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The CHIRP Blog

CHIRP DJ writesShow Review: MK Ultra / Failures / Pretentious Assholes / Herds / Harms Way

October 3rd, Beat Kitchen Chicago

In the 1990’s, punk and hardcore started to fray into two very distinct categories — “mainstream” and “underground.” As much of an oxymoron as “mainstream punk” might be, it became a reality with the increasing popularity of bands like Green Day, Rancid, Blink 182 and several others whose wallets and fan base swelled. Through the 1980’s and early 1990’s, punk bands really had no idea that there was money to be made playing punk rock, which allowed a lot of freedom and creativity, giving us a scene that was diverse and interesting; limiting any stylistic choke holds and horrible “post” this and “proto” that genre titles. There was basically punk, hardcore and everything else.

While the Green Days and Offsprings basked in mainstream MTV adoration, bands like MK Ultra, Charles Bronson, Los Crudos (all who shared members at one point or another), Pretentious Assholes, Billy Builders and countless other punk bands around Chicago (and the country really) were continuing to write songs that were far too extreme for mainstream rock radio. The scene was the most outspoken the punk scene had ever been, commenting the political as well as social.

Recently, in celebration of the release of their discography, MK Ultra reunited for one night at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen. With support from another “one time only” reunion band, Pretentious Assholes, east coasters Failures, Milwaukee’s Herds and locals Harms Way, they proved that their music is still vital nine years after their break up.

Up first was Harms Way, which features members of Weekend Nachos and Convicted as well as ex-members of countless Chicago hardcore mainstays and favorites. They play metal influenced hardcore that sits somewhere between Infest and Cannibal Corpse, delivered at both, break neck speed and down tempo sludge. Saturday night was no exception. I listened to their set, bobbing my head while perusing the Residue Records distro table.

Herds, from Milwaukee Wisconsin delivered a thrashy hardcore punk attack that would be most comfortable in a musty basement. Reminiscent of many of the bands coming out on No Way Records and Fashionable Idiots (who coincidentally is their label). What makes them stand out is they’re a bit noisier and unlike some of their contemporaries, their songs break from the formula of fast and loud, introducing tempo changes and breakdowns without delving into the cliched “hardcore breakdown” territory.

Filling out the middle of the bill was Chicago’s Pretentious Assholes, whose punk pedigree is as impressive as their ability to meld styles. Featuring members and ex-members of Charles Bronson, Dischrist, No Slogan and the Repos, they brought a healthy combination of crust, grind and good ol’ fashion hardcore to the show. Musically, these guys would have fit just as well on the Apocalypticrust Fest that was going on at the Black Hole that same night, but I was grateful they played this show instead. Unfortunately, there’s no link on line for this band. To find like minded bands, check out their pedigree.

Following P.A. was NYC’s Failures. The one thing I can say about the midwest, specifically the greater Chicagoland area is that the last of the real maniacs and mongoloids reside within it’s scene (and I say that with nothing but love and adoration.) As soon as Failures started, there was a mass wave of bodies ramming into one another, jumping from the stage and trying to take the mic from the singer. This is why I love punk rock. None of it was contrived or postured. There was no sense of irony to the mosh or the stage dives. It was pure and youthful; a lack of concern for your own well being. With the exception of some technical problems caused by a couple destroyed microphone cables, Failures tore through a thirty minute set in roughly twenty minutes with no pause or acknowledgment of the audience. If you’re a fan of raging, tribal, breakneck speed hardcore, be sure to check out their full length and 7”. Neither will disappoint.

Finally, ending the night was a set from one of my favorite Chicago hardcore bands, MK Ultra. At one point in the 90’s, indie rock heart throb John Vanderslice played in a band of the same name, issuing a cease and desist order on the locals, despite the fact that the audiences didn’t really overlap. MK Ultra reclaimed the name and spent their set Saturday night picking exactly where they left off in 2000. It felt as if they never lost a step and played with the same vigor and energy that they did in their “heyday.”

Unlike the 1990’s incarnation of the band, there was very little political banter between songs and was replaced with genuine appreciation for the audience attending and a call to the punk scene to start talking about issues on stage between songs. Something that was time honored in the 90’s, replaced by either apathy, or an understanding that everyone in attendance operates on the same page.

The discography is now available on two LP’s, along with a digital download coupon, on Youth Attack records.

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Categorized: Events Journal

Topics: concerts, local music, reviews

Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy writesMidwestern Housewife: Welcome To The Party

Hi. I’m Nicole and this is my new column, “Midwestern Housewife”. Ostensibly, it will be about parenting and my experiences being an indie parent in a J. Crew world. But I also want it to be a place where fellow moms and dads can discuss relevant issues pertaining to their kids, or simply to commiserate. So please make use of the comments section. I look forward to hearing about what interests you and I’m always excited to meet and hang out with people who, like me, enjoy being a good parent but who also understand that you can do so without completely losing your own identity in the process. Yes, Virginia. You CAN resist the pressure to become a Soccer Mom. (Or a Hockey Mom, for that matter—especially if you’re not particularly fond of either pitbulls or lipstick).

First, a little bit about me:

I’m currently an at-home mom with boy/girl twins who will turn 3 in February. Yes, it looks like a Toys ‘R’ Us exploded in my living room. Yes, multicolored finger-paint masterpieces are currently tacked up on the fridge. Yes, the dog occasionally sports tempera paint racing stripes and the cat has been known to cough up a Lego or two, but all of it is much more rewarding than slaving away as an office drone. Oh, and before you ask, yes, I do occasionally wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.

I’m also heartily committed to indie/DIY culture, which often brands me as an outsider in the usual parents’ circles. Maybe “outsider” is too strong a word. Perhaps “unusual” or “unorthodox” would be more precise. For instance, I’m used to getting the stink eye from older parents when my daughter, Squeak*, wears the “Mama said knock you out!” t-shirt (complete with little boxing gloves applique) that I made for her. I’ve already had a discussion with one of the preschool teachers about my son, Winchie*, and how he protests when they play the occasional Raffi CD during class because, in his words, it’s “just terrible.” (On that same token, one of my proudest parenting moments came when the kids were packed in the car recently, ready to go to preschool, and Winchie asked if we could listen to The Clash. I put in London Calling and he rocked out in his car seat with his best pal, Thomas the Tank Engine. God! I can’t wait to see what he’ll be like when he gets older.)

While other parents might cringe at this, I love that my kids are unapologetically themselves. I realize that some of this comes from their age and that they haven’t yet learned inhibition. But this also means that they are still open to suggestion on all fronts. I love showing them that there are many different ways of looking at the world and choosing an unusual perspective is often times the best route to take. What can I say? I’m an indie mom raising a couple of indie kids, of whom I am extremely proud.

I wouldn’t know what to do with a kid who liked exclusively pretty little princess wear and/or Raffi. I guess I’d suck it up because you have to let your kids be who they are, but I’m certainly glad mine aren’t afraid to stand out a little. Is it because I played them New Order and the Sex Pistols in utero instead of Baby Einstein Mozart concertos? Doubtful. Besides, if their fetal movements were any indication, they much preferred Bad Religion and Ladytron.

But, by and large, my kids get along really well with the other kids in their class and, I’m happy to report, they love going to school and doing all of the usual preschool activities: painting, singing, reading, drawing, circle time, etc. They’re normal, well-adjusted tykes, like I knew they would be. It’s dealing with the adults where things can get dicey.

The teachers are great. I’m talking about the mom crew at the preschool. Oh, dear God. It’s like high school all over again. Some of them are excellent people indeed and I’m incredibly lucky to know them. Others, well, let’s just say that I don’t wear the right clothes and my car isn’t expensive enough for them to treat me with anything close to respect. Some of them assumed I was the nanny and were surprised to hear me speak unaccented English when they first met me. And they had no problem admitting this to my face! (Picture a group of tall, slender, typically WASP-ish women in their late 30s cackling with glee about how I look so much like their Central American-born nannies, they just assumed I spoke Spanish. Never mind that my daughter is a virtual mini me and my son has my exact laugh.) Yikes. So while there are a handful of preschool moms I dig, it’s not really a club I want to belong to. It’s just not a good fit.

Where I do fit and where I’m most comfortable are all the geeky craft places around town. (And please note that I said CRAFT and not art, despite my degree. There are differences, and craft rocks! It has all of art’s creativity and none of the pretension. But I digress…) So while I love to get my geek on and craft my ever-lovin’ heart out, oftentimes it’s just not feasible with twin toddlers in tow.

So what’s a girl to do? Volunteer for CHIRP and write a column about bridging the indie/DIY-Soccer Mom gap, that’s what! Neither the preschool moms club nor the childfree craft alliance will grant me a full docket of membership benefits, so instead I’ll do what I’ve always done and find my own place. Here it is. Thanks for being a part of it.

* These are my kids’ nicknames. I know they’re perfectly plausible first names for the spawn of Hollywood-types, but, fortunately, I’m no Nicole Richie.

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Categorized: Midwestern Housewife

Topics: midwestern housewife

CHIRP DJ writesRediscovering Our Record Collections: Smoking Popes’ “Born To Quit”

Before our wedding, my wife and I went through our record collections to find songs that would fit not only on our wedding mix CD (which we gave out as a gift to our guests), but also songs that represent us as a couple. I somehow kept overlooking the Smoking Popes and their pop gems. At the 11th hour, it dawned on both of us that Mrs. You and Me would be a perfect song that would sit perfectly amongst the other songs we selected.

Keep Reading…

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Categorized: Rediscovering Our Record Collections

Jocelyn writesBringing It All Back Home

It’s a weird thing to sit around and plan your funeral. I can’t imagine I’m the only one that’s ever done it; in fact, I know I’m not the only one who sits and thinks of these things. However, I know it’s not the most casual of thoughts for most people. But one night during college, we were all sitting around and it must have come up and I was expounding on the subject, saying how I definitely wanted a New Orleans-style brass band parade.

I’m sitting in the railway station.
Got a ticket for my destination.
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand.
And ev’ry stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.

I also threw in that I’d like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” to be played at some point during the service. My friends, Dave and Joel, piped up and said that not only would they see to it that my request was carried out, but that they personally would sing it themselves. Although, Joel said he’d be singing the Simon/George Harrison version they did live on Saturday Night Live in 1976.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Fine by me, I said. I was actually pretty honored and touched that my friends were so quick to jump to my aid and volunteer to do me such a noble deed. Especially since neither of one of them were musicians or anything. It meant something in that moment; it seemed like some sort of friendship cement was being laid down — for all the good making promises over a potential future funeral are worth.

But it would come up from time to time as the years passed, and we’d laugh about it and I’d sort of roll my eyes at my younger self and wonder what kind of idea that was in the first place. But Dave and Joel always got very serious at the mention of it and promised yet again that they would, in fact, still show up and sing this for my hopefully unforeseeable demise.

Ev’ry day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines.
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And ev’ry stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be

Years and years have passed now, and the three of us don’t really see one another or really talk so much anymore. Things happen, people change, lives grow apart. If it comes to the point where this needs to happen, honestly, I’m not going to be around to do the asking. And I guess I’m old enough to start thinking about some sort of will or something. I don’t have any real possessions to pass down or give away, but I suppose it would be worth it to at least outline to my parents or friends, “Hey, it’s okay if these guys sing this song at my funeral. Seriously.”

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

I mention this because those are the kinds of things that get cemented in your mind forever, that never leave you even when the people shift out of your life. These are the kinds of memories that will never fade. Every time I hear that song, I will always think of Dave and Joel and their promise made during a late-night conversation about life and death, made when we were too young to know much about either. It is the power of music that intoxicates me and always leads me back to the places where I first found it — the radio.

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again,
I’ll play the game and pretend.
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony I need someone to comfort me.

It was the radio in my father’s car, playing the oldies. It was the radio in my room, trying to catch my favorite songs exactly at the right time so I could tape them from start to finish. It was the radio station at college, and the new friends I made, who taught me about life and love and the pursuit of new music. It was the years and years of driving around in all sorts of cars on all sorts of roads in all sorts of weather, having endless conversations and calming the tempest that is my mind — all to the soundtrack of the radio.

Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.
Silently for me.

It’s good to have another place to be a part of that. It’s wonderful to have another radio home. I am looking forward to sharing CHIRP with Chicago and with the world so everyone else can feel at home with us, too. So we can all exchange ideas and new music and have a place to discuss our community and our world. I can’t wait until we’re live on air with something alive and exciting in Chicago that’s creative and inspiring — something for everyone to hear.

I’m nowhere near dead, but I definitely feel like I’m coming home.

“Homeward Bound,” — Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’

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Categorized: Post Mix

Mike Scales writesArtist Spotlight: Why?

(Photo by Jacob Hand)

On their fourth official full-length effort, Eskimo Snow, Oakland’s beloved psychedelic folk-hoppers WHY? take a decidedly less hip-hop approach to their song-writing. Recorded during the 2007 sessions that birthed Alopecia, the band’s last, more robust and rap-inspired record, the 10-song set reveals a lighter and more spacious side of WHY? – songs that feel more like “song-songs” according to frontman Yoni Wolf.

“Eskimo Snow is intentionally what it is I suppose,” the singer/rapper cryptically states in a chat with CHIRP. “But [it’s] not like we said before we made it, ‘let’s make an album that is not rap’ or anything like that. It’s just what we happened to come up with.”

The more live and stripped-down feel on Eskimo Snow was no doubt made possible in part by session players Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson of the Minneapolis-based outfit Fog who rounded out the band to 5 members in the studio. The two longtime collaborators and friends of WHY? will also be joining them on the road this time around and the whole band is doing what they do to prepare the 40+ date trek which will include stops in Australia and New Zealand. “The Fog boys are most definitely in tow in a big way, they are sounding strong; sounding super!” Wolf enthuses. “Of course, we’ve rehearsed an awful lot for the tour. And between rehearsals Broder likes to jump rope, Josiah [Wolf, Yoni’s brother and drummer] likes to work on this house (today he was putting up insulation) and the rest of us…do other stuff I guess.”

“Other stuff” for Yoni meant recently lending his consuming and reviewing skills to TheYoundAndHungry.com with his version of a New York vegan restaurant review. “Though I was extremely busy, my friend Jena asked me to write that,” he admits. “She’s the kind of very attractive woman you find it hard to say no to. So, I did it and I’m glad I did! It was a lot of fun and I could see myself starting a whole new career. I am surely a big fan of food.”

In true WHY? fashion, cooking up another uniquely awesome record called for another batch of unique and awesome album art. To help him flesh-out the many ideas he had for the look of the album, Yoni enlisted the help of photographer Phoebe Streblow and layout artist Sam Flax Keener. The resulting image utilizes paint, photography and collage and vividly depicts a mummy figure with a bouquet of flowers for a head and an eerily lit purple wall for a backdrop. “It is my favorite WHY? cover so far,” Yoni says. “It took me a long long time (months) to come to this idea after having so many others, but I think things finally came together. I had a lot of help from my friends on it.”

As one of the founding members of the anticon collective, Yoni Wolf knows all too well the value of a supportive group of forward-thinking friends. Although some of the crew have branched out to other bands and labels, anticon remains thick as thieves and has injected some young blood (in the form of Serengeti & Polyphonic, Tobacco and Anathallo) to help keep the operation afloat. “I love all those guys,” he says of the label’s rookie acts. “They probably wouldn’t be a part of the label if I felt differently. We are doing quite a few shows with Chicago’s own Serengeti & Polyphonic [on this tour] and we’ve toured with Anathallo (also a Chicago band) and Tobacco in the near past. I’m very much looking forward to the future of anticon.”

Why? is playing tomorrow night (Oct. 5th) at the Bottom Lounge

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: artist spotlight, interview

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