Andrew Scott Young Ensemble @ The Hideout 7/13/2017


You see a lot of things going to experimental shows, but string quartet is rarely one of them. Andrew Scott Young, consummate bass virtuoso, has assembled this group to perform his own compositions and they are admittedly is best experienced in the flesh. That’s when you really feel those vibrations agitating the air and worm through your body. But, honestly, this video still rules.

The ensemble can change around a bit, but this one includes Hanna Brock, Kimberly Sutton, and Ike Floor. ASY plays in Tiger Hatchery (supposedly working on a new album, potentially for ESP-Disk again) and has put in stints with Circuits de Yeux, Riley Walker, and Mines. Plus a bunch of other stuff.

The video was shot at by Erica Gamble at an entry in the Resonance Series organized by Ben Baker Billington and Sullivan Roger Davis.


Olivia Block @ Rockefeller Chapel, 4/21/17

Olivia Block is hands down one of the best current composers to cut her teeth in the underground scene, and her recent space- and structure-oriented work over the past few years has been a really exciting channeling of her talents. This performance was incredible. OB filled this chapel on University of Chicago’s campus with sustained organ tones and pre-recorded drones, causes hundreds or little pockets of new resonances to take shape. Laying on the altar and blissing out gave you different music than sitting in the pews, or standing under an arch, and so on. Really special stuff.

Olivia Block keeps the release schedule pretty steady, and put out a self-titled album on Another Timbre later last year. OB’s 2015 cassette on NNA is especially choice, if you need a recommendation.

This video was shot by Erica Gamble at an event put together by LAMPO.


Fran @ The Hideout, 5/30/2017

Jesus Christ Fran is good. For a while it seemed like the chokehold pop punk and the emo revival had on the underground rock scene would never relent, but it seems like things are starting to change. Fran’s songs are catchy and complex, a little strange, bringing to mind the side of the fork in the road of ’90s alt rock that didn’t lead to Creed. I’ve heard the Aimee Mann comparison a lot with Fran, but I’m hearing more Paula Cole. Oh man, and Maria Jacobson’s voice is wild. It had the entire Empty Bottle rapt during those register leaps at Fran’s EP release show.

Speaking of EP, the band’s debut on Lake Paradise is really good. Just five songs, all of them basically ear worms. Wow.

Not sure who shot this video or who set up the show.


Andrea Pensado @ Elastic Arts, 8/5/2017

Make this video full screen, turn it up loud, and watch the whole thing. This is what Andrea Pensado does and it is chilling. We’re lucky that she’s one of those performers whose live work actually translates to video so well, and the security cam angle here lends the whole affair an especially haunting quality. You feel just like you’re trapped in a prison cell with a ghoul, right? Oo!

The Argentina-born AP has been a Massachusetts scene presence for well well over a decade at this point, doing solo performance work making computer music something truly freaky as well as playing in the bands Phurnne (also an incredible project, alongside Jen Gellineau and Stephanie Germaine) and Los Condenados.

This video was shot by Erica Gamble at a show organized by Julia Dratel.


Potions @ Situations 2/18/2017


If ever their were a man who knows the definition of “groovin'” it’s Tom Owens. Potions sets will keep you wiggling forever and ever, like this dude’s whole existence revolves around booogying. I booked Potions for this show. It was his live set in many months and he kept insisting he was only going to play for 20 minutes. I said, alright, but you really could play for longer if you want to. He played for much longer than 20 minutes. It reminded me of the first time I saw Potions after moving to Chicago back in 2014, when he did seven separate encores.

Potions has some great tapes out on 100% Silk and Hausu Mountain, and DJs every now and again for the fantastic community radio station in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, Lumpen Radio. TO also fronted Distractions for a long while, a band that many Chicagoans still talk of glowingly. Pretty sure he also lived at Ball Hall?

This video was shot by Erica Gamble.


A+E @ Peanut Gallery 8/10/2017

A+E had a real hot streak in 2017, making a strong case for Chicago’s most exciting act of the year. Consensus amongst those who have seen these two jam recently is that they have been passed Excepter’s baton whether Excepter knows it or not! In a year that saw Alex Beam and Erica Gamble (yes, the one who shoots all that good video and helps out with this site!) continue to perfect the blend of pseudo-techno industrial beats, Eurorack wormholing, and reverb moaning, this set from Peanut Gallery may be their finest.

Right around the end of last year, A+E recorded several hours of material, so hopefully get get a release or five out of them soon. In the mean time, be sure to check out their SoundCloud for some samples.

Video shot by Erica Gamble at a show organized with the help of Alex Beam.


Jaimie Branch Quartet @ The Spot, 5/8/2017

Goddamn this is some good jazz. Jaimie Branch does some wild stuff with a trumpet and knows how to put together an ensemble to boot. There’s a good reason JB’s album on International Anthem from last year is getting a lot of praise, and it’s because this is an incredibly fresh take on free jazz. There’s no fear hear about making a lot of sound, which is so refreshing given the typical tip-toeing-until-you-slip-on-a-banana-peel-and-knock-over-a-shelf-full-of-china approach to free jazz/improv that’s the standard these days.

Check out that album Fly or Die if you haven’t. JB always gets real heavy hitters to help out, demonstrated by the presence of brilliant improv cellist Tomeka Reid in this video here.

Video shot by Soshull 78.


RP Boo @ Elastic Arts 10/13/2017

Here’s another one from the Hurricane Maria benefit a couple of months back. Erica Mei Gamble filmed this one too. I’ve really never seen someone flip a switch and get an entire dance floor moving like RP Boo did. Literally every single person in the room was boogying, it was something else. Boo flipped “Funky Town” cementing the best vibe in the world.

This guy gets the credit for inventing footwork, but for my money RP Boo deserves a reputation as one of the most exact music-makers working today. If anyone understands the that music is a thing of joy, it’s Boo. His wife (whose name I forget and feel very bad about that) came out to blog about the event but I can’t find that blog post, most likely because I don’t remember her name.



Ghost In Salad @ Elastic Arts, 10/29/2017

Maybe you heard a couple of years back that you must see Hunnie Bunnies (likely on that tour with Oracle plus) and you didn’t bother. That was a mistake, since they haven’t been on the road recently and who knows when they will put the act together again. Since, Mark Johnson has focused on his phenomenal noisy beat-based project Truck Stanley’s Night Dreams, and Jeff Johnson has continued the Hunnie Bunnies performance tradition with Ghost In Salad.

In the past year, I’ve seen a few Ghost In Salad characters: a caterpillar that becomes a man, a fly, and, for this tour, a… different fly?? Not totally sure, not at all important. Apparently he barely ever repeats a performance, with new costumes and everything each time, excepting consecutive tour dates. Some elaborate, dark shit this time around. About as inventive as you’ll see these days, with a costume like nothing else and some gorgeous video JJ made himself.

This video was shot by Erica Mei Gamble at a show organized by Julia Dratel.


Basic Resources for Running a Safe Party Space

This guide will always be a work in progress. Email with suggested additions or changes. This guide is cursory in nature, and individual points will be expanded as separate articles.

Parties are hard to keep safe, and bad things can happen to them at any time. Last year’s Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland is — if we do it right from here on out — the most stark reminder of this simple fact we’ll get in our lifetimes.

In the wake of that stunning tragedy, a lot of the official talk around the event focused on how Ghost Ship was an illegal show space. It wasn’t up to code, it wasn’t zoned for living and performance, etc etc. And a lot of us in the scene had a tight feeling in our chests for weeks after, muttering to each other “this could have happened in the space we were in last night.”

And that’s true. What makes the underground music scene beautiful is that it thrives in the face of the fact that conventional structures in society don’t account for us and what we make. It’s called home by people who couldn’t rightfully call any other setting home, and is a haven for art outside of structures of fads, arbitrary norms, or capital.

At the same time, finding this alternative way beautiful is really and truly just finding beauty in marginalization. We are left to fend for ourselves and when it all burns down, we’re met with finger wagging, lawsuits, and 4chan vigilantes. It led to one of those moments when we realized that because we improvise an alternative way of life, we don’t have the clearest ideas on how to really make it safe or sustainable.

It’s another flash of harsh reality, like when we find out about serial predators the complicit let roam, or about the drugs killing our brightest or youngest. These bad things happen in our scene. They destroy people, they strain the mesh of this stressed net that holds out communities up. They can happen any time and in fact they happen often.

This is an important point. The worst thing you can imagine is always around the corner. So we must be prepared.

On the topic of fires, there was one at the current Silent Barn in Brooklyn back in 2015. Silent Barn was zoned for performance, up to code, and insured. Those compliances didn’t stop an electrical fire from taking the upstairs apartments, nor the torrents of water sprayed by the firefighters from incurring substantial water damage.

But good fire safety practices prevented that fire from turning into a disaster and robust community support helped the Barn bounce back. We can and should treat all threats to the well-being of our family members in the underground music scene as preventable, while being versed in how to deal with crises when they inevitably arise.

What follows is a list of links, resources, and thoughts on running a safe party space. This is by no means the official rulebook for running a safe party and should be a launching point for your own research and conversations with collaborators about the shows you’re involved with. It will be added to whenever something relevant comes along.

Continue reading Basic Resources for Running a Safe Party Space