Charles Joseph Smith Credit: courtesy the artist

DIY spaces come and go, but people such as Charles Joseph Smith give the city’s nebulous underground scene a sense of cohesion. Smith, who performs under both his own name and that of his performance-art alter ego, Mr. Forefinger, is a champion of the outre, odd, and endearing. A familiar face around independent shows, Smith is likely to be found in the thick of the crowd, busting out dance moves that blur together breakin’ and ballet, which he showed off on local cable-access dance program Chic-a-Go-Go (a fine feather in any underground Chicago musician’s cap). Beyond the world of unlicensed venues, Smith has established himself as a gifted classical composer and pianist; in 2002 he earned a doctorate in piano performance and literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And he’s an aspiring author; he’s currently working on a memoir, I am Doctor Charles Joseph Smith, which digs into his experiences in the arts as a person with autism. Tonight he celebrates the War of the Martian Ghosts (Sooper Records), an album of ten piano compositions that chronicle Smith’s fantastical journey to Mars, the ensuing war upon his arrival, and the aftermath. I’ve taken pleasure in the sonorous, stately piano scales on “March to War,” and though I hope Smith wrote a detailed narrative for the casette’s liner notes, I’ve taken cues from the music to fill in the narrative blanks.   v