A bazaar of bizarre electronics at ESS
On Saturday from noon till 6 PM, Experimental Sound Studio in Ravenswood hosts its fourth annual Experimental Garage Sale. Despite its name, it’s not an “everything must go” clearance for unwanted junk but rather a craft fair for DIY electronics tinkerers and fans of DIY electronics tinkering, with a dozen vendors selling “circuit bent devices, un-bent toys, electronic parts, kits, experimental instruments, contact microphones, guitar pedals, art, and more.”
Unatronics offers a handheld optical theremin called the Beep-It and a simple sequencer called the Seeq-It, among other devices; Cordinated makes colorful yarn-wrapped audio cables. Tim Kaiser from Duluth, Minnesota, builds electronic instruments that double as art objects, including electric kalimbas and a “Chime Box” of repurposed wood, whose five “jingle mechanisms” each have their own volume control. The folks from GetLoFi in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sell components, customized instuments, and circuit-bending kits and also maintain a blog with “tips and resources for beginners and pros.” The sale includes a raffle for prizes donated by the vendors, and all proceeds from raffle tickets go to ESS.
On Sunday afternoon ESS launches a monthly series of five circuit-bending workshops taught by Patrick McCarthy of the duo Roth Mobot, who are among the vendors at the sale; classes are $40 each ($35 for students and ESS members), $160 for all five. —Peter Margasak
Mosh for Cancer at Reggie’s Rock Club
Metalheads might want to look into the feasibility of smuggling a cot and toothbrush into Reggie’s Rock Club on Fri 6/3: that night’s show, a benefit for the National Brain Tumor Society called Mosh for Cancer, is just the beginning of a weekend full of metal. At 2 PM on Sat 6/4 and again on Sun 6/5, students from the Chicago School of Rock play $10 all-ages shows of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden covers—the first of which ought to prime you for some shopping at the “metal market” at 3 PM on Saturday. It’s all-ages too, and there’s no cover; I gather it’s something like a farmers’ market, except with angry records instead of nutritious vegetables. Then there’s another full bill of metal the night of Sat 6/4—but more on that in a minute.
Mosh for Cancer is headlined by Slauter Xstroyes, an aggressive progressive-metal band who were brilliantly out of step with the times in their 80s youth; they broke up in 1989, but their 1985 album Winter Kill has attracted a passionate cult following. They’ve been working on a hometown comeback (and touring Europe), and it’s possible their moment has finally arrived. Playing first are Panzer (death/thrash), followed by Act of Destruction (tech-death), True Witness (melodic), Deadmanswake (blues-tinged, female-fronted), and Sins of a Nation, whose lineup includes event organizer Dave Dunsire.
Dunsire calls himself a “Teacher of Mayhem and Mysticism” on his Facebook page—meaning he’s a metal-guitar guru at the Naperville School of Rock (he’s also taught at the Chicago branch). He was inspired by a friend’s cancer diagnosis to put together a benefit concert with a wide diversity of talent, including young bands, and he hopes it will counter some of the negative stereotypes his fellow suburbanites might harbor about metalheads—like that they have no social conscience, for instance. I don’t know how many Napervillains will come out for this show, but it’s a damn good deal at $10 for six bands. Music starts at 6 PM, and it’s 17+.
Saturday’s 8 PM concert is presented by local label RIP, which specializes in old-school metal, complete with the sort of lurid album covers that horrify parents and art fans nearly equally. Headliner first, the bill is Desaster, Superchrist, Malas, and Scythe—a new band from Rick “Scythe” Sprague, founding guitarist and vocalist of Usurper. Cover is $20 and it’s 17+. —Monica Kendrick
The Abbey Pub gets a Spike TV makeover
I don’t need much of a nudge to check out an Unsane show anywhere in Chicago, but when I heard they were playing the Abbey Pub last Wednesday, an ulterior motive presented itself. The great PR machine that daily bombards my in-box had just informed me that the Abbey had been visited earlier in May by Bar Rescue, an upcoming Spike TV reality series hosted by consultant Jon Taffer.
Much like its kin Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant: Impossible, the show has a pretty self-explanatory title. It sounds like the bars in question get subjected to prototypical TV makeovers: a fast-talking know-it-all inserts himself into a troubled business, handing out subpar grades to every aspect of the operation, and then proceeds to do whatever the hell he wants while the owners pretend to like it.
The Abbey’s main concert hall got a minor face-lift, including new wood floors, new lighting, and a couple coats of paint (the creepy leprechauns on the walls were removed just before the renovation). The pub itself, now dubbed “The Green Room,” received much more attention. Its classic albeit somewhat noncommittal Irish-pub decor has been replaced by what the PR calls a “more updated and rock ‘n’ roll look,” which I’d describe as “slightly corny Hard Rock Cafe lite”—guitars hanging on the walls, cheetah-print tabletops, cymbals repurposed as light shades, and a dramatic drum-set chandelier that’s actually pretty cool. Taffer has also revamped the food and cocktail menus and remodeled the outdoor patio to have a sterile, almost nightclubby feel.
Given how sadly underattended the Unsane show was (yes, it was chilly and raining, but there couldn’t have been more than 50 people there at the end), God knows I’m rooting for the Abbey. The pilot episode of Bar Rescue is tentatively scheduled for July 19, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the publicity helps. —Kevin Warwick