When COVID-19 suspended the concert industry, it didn’t just mean we’d miss out on the bands we were already looking forward to seeing—we’d also miss out on the bands we didn’t yet know we wanted to see. As ubiquitous as streaming and social media are, they can’t beat live shows as paths to music discovery.
Live shows and the independent venues that host them matter even more when it comes to local music. Concerts are prime vectors for word of mouth among fans, and there’s no telling how much of that we’ve lost with large gatherings off the table for so long. Hell, I’ve even joined a metal trivia group, less for the game than for an excuse to shoot the shit with fellow record nerds and Chicago concert pals. It gives me something I can’t get in my “pod,” where nobody ever wants to talk about who played bass on what album in which tiny subgenre—even when I lose on points, it’s a win!
The shutdowns have also made compilations that highlight local underground artists—which I admittedly have taken for granted for way too long—feel a little more precious this year. They’ve been a great way to sample new music and support local artists and labels—and some of them have also raised money for organizations doing great work in or out of the arts community (such as the Movement for Black Lives and the Chicago Community Bond Fund).
So I was especially pleased to find out that the new tenth volume in Angry Peasants’ compilation benefits the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL). Angry Peasants Volume X collects 32 tracks of metal, punk, noise rock, and other sonic oddities from Chicago and beyond (and includes a few members of my metal trivia group!). There are familiar names (the Mons, Pale Horseman, Varaha), newcomers (Gravelust, 5RVLN5), and surprises—Hypervolume’s “Struggling” features vocals from former Chicagoan and current mayor of Santa Cruz, Justin Cummings (it’s a cover of a song he and Angry Peasants founder “A. Human” wrote 20 years ago for their metal band Loki).
My musical taste would map as a scatter plot, not a straight line, and I enjoy the diversity of sounds—the scathing “Minotaur” by Nequient sits next to the cloudlike, ambient “Tempest” by Our Earth Is a Tomb. I also appreciate a comp that mixes plain old absurdity (an odd cover of “Monster Mash” by the Weird Bananas) with political commentary (“Heroes” by street punks Squared Off).
Now that Congress has finally passed a new relief bill, which includes $15 billion toward independent venues (a victory for the #SaveOurStages initiative), it’s slightly easier to be optimistic about when and how the concert ecosystem might return. But that government money will only cover a small fraction of venues’ losses—as we head into our second year with COVID-19, the battle for live music rages on, much of it fought not in Congress but city by city. Buying Angry Peasants Volume X and other similar benefit compilations is one of the most fun ways to do your part to (as the cover art says) “Save CIVL-zation.” v
The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.