Nestled in the constantly emerging creative hotbed of Logan Square stands a house striving to keep music and community as one. “I feel like my life would be over if I didn’t have an outlet to bring people together,” says Sabrina, a founding member of the DIY performance space known as the Ottoman Empire. Today is the thirty-seventh-annual World Hello Day, promoting the mantra, “Greet ten people for peace.” The date fits quite well because at midnight tonight, Ottoman will celebrate the one-year anniversary of its formation with a multiple band show called the Micro Music Fest, featuring both local groups and touring bands. Old friends and new acquaintances huddle in the basement in search of the simple pleasure of genuine music made by people with a common goal—creating a niche in a city flooded with guarantees, licensing and competition.
Sitting around an unlit fire pit in the middle of the Northwest Side as the L rolls through, flickering electric blue sparks like lightning, Sabrina waxes on why the space is so necessary to her.
“I love doing it. I love meeting new people and seeing new bands.”
Able to step around the expenses and upkeep of other sites, the Ottoman Empire is low capacity and donation-based; focusing on supporting the performers while keeping an intimate feel commonly lost at larger established venues. Chicago’s strict zoning laws often prohibit and limit such establishments. Much of the time, art and performance spaces like this get shut down within months of their conception, making the pursuit for new and out-of-the-ordinary music increasingly more difficult.
Out-of-town bands are a common occurrence at the space, playing for a crowd that may otherwise not have the opportunity to see them.
“We want to create a network of people and build a system we can have for touring bands,” Sabrina says, commenting on the lack of outlets for lesser-known groups, struggling to stay on the road and do what they love.
Hosting an average of five or six shows a month, sometimes three in a week, the Empire continues to put forth a consistent effort to keep the battle for independent arts alive. “It’s a starting point to bigger and better things,” she says. (Jonathan Kaplan)