MOB scene

June 21, 2002


You need only glance at the front-page headlines to realize the music industry is under assault from all fronts. "Any way you spin it, the music biz is in trouble," USA Today declared on June 5. "Music industry is finally online, but there aren't many listeners," the Wall Street Journal informed us on May 7; the next day, another story noted, "How much to hear the Who? Summer concert prices climb."

"Musicians seek 'free agent' status," the Sun-Times reported in March. And another Chicago daily weighed in on May 23 with "Music industry raises its voice for radio reforms."

None of this is news to the diehard Chicago music fan: Consumers have been dissatisfied with business as usual in the music industry for years now. Yet on a grass-roots level, the local scene is arguably healthier than it's ever been, and two events taking place this weekend offer ample evidence of that.

The first is the sixth annual MOBfest. The brainchild of local talent manager Roger Jansen, the three-day "Music Over Business" festival remains problematic: Despite the title, it's really anything but. The whole point of the gathering is to showcase local bands for talent scouts from the major labels.

And as the headlines above indicate, at this point, a major-label contract is probably something you shouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

Still, Jansen's intentions remain more or less noble, and while MOBfest has yet to come anywhere near the level of quality or comprehensiveness of the annual South By Southwest Music & Media Conference in Austin, Texas, it is nonetheless an excuse to celebrate the incredible diversity of local talent.

The festival kicked off yesterday, but it moves into high gear tonight and Saturday. The full roster of performers can be found online at, but I'd like to highlight a few local talents that are especially worthy of a shout-out.

Tonight's highlights include the hard-hitting stoner-rockers Land of the El Caminos, who are performing at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, on a bill that also includes Manplanet, Sons of Jorel, Beanpole and Gavra Lynn.

Metro, 3730 N. Clark, is hosting Duvall, the potent pop-punk group fronted by former Smoking Pope Josh Caterer, as well as Minneapolis psychedelic popsters 12 Rods. Plain White Tees, One Line Drawing and Retro Morning round out the bill.

Gearing up for the release of his next alt-country offering, Chris Mills headlines at Nevin's Live, 1450 Sherman in Evanston, on a bill completed by Nora O'Connor and The Thin Man.

Playing at the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, are the jangly popsters Woolworthy and Light FM, led by former Motorhome main man Josiah Mazzaschi, as well as American Cosmonaut, Zero To Nine, Firetrucs and Sono. Meanwhile, Uncommon Ground, 1214 W. Grace, is hosting a Hear Diagonally Records Showcase with ace kiddie songsmith Justin Roberts, Peter Andreadis, Mike Merz, Eric Z, Dan Philips, Tomi Zender and Carlos Ortega.

Finally, over at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, my Sun-Times colleague Dave Hoekstra celebrates the release of his new travel book Ticket to Everywhere (Lake Claremont Press), with an evening of "Tiki to Everywhere," featuring the senior citizen hula dancers Na Kupuna Ukulele Club, Lani and friends, Sergio Mayora, and DJ Richard Pierson spinning "deep Tiki Lounge" music.

On Saturday, two-strong guitar-rock combos, the Cells and Kim, stand out on a lineup at the Abbey that also includes Atari Star, Just Add Water and the Jezebelles.

The Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, presents much-heralded popster Kevin Tihista, along with Menthol, Torben Floor and Life at Sea; the Big Horse Lounge, 1558 N. Milwaukee, brings us the promising kiss n ride plus Demilos, El Guapo and Hypnofugue; and the effervescent Starball holds forth at the Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln, along with Pinch, Bicycle Tricycle, Carbon4, and Regal Standard.

Lakeview Links, 3206 N. Wilton, has a don't-miss act in Purrbox, as well as Clip, Dremana and Mystechs, while Metro's standout is the twisted psychedelic metal of Yakuza, who are performing along with Gravelbone, Stripping The Pistol, Mighty Fine Machines and Swidden.

Political punks Knife of Simpson are sure to rock the Note. They'll be joined by the hard-working Wes Hollywood Show and sparking popsters the Pillowmints, as well as the Rosedales, Sour Deluxe and Ruck La Rou.

As I said, many of these bands hold hopes of scoring that mythical major-label ticket to fame and fortune--to each his own folly.

Meanwhile, Chicago's indie labels continue to thrive and prosper, and for the second year in a row, Thick Records is sponsoring its Chicago Rock Yards Flea Market, with free performances and CDs for sale from most local labels on the street outside Thick's offices at 409 N. Wolcott, two blocks south of Grand.

Performers include Cash Audio, the Tossers, the Arrivals, Miss Nora, Danny Blacks' Healthy White Baby, Denali, the J Davis Trio, WLUW DJs and a "10 Bands in 30 Minutes" thrash fest, and participating labels include Touch & Go, Southern, Choke, Bloodshot, Thrill Jockey, Failed Experiment, Busy Beaver Buttons, Harmless, Johanne's Face, Arms Reach, Hit It Or Quit It, Divot, Symbiotic, Skin Graft, Government Music, Arborvitae, Rocket Fuel, Sinister, Jettison and Veronica.

For more info, call (312) 666-4283, or visit the Thick Web site at