Aftermaths: Chicago Stands with Puerto Rico

Hello and welcome to Groove Cafe. You’ve stepped in because you want to learn a little more about this big compilation Aftermaths.

Aftermaths is a digitally released compilation featuring 40 Chicago artists. There’s ambient music, improvised house, deep fried rock, free jazz, footwork, and ONO, the most important band in America. Lots of other stuff too. You don’t need to listen to it all in a big 3-hour chunk. Start anywhere and keep your ears open.

This is a fundraiser so let’s talk money. This compilation was released digitally, keeping overhead minimal. Thanks to a kind donation to Groove Cafe a few months ago, there was a small budget for mastering and art.

The vast majority of the revenue from this compilation is going to ISER Caribe, who has a really cool mission of helping Puerto Rico rebuild in a sustainable way. Some of the revenue will be reserved for a few months as a small budget for mastering another fundraiser album. If another album never materializes, that money will just get donated to ISER Caribe.

Groove Cafe will post the exact amount of money raised at various points in the near and longer-term future to Twitter, as well as receipts of donation to ISER Caribe.

Aftermaths is the first release on the new Groove Cafe music label. All releases on this label will be released as fundraisers for a specific organization doing important work. Albums by individual artists will split revenue between the artist and an organization of their choosing. Again, a small portion will be reserved for Groove Cafe costs.

What does music have to do with a hurricane?

There are three reasons why a sprawling compilation full of awe-inspiring artists across genres works well to aid a hurricane relief effort that’s almost a year old.

Continue reading Aftermaths: Chicago Stands with Puerto Rico

What Is Groove Cafe?

If you’re just finding out about Groove Cafe from the Hurricane Maria benefit compilation Aftermaths, you might be kinda curious about what this whole thing is.

Simply, Groove Cafe is an online project dedicated to supporting the community aspect of underground music, and helping underground music scenes get involved with community causes.

As far as supporting the community aspect, if you click around here you’ll find guides for mental health and safety in DIY, a growing database of female spectrum sound engineers, video documentation of performance from around the country, and a Chicago show calendar. The idea here is to build needed resources that can live on the internet and be helpful for a long time. If you have any ideas for resources, please get in touch using the contact form.

And as far as benefitting communities, well, I’m trying to figure it out. One proven way of supporting community causes is using music to raise money for them. Aftermaths is the first release on the Groove Cafe label. Like Aftermaths, every release will be raising money for a specific organization doing crucial work.

Groove Cafe will always be candid about the finances in an effort to encourage the idea that this website is really just a facilitator for community efforts. The project a little different than a conventional music publicatio or label, so it will take a second to figure everything out and make it perfect. Therefore, please always feel free to get in touch with feedback.

Continue reading What Is Groove Cafe?

Groove du Jour: Long Live the Hideout

Hey groovy people, long time no see. Host has been hard at work on an exciting Groove Cafe project that’s a little more than some text, but don’t you worry there’s plenty more to be published!

The Chicago Reader broke some upsetting yet unsurprising news this week that Live Nation is planning on bringing a number of new venues to the imminent Lincoln Yards development helmed by Sterling Bay. Guess what, it’s evil shit!

Lincoln Yards? That’s Sterline Bay’s new name for the area by North and Elston here in Chicago that the Sanitation Department currently inhabits. It’s also (much more importantly) home to The Hideout, the best above-board venue in the city. You know what Live Nation’s plans don’t include? The Hideout staying put.

Instead, we’ll get up to five new venues, owned by the behemoth monopoly Live Nation, which also owns TicketMaster and conducts a whole bunch of shady business on behalf of the superstar live acts it represents. Live Nation is an incredibly terrible corporation and we may well be fighting it (and Rahm) on behalf of our beloved Hideout Inn.

Long live The Hideout! #LongLiveTheHideout! Here are some of the really interesting things the Hideout has been up to the past few years under the leadership of young, savvy, darling talent buyer Sullivan Roger Davis.

Helltrap Nightmare

The only good comedy under the sun?? Sarah Sherman has made a name for herself in Chicago, largely thanks to her exquisitely programmed night of alternative comedy and weird music.

The Hideout Dance Party

This has been happening for a long time, but it’s always one of the best dance nights in the city. Every Saturday, like clock work, you’ll freaks, queer folk, and run of the mill party people boogieing beneath the taxidermized fish. There are few especially notable parties that happen under this general Hideout Dance Party banner.

Ariel’s Party is hosted by club music mangler and DISCWOMAN affiliate Ariel Zetina. These are great showcases for the paradigm smashing experimental side of Midwest dance music.

Midnight Resonance is the dance arm of the Resonance Series, which means this is where you’ll get your more noise-adjacent folks or legendary experimentalists.

Resonance Series

This was one of Sullivan’s first big contributions when he started booking at the Hideout, and in the past year (or more? probably more) he’s brought Ben Baker Billington into the fold. Top notch out there music, month after month after month.

Month-Long Residencies

This post really only scratches the surface, admittedly, but might as well shout out the residencies that The Hideout hosts. Every now again, a certain artist will play every Tuesday of a given month with a variety of collaborators. This one was either from a Bitchin’ Bajas residency or a Natural Information Society residency. Idk!

 

The Essentials for a Safe, Successful DIY Show or Party

Is there anything missing from this guide? Do you have suggestions for bettering the advice listed below? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with host@groove.cafe.

A well-planned show basically runs itself, and it can feel like the easiest thing in the world when everything is going smoothly. Barring a scheduling hiccup, a tweeter blowing in the PA, an attendee violating others’ boundaries, the neighbors calling the police with a noise complaint, a fist fight, a recklessly intoxicated person, a recklessly intoxicated promotor, an inattentive door person, or openly expressed bigoted hostility, a DIY show can be a walk in the park.

But just because something goes wrong doesn’t mean your DIY show automatically becomes a conclusive failure. In fact, you have to go into throwing a show with the assumption that something is going to go wrong at some point. If you throw enough shows, you’ll really see

Parties are the long-time cornerstone of underground music, which means people have been doing this for a long time. Many folks who start throwing shows in a local loft, warehouse, basement, or gallery treat it like they have to start from scratch and figure it all out themselves. Fortunately, that’s far from the case. There are a series of best practices for making your show easy to run and safe for everyone involved.

Barring the fact that providing a safe, enjoyable environment is an obligation to audience and artists alike, a better planned, better run show is a better show, plain and simple.

Do This for The Right Reasons

Before to brass tacks, it’s worth saying that you’re throwing a show because you know there’s a community of people who will turn up to play it and hang out enjoying the music. This is going to go a lot better if your #1 priority is making an incredible community event that everyone is stoked to be involved with.

If your #1 priority is getting paid, getting fucked up, hooking up, being seen, or indulging any sort of your own bullshit, just remember you can do that any other day of the week on your own time. If you’re bringing people together, you have a responsibility to those people.

Make something joyous. Create a little haven for a few hours where people can enjoy music and enjoy each other. The world is pretty much hell these days. Keep that outside of your party.

The Basics of Prepping with the Hosting Venue

The first step is booking the show. That’s for another article.

But just as important is coordinating with the venue that you’re booking the show at. Put together a schedule for the show and run it by the venue to see if they have any concerns or proposed changes. You’ll need to coordinate:

  • Precise times for load-in and sound check
  • The specifics on the PA. More on this below. If you have a separate person working sound, get them in on this conversation.
  • A line-up with rough estimates of set times.
  • Pay-out structure that details costs for the house and pay for each performer.

Of course, if you’re throwing a show at your own place, you still want to have this figured out and probably discussed in advance with whoever shares the space with you.

Warn Your Neighbors

Dealing with neighbors is the tricky part. If you’re in a residential area and the it’s going to be a loud show running late, you absolutely need to give them a heads up. Obviously, if you aren’t in a residential area, the neighbors aren’t nearly as much of a concern.

Exchange phone numbers with your neighbors so they can text you if things are getting out of hand, which will hopefully ensure that they’re contacting you before calling into 911 with a noise complaint.

Give the PA and any especially loud instrument a dry run during the day time. Play some bass-heavy music or pound on your drums to see if sound carries outside while everyone on your block is wide awake and less likely to get pissed. If things can be heard easily from the street, you’ll want to make whatever adjustments to your PA and show schedule necessary to keep neighbors content and the cops unaware. If the sound can’t be heard from the street, you’re doing it right.

Plan for the Worst (aka, Practicing Cop Prevention)

Read over Groove Cafe’s Basic Resources for Running a Safe Party Space. It has lots of links and embedded materials that you’ll find useful in preventing your need for outside intervention.

When it comes to a party, the police will rarely de-escalate a tricky situation. It’s your responsibility as a promotor to make sure you aren’t endangering vulnerable folks with a police presence. Remember that ICE is running amok these days and that trans folk and people of color are often antagonized by law enforcement.

If you need to de-escalate an issue, find a way to do it yourself or with help from others at the event. 911 really is best left as a resource for medical emergencies, building problems, and dire safety issues.

A guide will be coming soon about steps you can take to make sure cops don’t show up at your show. The big ones, though, include:

  • Being mindful of the amount of noise you’re creating outside of the show space.
  • Making sure attendees aren’t smoking or lingering on the street in front of the venue.
  • Ensuring that any person intoxicated to the point of risk has a safe way home.
  • Having a good rapport with your neighbors.

Gather and Equip Trusted Personnel

The good news is that you really do not need more than a handful to run small-to-medium-sized show. It basically boils down to having the one or two people

You’re going to need the following:

  • A door person with at least $60 in 1- and 5-dollar bills.
  • Someone with good judgement running your bar.
  • An attendant at the merch table.
  • A designated sound person.

You, as the person organizing the show, definitely don’t want to take any of these responsibilities for the entire show. If there’s any sort of issue whatsoever, you’ll want to be available to attend to the situation immediately. It’s certainly fair to sit in on any of these duties for a few minutes though, especially if someone is worn out or needs to hit the bathroom.

With all that said, if you know how to run sound, it’s pretty easy to set levels at the beginning of each set and check in on the sound board every now and again.

Prep Your Sound System

More on this topic to come in a separate article but here are some basics.

Secure a PA. This means you’ll want a system that has, bare minimum, a mixer, a power amplifier, and two mains (the big speakers on that sit vertically stands). Some mains, but not many, have suitable power amplifiers on board.

Run some sound through it in advance. Check to make sure everything sounds alright coming out of the mains. If they sound dull, the tweeter might be blown. If the bass sounds limp, you might have a blown speaker cone. Fix the PA or work on finding another one. Any strange crackling or sound cutting out is likely an issue with the cables.

Make sure your gain staging is set up properly to avoid blowing a speaker or distorting the signal. This is a job for a sound person, but if you want a quick and dirty run down of this process, check out this guide to gain staging.

Go outside while the PA is running. I know, I know, this is the third time. You have to make sure this isn’t going to piss off your neighbors.

Tell your performers if the PA is running in stereo or mono. Even better, tell them in advance. If you can’t tell, ask the person who lent you the PA, or a friend who knows them.

Have a Schedule

This part is simple but crucial. A schedule needs:

  • Time for load-in and soundcheck
  • An idea of set times, especially important to communicate to the venue and the between-set DJ, if you have one
  • The time sound is turned off

Having even the roughest timeline along these points can prevent a lot of conflicts and hiccups.

Pay Out

Pay as many people as you possibly can. Pay the performers. Pay the DJ. Pay the video artists. Pay the door person, the sound person, and the venue whatever was agreed upon.

For some reason, a lot of organizers will only compensate artists. Yes artists should be compensated, but the behind the scenes folks should too. First off, it’s only fair. They showed up, they worked. The show literally couldn’t have happened without them.

Second, you want to ensure that the people making sure you’re show runs beautifully are happy. Things slip through the cracks when a group of people is doing thankless grunt work. Show your team they’re appreciated. Keep them happy. Remember that you’re running an event that’s illegal in one way or another, and full of attendees expecting to enjoy the party in peace and safety. Ensuring that much demands all hands on deck.

Didn’t bring in enough to pay the door person and also make sure the touring band got enough? Hopefully you were compensating your door person in beer and some food.

Groove du Jour: Tape Music Today

By counts of duration and gravity, tape has been the most important instrument in electronic music. It was literally the first technology that was used to make a electronic music, and its experimental potential explored in the early musique concrète and BBC Radiophonic Workshop compositions has helped it sustain as an actively used medium into the 21st century.

Surely as the number of methods of creating electronic music has multiplied, especially in this millenium as the computer has supplanted the main use of tape a recording apparatus, tape appears less and less.

But there are still artists doing inspiring and innovative work with tape, and this post focuses on a few that show new possibilities yet with the oldest electronic music tool. Last decade’s wave of tape noise is more or less avoided here since a lot of that has been properly lionized.


Whitney Johnson

Groove Cafe has covered Whitney Johnson before and probably will again. In her solo work as Matchess, WJ was using tape as a long time as a method of playing back samples, but recently she’s been employing it for long, overlapping tones in an Eliane Radigue type style:

With Laura Callier in Simulation, WJ would record the first half of their set in real time, and then play it back for the second half of their set, creating, yes you guessed it, a live simulation. Erica Gamble has provided both of these videos.

Continue reading Groove du Jour: Tape Music Today

Irreversible Entanglements @ Arts for Art Festival, 1/4/2017

Irreversible Entanglements was formed for an event commemorating the killing of Akil Gurley by the NYPD back in 2015, and that urgent spark has ignited into a blaze as state violence against black bodies has not just sustained brazenness but given way to near-giddy expressions of hate from America’s chief executive down to the clammy-handed white supremacist in a polo. The group’s improvisation and poetry harkens back to the genesis of free jazz as radical, revolutionary fire music. Their performance can drain all the blood from your skin.

Irreversible Entanglements is comprises series of radical musicians in their own right. The founding trio was Camae Ayewa, recording in the black power electronics solo project Moor Mother and in a fantastic collab with DJ Haram called 700 Bliss; Luke Stewart, who is one of the finest bass players in America currently; and fearsome sax player Keir Neuringer, who has been affiliated with the likes of Dutch group Ensemble Klang and Dromedaries. Irreversible Entanglements put out an album on International Anthem last year and it’s really great.

This video was recorded by Don Mount at the Arts for Art festival in New York.

Host

Suzanne Ciani @ Berkeley Museum 4/28/2017

Ah, the master. It’s really easy to piss off a man in a baseball cap and/or holding a BFA in composition by saying Suzanne Ciani is a better Buchla player than Morton Subotnick, but look at her do it! We really are lucky that SC was drawn back to the synthesizer after years crunching away at the piano’s dizzying arithmetic. She edged closer to Western melody for so many years that she devoted her talents to it exclusively, only to be yanked back by banana cables’ short drag. Another way to put it is that her music has such lucid compositional intent, rare in all-synthesizer work.

Suzanne Ciani’s only contemporary recording that has been released so far is a fantastic collaboration with Kaitlin Aurelia Smith, and if you enjoy the video above you should absolutely check out live recordings of hers from 1975 released a couple of years ago. But if you want the most heavenly Ciani, listen to Seven Waves and Velocity of Love back to back, on loop, all day.

Host