Credit: Michael Adkins

Lorena Cupcake at


Lorena Cupcake, 28, founded Store Brand Soda with the even more pseudonymous Hotdish Ramone in August 2014, inspired by the combo of music calendar and blog at garage-rock clearinghouse Victim of Time. Friendly, playful, and no-bullshit, Cupcake’s posts use a dirt-under-the-fingernails familiarity with Chicago underground rock to convey unpretentious, all-aboard enthusiasm rather than clubhouse exclusivity: “Dem Platinum Boys sound like the kind of old school butt rock that you listen to on a shitty radio in your back yard while drinking Miller Lite in a kiddie pool,” to quote a recent example. Periodic “Show Horoscope” roundups categorize concerts according to imagined subtypes of fan (“You’re a Baby Teen,” “For the Basement Dweller,” “You Just Wanna Fucking Party”), but it’s basically all about dirty weirdos banging on guitars. “I spend hours a week sifting through show listings, writing up show previews, boosting and promoting the work of my friends. I know that’s seen as inherently less valuable than picking up a bass and being in a band,” Cupcake says. “I strongly believe that people who are willing to do behind-the-scenes work are part of what makes the scene work, and I’m totally fine with most of what I do being out of the spotlight.” Cupcake’s best-traveled post so far, an April essay subtitled “Building Community & Ending Harassment in Punk,” tells a tale of getting creeped on and berated by a drunk drummer at a show in Austin, then resolves into a long and thoughtful discussion of how to deal with the “missing stair” personalities that can make music scenes unsafe. And the talk comes with plenty of walk: despite working full-time at a bank, Cupcake also volunteers for nascent arts nonprofit Pure Joy, which aims to open an all-ages, LGBT-inclusive, wheelchair-­accessible punk venue in Chicago.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.