Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Recap: The Chicago Sonic Coalition at Situations, 6/16

By Gene Wagendorf III    

Count Kindness (Photo courtesy of Gonzo Chicago)
It's not often that I see a show and come away thinking, "what the hell can I possibly write about that?" Such was Saturday's "mini-DIY-fest" at Situations, The Chicago Sonic Coalition.

We told you about it back in March, but in case you weren't listening (or are too lazy to click the link) I'll give you the gist here. John Yingling of Gonzo Chicago corralled 64 local musicians at the soon-to-be-gone Treasure Town, tossed their names in a hat and helped to create 17 new bands. Getting that many people in the same place at the same time is daunting enough, getting them to practice together for a couple months and create new music with each other is the kind of thing one should get a medal for. Shocking no one, not all of the bands made it. Those that did survive the lottery and the subsequent months of practice with new bands got together for a big show at Situations. The rules were fairly simple: put together a short set of music (with each band doing one cover) and knock the collective socks off whatever audience turned up to see this group of Frankenstein outfits.

When I say I'm not sure what to write about the event, it isn't a matter of lack of material. The night was glorious and generally exceeded my (admittedly lofty) expectations. But what sense is there in reviewing this kind of experiment? Or turning a critical eye towards groups whose existence may have only been that 20-or-so minute set Saturday night? Conversely, I feel the overwhelming sense that this night should be documented. In an ideal world there'd be far better writers than I spilling syllables, but you get what you pay for, and no one pays for anything here at Windy City Rock. These reflections are just one blurry, Maker's Mark soaked point of view on the evening, and you'd be wise to check Gonzo Chicago in the coming days for photos (here) video and maybe even some audio.

The first band I caught was Weddings, featuring Ryan Murphy of Vamos, Kenneth Alden of Magic Milk and drummer Nick Kraska of New Black. Their sound was scorched with desperation and sweat, a Stooges-like fury reigned in by elastic bass work and Kraska's tight, geometric rhythms. The highlight of Wedding's all-too-brief set was a cover of "House of the Rising Sun," which began with a stuttered take on the melody before erupting in a cathartic squall . Never falling out of synch during their primal, sonic jousting, the trio set the bar pretty high for the rest of the night and left me wondering just how many practices they'd crammed into a few months. I've seen bands who've played together for years without achieving the chemistry necessary for that kind of measured and paced mayhem.

Next on the menu was Gilded Mess, a quirky tag team of Battleship's Zachary Mark and percussionist KG Price. Mark's nimble bass playing and story telling vocals blended smoothly with Price's subtle flutters, a Zappa-esque sound punctuated by the singer's occasional use of a trumpet. That intentional, though not unenjoyable strangeness allowed the duo to stand out, especially with the Free Kitten stylings of Natural Causes on deck. That group's yippy, underwater punk balanced moments of Teenage Jesus blarg with poppy, jitterbug bass lines and an exceptional use of pacing and silence. Causes' most captivating moment was in succeding to make the show feel incredibly personal, like they were whispering something wonderful in my ear that was going to make me want to dance. Apparently every perspiring jamoke on the first floor got the message, as all I saw around me were smiles.

Gilded Mess
Now, doing this recap/recollections bit chronologically has its upside and its downside. On one hand, I get to paint a picture of the night and make you feel like the dick you are for not being there. On the other, my journalistic integrity failed me at a point, and that point was just about when Mother Jaguar took the stage. I can see by looking in my notebook that their set began at about the time the booze I'd been swallowing found my brain. A hodgepodge of players from New Diet, Snacks, Humminbird, and Skymaul, Mother Jaguar oozed a sinister waltz. High pitched sails and mist-cloaked melodies evoked a sound that "melted into what it sounds like when you're stoned and making smores in the wind." Or so I drunkenly scribbled

Cabin Cruiser filled Situations' basement stage with enough buoyant energy to lift the whole building into the sky, but that probably would've resulted in some horrible permit debacle with the city, so it's a good thing there were open windows. Made up of members of Heavy Times, Magic Milk and Slushy, the group had an excess of refreshing grooves and electric hooks. The Slushy influence was strong, so much so that I recall wishing they were playing outdoors somewhere (though with less darkness and rain).

The last band my fleeting sobriety allowed me to see was Mortistork, better known as Izzy Price and Rob Majchrowski of We Repel Each Other and Mimi Wallman of ONO. Their brooding, hypnotic set temporarily knocked the whiskey out of my skull and left my skin littered with goosebumps. Wallman's bubbling rhythms moved adeptly between Price's ferocious banging and Gatling gun buildups. The band's blissful highs and honking, distorted swoons seemed to rush straight through my ears down to my adrenal glands, leaving me confused as to whether it was time to fuck, fight or just keep rocking out. More than any other band I saw Saturday (and I did think this after a few sets) it would be a crime if Mortistork ceased to exist after The Chicago Sonic Coalition.

I rushed out after Mortistork; it was time to grab some tacos and sleep the whole thing off. As much of a jackass as you are for not being there, I am for missing Alien Shit ( Bad Drugs, Lechuguillas, Paper Mice) and Count Kindess (T'Bone, Running, Esoteric Tapioca, Call Me Lightning, and House Sounds). Or so I hear.  Buzz on both the band's sets has me regretting my early departure, and eagerly anticipating any media that might surface over at Gonzo Chicago.

All in all, another fucking marvelous night for Chicago music, and a (unnecessary) reminder that there's no other city I'd rather be living in. That such a screwball event came to fruition is a testament to the creativity, openness and drive of everyone involved, and that it was a success has me hoping that The Chicago Sonic coalition will become an annual event. Heads up: don't miss it next year.


  1. you missed Alien Shit!!!??? for shame...

  2. Alien shit made my night

  3. I know. I'm a goddamn idiot. But to be fair, I've never suggested otherwise. Oh well, I'll catch 'em next time. Wait... Shit.

  4. Cabin Cruiser filled Situations' basement stage with enough buoyant energy to lift the whole building into the sky, but that probably would've resulted in some horrible permit debacle with the city. There is a lot of Things to do in Chicago rather then sonic coalition. Like getting 50-90% off deals accessible by email and mobile by Chicago deals.