Credit: Alison Green

When Elliot Dicks, 44, moved to Chicago from Columbus in 1989, he was already a touring soundman. He’s been doing sound in local venues since installing his gear at Czar Bar in 1991; a couple years later he moved to the Fireside Bowl, and in 2002 he set up shop at the Empty Bottle, where he remains to this day. He’s incorporated as Elliotsound, but he doesn’t have a Web presence—he’s more of a word-of-mouth guy, and relies for his crew on any of a dozen or so local sound people, among them Che Arthur, Steve Moore, and Gary Schepers. Dicks still works the occasional Fireside show, plus the odd block party and street festival (including the Bottle stages at Do-Division and West Fest), and he tours with Tortoise, the Sea and Cake, and sometimes Shellac. Obviously anybody Steve Albini’s band would hire twice knows what he’s doing, but for me Dicks best proves his mettle at outcall gigs where he has to build a system from scratch. At a Yob show in February he turned the Flat Iron into a white-hot doom-­metal blast furnace, and at this year’s Dark Lord Day he made High on Fire’s stampeding barbarian metal sound as overwhelming outside as I’ve ever heard it indoors. Dicks goes for a balanced, natural mix, in stark contrast to the default festival style of “kick drum, vocals, and a vague muddle in between.” He gives everybody in a band the same juice, with one exception: “If I see someone jumping around,” he says, “I turn them up.”

Philip Montoro

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. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.