One night in 1999, Dan Miles got together with several friends from his high school years in Oak Park for a session of improvised music and performance at Weeds. He dubbed the gathering “Love Chaos,” and while a few of the musicians were startled when performance artist Katherine Chronis stripped and took the stage wearing only some strategically placed flowers, everyone was game to do it again.

“Love Chaos” grew into an occasional gathering that brings together about 50 artists for what Miles calls a “grassroots party.” It’s strictly improvisational and proceeds with minimal organization; at any given point, established musicians, poets, and dancers might find themselves sharing the stage with complete amateurs and total strangers. “We’re all interconnected,” says Miles. “The person collecting money at the door is onstage a half hour later.”

Miles, who’s worked as a photographer, a grip, and a carpenter over the years, puts together the shows and plays drums in the band. It’s a full-time job, and he’s constantly on the town, attending theatrical performances and film festivals and soliciting participants. His vast network of acquaintances sustains the show, right down to the free hors d’oeuvres provided by friends in the restaurant business. Now people are starting to come to him: lately Miles has been getting E-mails that say, “It looked like people just walked up onstage and performed–can I do that?”

He moved the last show, in December, from Weeds to HotHouse in order to accommodate more people and because, as he sees it, the new venue marks a midpoint between the artistic communities of Pilsen and Wicker Park. The show, which included regulars such as singer and painter S’yen U, actor and singer Susan Marie Lofton, performer Chris “the Big Man” Cronin, and dancer Gregory Winston, drew a crowd of over 300. “It lives up to its name,” says painter Nicole Skrinner, who, along with 14 other visual artists, exhibited her work in HotHouse’s gallery space. “People are performing offstage and on; there are things going on all around you at the same time–dancers, people in costume….It’s never quiet, with people paying attention to one thing.”

Miles is also at work on a “Love Chaos” film, which he envisions as a record of the artists’ lives and the evolution of the event. Shortly before the first show at Weeds, he and a filmmaker friend began taping interviews with local artists–many of whom have since become participants–and he captured that first night on video. Since then, every performance has included a roving band of videographers, who document the night’s proceedings and conduct interviews with participants. Clips from the interviews and footage shot at previous performances are integrated into the live shows, and Miles plans to submit a full-length version to independent film festivals. He also hopes to develop the material into a half-hour TV show along the lines of Wild Chicago or ArtBeat.

While Miles is becoming interested in imposing a little structure on the proceedings–at the very least, he says, “everybody’s act has got to be more concise”–he wants “Love Chaos” to retain an organic, anarchic feel. “It gets clumsy once in a while,” he says, “but that’s the point.”

The next “Love Chaos” event is at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo (312-362-9707), on Friday, March 8, at 9 PM. It’ll include a gallery exhibit, improv by 25 to 30 musicians and performance artists, multimedia works from Merkaba Video, OVT Visuals, and the Undershorts Film Festival, and performances by the Chicago Kings, Environmental Encroachment, and other “more polished” acts; Gioco and Ann Sather will provide the eats. There’s a $10 cover. For more information see

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Audrey Cho.