Finding music at Found Sound: Chicago

One of the summer’s most intriguing musical events in Chicago took place Saturday (Aug. 13). The venue? Various porches, backyards, storefronts and balconies scattered around the West Town and Ukrainian Village neighborhoods. This was Found Sound: Chicago, billed as “a series of intimate music & audio art performances.” I wasn’t able to see it all, but I did catch the first three performances of the day.

At 1 p.m., the musician-artist Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, was sitting out on his front porch on Winchester with a banjo, an amp, various effects pedals and an extension cord running up to a window a couple of stories higher. Some people, maybe 20 or so, wandered up and sat down near the sidewalk or stood nearby as Krakow created a droning wash of sound, sometimes tapping the body of his banjo, sometimes plucking or bowing it. A few passersby who didn’t appear to know what Found Sound was all about paused to listen and watch.

Half an hour later, many of the people attending this performance walked a few blocks to a backyard, where the Lawrence Peters Outfit played some nicely old-fashioned country songs, including originals that Peters wrote for his band’s brand-new debut album, What You Been Missin’. The sunny day turned dark and cloudy as Peters played, and as a rainstorm loomed and the wind started to toss around the overhead power lines, Peters played an appropriate tune, the lovely and understated closing track from his CD, “The Wind.”

By the time when the third act of the day, Mark Booth, began his performance inside the Corbett vs. Dempsey art gallery, it was pouring rain outside. Some hail even tinkled against the windows. Booth used a laptop to create a sound collage that began with the antique sounds of a gramophone and melted into a variety of creaks, buzzes and hums.

What did I miss the rest of the day? Performances by Heartichoke, Andy Slater, the meme, Matthew Hale Clark, Piss Piss Piss Moan Moan and Shearing Pinx, and Judson Claiborne. Kudos to Penny Duff and Michale Slaboch for creating Found Sound. Wouldn’t it be cool if this sort of thing happened on a regular basis in places around the city?

Here’s a video from the Found Sound: Chicago website with some of the days highlights:

Found Sound: Chicago | August 13th, 2011 from Found Sound: Chicago on Vimeo.

A Million Tongues at the Empty Bottle

Steve Krakow, a.k.a. Plastic Crimewave, has many musical activities, ranging from playing in Plastic Crimewave Sound and the various Guitarkestra events, editing, writing and cartooning… and organizing an annual festival of strange psychedelia, folk rock and other stuff at the Empty Bottle called Million Tongues. I think it of sort of like the concert equivalent of the bins at the record stores where you find obscure old vinyl with great songs almost no one has ever heard of.

Friday’s mini-fest was headlined by the classic rock legend Terry Reid – who may be most legendary for turning down a gig as lead singer of Led Zeppelin. The music he ended up making on his own without Zep isn’t nearly as famous, but he clearly has a loyal cult following, as evidenced by the people signing along Friday as he performed gravelly voiced blues rock. And the stellar backup band that came together for this one-off gig was further proof that Reid is well-liked in certain circles: Emmett Kelly on guitar, LeRoy Bach on guitar and organ, David Vandervelde on bass and Ryan Rapsys on drums. The band sounded great, and so did Reid. Let’s hope he enjoyed playing with these lads well enough to do it again sometime.

Second billing went to another English veteran, Mark Fry, and his backup group included Dan Schneider of the venerable local outfit the Singleman Affair. I’d never heard Fry’s music before, but I was instantly enchanted by the lilting sounds of his folk rock. His 1971 record Dreaming With Alice has been described as “acid folk,” and I can see why. This was Fry’s first-ever show in Chicago. Or did Krakow say first-ever show in America? Either way, a belated appearance by a talented songwriter.

Also notable at Friday’s show were English folkie Ellen Mary McGee, whose lovely songs managed to cut through the annoying chatter over at the bar, and the first act of the night, Piss Piss Piss Ono Ono Ono, who made some compelling instrumental rock in a too-short set. Virginia Tate played both guitar and flute in another short set, while Brent Gutzeit and Steven Hess droned ambient-style. The odd group out was Hans Condor, whose head-banging rock seemed a bit like something out of School of Rock – complete with a stage dive out onto an empty audience floor (no one was injured). At least those guys seemed to be having fun.

Photos from the Million Tongues festival.