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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time Out Shines a Light on the Underground; the Underground Does Not Approve

Posted By on 10.28.10 at 03:21 PM

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I ran into local DJ and dance-club fixture Matt Roan yesterday, and he was pretty happy with how the photo shoot he'd done for the cover of Time Out's "Underground Chicago" issue had turned out. Other people are, shall we say, not so psyched about the coverage. The magazine's collection of short-form profiles of underground venues and events is accumulating angry comments online from people outraged that Time Out would see fit to publicize enterprises that keep a purposefully low profile because they are, by city standards, illegal. "IF YOU WANT ANOTHER DIY VENUE CLOSED IN CHICAGO," one comment goes, "KEEP POSTING YOUR SHITTY ARTICLES." A commenter who goes by "dan" sums it up succinctly: "way to blow up everyone's spot, time out!"

The profile of Mortville seems to be drawing the most heat, and for understandable reasons. Though journalists of course want to follow compelling stories and provide their readers with the most complete possible picture of the local music scene, writing about an illegal space makes the happenings there that much more likely to attract the attention of the people—police, landlords—who can shut the place down. Late last year the Village Voice ran a profile of deposed Roc-a-Fella honcho Dame Dash that gave plenty of ink to the unlikely indie-leaning DIY space he was running out of the basement of his Tribeca loft; he immediately shut it down before he could get busted for it. A 2005 article Liz Armstrong wrote for the Reader on the Wicker Park house of hedonism Jerkstore was widely considered the reason its proprietors got the boot from their landlord. Most other stories I've heard about unlicensed venues that have been shut down (as opposed to imploding over interpersonal disputes) involve either a writer or a promoter getting overenthusiastic and bringing the place too far out into the open.

I'm sure the people who run Mortville and enjoy shows there would really like the place to stay underground—a category that does not tend to allow for features, however well-intentioned, in glossy magazines.

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