It was a dark and stormy night. Everyone felt like getting a little tribal.
Brilliantly Mad, a hippie-raver promotions company, was throwing a weeklong series of parties called Adventure in Chi-Town to celebrate seven years of parties, yoga classes, “political discussions,” and issues of its magazine full of seventh-grade-level musings about shit like “awareness” and “consciousness,” plus like five pages per issue of half-naked chicks with rainbow-colored hair.
BM founder Dave Zim asked America’s Meth Problem, made up of members of several local noise acts–Rotten Milk, Soft Serve, Safety Pin, Carpet of Sexy, and others–to perform last week for their Thursday Night Static event at the Lincoln Park bar Big House. It’s not the kind of place I usually patronize: squeaky-clean floors, plasma screens, guys in baseball caps. “Ralph [that’s Bubblegum Shitface to you] said he was bringing a tarp to the party,” says Zim. “I told him that we can’t make a mess.”
Before the show, Soft Serve’s Eleanor Balson hosted a mud wrestling bout on her neighbors’ roof in Humboldt Park. She mixed two and a half bags of topsoil with rocks and mulch, poured it onto the rooftop, and sprayed it all down with a hose. Then she and a dozen friends threw down, tangling limbs and slamming one another to the ground.
Around 10 PM we all headed to Lincoln Park. The musicians were covered head to toe in mud–instead of hair they all had slimy brown tendrils. Chunks of mud plopped off them as they walked into the bar, where a muscular door guy in a tight T-shirt stopped them immediately. “What’s the matter with you?” he asked. “Haven’t you ever been in a club in Chicago before? You can’t come in here like this.” He pointed out that besides their filth, many of them weren’t wearing shoes or shirts. “There’s a car wash down the street,” he sputtered. “Go clean yourselves off.”
So they went and squeegeed their faces and chests then covered their limbs in Saran Wrap and put on clean clothing. When Rotten Milk returned to Big House he was wearing a gold lame dress over swaths of plastic wrap. “Look at me,” he said. “I’m in a sparkly new dress, and I’m much cleaner. Can we come in and play now?”
The door guy wasn’t having it. “Get out of here,” he said.
Fashion designer Stephany Colunga, who was wearing a fetching clown suit over her Saran Wrap, cried “You don’t know what you’re missing!” before storming away. We all followed her.
Outside, 20 of us tried to figure out where to go: The Wendy’s parking lot? A random open mike? And then it started right there, on the sidewalk. People pulled drums, tambourines, and a recorder out of Shitface’s van. We all yodeled, fake beatboxed, hooted, and yelled at the top of our lungs, and it turned into an epic mosh-pit powwow.
Eric Graf, cofounder of the zine and record label Terry Plumming, got some one-gallon cans of banana pudding out of the van and started smashing them against the curb. We were all splattered in yellow spooge faster than you can say Gallagher.
Someone had brought along a six-foot-long red plush dragon, which I threw into the pit. Thirty seconds later it was gutted, an explosion of Styrofoam snow sticking to the mud and the pudding, getting in our hair, eyes, and mouths. Bar patrons started to come outside to see what all the fuss was about.
“Yeah, um, there are a bunch of Caucasians vandalizing the sidewalk,” I heard the door guy say into his cell phone.
Soon a legion of cop cars pulled up, lights a-flashin’. We packed up lickety-split and headed out. Half of us went back to Balson’s for a group shower. I got there after they’d cleaned up a bit, but it still looked like a giant enema bag had exploded all over the floor. Bubblegum Shitface was down to his skivvies, playing a marimba in Balson’s bubble-gum-pink living room. Others, in various stage of undress, crowded together on a bench in front of a big white piano, listening to Shitface’s sweet little tippy-tap, occasionally banging out a discordant burst of accompaniment.
Earlier that evening I’d attended a “Designer Sample Sale & Spa Soiree” hosted by Julie Darling and Beauty on Call at Architectural Artifacts. The classy affair included deeply discounted spring and summer clothing from the likes of Development, Kasil, Ulla Johnson, Antik Denim, and Christopher Deane that the rich-hipster boutique Jake was desperately trying to get rid of, plus some late-90s horrors Hugo Boss was hawking out of plastic Tupperware bins. A few local designers and girlie boutiques had set up tables as well, and a catering company had assembled a mini chocolate fountain that looked like a runny brown wedding cake.
These events are always the same: tan women with bad highlights sipping free fruity cocktails and casting evil sidelong glances at whoever looks out of place. They’re never what I’d call fun, exactly, but hey–free drinks.
This one was relatively tame. People were polite, actually saying “excuse me” when they shoved a row of hangers into your face. It was nothing, for example, compared with the Billion Dollar Babes sample sale I suffered through a few weeks ago.
Held in a freshly rehabbed warehouse at Damen and Grand, Billion Dollar Babes cranked the bitch factor up to 11. Row after row of racks of clothing from designers popular on eBay boutiques–Sass & Bide, Rebecca Taylor, Wendy Hil–and hundreds of people were packed onto two floors that smelled like a sweaty crotch. The manic energy of all that concentrated shopping made us hungry for leftovers we didn’t want when they cost less during the clearance sale at Tangerine six seasons ago. I started laughing maniacally when I got my hangers in a tangle with someone trying to head upstream and disrupt the natural order, but I lost my cool when a tall, thin brunette extended an Inspector Gadget-like arm and grabbed the exact top I was eyeballing but couldn’t reach. “Excuse me,” I snapped, and yanked it from her talons.
I ended up with nothing, and like a total asshole I didn’t even bother putting my clothes away.
When we tried to leave, a big guy in a suit told me to open my purse.
“You can’t legally check my bag,” I told him. “You’re not a real police officer.”
“Oh yeah?” he said, opening his jacket to reveal a shiny badge. “Now open your purse.”
On my way back to the car a gray-haired man in a maroon sedan pulled up and asked what was going on in that building. “Christmas presale,” I told him. “Cabbage Patch Kids.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andrea Bauer.