June 21, 2002
BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC
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
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
The festival kicked off yesterday, but it moves into high gear tonight
and Saturday. The full roster of performers can be found online at
www.mobfest.com, 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
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