMENT IN YOUR SCENE: Don’t book abusers at your space. Don’t buy their records. Don’t go to their shows. Don’t show support to people who should know better.

DON’T TOLERATE HARASSMENT AT YOUR SPACE: If you run a DIY space, fest, or work at a venue, you need to have a clear plan of action on what to do when harassment occurs at your events and the means to enforce your policy. Every staff or collective member should be trained on your policy. If you notice someone has a problem moderating their alcohol consumption or keeping their hands to themselves, that person needs to get 86’d for the safety of others.

STAND UP FOR YOUR FRIENDS: If you, personally, feel safe inserting yourself into a confrontation, you should. If you’re friends with the target, make sure they aren’t left alone trying to deal with harassment on their own. If you’re friends with the antagonist, you need to call them on their shit and tell them it’s time to go home; then stay with them until they have.

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: It’s totally understandable if you don’t feel safe putting yourself in harm’s way. However, it’s your responsibility to alert show staff or organizers if you see inappropriate behavior in their venue.

DON’T SUGGEST VIOLENCE AS THE ONLY SOLUTION: A desire for justice often leads to a desire to see revenge enacted. However, please consider the feelings of the survivor before saying “I would have kicked his ass!” People who are experiencing trauma often feel paralyzed and helpless (there’s science behind it; in addition to fight or flight, our brains and bodies have a “freeze” response to threats). They may want to avoid a physical altercation with someone who may be larger and more powerful than them. Suggesting that someone’s problem would have been solved if they wilded out Karate Kid style is victim blaming.

BELIEVE SURVIVORS: Trust their stories, even if they are confused about details; there are neurobiological reasons why people have difficulty accurately recalling traumatic events. Remember that “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” only applies to judicial punishment; most assaults will never be convicted, and no conviction is necessary for you to support a survivor. For example, there is no law that says you have to continue buying someone’s records or keep inviting them to parties just because they’ve never been convicted of alleged assaults.

SUPPORT SURVIVORS: Don’t suggest that they should get over it, that they’re overreacting, or that gendered harassment is inevitable and something they should expect; street harrassment is defined as a type of sexual assault by the Office on Women’s Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Affirm their experiences by telling them that you believe them, that what happened to them is unacceptable, and that you don’t want to see it happen ever again.

DEVELOP COMMUNITY-BASED RESPONSES TO VIOLENCE: Community accountability is a community-based strategy, rather than a police/prison-based strategy, to address violence within communities. It involves creating values & practices that resist abuse and oppression and encourage safety, support, and accountability as well as developing sustainable strategies to address community members’ abusive behavior. (source)

RESOURCES AND FURTHER READING

How To Hit On Girls In The Club (Or Not) is a guide for men, written by the incomparable Lily B, on how to respectfully approach women at clubs or bars, as well as how to pick up on hints that it’s time to go away and leave them alone.

All Snowflakes Look the Same is a piece by my friend Princess about the racism she’s encountered since moving to the Midwest to pursue her education, including an interaction she had at a rock show.

Hollaback’s Legal Guide to pursuing legal action against your harasser.

Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers is a book filled with real-life success stories of women who used direct-action tactics to end harassment in both blue-collar and white-collar jobs, at school, on the street, on the bus or subway, in the park, even in church.

INCITE! is a nation-wide network of radical feminists of color working to end violence against women, gender non-conforming, and trans people of color, and our communities. Their resources include this printable pamplet (PDF) about street harassment and this excellent fact sheet on community accountability.

Community Accountability: Emerging Movements to Transform Violence is a special issue of Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict & World Order that critically examines grassroots efforts, cultural interventions, and theoretical questions regarding community-based strategies to address gendered violence

Chicago Feminist Writers & Artists Safer Space Guidelines, as mentioned in the article.

Feminist Action Support Network Safer Space Guidelines, as mentioned in the article.

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Your Show Horoscope: April & June 2015

Your Show Horoscope is a regular Store Brand Soda feature where I predict what shows you are going to go to based on your personality and character. No zodiac signs, just cheap beer and guitar feedback. Only certain shows are profiled; you can find many, many more on our calendar.

YOU LOVE REPETITION

You eat a peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day. You’ve been dating the same person for 5 years. Others might chase new, exotic thrills, but you’ve always been comforted by the nostalgic intoxication of the familiar.

Hollow Mountain, Slushy, Today’s Hits, The Lemons, The Eye Dolls
Slushy, Today’s Hits, and The Lemons share/swap around enough members that this show is going to be like eating mashed potatoes with french fries and rellenos de papa on the side and some Ruffles for dessert.
Emporium Arcade Bar, 1366 North Milwaukee Avenue
Tuesday, 5/14 at 8pm / Free / 21+

Today’s Hits
James is gonna play 100 songs in a row! So if you want to hear, like, 60 songs about being sad about girls, grab a $13 cocktail and settle in.
The Whistler, 2421 North Milwaukee Avenue
Tuesday, 5/7 at 9:00pm / Free / 21+

YOU MESS WITH TEXAS

I just came back from a trip to Texas, so their scene is very much on my mind, for both good and bad reasons. You’re gonna hear more about the bad (we have a big article scheduled for Monday), but for now, let’s focus on the positive: there’s a bunch of really awesome bands coming out of Texas, and some of them are even playing here soon.

Big Joy, Sweet Spirit, The Iceberg, Impulsive Hearts
Sweet Spirit is an Austin band who shares member Sabrina Ellis with A Giant Dog, who we love a lot.
The Burlington Bar 3425 W Fullerton Ave,
Sat, 4/25 at 9pm / 21+ / usually around $8

Flesh Lights, Flesh Panthers, Son of a Gun
Flesh Lights are like, the worst band to google without remembering to append “bandcamp” or whatever. Anyway, I saw them at an all ages in Austin when I was down in Texas and I swear, I thought the drummer was gonna crack a cymbal they were drumming so hard. Young, fast, and fun, with a few poppy crooners thrown in for good measure.
The Mutiny, 2428 North Western Avenue
Tuesday, 5/26 at 9:00pm, Free, 21+

Radioactivity
You like Bad Sports? You like Marked Men? You like The Mind Spiders? Then you like Radioactivity. They’re one of those bands you can make an intricate family tree for, with all the branches showing various other bands the members are in, or you can just tell your nerd brain to shut up and throw your dirty hair around.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western Avenue
Friday, 7/24 at 9:00pm, $10 / 21+

YOU JUST WANNA FUCKING PARTY

All you wanna do is have some fun. You got a feeling you’re not the only one.

Vamos, Ego, Dead Space, Mama, The Man
Duuuuuuuude The Man are so evil and so nefarious and so good.
Wally World
Sat, 4/25 at 9:05pm / byob and cheap beer for sale / donate / 21+

The Bingers, Slushy, The Uglies, The Liqs, Zigtebra
I can’t be the only one who thinks the dude from The Liqs looks like a teenage version of Joseph Gordon Levitt. It gives me weird, Mysterious-Skin-related feelings.
The Dandelion
Friday, 5/1 at 9pm / 21+ / Donations Please

MAMA, Platinum Boys, Jollys, Grosse Point
Ok, you know how some bands write serious bummer songs about social issues? None of these bands do that. They just rock out onto your face with extremely brainless party tunes. Mama + Plat Boyz also have this completely unironic classic radio rock thing going on as well, which I find hilarious.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western Avenue
Monday, 5/4 at 9pm / 21+ / Free

Oblivions
Party yourself into oblivion with Oblivions.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western Avenue
Thursday, 5/28 at 9:00pm / 21+ / $10

Guantanamo Baywatch, Gooch Palms, The Lemons
Guantanamo Baywatch are basically always touring, storming cities with bottles of tequila, painted-on pants, and summer surf vibes. This is the first show I’ve seen them play in Chicago at a non-DIY-venue in a while and it’s gonna be a jammer.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western Avenue
Sunday, 6/21 at 8:30pm / $5 / 21+

YOU’RE A BABY TEEN

ADVICE FOR TEENS: Your boyfriend probably sucks and you are definitely not going to be together forever. Your parents are probably trying really hard (and failing, but you’ll understand one day). You should go to these shows that let in those too young to legally drink.

Glamour Hotline, Lost Dog, Evasive Backflip, Slayer Kitty, Not for You
This is more like a mixed media art installation gallery event but bands are playing and you should go, little baby teens.
Fulton Street Collective, 2000 W Fulton St
Saturday, 4/25 at 7:00pm / $5 / AA

Nobunny, Skip Church
It’s kind of weird that Nobunny is so popular and has such a young following. “What’s that that the kids are into these days? A weird dude who wears a decaying bunny mask and high heels and possibly no pants when he plays?” Actually, it kind of makes perfect sense.
Subterranean, 2011 West North Avenue
Saturday, 4/25 at 6:00pm / $12 / AA

Treasure Fleet, Jaime Rojo, Young Marshall
saki instore!
saki, 3716 West Fullerton Avenue,
Sunday, 5/17 / BYOB / AA

Alex G, Arugula
Alex G is the kind of sad bastard music that I couldn’t care less about but my co-editor Emily ~LOVES~, which is probably why our show calendar is as varied as it is. Emily, you have any comments about Alex G? I got nothing.
Fireside Bowl, 2648 West Fullerton Avenue
Wednesday, 6/3 at 7:30 / $12 / AA

Bike Cops, BRNDA, Teen Mom, Peoples Temple of America
I wanted to make a dumb bowling joke about this show, because it’s in a bowling alley, but then I remembered I don’t know anything about bowling.
Fireside Bowl, 2648 West Fullerton Avenue
Tuesday, 6/9 at 7:00pm / 17+ / $7

Palehound, Coaster, Haki, Bedroom Sons
Haki includes Real Baby Teens right in the line-up.
Beat Kitchen, 2100 West Belmont Avenue
Monday, 5/25 at 8:00pm / Free with RSVP / $8
/ 17+

Vacation, Earth Girls, The Raging Nathans, Supreme Nothing
I’m not actually sure if this is all ages, but it’s at a DIY space that doesn’t allow drinking or drugs, so while I don’t to want to speak for the organizers probably most cool not-oppressive people will be welcome.
Weenie Hut Jr’s
Monday, 5/7 at 7:00pm / $7

YOU LOVE FESTS

No, not the kind of festival where you bury a bottle of vodka in Grant Park at the stroke of midnight so you can dig it up later and party to some band with a song in an iTunes commercial. The kind of fest where a record label takes over a dark, dingy venue for days and shares all their favorites with you. Speaking of: who’s driving down to Goner Fest this year? Hit me up.

Slippery Kingdom Fest

The Burlington Bar 3425 W Fullerton Ave
All events $8 and 21+, doors at 8:00pm, show at 9:00pm

Thursday, 4/30: Opening Party with Power Haunts, Blind Moon, Strange Lovelies
Friday, 5/1: Multicult, Moral Void, DEN, Street Creature
Saturday, 5/2: Dam Gila, Luggage, Michelles, The Symposium, Glyders

Hozac Blackout Fest

The Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western Avenue
All events 21+; art opening is $5, all other nights $20, 3 day pass $40

Sunday, 5/10: Opening Art Show with The Yolks, Werewheels, Skip Church
Friday, 5/15: Real Kids, Cozy, Platinum Boys, MAMA
Saturday. 5/16: The Avengers, Sweet Knives, Nervosas, THING, Gross Pointe

So, Nervosas are a Columbus, Ohio band that we’ve heard unchill things about. The story (which we do not have first hand) is that a girl was raped by someone they’re friends with. When she spoke publicly about the rape, members of Nervosas defended him and harassed her: just your general, rape culturey, “he’s our bro and we’re picking being friends with him over you feeling safe” kind of bullshit. I heard this through friends, but I found a reference to it here. Stuff like this doesn’t get talked about enough. I personally don’t feel comfortable paying $20 to go to a Nervosas show, and I don’t feel comfortable listing them here without giving you the information to make your own decision.

EDIT: Mickey from Nervosas has commented in our comment section. Scroll down or click here to see the response.

Arts N Drafts

Auxiliary Art Center, 3012 West Belmont Avenue
Reed’s Local, 3017 W Belmont Ave
$10 gets you into both venues all night / 21+

Saturday, 5/16 at 7:00pm: Indonesian Junk, The Gnar Wave Rangers, Baby Money, DEN, MTVGhosts, The Baby Magic, The Liqs

This is a really rad little DIY fest taking place at both a local art space and their neighbor, a cool little dive bar. They’re gonna be selling BBQ on the patio at Aux so bring that cash, honeys.

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Sheer Mag, Peach Kelli Pop, Frankie Teardrop Show Review + Preview for Tonight!

We do a lot for you here at SBS; keeping our exhaustive show calendar updated, gently making fun of crappy bands, bravely venturing into the Lone Star filled cesspools of South by Southwest. Yesterday, we decided to leave Chicago for a rare non-tubing-related road trip to see Sheer Mag, Peach Kelli Pop, Frankie Teardrop, and Platinum Boys play Milwaukee in advance of their scheduled shows tonight here in Chicago.

We rolled up to Cocoon Room with bellies full of pimento mac’n’cheese only to confront disaster and horror in the cozy all ages DIY space meets anarcho-queer lending library meets vintage clothing shop I guess. It turns out Sheer Mag’s van broke down on their way from Minneapolis, two hours outside Milwaukee.

Had we driven all this way to not see Sheer Mag? Were they shivering on the side of a road somewhere? Would they, perhaps, play the super-secret-after-show? These thoughts went through our mind as we settled in to see openers Platinum Boys.

platboys

Dem Platinum Boys sound like the kind of old school butt rock that you listen to on a shitty radio in your back yard while drinking Miller Lite in a kiddie pool. They kind of remind of a little bit of Chicago wildcats Flesh Panthers in their affinity for classic rock-n-roll unobfuscated by garagey fuzz or having 19 members or whatever gimmick bands are pulling this week. Big ups to drummer Skufca for booking the show!

frankie

Minneapolis lofi power poppers Frankie Teardrop write really catchy songs about being an unlovable fuck up with a drug problem who hates yourself? I know that sounds like an incredible bummer but they’re super fun to see live. I’ve been blasting their “Raiders” tape a bunch lately and I guess I’ve seen them like, six times now and never regretted a second. I kind of want to, like, bring them a homecooked meal and give them all hugs next time I see them, though.

pkp

PEACH KELLI POP! If there was a soda that tasted like Peach Kelli Pop sounds I’d give up PBR. I know everyone always tries to compare any band with cute babe members to early-90s riot grrl bands which is INFURIATING but PKP really do have a sort of Dressy Bessy/April March kind of jam. If you like The Half Rats, doing the egg roll, doing the cheesecake, or seeing queer representation on stage and you haven’t checked out these sunny poppy cuties yet you’re missing out.

At this point, there was no Sheer Mag, but we dried our tears off and walked over the Bremen Cafe down the street. It’s a Riverwest pub with a little stage in the back, and more importantly…..

giant

GIANT BEERS. This is a liter of Old Milwaukee. It was $5. I love Milwaukee. And Old Milwaukee. Everything Milwaukee-related, I’m into it.

We saw locals The Olives play their second-to-last-show ever. They were appropriately wasted, as befitting the occasion, but their bassist has some really evil surf riffs up her sleeve and someone should snap her up once they break up.

Peach Kelli Pop played another rad set! At some point I pulled cold fried chicken out of my backpack and started eating it in the bar, because I’m wicked classy. Also, at some point I gave Emily half of one of my caffeine pills and she might still be puking. Did you learn nothing from the tribulations of Jessie Spano, Emily???

pkp2

Unfortunately, Sheer Mag never showed up, so we had to content ourselves with dancing around to Frankie Teardrop a second time. PKP joined the crowd for enthusiastic butt-dancing and piggy back rides. It was a fun sloppy mess, all melting popsicle and sticky candy and giant crappy beers.

Want to experience some of this fun for yourself? Want to ACTUALLY SEE SHEER MAG? Well, they’re on their way to Chicago as we speak, and you have THREE CHANCES to party tonight.

Peach Kelli Pop, The Chips, Skip Church
Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles
3156 West Diversey Avenue
5pm / Free / AA / BYOB

Sheer Mag, Muscles Plant, Coneheads, MAMA
Albion Haus
$7 / Starts 8:00-8:30pm

Peach Kelli Pop, Frankie Teardrop, Gross Pointe
Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Ave Chicago
9pm / Free / 21+

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