For the last five years,
the Chicago Blackout has celebrated the release of the most recent issue of
Horizontal Action, the lovably grungy, endearingly raunchy fanzine that
started the festival to celebrate the lovably grungy, endearingly raunchy
sounds championed in its pages.
Chicago Blackout 2006 is
the biggest of these events yet, but this year there's a difference:
Horizontal Action's co-creators and editors, Todd Novak and Brett Cross,
have decided to call it quits as publishers, at least in the print world.
"We're taking a break
indefinitely," Novak says, and it's a loss that fans of the underground rock
press will feel deeply.
Novak and Cross
published the first issue of Horizontal Action as a photocopied,
81/2-by-11-inch fold-over digest in the summer of 1997. The name was hardly
subtle and the mag was never pretty, but subtlety and slickness weren't the
"We always thought it
was better to magnify the unappealing aesthetic of the music and make that
the appealing part of the magazine, because no one else really went for that
angle," Novak says. "We figured we'd mix sex and rock 'n' roll -- which
always went together, anyway -- and we'd cover the adult film industry and
In the beginning, the
magazine's founders wrote everything themselves, using pseudonyms such as
Todd Killings (Novak), Uncle Ted (Cross) and Larry Loudmouth (the adult film
"We'd make up all these
ridiculous names -- the list goes on and on," Novak says. "We tried to make
it seem like there were a lot more people working for the mag than there
really were, but it was really just us at first."
The interviews were
"We'd ask the adult
actors and actresses questions about music and interview the bands about the
sex side of it," Novak says. "We figured that would be a good crossover, and
it ended up making for some pretty funny interviews."
Of course, like
Chicago's pioneering Hugh Hefner, the publishers inevitably took some knocks
for being politically incorrect.
"Some people didn't get
the joke, but there were many more who did get it," Novak says. "We have
plenty of friends who are girls who ended up writing for the magazine, and
they understood completely what we were going for. It was pretty thinly
veiled, our tongue-in-cheek attitude about it all, but some people didn't
really read it and just overreacted to what they thought it was."
Others loved each
increasingly ambitious issue, and over the course of the 15 that Novak and
Cross published, Horizontal Action grew to attract a healthy ad base and
national distribution in the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan. The
Blackout was started in 2001 at the Beat Kitchen as a release party for the
magazine's seventh issue. It moved to Subterranean in 2003 and to the Empty
Bottle in 2004 and 2005, and grew to attract hundreds of fans, some of whom
traveled from across the country and overseas.
"We always tried to have
the new issue done around the time of the Blackout, so this will be the
first year without a new magazine," Novak says. "But we are starting
a new Web site, so hopefully it will be a way to make everybody aware of
www.victimoftime.com as the ultimate resource on the Web for listings of
live music anywhere in the country.
"It's going to be kind
of like the way craigslist works, where you select what city you're in and
all the venues will pop up with all the links to all the sites and what's
going on that day," Novak says. "Say, for example, next week you're going to
be in San Francisco and you want to see a show -- it will take care of that
and also have a couple of features to read each week, plus photos. There's
really nothing like that at the moment that covers everything, and we're not
going to box ourselves into a specific rock 'n' roll-only type of thing."
Think not, then, of
Chicago Blackout 2006 as a way to mourn Horizontal Action but as a chance to
wish its founders well in their new endeavor, as well as reveling in a
weekend of very loud music. The festival kicked off at the Empty Bottle,
1035 N. Western, on Wednesday and Thursday, but it reaches a fever pitch
starting at 8 tonight and Saturday.
features the Seattle band Dead Moon, featuring Fred Cole of '60s cult
heroes Lollipop Shoppe; the Texas group Mirrors, led by Greg Ashley
of the Gris Gris; Mullens, another Texas band that played at the
first Blackout and recently reunited; Mind Control, a French Canadian
group that plays '70s-style punk; Dutch Masters, a Memphis band led
by Eric Oblivion from the Oblivions, and Chicago rockers the Krunchies.
Saturday's lineup is
topped by the Oblivions, who haven't played in Chicago in nearly a
decade, and who will be augmented by Quintron for the occasion. Also
bringing the rock: the Persuaders from New Orleans; Demon's Claws,
who are gearing up for a new album on the In the Red label; the
Massachusetts band the Tampoffs, who claim the be the first rockers
ever to inspire a tribute album before actually issuing a disc of their own;
LiveFastDie, whose debut was much lauded by Horizontal Action, and
Chicago fuzzmeisters CoCoComa. This show is reportedly sold out, so
call before heading out, or visit www.horizontalaction.com.
REASONS FOR LIVING
In addition to
astounding rock fans with the wide variety of scooters that are available,
the annual Mod Chicago bash always has some musical surprises in store, and
this year it is really delivering by hosting a reunion of New Jersey's
Mod Fun, one of the best though least-heralded members of the mid-'80s
East Coast garage revival that also produced the Fleshtones, the Fuzztones,
the Vipers and the Chesterfield Kings.
In their original
incarnation, the then-teenage trio released two strong albums and several
great singles and EPs; those can be difficult to find these days, but in
2004 the Get Hip label issued a killer 20-track anthology that rounds up
much of the group's best music, which ranges from exuberant R&B-laced early
Who mod jams to delightfully trippy psychedelic pop, mirroring the journey
taken by the band's heroes, English cult legends the Creation.
Mod Fun performs at
Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln, on a free-admission bill that also features
Jodie Artichoke, Ty Jesso, DJ Grover and Kris & Crystal starting at 9 p.m.
Thursday. Call (773) 472-2771. The mod festivities continue on June 2 with a
dance party at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, starting at 9 p.m. ($10), and a
multiband bill on June 3 at the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, with performers
including Go Gorostiza, Ben Nickel, Thomas Jamt Roass, Tony "the Tyger"
Sanchez and Dr. Scott, among others, also at 9 p.m. ($10). Visit
www.modchicago.com for a full list of events.