By Craig Bechtel
Although Marc Ruvolo has toured a fair bit, he’s lived in Chicago all his life. From a couch in the Logan Square apartment he shares with his partner, Ruvolo, the forty-seven-year-old former lead singer for punk rockers No Empathy, and more recently of Das Kapital and The Fur Coats and owner of record label Johann’s Face, explains what has prompted him to sell most of what he owns and embark on a global adventure.
Up until two weeks ago, Ruvolo was also the owner of Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records in Logan Square, but now he’s sold the store he built from the ground up over three years to some longtime customers. Selling the store had always been part of his plan, although at the beginning he didn’t know whether it would be a success. “I like challenges,” he says, and given he had never worked in retail before, he knew he would have to “work hard and bust ass… I put all my energy into it, in the hopes that I would sell it and then head out and travel the world and play music.” Read the rest of this entry »
By John Wilmes
Scheduled into one of the headlining sets of Lollapalooza’s second day, and for a sold-out performance at The Bottom Lounge, the night prior, Sacramento-based band Death Grips (described variously as noise rock, noise rap, experimental rap and thrash rap) skipped it all. At The Bottom Lounge there was only a large projection of a fan’s suicide note behind the stage, and the venue’s announcement, moments after they themselves had learned, that the band wouldn’t be coming. In a reaction of incalculable irony, fans then rushed the stage to destroy the band’s equipment, as Death Grips’ angry, caustic tones played over the P.A.—but it later came out that this was not, in fact, their equipment. The next morning, it became clear that they never even got on a plane, and their Lollapalooza set was cancelled. Everyone had been gamed.
The internet exploded with this news. And this wasn’t the first time that Death Grips has scorned their fans, eager to see them—they’ve cancelled large stretches of tours, before, to work on new material instead—or upset the booking and distribution titans of the industry, either. Their most recent album, “No Love Deep Web,” was set to be released by Epic, but the band released it for free instead, on their website, with an erect penis on the cover art. An act of defiance that, after Death Grips refused to undo it, had them dropped from the label. Read the rest of this entry »
Cover by Colin Denney
Music is alive and well and living in Chicago.
While that once might have meant records and radio and bands being signed to major labels, it’s a much more complex score these days, with artists and venues more entrepreneurial than ever. But at the core is the shift in emphasis from recorded to live music, and it’s a change that’s made Chicago a town of festivals, from the city’s bedrock blues, jazz, gospel and world music festivals, to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, to the new electronic dance music festivals—Spring Awakening, Wavefront and North Coast—as well as the explosive growth of an old one, the Chosen Few DJs Picnic. With these shifts, the players are changing too; since we last made this list of the behind-the-scenesters, the power list if you will, most of the list has changed. This year’s forty-five include twenty-six folks who were not on the list that last time in 2009. (Brian Hieggelke)
Music 45 was written by Brian Hieggelke, Dennis Polkow and Kenneth Preski, with additional contributions by Dave Cantor, Keidra Chaney, Dylan Peterson, John Wilmes and B. David Zarley. See previous years here. Read the rest of this entry »
I remember one afternoon (I think it was in the late eighties) walking into a record store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I went to purchase a Kate Bush album (I have been a huge fan of the reclusive singer-songwriter for the longest time), and as I made the purchase, one of the employees there put on a record by a blues guitar player I had never heard about before. It was a raucous guitar followed by a powerful voice backed by a tight rhythm section. The song was “Love Struck Baby,” the opening track of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s debut LP “Texas Flood” (Sony, 1983). I was immediately hooked, and was saddened when just a few years later I heard about his untimely death following a concert in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.
A story like this one would be far less likely to happen today, because record stores are increasingly a rarity thanks to download sites and big-box stores that offer music at a discount that independent owners are just unable to match. New music is still discovered in interesting ways today (like I found out about Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona via—you guessed it—a free download from iTunes), but the culture has completely shifted since that day so many years ago. Read the rest of this entry »
Top 5 Albums of 2012
John Butcher, “Bell Trove Spools” (Northern Spy)
Killer Mike, “2012, R.A.P. Music” (Williams Street)
Mako Sica, “Essence” (La Société Expéditionnaire)
MV & EE, “Space Homestead” (Woodsist)
Victor Rice, “Dub Discoveries from Version City” (Stubborn)
Top 5 Classical Concerts of 2012
Riccardo Muti & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Cherubini Requiem
Chicago Chamber Musicians, Debussy Chamber Music Festival
Bella Voce, Music of the Sistine Chapel
Riccardo Muti & the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bruckner Sixth Symphony
World Orchestra for Peace, Solti Centennial Concert
—Dennis Polkow Read the rest of this entry »
By Alli Carlisle
Chicago doesn’t love being called New York’s follow-up act. So Michael Dorf’s affectionate nickname for his Randolph Street City Winery location—City Winery 2.0—might not totally entertain. But listen to how Michael Dorf describes his 2.0, and you might change your mind.
“I just gave a tour to some very important finance people—I hope—for us in New York, and my entire tour of New York, which I used to be so proud of doing, I had to qualify everything, and say, ‘Oh, if you could only see Chicago, and if you could only see here what we did in Chicago.’” Dorf positively sparkles when he says this.
Dorf, forty-nine, is the founder of New York’s legendary Knitting Factory, the music venue that grew from a DIY space for avant-garde jazz and experimental punk and rock to a fixture on the New York music scene to a small chain of venues with locations on both coasts. The Knitting Factory’s history is a classic tale of heartwarming American entrepreneurialism: a couple of boys from Madison, Wisconsin, (Dorf and friend Bob Appel) move to New York City and start a club using a loan from grandparents, and somehow find themselves booking high-quality, underground avant-garde jazz acts; things snowball, and the Knitting Factory becomes a New York legend. Read the rest of this entry »
Willis Earl Beal/Photo: Jamie-James Medina
Before heading to Union Park this weekend for the seventh incarnation of the Pitchfork Music Festival, check out our guide to all the acts you may have never heard of, forgotten about, or already know and love. We can’t guarantee they’ll sound as good on stage as they do in our memories and in our record collections, but hey, we can hope.
While you’re at it, be sure and check out our Pitchfork playlist on Spotify and Dave Cantor’s preview of Flying Lotus, who hits the Green Stage at 4:15pm on Saturday. You can find the festival’s full schedule online here. Read the rest of this entry »
By Robert O’Connor
Twenty-eight chairs were set up at Mather’s Café in Jefferson Park, a café geared toward seniors. A section of the building normally used for exercise classes was partitioned off with a yellow curtain.
Miss Chicago 2012, Marisa Buchheit, walked in wearing a red one-shoulder dress along with her white sash and four-point crown. She had a guitar swung across her back and audio equipment in both hands. She fiddled with the AV system, which had been playing oldies on a satellite radio feed, to make sure her equipment worked. Read the rest of this entry »
By Anne Ream and R. Clifton Spargo
Saul Alinsky was right.
The late Chicago community organizer wrote in “Rules for Radicals”—a user’s manual for those seeking to overturn the status quo—that when it comes to social movements, “it doesn’t matter what you know about anything if you cannot communicate it to your people.” In the absence of a clear message, “you’re not even a failure,” Alinsky warned. “You’re just not there.”
Apt advice, perhaps, for Occupy Wall Street. Buoyed by a growing public consensus that our economic system was either broken or perhaps built from the start to take from the many to benefit the few, the Occupy movement had history and hope on its side. What critics on the left and right soon asserted it didn’t have was a consistent message. Movement organizers have variously called for an end to wealth inequality, capital punishment, police intimidation, corporate censorship, joblessness, meat-eating, American imperialism, war and most recently and perhaps perplexingly, the art world’s Whitney Biennial. When reliably liberal publications such as Mother Jones note that the Occupy movement “lacks focus” and takes too much of a “kitchen sink approach,” we sit up and take notice.
To the rescue rock ‘n’ roll? Sure, rock itself has often been characterized as rebellion without focus. But there’s a time-honored tradition of protest music written into that history of rebellion, and it’s laid down the backbeat for some of the last half century’s most powerful social movements. So, a humble suggestion for the Occupy movement: fine-tune the message and keep the focus on a system that serves the 1% to the detriment of the 99%. In that spirit, we’ve mined the protest canon for its greatest anti-capitalist anthems. Part populist rallying cries, part odes of sorrow for a system serving the few rather than the many, these songs have never felt more urgent—or more necessary—than they do right now. Read the rest of this entry »
We had so much fun creating a Record Store Issue in conjunction with Record Store Day last year that we decided to do it again. Where last year brought about an updated Chicago Indie Record Store Guide, this year we decided to go deeper into the stories of a couple of stalwarts of the business, Jazz Record Mart and Val’s halla, along with some personal takes on how record stores affected writers’ lives. ‘Cuz record stores are one thing we definitely take personally.
Record Store Day: The Greatest Hits of 2012
Jazz Record Mart: Jamming for More Than Fifty Years
Val’s Hallowed Past
Reminiscences from Russia
The Power of Tower