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Furthur Festival Loses Ground 

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Further Festival Loses Ground

Last Memorial Day weekend some 4,000 people flocked to Blue River, Wisconsin, to attend the third annual Furthur festival, a three-day camp out and love-in centered on performances by some of the hotter hands in the electronic-dance-music underground. Since then, once-underground acts like the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy have become superstars, so not surprisingly Furthur's organizers had grand expectations for this year's model.

"I saw the potential for as many as 8,000 people showing up," says one of them, Chicago-based former Timothy Leary consort and dance-music writer David Prince. "I'm super disappointed because I thought it was going to fucking fly this year." But after several setbacks, only a much-diminished version of the party that he and Milwaukee-based promoter Kurt Eckes had envisioned will be held this weekend. The voice on the recording you get if you call one of Eckes's Drop Bass Network hot lines (773-509-6869 in Chicago) refers to it ruefully as a "Little Furthur."

Prince and Eckes say that by last winter they'd tentatively assembled a blockbuster lineup, headlined by an underground legend, turntable artist Plastikman. But when it was announced that England's prestigious Tribal Gathering would take place on the same weekend as Furthur, most of the big names (many of them British) bailed out of their verbal agreements. To their credit, Prince and Eckes managed to pull together a fairly impressive new lineup in short order; it included Chicago experimentalists Tortoise, the revived New York electronic rock outfit Silver Apples, house giant Cajmere, and British "dark" drum 'n' bass pioneers Trace, Ed Rush, and Nico, as well as Poi Energy (Poi Dog Pondering's techno incarnation) and a full slate of club-oriented DJs.

But they still had to find a place to throw the party. Eckes thought last year's location was too remote (a Reader cover story last year reported trouble with attendees' parked cars blocking the single road in and out of the campground), but none of the ones he and Prince requested for this year, foremost among them a private airfield in Wisconsin, came through. "They got cold feet," Eckes says. With little more than a month to go before the fest, it was still homeless.

Rather than expend time and effort promoting something that might never happen, Prince and Eckes decided to further scale down their Memorial Day plans. "You really need to have your shit together," says Prince, "and not having a site down was a potential for disaster." Though it's still spread over four days, the lineup has fewer heavy hitters (both Cajmere and Tortoise are off) and the farmland two hours north of Milwaukee where Little Further will be held can accommodate only about 2,000 people. Furthur's troubles may also prove fractious for its organizers: Eckes says a full-scale Furthur will happen sometime in July, though he's vague about the details--which may just be the underground's proclivity for keeping outsiders in the dark--but Prince told me it was postponed indefinitely, and that he's not sure he'll have time to be a part of it.

Tickets for Little Furthur cost $20 and are on sale locally at Hot Jams, 5012 N. Pulaski, 773-581-5267; they can also be reserved by phone at 414-777-3998. More information about the roster is on the hot-line recording.

Postscripts

Monday, June 16, the opening night of the Texaco New York Jazz Festival (that's the new name for the Knitting Factory's annual What Is Jazz? fest) will pay tribute to (how ironic) Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The Art Ensemble of Chicago is the main attraction, but also performing are Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, the Amina Claudine Myers Trio, an expanded version of Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory that includes trombonist George Lewis, and Joseph Jarman, who is still on sabbatical from the Art Ensemble.

Speaking of the immensely talented and fluid reedist, Jarman (who'll play solo in New York) will make a rare local appearance on August 24 with Fred Anderson and Ed Wilkerson in the final installment of Tenor Madness: Chicago Style, a three-concert saxophone-summit series presented by the Jazz Institute of Chicago and the DuSable Museum of African American History. The first concert in the series, on June 22, matches traditionalist Franz Jackson with swing maestro Eddie Johnson and special guest bassist Ray Brown; the second, on July 20, pairs Von Freeman with Ira Sullivan. Call 773-947-0600 for tickets and information.

This week's release of Material Issue's final album, Telecommando Americano (Rykodisc)--which Jim DeRogatis reviews in Section One this week--provides a vital slice of recent local rock history, but those looking to dig deeper might consider The Quill Records Story, which was released recently by the prolific Pennsylvania reissue label Collectables. Between 1965 and 1967, Quill, a tiny Chicago indie label-cum-production company, put out 20-some snarling proto-punk and pop-inclined garage stompers. Musically it's all pretty marginal, but for any Chicago completist--Chicago the band, that is--the CD is a must just for the raucous sides by the Exceptions, featuring a pre-slow jam Peter Cetera.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Kurt Eckes by Nathan Mandell.

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