You have to hear the Fastness album that came out this year. Emme Williams wrote a batch of songs that’s like a Big Gulp full of all the sodas blended together (a “suicide” I believe?) but instead you’re sipping all of the human emotions. Fastness’s singular electric piano vocal jazz is a classic example of “they just don’t make it like they never used to, anymore.” In this host’s opinion, the two Chicago songwriters who should be putting out records on the biggest labels doing it are EW and Brett Koontz.
This may be the last performance Fastness has done with a full band, and it’s a real delight to hear the EW’s material get this exquisite jazzy treatment. The way EW uses her voice and piano as one instrument puts her performance front and center always, and that means she managed to make some real heavy hitters melt into the background here. In this video, she’s joined by Carlos Chavarria on sax (of ADT, Tarnation), John Daniel (computer ambient maven behind Forest Management) on drums, and Brian Sulpizio (aka Health & Beauty) on guitar. Beautiful performance from a fleeting combo. Really, check out that tape.
This video was shot by Erica Mei Gamble at a show organized by Emme Williams.
This one was shot at a benefit for Planned Parenthood earlier this year. On top of it being a night when several of Chicago’s top femmes of the DIY scene threw the fuck down in front of a pulsing hoard partying for a righteous cause — it was sweaty even by Rectum standards — it marked the special occasion when Whitney Allen and Whitney Johnson finally got together for a collaboration they were talking about for years. The long-running idea was to find a third Whitney and call the project Whitney, but the name was snatched by, well, some dudes. Classic.
Whitney Allen is the seething freak fronting noise rock faves Toupée (as well as related projects Columba Fasciata, Blood Licker) who has been performing solo recently as Couteau Sang with a series of terrifying masks and wind instruments. Whitney Johnson’s solo project Matchess has long been one of the best ambient acts in town, and she’s recently staking out territory as a contemporary master of tape manipulation. WJ also plays viola in Circuits Des Yeux. Anyway, this is one of those collaborations that doesn’t totally make sense until you hear it, then it makes total sense.
This video was shot by Erica Mei Gamble at a Planned Parenthood Benefit organized by Jenny Polus and Karina Natis.
Hard to think of a more remarkable member of the Chicago scene than Travis. There’s a good chance he’ll go down as rock and roll’s last great frontman if the historians manage to drag their asses to an ONO show (they tour pretty regularly, btw). Audiences are consistently floored as this super fit dude in his 70s hollers “I dream of sodomy!” or does that classic number about the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
DJ PTSD is Travis’s solo performance project and it really is something else. Much of his performance is original work about the violence — structural but nonetheless very real, very physical violence — he’s been privy to as a black, queer American living since the (original) Jim Crow era. He has been known, though, to perform some Julius Eastman from time to time. For some context on the moniker, Travis is a former Navy man and a ‘Nam vet. Shortly after the war, he was tapped by P Michael Grego to front ONO, and the rest is a history that we should really tell here sometime.
This video was shot by Erica Mei Gamble at a show organized by Julia Dratel.