Chicago may be erm... less than temperate for much of the year, but during the summer it's glorious, with a bevy of amazing $5 suggested donation street festivals. Festivals in more fully gentrified neighborhoods such as Lakview, Roscoe Village and especially Wicker Park traditionally grab the most attention with big-name national indie acts. This year's Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival (run by I Am Logan Square, NOT a professional festival promoter) is taking a different route. Besides having a stronger local art and family focus, MAAF also booked a strong lineup with some of the local scene's best bands. (Even more importantly, they ditched the Linenkugels and Bud and let Revolution Brewing handle the brews!)
The fest will start with a bang at the Main Stage 9PM Friday night. JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound is a six piece lead by the titular frontman who mix soul, funk and rock to make DANCE music, goddamit! Like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings but with a younger attitude and less dedicated 60's fetish. The band may be best known for it's uptempo cover of Wilco's, new classic, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart".
But early singles and debut album Beat Of Our Own Drum, show that the band has the versatility and songwriting skill to transcend novelty cover status. "Baltimore Is The New Brooklyn" is a funky and clever dig on hipster enclaves that are "a short train ride from the place you really want to be". Although I may take umbrage at the song's digs on Jersey, I can't argue with the fact that "no one wants to live in Washington D.C."
Playing the same stage Saturday night at 9PM are local siblings, gingers and ice cream truck hijackers, White Mystery. Despite a Sound Opinions appearance, Alex and Francis White have remained a mostly local-level band. It's true both the garage rock sound and the red and white colored, brother-sister duo, guitar/drums combo-thing practically demand comparisons to the White Stripes. However the group owes just as much to the echoey garage jamming of longtime Chicago fixtures The Ponys.
White Mystery released its second album, Blood & Venom ("recorded in a Chicago steel factory") earlier this summer and has been gigging around the city relentlessly on it. I saw them play the whole thing for 20 people in a Logan Square record store in June and they've hit other festivals since. Fortunately, their songs stand up, such as "Snack Culture" which is a punky jeremiad against US society.
They also have this song called "Party". It's just as silly, offhanded and fun as any song with "party" in the title should be. Listen to it, love it, wear it out this summer.
In an unfortunate scheduling conflict, White Mystery will play against our friends from Tuesday, The Eternals. They've been fusing art rock, punk, dub and into harsh, dystopian and spacey brew that hits you like a cold cup of sonic coffee. It's music that can't be ignored, as the band slips sly basslines and hints of melody into a sonic collage that sounds like the perfect soundtrack for Thunderdome: Chicago Edition.
But despite their rough edges, it's impossible not to recognize the meaty rhythms and nearly-hidden hooks hidden in Eternals songs that keep you coming back for more.
Closing things out Sunday night will be Chicago mashup artiste the Hood Internet. He's perhaps best known around these parts for a mashup of local faves "Jesus, Etc." and "The Superbowl Shuffle" but for those willing to make a few clicks, there's oodles of free mixtapes worth of premade dance parties for the takin' on his website. Hood is a bet less cluttered or cerebral in his mashup choices than obvious touchstone Girl Talk, which serves him well in concert. He's unafraid to ride out a good Jackson 5 hook, which is never a bad thing.
I admit that I don't often find myself plopping down and throwing on artists like Hood Internet or Girl Talk, but when you're three IPA's in and your girl's got her summer dress on, who doesn't want endless hooks to dance your weekend away on?
This is by no means an exhaustive listing of bands as there will be eight hours of music on two stages for three days, I look forward to a chance to dig deeper into the local scene and always am on the lookout for suggestions and surprises!