ChiChronicles

notes from a journey through Chicago's cultural landscape...

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

...this is not about me, this is about my city - a living document of Chicago's art's scene, a memoir of concerts I've been to & performances I've seen, a jaded scribe's small sampling of the many offerings of this vibrant cosmopolitan city that I'm lucky enough to call home. I work the city as the city works me, all of us connected in varying degrees, here i pay tribute to our evolving soundtrack, I plug praiseworthy endeavors & try to give a little back... Together with my peers we paint this crossroads with every shade we can find, in your mediums & mine, i run with deep house deviants & wrinkled blues cats, youngun' b-boy crews & quirky circus brats, snobby eclectic DJs & electric painters laboring on projected displays, film makers armed with mini-DVs & picky chefs sculpting tricky masterpieces out of vegan grease... i kick it with slam poets & theater geeks, powerbook producers & fashionista freaks, photoshop fellowships & choreographer hips, while jazz cats blow digital epics through pursed bebop lips... i'm at the nexus of the next wave of Chicago sound - this is where i share the stories of all the beauty I've found...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Radiohiro's Wedding

My friends Matt & Emily had a small ceremony at their house/studio to belatedly celebrate their wedding...
Good people, great sound, a house full of studio geeks trading waveform secrets over light beer... Was quite an evening, a beautiful ceremony, and the couple never fails to make me smile...
may the two of you & Chloe find all the happiness this world has to offer...
Thank you for everything you've brought into my life...

Related Links:
www.radiohiro.com

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Spun @ the Lake & the Blue Lotus Tribe @ the Bungalow

Had a night of epiphanies on this evening of full moon madness. Swung by the Foster Beach lakefront and spent the early evening with my friend Mercedes, watching the members of Spun Chicago dance with flaming poi, flaming whips, flaming hula hoops, and assorted pyromaniac toys. Watching the members of this troupe perform felt like a revelation, in that I've been looking for a group like this my entire life. All my martial arts training, all my weapons work, all of those hours have been dedicated not to the actual use of these skills, but in the pursuit of some kind of movement that is beautiful for its own sake, a form of dance that focuses on spirals and is rooted in an aesthetic of burning flow... Watching this show felt like coming home to old friends... Quite simply, there is nothing sexier than watching a man and woman dance while carrying brightly burning, intensely hot bolts of flaming rope, their bodies entwined in fire and circles, a vision of limbs and skin pulsing while framed in otherworldly heat... It was a meditation in spirals, all while an open jam of drummers colored the evening with what i'll have to characterize as hippy drumming. It was a tight performance, and the visual impressions left by this group are burned into my mind... I'll be delivering some custom tracks for them to perform to very soon, in particular a hip hop track I've been working on for awhile now that will soon be a music video featuring Spun:
Vectors
..."we be vectors, protectors of the circle of life,
collectors of the vinyl that's the nectar of nights:
we be vessels:
specters filled with liquid lovelight:
reflectors of the future with the flaming foresight..."

After the Spun show wound down at around 10:30 pm, me and Mercedes headed to the Bungalow to catch my favorite crew of belly dancers perform with DJ Madrid & Fluxcore. I'd never been to the Bungalow before, on Belmont & Ashland, but I was really impressed with the place and its decor and vibe. Totally worth checking out. Got to kick it with the inimitable Audrey Sica & Chris from the Blue Lotus Tribe, decked out in thousand dollar outfits and shaking what their mama gave them to the selections of DJ Madrid. Got to dance for a bit with them, which is always a lot of fun...
hip drops amongst the House flocks-
trading funky moves from dancer's private stocks-
summer sweat & july thump-
release from it all each time those beats go BUMP...

check out the Bungalow sometime if you're in that hood, it's a nice little bar with good taste in DJs, as far as I can tell...

Related Links:
www.bluelotustribe.org (Audrey&Chris's Bellydance troupe)
http://www.encroach.net/info/show_docs/pages_2004/full_moon.html (SpunImages)
http://chicago.citysearch.com/profile/11660923 (the Bungalow Lounge Bar)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bombay Beatbox @ Sonotheque

I spun a decent opening set for this month's installment of Bombay Beatbox. It was a lot quieter than last month, but luckily my friend Mercedes brought a whole crew of her friends over from the Moksha Yoga Center, so the party got bumping around 11 pm... Met a handful of cool desis courtesy of my friend Nikhil (www.nikhiltrivedi.com), who never fails to turn up with some intelligent characters, and also got to kick it with my long lost friend the Doubtful Guest, an I.D.M. producer who moved to London a few years ago and is in town for a few weeks to cause trouble... I had a great evening, overall - Radiohiro spun a set heavily laced with jungle and I got to dance with Mercedes and her friends a bunch, who are a totally riotous batch of hipsters & yogis.. Adheesh Sathaye and Baseshot Scenario added in some nice flavors to the mix, throwing down on Tablas & a powerbook, respectively, and I distributed 60 copies of my first Drum n' Bass DJ mix, a collection of up-tempo Desi jungle featuring Badmarsh & Shri, Karsh Kale, the Midival PunditZ and more... There's something profoundly powerful about spinning music that's that fast - things can go horribly wrong if you're just a second out of sync, but when the mix links up right, and beats match perfectly, you get a sense of being at the crest of a perpetually peaking breakdown. It was a good evening, overall... met some folks who will probably become regulars, which is always a good thing for the burgeoning Asian Massive Chicago scene...

Related Links:
www.radiohiro.com
www.nikhiltrivedi.com

Friday, July 15, 2005

Africa Hi-Fi @ Sonotheque

Welcomed Ms.Sonia Hassan back from a three-nation trip to Africa. She brought me a badass Daishiki from Kenya that I'm pysched to rock at next month's party... Ya gotta love to work with folks who think about you when they're halfway across the world and bring you back presents from distant lands..
Ron Trent was actually in Madrid this month, so our feature DJs were Kennedy Octane & Jeremy Sole, who both dropped hot sets laced with some very funky Afro-House. We were featuring a compilation from Om Records entitled ReBoot, the proceeds of which go towards building a community center in South Africa for children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. It's quite a disk, with unreleased tracks from the Thievery Corporation, Miguel Migs, Kaskade, Jeremy Sole, Ron Trent, and a whole lot more. It's truly encouraging to know that the DJs & producers in the House music community are willing to support conscious endeavors that give back to the world at large, and aren't just focused on serving up sounds for the hedonistic club scene that they cater to. I guess I don't give these cats enough credit...

Spent the night behind a table selling wristbands for NextAid, talking about recent campaigns for Amnesty International to the few random folks who cared enough to listen, and meeting a handful of delightful people. A representative for Uhuru360 swung through and dropped off a "Free Assata" flyer publicizing the long-running plight of Assata Shakur. Again, it's a beautiful thing to meet people who've been long committed to the struggle for equal justice & equal opportunity, and even though I get discouraged sometimes by the tepid response to my solicitations on behalf of groups like Amnesty, every now and then you meet like-minded individuals who recognize themselves in you, which joins us together in a profoundly powerful way. Those people tend to congregate around the music that supports the quest for self-determination, which is why Africa Hi-Fi is such a vital breeding ground for conscious visionary artists & people tapped in to the infinite funk rooted in the drums and music of the African diaspora...

Related Links:
www.prescriptionworld.org

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bossacucanova & Chicago Samba @ Hot House

Tabled tonight at Hot House on behalf of Six Degrees Records & Bossacucanova, my newfound friends from Rio. I met up with DJ Dalua & his manager Dado in March when they were on tour to support his solo album Tranquilo. They're quite the duo, after their March show in Chicago they kindly handed me copies of Tranquilo & an album of remixes that the Mad Professor had reworked, and both those disks are HIGH on my list of HOT Brazilian Drum n' Bass. So I was looking forward to seeing Bossacucanova live, as they're traveling as an 8-piece band with DJ Dalua delivering a significant amount of their rhythmic power via turntables... Bossa Nova with a DJ, ya gotta love it, these cats are eloquent in the way they incorporate breakbeats & hard digital elements into the weave of what is relatively traditional Brazilian music. In their hands, though, you get a very clear look at how this tradition will manifest for future generations...

It was a great show, but I was relegated to the side room selling albums, so I didn't have a good look at the stage and only caught the music peripherally. Still, I sold 26 albums, which is a number that I usually only hit when the act is really tight and delivers a hot set. Bossacucanova definitely threw down, and Chicago Samba followed up with a banging live PA. You really can't go wrong with a roomfull of Brazilians determined to dance and a bunch of badass musicians playing for them... It was a hot party, and I got a chance to meet the rest of DJ Dalua's posse. In a few days they'll be opening for Basement Jaxx @ the Hollywood Bowl. I love it that I'm running with folks poised to rise to the next level of their respective careers....

Related Links:
www.sixdegreesrecords.com
www.hothouse.net

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

upcoming shows @ the Binary Mine...

Swung by my friend Kim's digs to see what I missed after the week I just spent in California... The Binary Mine Gallery is in the process of finishing up one of its shows and prepping for the next, a visiting collection of Peace posters that dates back at least 30 years and has some of the most powerful anti-war images I've ever seen. It'll go up on the walls at the end of the month, after finishing a run in Tokyo, and boy oh boy are those some powerful prints... The images are simple, crystal clear, and express their message with no room for misinterpretation. I believe that propaganda is the most powerful tool people have at their disposal, and the collection that's about to show up in Chicago for a month is a vibrant testament to the venomous potency of citizens critiquing the violence of our civilizations with something as ubiquituous as art... Art is the dirty filter through which we wash our collective guilt, the stained sheets soiled by the illicit commerce between our lowly desires and our highest ideals... First comes the action, then the color commentary, provided by all those weary souls burdened by what their consciences have witnessed... Check out this gallery once this collection arrives next month, and your faith in the future might just be rekindled...

Related Links:
http://www.33graphic.com/yo/

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Belmont Harbor Yacht Club

Visited an old friend at Belmont Harbor, spent an hour chilling by the boats, as she was in town to assist her father & brother who were competing in an elite regatta on Lake Michigan. Sat at the lakefront and watched the water darken as the sun set over the city behind us... That was my first visit to the actual pier of the Chicago Yacht club, I've passed it on rollerblades a million times but I've never actually been inside. They're hosting a North American Championship Regatta over the course of this week, and a horde of sailing professionals from around the world were there in force. It was nice to see folks who are serious about their skills congregated around some world-class boats...it was a little slice of the waterfront I don't sample much these days, since I moved inland to Logan Square a year ago... Must...get...more...LAKEFRONT...

Related Links:
http://www.etchellschicago.com/

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cuban Love

Had dinner with some friends from out of town at Cafe Laguardia in Bucktown, which features fantastic Cuban food, live Latin jazz, beautiful people, & a great vibe all around. We had some great Mango Mojitos & Capirinhas while slinking down into some comfortable couches, then had an outrageously tasty meal in the dining area while listening to the music of Angel de Cuba in the Solar System.... If you're in Bucktown, this spot is HOT and well worth a visit...

http://www.cafelaguardia.com/

Friday, June 17, 2005

Africa Hi-Fi @ Sonotheque

Worked the Africa Hi-Fi merchandise table all night. Had the wonderful chance to meet a few amazing people: the artist Chadwick did a live installation at the gig, painting a huge canvas over the course of the evening, and I was working in a room that had three of his masterful paintings on display. I highly recommend checking out his work. Also talked to Angel Luis Figueroa, the guest artist of the month, a magnificent Puerto Rican percussionist/producer based out of LA, and he was kind and generous enough to spend a few minutes talking to me about politics in music and the subtleties of sending a message through the intricate interplay of rhythm and words. I dropped some Six Degrees CDs in his hands, and my most recent DJ mix, but I think I got the better end of the deal just by having the chance to talk to him for a few minutes. There is something incredibly powerful about veteran percussionists schooled in the Afro-Caribbean tradition, they carry in their presence the awareness of the Yoruba powers underlying the music we make, and that awareness bleeds out of their very pores. They are links to a neglected realm, and beneath their hands a tapestry of beats emerges that wraps any who listen in the folds of powerful old ceremonies that tap deep into the collective memory. Angel's set, at the very peak of the evening, was a blissful overwhelming event for some, and an annoyance for some of the House kids who "just want to dance." I suppose we receive what we are open to receive... To those who can't get into a conga/DJ set, filled with chants & calls & response, it's their goddamn loss...
The evening was the 1-year anniversary of Africa Hi-Fi, it's been a year since I met Sonia Hassan and began to appreciate the incredible aesthetic & skills of my favorite DJ, the inimitable Ron Trent. Sonia outdid herself this month with gifts for the staff, an array of sustainable plantain chips from Equador, and with custom strings of beads from Africa for her legion of club friends who can't seem to scare up the willingness to part with $10 to get down all night long. She maintained a general air of goodwill and celebration that colored anyone who crossed her path. However, she pushed herself hard, and was short of breath at the end of the evening... To be a conduit for a community is a taxing, thankless job that milks the most generous souls dry... Sonia gives so much of herself in everything she's involved in, and it's frightening sometimes to see how oblivious people are to her health. For every party that works, there's an overworked, undercompensated promoter whose blood, sweat, and tears are woven deep into the mix. I've learned so much from Africa Hi-Fi, the least of which is what it takes to really make sacrifices for what you want to achieve. I hope to spend another year working with Ron & Sonia, because they're truly surfing the leading edge of Afro-centric futuristic sound, which taps into the source and looks to the future all at the same time...

concept gatherings and spicy plantain chips
amnesty pamphlets & hordes of shaking hips
live installations & funky dreads
the next generation of conscious house heads
deep throbbing bass & Fela onscreen
some of the flyest people i've seen on the scene
dub & bailefunk & boricua riffs
weave it all together and the center of gravity shifts...


Related Links:
http://www.pawsmusic.org/angel.html

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bombay Beatbox @ Sonotheque

This month's Bombay Beatbox evening had a surprisingly large turnout. In the middle of my set, I turned away from the decks to select a track to play, and when I faced the crowd again the room had somehow filled up and there were people dancing. It was 10:15, and usually it doesn't get crowded or inebriated enough for folks to start getting down till at least midnight. So I played some more floor-friendly cuts and relinquished the tables to DJ Warp, Baseshot Scenario, and Adheesh Sathaye on tablas. Spent the rest of the evening chatting with new and old friends. Turns out a business conference had sent their delegates to Sonotheque to party the night away, which was why a whole lot of "normies" (aka normal people in dockers & casual business suits) outnumbered the usual hipster set. It was a good vibe all night long, though, the dancefloor never emptied, I met some amazing new people who I hope will become friends for life. The music has its own inertia, and I believe we might be starting to attract a steady stream of Chicago regulars who understand and appreciate what we're trying to do, which is cultivate a scene of connoisseurs who have cosmopolitan tastes in sound. It's not an easy scene to break into, though, Chicago is filled with hedonists & music snobs, and the club world is filled with heads who've been spoilt over the years by getting so much good music from so many different directions that it's difficult to convince them of the worth of something they've never heard before. On Bombay Beatbox nights I generally try to spin music that's fresh off the presses, or overlooked albums from the near past, I stick to playing tracks that the crowd hasn't come across, which is a test of their patience & willingness to be led in new directions. There aren't many occasions when a DJ has that privilege, and it's a blessing to have that opportunity to share underpublicized gems under the tutelage of DJ Warp & Radiohiro, who are old hands at working a room with futuristic worldbeat. I hope next month goes as well as June's monthly night, perhaps the momentum has begun to shift in our favor...

Related Links:
www.radiohiro.com