Garfield Park Conservatory
Garfield Park Conservatory Credit: Carrie Smith

INDIE | A benefit for hail-battered Garfield Park Conservatory

Last year Sybris drummer Eric Mahle quit to front a new group, Sunken Ships. “I was thinking about the kind of band we wanted it to be,” he says. “I thought that we’d be the kind of band where if we were asked to do a benefit, we’d be down.” So when Mahle heard that the Garfield Park Conservatory—which he calls “one of my favorite places”—had been severely damaged in the June 30 hailstorm, he didn’t wait for somebody else to put together a benefit. “It gave me the idea to just do it myself.”

Hail broke much of the glass in three of the conservatory’s public rooms and all ten of its production greenhouses. Eunita Rushing, president of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, estimates in an open letter that repairs will cost millions, and that exposure to the elements could kill more than half the plants—including cycads in the Fern Room estimated to be hundreds of years old.

Mahle has made lots of connections in the Chicago music scene, both in the hard-gigging Sybris and as a sound engineer (these days most often at Subterranean and Beat Kitchen), and he’s assembled a solid lineup—Sunken Ships are playing, of course, and Bobby Conn, Del Rey, Big Science, Bare Mutants, and DJ Scary Lady Sarah fill out the bill. The show’s at 8 PM at Lincoln Hall on Thu 8/18, and it costs $20.

There’s also a raffle with prizes from dozens of independent Chicago businesses and a silent auction that includes collectibles from LCD Soundsystem, Alkaline Trio, Cap’n Jazz, the Smoking Popes, Pelican, and scene stalwarts like poster artist Jay Ryan, journalist Jim DeRogatis, and photographer Jim Newberry.

Part of the credit for the preponderance of big names goes to Mahle’s unlikely Facebook friendship with Jesus Lizard front man David Yow. “I realized that he was into Scrabble, so we started playing Scrabble together,” Mahle says. “I had the idea to ask him if he wanted to donate artwork, because he’s a really talented painter. He actually suggested that he had this out-of-print, rare Jesus Lizard seven-inch box set that he’d autograph and send. And once I had a couple of people who gave me donations, it gave me the courage to ask everyone. I just shot the moon.”—Miles Raymer

METAL | Rabid Rabbit levels up on a forthcoming full-length

Last week local doom band Rabid Rabbit finished mastering Czarny Sen (“Black Dream” in Polish), their second full-length and first since Arriver guitarist Dan Sullivan came aboard in fall 2009. He joins Arman Mabry (bass), Mike Tsoulous (drums), and front woman Andrea Jablonski (bass, vocals), who calls this Rabid Rabbit’s “first ‘mature’ recording.” The lineup has jelled so that everyone contributes to the writing process, she says. “A lot of it is practiced improv, if there is such a thing—we fell out of any specific genre.”

Czarny Sen consists of four long cuts tracked and mixed with Sanford Parker at Engine over the past few months, plus the previously released 2009 recording “Suicide Song,” with guest appearances by Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, Mark Solotroff of Bloodyminded, and two top-shelf improvisers—saxophonist Dave Rempis and percussionist Michael Zerang. Rempis is practically a regular member now, and plays what Jablonski describes as “Lost Boys-like sax” on “Raven.”

She also calls Czarny Sen “the feel-bad record of the winter,” and “Eclipse” shows why: it’s like a reflection in dark, unquiet water, and Jablonski’s incantatory Polish vocals help create an unease that crystallizes into refracted bolts of dissonant guitar. The album, which should come out around Halloween on Solotroff’s Bloodlust! label, also includes a dirgelike, minor-key cover of “Land of the Glass Pinecones” by late-70s Boston band Human Sexual Response. Rabid Rabbit’s next show is Wed 8/31 at 10 PM at Beauty Bar, with openers Alma Negra (who also open for Mr. Rudy Day at the Hideout Sat 8/13). It’s free, and there’s free pizza from Pie-Eyed.

On an unrelated note, I almost missed the new Cianide album, Gods of Death, which got a vinyl release from Hells Headbangers on Tue 8/2. These Chicago death-metal veterans have been around since 1988, and this is their sixth full-length, but they haven’t been too active lately—their Maryland Deathfest appearance in May was their first show anywhere since 2008. Gods of Death is doomy old-school DM, with a bit of menacing swing to it and a guitar tone like the freshly turned earth of a shallow grave.—Philip Montoro

PUNK | The death of Birth

BirthCredit: Matt-Maniscalco

Mike Siciliano, bassist and singer for local postpunks Birth, is moving to California to pursue a PhD in sociology at UCLA, and the band will play its final show Fri 8/12. Siciliano’s education is also part of the reason Birth was born—he moved here from Pittsburgh in 2008 to get a master’s in sociology at the University of Chicago.

He started Birth with guitarist Josh Russell, drawing on a shared love of music like the Jesus Lizard and early White Zombie. (They’d met when Siciliano was in Pittsburgh hardcore band Brain Handle.) They’ve been through several drummers, but Ian Piirtola has filled that role since winter.

At first Birth was a low-key project; the band had its first show in July 2009, and after that gigged only once every couple months. About a year ago they started playing out more, and since then they’ve released three cassettes and a self-titled album.

For Birth’s swan song, Siciliano jokes, “We’re gonna have an epic light show. It’ll be like Pink Floyd, but different. We’ll have a flying toilet from the roof of the building.” What the trio actually will have might be better: they share the bill with NYC hardcore acts Nomos and the Men and locals Raw Nerve. The show’s at 8 PM at Water Works; for more info, e-mail—Leor Galil

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.