In my preview of Chicago’s World Music Festival last week I discussed the consortium of midwestern international music festival organizers that had emerged to block book touring artists, a practice that not only defrays expenses for all involved, but makes touring the U.S. at this time of year more attractive to foreign artists. Lining up a tight cluster of gigs in a specific area is much more efficient than flying all over the country in haphazard fashion. Unfortunately, because the city dismissed fest organizers Michael Orlove and Brian Keigher last year, Chicago lacked representation at this year’s consortium meetings, and further, the decision to make all of this year’s concerts free of charge limited the involvement of commercial music venues.
What does that mean to the average international-music fan? You can see two of the best working international acts at City Winery—tonight the Portuguese fado group Deolinda performs and tomorrow Romanian brass group Fanfare Ciocarlia play—but the shows, by two groups that are superior to most artists playing this year’s WMF, aren’t actually part of it, and that means you’ll have to shell $18 for each. If the artists had been part of the WMF’s old model they probably would’ve been on strong double bills that cost less money, but the current organizers seem to think it’s better to present a less comprehensive program for free than a fuller and richer slate of bands for a reasonable fee.