The Bleader | Blog + Reader, the Chicago Reader's blog

Friday, July 13, 2018

Guess who’s on our cover for a chance to win passes to the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 04:00 PM

click image Something’s different about the skyline, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. - JASON WYATT FREDERICK
  • Jason Wyatt Frederick
  • Something’s different about the skyline, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Donald Trump is still president. America's immigration policies have become the shame of the planet. Climate change is turning our oceans into globe-spanning acid baths. We've got to suffer through several more months of ads from two billionaires running for Illinois governor. The future of the U.S. Supreme Court almost hurts too much to think about.

If you'd like to stop thinking about the impending apocalypse for a few minutes, though, may we suggest our annual Pitchfork Music Festival cover-illustration contest?

Take a look at the Jason Wyatt Frederick illustration on the cover of next week's Reader, our annual Pitchfork preview. It's a little like Where's Waldo?, except you're trying to find dozens of people (and in some cases places) without knowing in advance who or what any of them are. With a little patience and an eye for visual puns, you'll find a bunch of Chicago fixtures (well-known and obscure) and lots of Pitchfork artists—but be warned, plenty of the weird shit Jason drew is just there to distract you from the answers.

Here's the contest part: Name as many people, things, and musical acts from the cover as you can and e-mail your list (with your full name) to pitchfork@chicagoreader.com. The person who correctly identifies the most will win a pair of three-day general-admission passes to this weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival. To get a better view, click the image above for a bigger version. (If you're on a mobile device, click this link to zoom in.)

Deadline is noon on Thursday, July 19. Those two passes are worth $350, so why not give it a shot?

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iLLANOiZE Let's Get Social music showcase gives a platform to Chicago's rising hip-hop stars

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 03:33 PM

The upcoming Let's Get Social showcase will feature some of Chicago music's rising stars. - COURTESY ILLANOIZE
  • Courtesy iLLANOiZE
  • The upcoming Let's Get Social showcase will feature some of Chicago music's rising stars.

Chicago based hip-hop media company iLLANOiZE is hosting the third installment of its Let's Get Social event series, a music showcase featuring rising hip-hop and R&B artists from across Chicagoland. The Let's Get Social series is the brainchild of hip-hop artist Bekoe, the founder of iLLANOiZE. Bekoe launched iLLANOiZE in 2012 with the clothing line iLLANOiZE Apparel, a brand inspired by the meteoric rise of the Chicago hip-hop scene.

"During that time Chicago was the center of hip-hop culture," says Bekoe. "Even so, there still was a lot of really good artists being overlooked."

That’s where iLLANOiZE came in. Bekoe expanded iLLANOiZE into a digital media company, conducting interviews and providing release news that covered artists from around the city. Alongside cohosts Pretty Riot and Illinois Jones, he now broadcasts on iLLANOiZE Radio, a channel dedicated to the promotion of the artists that he’s been championing. For Bekoe, the only thing that matters is the music.

"I understood that as an artist myself," Bekoe continues. "There was so much politics that went into who was on the radio and who wasn't; who got to book venues, and who didn’t; who got to play shows and who didn’t."

It was with this in mind that Bekoe began the Let's Get Social music showcase. He uses the social media engagement of the Chicago hip-hop audience to determine the lineup for each event. The iLLANOiZE Radio team takes into account how often and how effectively each artist communicates with his or her fan base, then they share their music via iLLANOiZE social media pages and gauge the response from their own audience. "Social media can sometimes be superficial but it can also show you who’s putting in the [groundwork] to get themselves heard," says Bekoe. Ultimately, though, it is the quality of the music that trumps all. That distinction was especially important to Law tha Dragon who, along with Mika Luciano, is slated to perform at the showcase as The Wonder Twins.

The Wonder Twins, Mika Luciano (left) and Law Tha Dragon - COURTESY LAW THA DRAGON
  • Courtesy Law Tha Dragon
  • The Wonder Twins, Mika Luciano (left) and Law Tha Dragon

"We see it all the time, where these mainstream media outlets and venues will pay more attention to the image artists maintain, rather than the music," Law says. "Mika and I stand out for [plenty of] reasons but the most important thing to us is that we can both rap."

But social media plays an important role in propelling an artist's career. For R&B artist LaJé, who is currently preparing for the release of her upcoming mixtape and pushing her single "Lemonade," mastering the use of social media has become a career skill in and of itself.

"I basically had to teach myself how to use it to my advantage," she says. "Using things like Twitter analytics, I'm able to determine the peak times to make posts in order to maximize engagements, and what types of posts are getting the most acknowledgement."

Through giving artists the platform of iLLANOiZE radio and their various showcases, Bekoe wants to see the Chicago hip-hop scene become even more fruitful than it was when he started his company. The artists appreciate his work.

East Rogers Park rapper OG Stevo is also slated to perform at Let's Get Social - COURTESY OG STEVO
  • Courtesy OG Stevo
  • East Rogers Park rapper OG Stevo is also slated to perform at Let's Get Social

"I want everything we're doing in the music business send the message that this is possible to do, even while we're young," says 18-year-old producer turned rapper Rick Stevenson. "People like Bekoe giving us this platform is necessary in being able to do that."

Stevenson is also scheduled to perform at the upcoming showcase and was recently featured as a guest on iLLANOiZE Radio discussing his art.

Bekoe has made it a point to stress the uniqueness of his angle in hip-hop media to the artists that he hopes to share his platform with.

"I want them to know that, as an artist, I've been in their shoes. I still am."

iLLANOiZE presents Let’s Get Social showcase Sat 7/14, 8-11 PM, AMFM art gallery, 2151 W. 21st, 312-971-7502, $15 at the door.

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Father Pfleger, top cop Johnson, and a tinge of hope for the city’s future

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 12:00 PM

Father Michael Pfleger and Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson at the protest that shut down the Dan Ryan last Saturday. - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Father Michael Pfleger and Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson at the protest that shut down the Dan Ryan last Saturday.


At the risk of sounding hopelessly naive, I must say the sight of Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson and Father Michael Pfleger walking arm in arm down the Dan Ryan at last weekend's protest march left me with a tinge of hope about the future of Chicago.

Oh God, I feel really naive just writing that.

Yes, I realize Johnson was at the march only at Rahm's permission.

And of course, I understand that Father Pfleger has generally been an ally to Emanuel, as he was to Mayor Daley—despite the major roles both have played in perpetuating the economic inequities Pfleger denounces.

But as long as Johnson and Pfleger are united in demanding that something must change to lessen the inequities in this town, I'm eager to join the chorus.

So allow me to direct them to the giant cookie jar the mayor doesn't want any of us to know even exists.

It's called the tax increment financing program, and each year upwards of $500 million or so of property tax dollars pours into it. Last year, the take was $566 million. The county has'nt itemized this year's TIF take yet.

Basically, state law allows the mayor to slap a surcharge on the property tax we pay for things we want—like schools and cops. And then that money gets diverted into bank accounts controlled by the mayor, who's pretty much free to spend it on things we might not want.

One of the worst parts of the TIF scam is that the money is not evenly distributed ward by ward. Instead, most of the money goes to gentrifying communities, even though the program was intended to eradicate blight in low-income communities.

For example, there's the North Branch South TIF district near North Avenue and the Chicago River—in one of the hottest areas of town, where Jeff Bezos is thinking of moving his second Amazon headquarters.

Since it was created in 1998, it's gathered about $89 million in property tax money.

In contrast, there's the 79th Street Corridor TIF, which was also created in 1998. Pfleger's church, Saint Sabina, happens to be located in that TIF district. It's gathered about $12.7 million.

So let's get this straight. In the same 20 years, the booming north-side community has collected $89 million and the struggling south-side neighborhood has collected $12.7 million in TIF dollars.

In what universe is that fair, just, or right?

Pfleger's community isn't the only victim of the TIF scam. TIF dollars are diverted from all Chicago's schools, parks, libraries, and police.

I tend to focus on how schools have been shortchanged by the TIF program. But the police department could also use some of that money.

Wednesday's Sun-Times had a somber story by Fran Spielman about Brandon Krueger, a 36-year-old police officer who committed suicide last Sunday while sitting in his squad car in the parking lot of the Calumet District station.

"Officers have very high rates of exposure to trauma similar to the communities in which they serve," Alexa James, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told the Sun-Times. "You wear your vest. You carry your weapon. You make sure you go home at the end of the night. We do everything to mitigate physical injury to our law enforcement. We have to do the same for their mental wellness."

And yet, according to the Sun-Times, the CPD's "employee assistance program has only three full-time counselors to provide mental health services to 13,500 employees and their families."

You could hire a whole lot of police counselors with just a little of the TIF cash that flows into the one north-side district.

Just to remind you, Mayor Rahm infamously closed mental health clinics in low-income, high-crime areas as part of his infamous budget, unanimously approved by the City Council in 2011.

There wasn't enough money to keep the clinics open, the mayor said.

Apparently, black people have more in common with the cops that patrol their neighborhoods than anyone realized.

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George Clinton and more of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 06:00 AM

George Clinton - ETHAN MILLER
  • ETHAN MILLER
  • George Clinton

There are plenty of shows, films, and concerts happening this weekend. Here's some of what we recommend:

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Profiles abuse scandal inspires new magazine examining Chicago theater

Posted By on 07.12.18 at 01:00 PM

Almanya Narula - COURTESY ALMANYA NARULA
  • courtesy Almanya Narula
  • Almanya Narula

When Almanya Narula enrolled in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she wanted to find a way to bring her passions for journalism and theater together to tell stories of the theater community. The fusion of her interests led her to create Chicago Theatre Now, a new biannual magazine that will discuss and explore issues of accountability, inclusion, diversity, and equity within the Chicago theater scene.

Narula traces the creation of Chicago Theatre Now back to the summer of 2016 when the Reader published an article about abuses occurring at the now-defunct Profiles Theatre. The story hit home for Narula who was then a theater student at Columbia College Chicago studying fight choreography. "Being a fight choreographer, being a person in the industry, that was very triggering for me," she says. "It was also triggering because some of the people who were a part of Profiles were faculty members at Columbia College Chicago. What was going on within Profiles was an open secret for years, yet they were allowed to come to my institution and recruit people who might be under the age of 18 to intern for them."

Shortly afterward, Narula applied to arts journalism graduate program at SAIC. "Within my theater art, my main goal was to make a difference," she says. "At that point, I didn't think my art was conveying that, but I wanted to highlight the good things that were going on in Chicago, and I wanted to document that within journalism."

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Silver Room Block Party announces the lineup for its 15th festival

Posted By on 07.11.18 at 04:28 PM

Golden age hip-hop icon Bobbito Garcia will be quite busy during this year's Silver Room Block Party. - JON LOPEZ PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jon Lopez Photography
  • Golden age hip-hop icon Bobbito Garcia will be quite busy during this year's Silver Room Block Party.

Today the organizers of the Silver Room Block Party announced the full lineup for their 15th blowout. Its three outdoor stages will present the likes of foundational Chicago hip-hop producer the Twilite Tone, classic-house veteran Ron Trent, hip-hop icon Bobbito Garcia (of beloved 90s New York radio program The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show), and singular singer, producer, and polymath Georgia Ann Muldrow.  Eight indoor venues, including the Silver Room and the Promontory, will also play host to live performances. The Silver Room Block Party takes place Saturday, July 21, in Hyde Park, and this year it includes movies too—the Harper Theater will screen five of them, including the Chicago premiere of Garcia's autobiographical documentary, Rock Rubber 45s. The fest has even organized a series of basketball events, including a three-point drill run by former Chicago Bull Craig Hodges and an exhibition game with Garcia.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Not everybody in Chicago is down with OKCupid's new DTF ad campaign

Posted By on 07.10.18 at 06:19 PM

One of OKCupid's "DTF" ads in Chicago the company says have been banned by several local agencies. - OKCUPID
  • OKCupid
  • One of OKCupid's "DTF" ads in Chicago the company says have been banned by several local agencies.

Some local city agencies apparently aren't DTF.

Or at the very least, they're not cool with OKCupid using the casual sex acronym in a series of cheeky new ads (it stands for "down to fuck"). The popular dating site claims that its "DTFix Dating" campaign, introduced earlier this year in New York City, has been banned by the CTA, Chicago Park District, and O’Hare International Airport.

One ad, for example, features a man and woman in a pottery studio tenderly smearing clay onto each other's faces alongside the phrase "DTFire Up The Kiln." Another reads "DTFootball Vs. Fútbol" with a picture of a football sitting on a pair of soccer balls arranged in a way that it resembles male genitalia.

"Having been received so positively in New York earlier this year, it felt a natural fit to bring our campaign to the Windy City," OKCupid spokeswoman Melissa Hobley said in a press release. "We were surprised and disappointed that Chicago did not approve the DTF ads. DTF is a phrase that needs to be redefined. It's a shame that the city isn't helping us redefine this phrase."

OKCUPID
  • OKCupid

A spokesperson for the CTA said the transportation agency rejected the ads because they violate its advertising policy, which prohibits ads containing profanity. According to the CTA's website, it bans ads that promote "infidelity, escort services, and sexually-oriented products or businesses." O'Hare officials referred to guidelines that deny ad content that promotes sexual conduct or what could be interpreted as sexual innuendo. The Chicago Park District could not be reached for comment.

Hobley says the ads, which can still be seen on billboards in Wicker Park, River North, and West Town, were designed to "subvert" the meaning of DTF.

"This campaign unashamedly reconfirms what we believe: that dating deserves better," she says. "We're proud that OKCupid is one of the only dating apps that truly reflects back what is happening culturally, and we felt a responsibility—and opportunity—to play a part in changing the conversation about dating culture and empowering each individual to expand the meaning of DTF in a way that reflects what they want from dating."

The campaign also seems like a sideswipe at OKCupid's swipe-heavy competitors—especially Tinder—the app that has a reputation for a userbase that often freely admits it's "DTF."

Founded in 2004, OKCupid was once considered the wild west of online dating. But it has lost market share in recent years to Tinder and Bumble, and its users have aged. According to a 2016 study, the median age of female OKCupid users was 32 years old, compared to 26 for Tinder users.

OKCUPID
  • OKCupid

OKCupid, whose cofounder Sam Yagan is a Chicago-area native who bought a $3 million home in Hyde Park in 2017, recently repositioned itself as the slow option of modern online dating, or in the words of one of its slogans, "substance over selfies." In 2017, the app was reprogrammed to slow down the matching process by requiring users to answer 15 questions before they begin.

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New $50,000 prize in improvised music gives its first awards to Joe McPhee and Susan Alcorn

Posted By on 07.10.18 at 10:00 AM

Joe McPhee and Susan Alcorn - PHOTOS BY PETER GANNUSHKIN / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET AND ANDY NEWCOMBE
  • Photos by Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net and Andy Newcombe
  • Joe McPhee and Susan Alcorn

This morning Chicago art gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey—which also runs a superb record label under the same name, focusing on jazz and improvisation—announced the winners of the first Instant Award in Improvised Music. The honor, which includes an unrestricted prize of $50,000, is the first of its kind celebrating improvised music. Major awards such as the MacArthur Fellowship or the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts have occasionally gone to musicians who work extensively in improvisation, among them Ken Vandermark, Matana Roberts, and Nicole Mitchell, but never has such a lofty prize focused exclusively on the practice.

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Urgh! A Music War and other punk and postpunk new wave cinema

Posted By on 07.10.18 at 06:00 AM

David Byrne in Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense
  • David Byrne in Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense
The concert movie Urgh! A Music War (1982), which Chicago Film Society will screen on Monday at Music Box, is an invaluable document of late punk, post-punk, and new wave music, with live performances by XTC, Devo, Gang of Four, Oingo Boingo, Magazine, Gary Numan, Klaus Nomi, the Cramps, the Fleshtones, the Go-Go's, the Dead Kennedys, the Police, and more. Here are five additional films that showcase the 80s' gritty, original, sometimes experimental, and always vibrant new sounds.

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Pullman to get first new residential building in nearly 50 years

Posted By on 07.10.18 at 06:00 AM

A rendering of Pullman Artspace Lofts - ARTSPACE
  • Artspace
  • A rendering of Pullman Artspace Lofts

The historic Pullman neighborhood is getting 38 units of affordable housing inside a new $18 million artists' enclave—some 124 years after Pullman railroad car workers went on strike over the company's refusal to lower their rents after cutting their pay.

The Pullman Artspace Lofts, a new apartment building to be built between two long-abandoned Pullman workers' housing units, sits on three-quarters of an acre on Langley Avenue, just south of 111th Street. The three-story, 32,000-square-foot complex sits on land that's been vacant for 88 years. The construction itself marks the first new residential development built in Pullman in nearly half a century. It's unique because it will house 2,000 square feet of community space intended to be used as an art gallery, meeting place, classrooms, and community room. It's expected to open in early fall 2019.

The Artspace Lofts is a home-grown project in a neighborhood that has more than its share of artists, including painters, musicians, filmmakers, sculptors, and ceramicists, said architect Ann Alspaugh, a board member and past president of Pullman Arts, a neighborhood nonprofit whose volunteers have worked on the development for the past eight years.

"It's [the result of] a lot of hard work by a lot of people," she said, noting that the project required meeting and even exceeding local and state landmark and historic district requirements, obtaining unconventional funding, and conducting detailed feasibility studies.

Alspaugh volunteers as a community member; the project architect is the Chicago firm of Stantec (formerly VOA). Alspaugh said she's satisfied that the lofts fit in with the surrounding historic architecture. The developers modified the plans after residents expressed concerns and after reviews by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

"The first thing we want to do is to start an annual art fair," said Alspaugh, who moved to the Pullman neighborhood in July 2010 with her husband, musician Q Kiser, from Rogers Park. The couple bought a three-bedroom house with a front and back yard, a basement, and a garage for what a condo in Rogers Park would have cost. "It also gives me a door into living amid historic architecture and helping restore historic architecture," she said.

Construction of Artspace Lofts is expected to start in September, with tenant applications expected to start being processed next summer. The rents are set so that they're affordable to families at or below 30, 50, and 60 percent of the area median income, which is $38,370 in Pullman, compared with the citywide median of $53,006. That means a studio apartment would rent for $360 a month for a single person who lives at or below 30 percent of the Pullman average, while a two-bedroom unit would rent for $910 a month for a family at 60 percent of the median income.

The complex will house three studio apartments along with 16 one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom units, and the development will have 25 bicycle spaces and a parking lot for 17 cars. (Street parking is expected to accommodate another 20 cars.)  The developers and a board made up of neighborhood artists will review potential tenants' applications with an eye toward accepting people involved in creative or artistic work who want to be a part of a community devoted to that.

"It's not about the quality or kind of [art] work a person is doing; it's about seeing a demonstrated commitment to a creative pursuit and wanting to be a part of a community that supports" that goal, says Andrew Michaelson, director of property development for Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that develops affordable places where artists can live and work.

Pullman Arts, the neighborhood nonprofit, will curate and operate the gallery space for artists' showings, performances, and meetups. The Lofts' hallways and corridors are also intended to be space where residents can create murals and other works, Michaelson said.

The construction is expected to employ 120 people, and the developers have hired a consultant to ensure that women, local businesses, and people of color are hired to help with the work, said Ciere Boatright, director of real estate development and inclusion at the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, part of the development team for the Lofts project.

The project was not without some opposition. Some residents have objected to the design plans in a neighborhood with strict landmark guidelines but officials said the project is moving forward.

The lofts are expected to generate $13 million in low-income tax credits and another $1.2 million in historic tax credits. Alderman Anthony Beale (Ninth Ward) says they're part of a "renaissance" in the Pullman neighborhood that's seen $300 million in investments and the creation of 1,300 jobs in the past decade. The neighborhood still suffers from the blight of foreclosures—many elderly residents lost their homes during the housing crisis—but more properties are being rehabbed, and some houses are selling for more than $280,000. "The opportunities are growing every day," he says. "I just need more restaurants and hotel chains."

While Pullman's population declined by almost 16 percent between two five-year periods (from 2006-2010 to 2011-2015), the number of people living in poverty also dropped by nearly 16 percent; six-figure households grew by 58 percent, and the number of college graduates jumped by nearly 10 percent, according to the Metropolitan Planning Council's analysis of the latest U.S. Census data.

The most dramatic increases in college graduates and six-figure households took place in an area bordered by the Bishop Ford Freeway to the east, 103rd Street to the north, Cottage Grove Avenue to the west, and 111th Street to the south. The area includes the 180-acre Pullman Park, a $125 million mixed-use site that has created 800 new jobs.

Pullman Park includes a 150,000-square-foot Walmart, a Method soap factory, a new Whole Foods distribution center, a second greenhouse for hydroponic greens grower Gotham Greens, and a Potbelly Sandwich Shop that anchors the Gateway Retail Center. That's in addition to the historic Landmark Inn and Greenstone Church, both renovated, and the iconic Clock Tower and Administration Building, which has been renovated into the visitor center for the Pullman National Monument, which was established by President Barack Obama in 2015.

"Everyone is getting lifted up by the positive things that are coming," Alspaugh said.

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Agenda Teaser

Music
J@K@L Experimental Sound Studio
July 16
Performing Arts
Duck and Cover Classroom The Time Gallery
August 10

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