Last weekend in Chicago was one of the busiest in recent memory for the young, music-loving urbanite. Not only was the city overrun with more than your average A&R crowd thanks to the semi-known MobFest A&R convention, but Vice invaded the Windy City as well with a flurry of events surrounding Intonation festival. My intent was to simply do my best to cover the happenings of Saturday and Sunday's Intonation but I feel I'd be doing an injustice if I failed to mention the madness that Friday night brought about.
Artist manager Amirah Noaman (Saul Williams, M.I.A., etc) and I had a plan for Friday night. It was ambitious to say the least, and in fact, I will list our schedule below.
8:00pm - All Rise loft/art gallery for Red Stripe sponsored silk screening party featuring DJ sets from rising stars Flosstradamus and silk screening from LA-based Hit And Run collective. Free food and drinks are never a band thing.
9:00pm - Catch cab across town for Jason Collett @ Metro (MobFest showcase).
10:00pm - Catch cab back across town for Tripwire-sponsored event @ Darkroom featuring performances from Office, The Changes, Idle Hands and the Prarie Cartel.
12:00am - Walk across the street to Tumans to catch DJ Major Taylor (The Jai Alai Savant)'s weekly Friday night booty shaking fest.
1:00am - Catch cab back across town AGAIN for Vice's Intonation kick-off party at Smart Bar (basement of Metro), featuring DJ sets from MSTRKRFT and Chromeo.
4:00am - Stumble home.
Ambitious, right? And you know what? We did ALL of that shit! Seriously, and with perfect timing. The Red Stripe thing was pretty awesome. I got a free, custom American Apparel t-shirt, ate some chicken and shrimp on a stick and washed it down with a few Red Stripes for good measure. We were the first ones to arrive, but by the time we left 45 minutes later, the place had filled up nicely and booties were already shaking.
Jason Collett is fucking awesome. His songs are great and he's an energetic and captivating front man with a look as great as his music. He rolled through song after song from his new album, Idols Of Exile (one of my favorite albums of the year), and while at times he seemed to be "going through the motions," he ended his set strong by bringing out members of The Stills to help bring the rock.
We arrived at Darkroom just in time to catch Office setting up the last bits of gear. The venue was more crowded that I'd seen it in a long time and a hearty spoonful of A&R types lurked about, waiting to see two of the best young bands in Chicago. Office took the stage in "street clothes," ditching their typical business suits and dresses in honor of casual Friday. Showing a glimpse of their individual unique style, the band seemed loose and relaxed as they smashed through tracks from their two self-released albums (despite some complaints of "sound guy" issues).
While Office hauled off their gear and the Changes set up their shit, The Prairie Cartel filled the room with some in your face industrial electronica. Featuring Scott Lucas from Local H and Blake from Caviar on vocal and accompanied by a DJ these three men provide a sonic kick in the pants to the packed house. Hanging from the rafters and standing high atop the DJ booth, Scott and Blake were awesome and clearly having a great time fucking around with this surprisingly awesome and entertaining side project.
The Changes... Damn. I hadn't seen these dudes in over a year and after Friday night, it became clear that they have been working their asses off during that time. Armed with a slew of new songs and a stage show that is head over heals better than they were a year ago, the band plowed through a 45-minute set that made me a believer all over again. Confident, well groomed and tighter than Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (i.e. so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, it two weeks you'd have a diamond), The Changes are more than ready to hit the road in support of their forthcoming debut full length album (out on Drama Club Records).
Tumans was Tumans. Chicagoans know this Ukrainian Village neighborhood hang out well and they know that Friday night = DJ Major Taylor and tons of ass shaking, toe tapping good times with reasonable drink prices.
The familiar buzz of Vodka Sodas, PBR and shots of Jameson was taking root as a reasonably sized group hopped in a cab bound for Smart Bar. As we arrived, I was shocked to see a line down the street (for the first time in a long time). If there's one thing Vice is good at, it's throwing a party and the Chicago scenesters were well aware of this fact. Talking our way past the annoying line was accomplished with the help of one Ari Benderski (Something Glorious) whose clever banter left the bouncer no choice but to let us slip past unscathed. HOT. Smart Bar was HOT... in both senses of the word (a synonym of "cool," and the opposite of cold). I don't know who was spinning (either MSTRKRFT or Chromeo), but I do know that people were dancing. The dance floor was packed with sexy Chicagoans moving and shaking to some house music like it was their last night on earth. Shots were flying. Drinks were being poured. Booties were moving. It was a great kick-off to a weekend of music and debauchery courtesy of the Vice gang.
Next up... Intonation Day 1 and a wicked hangover.