Friday, February 17, 2012

This Sunday: the Second Annual Chili Synthesizer Cook-Off

Posted By on 02.17.12 at 03:00 PM

Local noise artist and Catholic Tapes honcho Brett Naucke figured that an event combining two of things he loves—chili and synthesizers—would be such a hit that he was already planning a follow-up to last year's First Annual Synthesizer Chili Cook-Off before it started. "I'd like to book one before this even happens," he told me at the time, "because I know it's going to work, and I know it's going to be fun." True to his word, Naucke is bringing the music-slash-food competition to the Empty Bottle this Sunday with coconspirator Beau Wanzer (Mutant Beat Dance, Streetwalker).

The ground rules for the Second Annual Synthesizer Chili Cook-Off remain the same; every musician will make a unique chili and perform a "sonic interpretation" of that culinary creation, and the audience will vote on the winning chef-slash-musician. Last year's champion, Oakeater's Jeremiah Fisher, will battle Rolan Vega, Jeff Host, and Anthony Janas. Naucke and Wanzer initially hoped to draw some out-of-town talent to this year's cook-off, but opted for a lineup of locals who don't normally perform together—or in fact play out all that often, period. Plus, their skills fit the bill. "All of them are great cooks and were big fans of the fest last year, so it kind of seemed like a shoe-in," Naucke says.

The organizers wanted to spice things up for this year's festivities, and at first Naucke thought it would be great to have "these elaborate circus activities." Unfortunately, reality intervened.

"The first idea I had was an Andy Ortmann chili-dunk contest," Naucke says. "Specifically an Andy Ortmann dunk contest. I don't think it would be funny with anyone else." But certain variables—the cost of enough chili to fill a dunk tank, the cost of cleaning up afterward, the likelihood of obtaining the Bottle's consent—made that an impossibility. Other plans didn't even make it that far. "I really wanted to have a Tums-eating contest," Naucke says. "But that's just a completely ridiculous idea."

Some schemes did make the cut, like a carnival-style guess jar full of beans: "There's gonna be this big black jar of beans, and whoever gets the closest wins a pretty cool prize." Naucke won't say what the prize is, but he promises it's "really kitschy and silly, but it's fun." The Bottle will also provide spicy drink specials, and Plastic Crimewave main man and Secret History of Chicago Music author Steve Krakow will draw chili-themed caricatures—which could be "people's heads on top of chili peppers, or people farting."

Naucke and Wanzer have retooled the logistics of the event as well: this year there will be two stations for attendees to grab chili samples so that they won't miss any of the music, and the cook-off will transition into a dance party with Wanzer, Mike Broers, and Brandon Walsh, who all DJ regularly at Danny's. The event starts at 7 PM, and cover is $4; it's BYO Tums.

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