May Your Fave Be Unproblematic

“I’m so sorry, but this is a Famous Dex fan account now,” I tweeted, an hour before r&b artist Tish Hyman posted a surveillance video of the Chicago rapper chasing a woman down a hallway and beating her (video is disturbing; please exercise caution before viewing).

Before the footage was released, Dex was one of the South Side’s fastest rising stars, aided by an alignment with Atlanta’s Rich the Kid and an ability to release new material at a lightning pace. In a city captivated by angelic backpackers, scrawny Dex stood out as deeply weird with facial tattoos, bright red hair, and an off-kilter delivery that fit right in with the rest of the new crop of emerging “mumble rappers.”

I became a vocal fan after listening to Kanye off May’s OhhMannGoddDamm mixtape. I couldn’t stop replaying or talking about the compact and catchy track that captures everything I love about being young, successful, and killing it in Chicago. “All this money on me, all this designer on me, baby, call me Kanye,” Dex urges in a radio-ready hook as samples of ohhmanngodddamm echo behind him.

Dexter’s third mixtape of 2016, Dexter the Robot, was available for download for less than 24 hours when Hyman’s footage became public. The Puma x Pink Dolphin collection he recently modeled hasn’t even hit stores yet. Though it’s hard to say for certain in a world where a Chris Brown hook on your song isn’t enough to keep it off the Hot 100, common sentiment seems to be that his extremely short and fertile career has been cut off at the bud.

I’ve written before on how to evaluate the careers of artists who were abusive to those around them during their lifetimes. All of the examples I used had the luxury of a degree of academic distance for me. The perpetrators were dead, or so deeply sus I never engaged with their work on a deep level; rumors about Woody Allen and R. Kelly have been around forever.

I’ve recently had to wrestle with quandries much more unexpected and closer to home, however. Freddie Gibbs’ track Harold’s, a Madlib-composed ode to Chicago’s iconic fried chicken, fries, and mild sauce, was already a part of my heart when I heard he was battling charges of drugging and sexually assaulting a victim while on tour in Austria.

Kodak Black created one of my all time favorite love songs, a uncharacteristically sweet track called Honeybun off the mixtape Heart of the Projects. The Florida rapper probably has as many mug shots as he does press photos; I wasn’t any stranger to seeing him booked for drug and weapons charges, or hearing colorist or otherwise problematic statements in his lyrics. When he caught felony charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a victim in a South Carolina hotel room after a show, I was given pause. Should I have seen this coming? Should I already have disowned his music? Where do you draw the line?

Some people draw the line uncomfortably far; it’s not difficult to find rambling Snapchat diatribes and earnest tweets from Team Breezy pleading for folks to, yet again, disregard Chris Brown’s abusive behavior. If you draw the line all the way at the other end – throwing any music with sexist, racist, or otherwise oppressive content in the dustbin – you’re ruling out the vast majority of rap, which I’m not willing to do.

The question of when it’s appropriate to stop supporting an abuser is hardly limited to the sphere of hip-hop, however. I spent this last weekend at Riot Fest, a three day exercise in punk rock nostalgia. I was surprised to see a woman wearing a Swans shirt and tried to put myself in her shoes. How would I feel if I had that in my closet when Larkin Grimm came forward to accuse her collaborator and abuser, Michael Gira of Swans, of a long campaign of sexual harassment that culminated in raping her and dropping her from his label? I personally couldn’t see myself wearing the t-shirt anymore. Not to a music festival.

Part of the danger of supporting the new and the novel is that you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting yourself into. Hell, it’s part of the danger of supporting anyone at all. It’s impossible to know someone’s entire history, or predict their future actions. I refuse to stop vocally supporting artists, both emerging and established, because it may turn out that they’re mortal, with all the attendant messiness and pain that goes along with being part of the human race. At the same time, how we respond when allegations come to light says so much about how we feel about justice for victims, acceptance of a societal status quo, and whether we feel fame and adulation are unconditionally granted or earned.

Do we treat a case like Kodak Black’s assault, where our only information about an incident is filtered through a racist police state, differently than when unmistakable evidence is put into our hands through social media? Why do I feel ok listening to Gucci Mane, who almost certainly killed at least one person? Is Famous Dex’s career really over?

I’m not sure there are any absolute answers in situations like these. All I know is that Kanye, Harold’s, and Honeybun are incredible works of art, ones that I won’t ever be able to divorce of association with their authors. When I think of the playlist that I want to soundtrack my life, they’re not on it.

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Exclusive: Clearance Public House Sessions

clearance.jpegLofi locals Clearance have more of their patented poppy alt rock coming out on our favorite record label run by a man who might actually be Bigfoot. To celebrate the Are You Aware 7″, which you can totally buy from Tall Pat Records right now, we’re premiering live sessions of three songs recorded in the Public House studio, including the A-side for the 7″ and two other songs (including a Soft Boys cover, “The Queen of Eyes.”)

View the full post to watch the three videos, and don’t forget to pick that 7″ up next time you’re seeing a show at Bric-a-Brac.

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Glamour Hotline’s Calling with a New Ep

Photo by Kyle Goldberg

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to one of my favorite Chicago bands over spaghetti and garlic bread. Listen to their new EP on Bandcamp (or Spotify!) and read the piece for Bandcamp Daily.

I’ve always been partial to their fuzzy sassy grrl power musical vibes, but I really enjoyed the chance to delve into music business and branding strategy with the trio. If you’re in a band and you want inspo on collborating on an aesthetic identity, you’d be well served to check the interview out!

Glam Hot’s got two upcoming shows on the recently updated Store Brand Soda guide to all your DIY / indie pop / weirdo rock / punk af needs:

Gula Gila, Not For You, Ze’ev, Glamour Hotline
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
Sat, August 6 / 8pm / $5 / respect the space / ask a punk

Glamour Hotline, When Ships Collide, Roach Beach, Beachoven
Emporium Arcade Bar, 1366 N Milwaukee Ave
Tue, August 9 / 8pm / 21+ / free

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Two Years of Running the Best Music Blog in Chicago: Lil Yachty & Pink Skateboards

About a year ago, my life was turned upside down when the snowball of press & social media attention around my article about harassment in punk culminated in an editorial pick for Best New Music Blogger in The Chicago Reader (#savethereader). I was presented with a new opportunities, some which worked out, some which didn’t. The biggest one was joining the Do312 team. Every time I tell someone the story about how I ran a music blog and show calendar and ended up doing the social media for an event discovery/promotion outfit that throws parties with sloths and bouncy houses, they’re like, “That makes sense.”

At the same time, it’s hard to come home from 9 hours of working on promoting local music for money and sit down to do 4 more hours for free. I’ve shifted from being a music journalist to a copywriter. I spend more time in Facebook Power Editor than green rooms. I’m not drinking right now, and rock and roll is deeply exhausting to me sober. I mostly just go to rap shows where half the attendees have X’s on their hands and impeccable teen streetwear outfits that dunk on my entire life.


I was shocked recently to find out that Store Brand Soda had won the popular vote for Best Local Music blog in the Reader’s new Best of Chicago issue. Like, Fake Shore Drive is an INSTITUTION.

I’m grateful to my coeditor Emily and our Dead DIY Spaces columnist Eric for keeping this lil punk rock music fanzine alive. I’m touched that people still care; that people stepped in to help fill in our calendar when we got overwhelmed (thank you especially to Eileen Marshall, who recently started writing some incredibly touching essays about her relationship with music and the world). That people wrote in our name to nominate us, then selected us in the final round of voting. That’s huge, and if I’m gonna be real, it gives me the power to keep going.

I don’t know if I’m going to keep writing about music in the same way I always have. But I know I’m not going to stop.

If you miss me talking about noisy rock and garage, I recommend you read this feature I recently published on the paranoid synth punk of Giorgio Murderer over on the new Bandcamp Daily. For now, here’s two music related things I’ve been digging lately.

Lil Yachty – Lil Boat


My endless Twitter thread about Lil Yachty is a running joke on Twitter that’s gotten more people into this deeply weird mixtape than I can count. “Darnell Boat,” the narrator of the tape’s intro track & interludes, introduces us to the bifurcated personalities of the eighteen year old rapper & singer Miles Parks McCollum.

Lil Boat’s Southern rap flow is boastful and confident, and not without accolades – Chano himself gave him the nod for best feature on Coloring Book, which also featured verses from, you know, Kanye West and Future, who have a few years on the King of the Teenagers.

Darnell describes the little Lil Yachty persona as “a little bit nicer” and “a little more emotional,” with an angelic sing song that tackles the album’s more vulnerable and intimate lyrics. The wavers and warbles in his voice are the cracks in the Liberty Bell; they’re warped rather than polished by Auto Tune and lend an eerie sincerity to the overarching message of positivity and the belief in serendipity.

My friend Tom floated the idea on Twitter that “Lil Boat and Coloring Book are viable treatments for depression and that doctors should study their effects on the human psyche.” When I’m singing along with “We Did It (Outro) *Positivity Song*” every morning while doing my eyeliner, I can’t help but agree.

Club 75 x Vans sneaker collaboration

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I spent 2008 obsessed with Bertrand de Langeron, the art director of Ed Banger Records. He was always there, open shirt and French accent, sleazing in the background of tour photographs from Justice’s whirlwind superstardom in the wake of their single D.A.N.C.E. (he directed the iconic video and their escandaloso documentary) and in Cobra Snake photos of fucking Fool’s Gold parties or whatever. I’ve always loved his palette of bright primary colors and fleshy pinks, endless handlettering finesse, and his ability to elevate a cartoony style that bubbled out of club flyers into a cohesive identity across a record label, web publication, and fashion label.

And now: sneakers! I love this throwback to those all-over print hoodies littered with tiny drawings, this time a souvenir print for an idyllic imaginary French seaside. I’m also digging the “Locals Only” embroidery on the Era iteration.

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Locals Done Good: Dumpster Tapes & Chicago Singles Club Celebrate Landmarks

I couldn’t be prouder of our homegrown scene here in Chicago. Despite major setbacks in the past year (the shuttering of YC & WW not insignificant among them) our creative community keeps evolving and mutating and oozing our sweat and Schlitz all over the midwest if not the world.

Two local outfits especially caught my eye this month; our buddies at cassette-smuggling ring Dumpster Tapes, and Chicago Singles Club, which puts together monthly profiles on local bands complete with slick photos, an exclusive song, a video interview and….lots of Malört.


Dumpster Tapes has recently put out some pretty sick tapes from the likes of Jollys, Dumpster Babies (no relation), Cass Cwik and more. They’re putting out their second compilation full of local rippers with no repeats from the first tape. You can (and should) stream it here, but if you’re REALLY cool you’ll hand Alex or Ed a cool fiver at the show and get your own monument in magnetic tape.

Dumpster Tapes Release Party
Crosstown, Skip Church, Pink Torpedo, Easy Habits
Cole’s Bar, 2338 N Milwaukee Ave
Sat, April 30, 9pm / 21+ / free


After three solid years of putting out an immense amount of slick, polished, and perfectly home produced media each month, Chicago Singles Club has to take a step back from their relentless monthly schedule. Dude, who can blame them. You’ll continue seeing the CSC team (Jeff, Kerri, Kevin, Iris, and Kelsie as pictured above, plus former crew Ron, Cassie, and Jordan) at Cole’s Bar every fourth Friday.

If you miss them the rest of the month, there’s always the thirty-six singles and interviews from disparate and innovative Chicago bands over at to keep you company.

Chicago Singles Club Finale
Grandkids, Oshwa, The Gold Web, The Runnies
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Mon, May 2, 9pm / 21+ / free

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Show Horoscope: March & April 2016

Your favorite beer-soaked mystic fires up the lava lamp and a jammer and looks deep into the future to make some killer predictions on what shows you want to see. This go-round we’ve got two months of shows for DIY show rats, noise freaks, tender youths, & daydream believers.

Let’s Fucking Party This Weekend, Dude

If you have it, crush it up and rail it hard this week because it’s an unstoppable vortex of cool shit to leave your house for. Let’s make bad decisions, overdraw our bank accounts, find six-packs in the street and lose our innocence in alleyways. What Would Mean Jeans Do.

Faux Ferocious, Basement Family, Power Haunts
Over on my public liability of a Twitter account, I’ve been participating in journalist Gary Suarez‘s #mwe. I’m planning to include all 29 mini-reviews in an article soon, but here’s a sneak preview. I first saw these guys playing a tiny record store and immediately knew they were the band for me. They generally play everywhere when they’re in town because they’re the most down-to-rock out bluesy psych punks of the century.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Thu, March 3, 9pm / $5 / 21+

Flesh Panthers, Honduras, Faux Ferocious (DJ Set)
What did we say about down to party? AFTER the Bottle show, roll through Wally’s hallowed halls for a witching hour rock and roll insomniac freakshow with Flesh Panthers (have you bought their LP on Tall Pat Records yet?)
Wally World
Thu, March 3, Midnight / $5 / 21+ / byob or cheap bar

Poison Boys, American Breakfast, The Glyders
I personally want to die on Friday every time I party on a Thursday, and Cole’s can get real het up on a Friday night, but I caught Poison Boys unapologetically stumbling in studs at a northside DIY spot & immediately fell in love with their glammy, nasty leather pants punk.
Cole’s Bar, 2338 N Milwaukee Ave
Fri, March 4, 10pm / free / 21+

Coneheads, The Bug, Bruised, Tigress, Dagger
Oh my god. You want me to leave the house AGAIN? I woke up covered in blood last night. I’m running on roller dogs from 7-11, generic caffeine pills from CVS, and Coco Cafe. Let me die in peace.
Except Coneheads rule, so…
Weenie Hut Jr’s
Sat, March 5, 7pm / Benefit for ABC & Oso Blanco / $5-7 Donation PWYC / QTIPOC to the front!


Photo of La Luz by Kris Alan Carter.

Sunshine & Lollipops

“Twee” doesn’t do you justice; you radiate kindness and creativity with every tremor of an eyelash. You have a crush on Audrey Tautou and Enid Coleslaw. Your summer plans include laying in a kiddie pool in that Bulls bodysuit from F21 and feeling yourself while fuzzy garage pop tapes play on your pastel boombox.

Your power crystals this month are citrine, rose quartz, and pink lemonade weed popsicles.

LA Witch, Sugar Candy Mountain
LA Witch’s fuzzed out surf pop is maudlin & melodic, with wry and wary vocals, a warning issued over crashing waves of reverb. It’s good for sunny morning nudity in bed over cigarettes and coffee, and should be filed next to the Froth and La Luz in your record collection.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Tue, March 8, 9pm / $5 / 21+

Heaters, Shah Jahan
You like 60s psych garage? Cool. You’re gonna like this show.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Wed, March 9, 9pm / $10 / 21+

Space Blood, Daymaker, Pussy Foot
Daymaker’s sound ranges from the fuzz of dream pop to the broken glass of experimental poetry.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Fri, March 25, 9pm / $5 / 21+

Dressy Bessy, Mope Grooves, The Injured Parties
I’m like 99% sure that hearing “If You Should Try to Kiss Her” turned me gay. Thank you, Dressy Bessy.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Fri, March 11, 9pm / $12 ($10 adv) / 21+

Tacocat, Lisa Prank, Swimsuit Addition
We love Tacocat’s cynical, sassy, & sweet homages to everyday bummers, and the members/DNA they share with fellow Seattle band Childbirth. Also, Swimsuit Addition fucking rules and if they’re reading this, I owe you guys one. You know why.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Fri, April 8, 9pm / $10 / 21+

La Luz, Sick Sad World
Sick surf riffs and the rising, foamy swell and recess of lovely harmonies; La Luz is a beachside daydream.
Subterranean, West North Avenue
Sun, March 20, 9pm / $12 / 17+


Photo of La Luz by Kris Alan Carter.

For the Rare Heads

You like noise and psych and synths and experimental music. You’ve been to at least 3 shows where someone rolls around in basement filth while a rat king of guitar pedals slowly performs mind control on a crowd dressed in black hoodies, all headbanging in extremely slow motion.

This month you are in danger of falling prey to outside bummer influences. Carry a black crystal such as tourmaline, onyx, or black obsidian either on a necklace or in your pocket. Walk in a long circle around your home sprinkling salt. Take extra time to lay in bed eating pudding cups [editor’s note: substitute whatever food you enjoy as much as Cupcake enjoys pudding cups]. If allergies allow, hug as many dogs as possible.

Potions, King Tuts Tomb, Chicago Jim, Organsm
I saw new wave graveyard freakout King Tuts Tomb in the glass block bubble of Wally World, shaking dusty bones out of closets with post-punk synths. Catch them at the tenth birthday party for Pretty All Right Records.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Sun, March 20, 9pm / $5 / 21+

Acid Mothers Temple, Mounds, Plastic Crimewave Syndicate
The ultimate trip. Very heavy indeed. The kind of music that makes you feel weird, physical, phantom sensations in your body.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave
Tue, March 29, 9pm / $12 / 21+

Levitation Chicago
The Chicago outpost of The Fest Formerly Known as Austin Psych Fest takes over Thalia for two days straight.
Thalia Hall, 1807 S Allport S
Fri, March 11 – Sat, March 12 / $40 GA / $300 Opera Box


Store Brand Soda is For the Children

As always, I rounded up my personal picks for shows that allow those below drinking age that didn’t fit in any other area. These are not the only cool all ages shows happening; for that, you gotta check out our full calendar.

For our younger readers, we recommend journaling, forgiving yourself, and the novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

Ok, so I am obviously biased because I work for Do312, but this party we’re throwing with experimental creative studio VAM and 4 different DIY houses (YC, Dojo, Dollhouse, & Echo) is going to be LIT. Check out this line-up: Glass Lux, Daryn Alexus, DJ Taye(TEKLIFE), Sirr Tmo (TEKLIFE), Acid Daddy (Jarvi), Daymaker, WITCH HAZEL, The Gnar Wave Rangers, WINGTIPS, Soddy Daisy, Owen Bones. It’s free, it’s 18 and up, the whole space will be filled with exotic art and performances, & the first 100 people get secret presents. Come.
Wesley Kimler Studio, 2046 W Carroll Ave
Sat, March 12, 9pm / RSVP here for free entry / 18+

Los Crudos, MK-Ultra, Spine, Mace
Chicago hardcore legends resurrected.
Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont Ave
Sat, March 26, 6:00pm / AA / $10 adv / $12 door

Ra Ra Riot, PWR BTTM, The Kids
Here’s what we said about PWR BTTM in our 5 QUEER ALBUMS I LOVED IN 2015 article:

PWR BTTM’s drum-and-bass driven Ugly Cherries is less of an album and more of a way of a direct beam into the brains of those gifted with being fluidly genderqueer and floridly queer: you’re not alone. Here are your people. The lyrics beckon in: “We can do our make up in the parking lot…we can drink our beer out of a sippy cup, we can go to Disney Land and fuck shit up.” Once you’re in the slumber party of longing, sex, love, you’re covered in glitter and you’ll never be alone again.

Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln Ave
Fri, April 8, 9pm / $25 / 18+

All Dogs, Split Feet, Blizzard Babies
Some hella buds. Bought my tix already.
Subterranean, 2011 W North Ave
Sat, April 9, 6:30pm / $10 / AA

Painted Zeros, Izzy True, New Drugs, Hard Femme
Don Giovanni dream pop.
Subterranean, 2011 W North Ave
Tue, April 5, 6:30pm / $8 / 17+

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Entitlement and Economic Injustice: Same Shit, Different Dudes

I’ve spent the past couple days meaning to write a follow-up post to my essay on Calvin Johnson’s shady business dealings/probable personal shadiness. Teenage Hotdog‘s tireless reporting on K Records’ longstanding pattern of ripping off artists had finally gotten the attention of The Stranger, which has since caught the eye of Pitchfork and The AV Club. Melissa’s cool and funny and I’m so proud of her and grateful to have made her acquaintance, so I wanted to say something to congratulate her on talking loud enough for long enough that the menfolk finally listened.

And Here We Are Again

But as I sat down with my half bottle of convenience store wine to pen that article, I caught the post on Facebook saying that Michael Gira (“Oh yeah the dude from Swans”) had raped Larkin Grimm while they worked together on her record in 2008, then had fucking dropped her from his label when she finally called him out on it years later. She hasn’t been able to sign to a new label since, so that’s been awesome for her career.

This, of course, comes on top of last week’s news that Kesha would not be released from her contract with Sony and would have to continue making albums with her rapist or face a financial penalty.

And that’s the point I wish I’d addressed more fully the first time around. When shady-ass dudes control access to money or power or prestige or press in your profession, you are stuck dealing with them on their shady-ass terms. People who are not in positions of power are forced to accommodate people who are. If you don’t go along, you might not work again. If you go along but later speak out, you might not work again. The deck is stacked against you, even without a public eager for a way to prove you’re at fault.

As Jessica Hopper said, people tend to blame the victims in these situations, saying that by not coming forward sooner, they have allowed a cycle to perpetuate. But the cycle perpetuates itself every time we give a shady dude a pass, every time we say “he’s always been nice to me,” every time we decide to keep giving him our money because we really like his work.

Reasoning vs. Reality

As a society, we seem to want to separate social issues and economic ones, but the two are intertwined (Melissa Gira Grant just published an excellent discussion of this idea in the context of feminism). You can’t live a fully actualized life in a capitalist society without some access to money, so any action that causes an economic harm also has potential consequences for a person’s health and well-being, and any fight against injustice that ignores economic reality is failing to see the big picture.

When a man feels entitled to someone else’s labor, money, body, emotions, etc., and when he holds the person’s career hostage in order to get what he wants, an injustice is being done. This person has now been forced to sacrifice their physical, financial, or emotional well-being (often all three) for some dude’s fucked up sense of entitlement. He is benefiting from their labor, while they are subject to increasingly high costs of exiting a situation they never even wanted to be in.

Instead of being sympathetic to people whose livelihoods are threatened, we have a tendency to discount their experiences, believing the situation couldn’t really happen in a just world. Americans tend to equate success with morality, believing the person who has more is more deserving, which makes an uphill battle for anyone facing abuse from someone in a position of relative power or status. And that’s not the only problem. Other research suggests people who regard themselves as being in a position of higher status are actually more likely to do morally questionable things and believe their own actions are justified.

When our brain flips into internet detective mode because “something doesn’t seem right” about a situation that’s terrifyingly common, it may not have anything to do with the situation itself. Instead, it’s the result of underlying psychological assumptions that uphold systems of power and privilege.

Moving Forward

As rational people, we may want a burden of proof or a line in the sand, but too often we are causing actual harm to another human being with these demands. While we wait for enough evidence to justify changing our behaviors or beliefs, a person remains stuck in an untenable situation while we deny support.

We are also perpetuating the cycle, so we can also play a role in stopping it.

Even as accusations of violence, abuse, and economic injustice in the music industry become distressingly common, we can still envision a better world. We can stand up for the humanity of every person in our scene. We can give our money to people who have been disadvantaged by assholes and an uncaring system and we can direct our support away from those who perpetuate injustice.

Thankfully, the initial responses I saw to Larkin’s post about Gira’s abuse were mostly positive. Major music news sources picked up her story and some even related it in a way that suggests they might believe her. The backlash is still unfolding, so I may regret this early optimism. But with the continued pressure to #freekesha and other small gains we’ve seen as of late, maybe the arc of music fandom is finally bending toward justice.

It’s hard to resist the call of a just world where the people who make the things we enjoy always do good. It’s not always practical or easy to vote with our feet and our wallets. But if we believe in making the world better than it is, we can try our best to keep calling out bullshit and keep standing behind the people who do.

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Smokers’ Circles & Squares: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Eve 6

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately building a list of bands I want to see and cool parties I want to attend as I prep for SXSW next month. I’ll be sharing all this on the blog over the next couple weeks, so if you are into standing in a backyard in Texas with a cold beer, rest assured we’ve got you. But all this obsessive planning and feeling kind of on the ball has got me thinking about the way I got into music to begin with, which was decidedly not cool.

One of the things I love about SBS is that we’ve never been about proving we knew everything about punk rock before you first popped Snoopy vs. the Red Baron into your off-brand childhood Walkman. In the spirit of this, I wanted to share a piece I recently read at the “Mixtapes” night of Miss Spoken, Chicago’s decidedly non-dudely live lit event, about discovering the joy of mixtapes and slowly learning to be cool with loving what I love.

I’m 16 years old, leaning forward in the backseat of Lindsey’s extended cab Ford F-150, shouting over the wind and The Bloodhound Gang, hair and sand and cigarette smoke blowing in my face from the lowered front windows as we drive the smokers’ circle. Lindsey teases Amber about hooking up with her boyfriend in Lindsey’s truck outside a high school dance (never leave your car unlocked), Amber teases Kristen about wanting to get with the high school English teacher, and everyone teases me about how the high school English teacher really wants to get with me.

You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but mammals

The music sucks and I have dirt in my teeth, but I’m so happy to be along for the ride.

As a self-proclaimed outsider, there aren’t many teen bonding experiences I can fondly recall, having sworn off drinking, smoking, drugs, team sports, and church as early as 8th grade. But circa 2000 in rural North Dakota, driving in a 4-mile square around our hometown offered a temporary escape from its confines, so I constantly found excuses to stay in town after school and drive around listening to mix CDs.

Honestly, I really didn’t even care about making mixes at first. At 15, I’d boldly declared that I “didn’t like music,” meaning I was super into that one Harvey Danger song but it hadn’t occurred to me that the rest of the album might also be good (still one of the biggest regrets of my life).

But gradually, I found myself pulled in, experimenting with loud music in place of booze or drugs or DIY safety pin piercings.

Let’s go, don’t wait, this night’s almost over, honest, let’s make this night last forever

Due to the lack of radio stations or record stores or really anything in western North Dakota, we turned to piracy on our parents’ computers, giant beige boxes barely running Windows 98, pulling songs from Napster or Kazaa on a 56k dial-up connection.

They’d dropped thousands of dollars so we could one day be at the cutting edge of technology with lucrative dot com careers, but instead we trolled Yahoo chat, played virtual pinball, and burned CDs featuring the kinds of alternative radio hits the reservation station sometimes played after 10 pm: stuff like Everclear, Blink 182, and Green Day.

I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby, like you

Through the teenage dirtbag internet, I found more punk bands, bringing The Ramones, The Misfits, and other such classics into my friends’ mix CD pool. Throw in Nirvana and Weezer (my music nerd friend’s favorite bands), and of course my crush’s favorite band, Rammstein, and you had a passable soundtrack for my fondest high school memories: frantic 100 mph drives down the two-lane highway to Williston (usually for something incredibly dumb, like showing of Joe Dirt), or the time we stuck flavored condoms filled with silly string to our band director’s windshield (in the winter, so they’d freeze), or the trip to Minot where we drove around shouting Du Hast while wielding a piece of rebar out the car window (we’d found it in a junkyard while Lindsey was trying to buy parts for her AMC Javelin from a shirtless dude whose intentions seemed suspect), or all those nights we stayed up until 4 am forming our plans to get out for good.

As anxious as I felt about my lack of musical knowledge or taste in subsequent years, I regarded that time fondly–we’d made the most of what was available and had cobbled together some pretty great times.

Of course, memory is fallible. Nostalgia glosses over the rougher edges of your past, leaving succinct 5-paragraph nuggets of triumph without all the awkwardness of your actual life.

In college, I discovered indie rock (literally by typing it into google), then struck gold with my purchase of Cathy’s Comp Cassette at a thrift store in Bismarck, which caught me up on classics like The Smiths and The Cure. God bless you, Cathy, wherever you are.

Around this time, I came back for Homefest or some summer holiday and completed the familiar ritual of piling into a car with my sister Lisa and her friends, the new keepers of the stoner-nerd alliance we’d formed to make high school bearable for kids who didn’t play sports.

I cringed a little as a Flogging Molly song came out of the speakers and cringed more as the teens started bouncing along. “Oh wow, I haven’t heard this in years,” I said. “Whose CD is this?”

The driver replied, “Oh yeah, Emily, I think this mix is one of yours.”

Not old or new but middle school, fifth grade like junior high

Flogging Molly rolled into Bouncing Souls and NOFX and then two Green Day songs in a row and god knows how much Eve 6. SO MUCH EVE 6. I sank lower into my seat as they quoted lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Fight Club and SLC Punk, air drumming, giggling maniacally, and passing around some new flavor of Mountain Dew–something like Code Red or Live Wire–all red-mouthed and sugar high. Not exactly the crew of badass rebels I remembered us being.

I’d already decided most of my high school experience was garbage. Were my fond memories terrible too?

I wanna publish zines and rage against machines

Fuck a butte Fuck a butte, anyway

Shortly after this visit home, I left North Dakota for good, heading off to grad school in Ohio and then a job in Chicago, expecting to be glad to put the past behind me. An important lesson from English class: Jay Gatsby never went back to North Dakota. You can be the person you want to be as long as you completely bury your past.

Except as stifling and uncool as hometowns can be, now that I’ve left, I find myself looking forward to visits back. My last trip home for the holidays involved getting a group of old friends together for a game night, daring each other to do shots of this disgusting “shimmery liquer” called Viniq, and catching up on the new rounds of local gossip (that English teacher is married now and has a kid). The night ended with the whole group singing Weezer songs in my sister Jamie’s kitchen.

“I’m a lot like you, so please, hello, I’m here, I’m waiting” has unexpected resonance when it comes from someone who used to (completely correctly) rib you for thinking Atlas Shrugged was a really good book.

I think I’d be good for you and you’d be good for me

viniq Robitussin’s glittery cousin

Really, the inside of most of our heads probably resemble Weezer’s garage, full of comic books and role playing games and bad movies and stupid jokes. A realization that can horrify the way Weezer lyrics horrify: I loved this and it’s really, really, really bad. But embracing our whole, dorky, pretentious, clueless, teenage dirtbag selves can be liberating too: who you are and who you used to be don’t have to be secrets to bury. You can be cool without being mysterious, and sometimes the awkward weirdos turn out okay.

Swallow my doubt, turn it inside out, find nothing but faith in nothing

Recently, on a road trip to Memphis, I asked Lisa to put on something fun as we bombed down I-57 in our tiny rental car. So we listened to the first two Eve 6 albums in their entirety. I still knew every word. And, guys, I felt like a total badass.

Check out Miss Spoken the last Wednesday of every month at Gallery Cabaret or visit Check out my twitter feed for an absurd number of Eve 6 references.

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Dead DIY Space: 21st & Kedzie


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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SBS Presents A Bake Sale Benefit for Desiree at Bric-a-Brac


Do you ever wish there was a day kind of like Record Store Day, but where you could buy delicious baked goods instead?

“I love buying an overpriced 180 gram reissue of something I could stream off Spotify,” you think, “just so the four months that all the smaller record labels’ LPs were delayed by a major company’s pointless huge print run won’t be in vain. But, like, I can’t *eat* rare crimson vinyl, bro. And I’m hungry.”

Vegan goodies and positive vibes will abound Saturday, February 6th when the long-suffering owners of the only collectible toy shop and record store that’s basically an all ages venue allow Store Brand Soda to present a unique line-up of flavors both musical and nutritional.

Glamour Hotline: Chicago’s sassiest, sweetest, spookiest three piece trading off songs about girl love and kickflips in sing-songs and screams.

BLOOM: Energetic power pop bass keeps a propulsive rhythm under dreamy, pretty vocals. Blossom with Bloom.

Sam Vicari: Wants to be your boyfriend. Power pop songs that will get you right in the feels.

Swimsuim Addition: Dark, pessimistic pop. Punk rock dressed up in kinderwhore babydoll dresses and a nasty lipstick smirk.

The best thing about this bake sale is that it’s an act of community support for our friend Desiree, who finally has access to gender affirming care she needs. Not to get too heavy, but as fucking weirdo rock-n-roll miscreants with our own identities and intersectional oppressions, we have to stick together. Anyway, it’s not even going to be hard to part with your cash (or credit! we have a Square reader!) for this amazing lineup of snacks:

PIZZA PUFFS: Baked mini-calzones. Available vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore’s delight.

CUPCAKES: Featuring candied Meyer lemon peel sent from a friend in Oakland, where things besides resentment grow in winter.

COOKIES: I make these vegan chewy ginger ones, and other people will bring tons more probably.

There will be even more, I’m sure. For $20, you can fill up a brown paper lunch sack with whatever items you want. Hello, pizza puffs for every meal for the next week and cookies at midnight!

Benefit Bake Sale for Desiree
Glamour Hotline, Bloom, Sam Vicari, Swimsuit Addition
Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles, 3156 W Diversey Ave
Sat, February 6, 3 pm / Free / AA / BYOB

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