For the second consecutive year, the highlight of the Chicago fall concert season is "Chicago, I Love You." Taking the form this year of an entirely FREE celebration of Chicago arts (music, comedy, literature and much more), "Chicago, I Love You" features hundreds of Chicago artists and takes over nearly thirty venues throughout the city across a ten day span. I spoke last week with "Chicago, I Love You" creator and organizer Tom Schraeder in an effort to find out exactly what it is that makes such an ambitious idea not only possible but successful...
The fall season is often one of the most uneventful for frequent concertgoers in Chicago. The numerous festivals that make the summer a blast wreak havoc on the indoor club scene that follows with a well-documented series of radius clauses and other contracts that wind up keeping some artists from performing here in the fall and winter months.
For the second consecutive year, "Chicago, I Love You" recognizes that hole in the concert schedule and does its best to fill it -but the citywide festival has far loftier aspirations than merely providing live music.
"For years, I would say the Chicago scene had a weird competitiveness. It was around last year that I started to recognize that so many people were just fed up with that and a scene started to happen. And that’s kind of the entire reason I felt last year, despite how much work it was, why I needed to do this again. It almost seemed like it opened something and this year… Now all the artists are together... If we could just bring that positive energy to the community, I know that the city could really thrive off of that" says "Chicago, I Love You" creator and organizer Tom Schraeder.
As national headlines point toward the murder rate and public school system and snicker, "Chicago, I Love You" offers Chicagoans both a respite and something to be proud of. Running through October 20th, the festival takes place at nearly thirty venues that literally span the city - From Harte's in Evergreen Park on the south side to Red Line Tap in Rogers Park on the north side (and everywhere in between).
For the average Chicago concertgoer, the primary exposure to our city's diverse and vibrant music scene all too often comes in the form of the tail end of a thirty minute opening set before a nationally touring act at a cavernous venue. But there's incredible musicians performing for a fraction of the price on a nightly basis at any number of smaller, better sounding, more fan friendly neighborhood venues.
"It’s hard to live in a city as expensive as Chicago is (let alone try to just go discover music for ten or fifteen dollars). This is a good way for people to go out and take risks and say 'Ok, I haven’t been to a local show. Let’s see what the scene is all about'" says Schraeder.
One of "Chicago, I Love You's" most admirable goals is it's simple desire to expose people to that fact, for free, in the hopes that they come back - Because that's how excitement builds and a sustainable scene is created.
Chicago's music scene is one of great diversity and as such, "Chicago, I Love You" hits on everything from house music to the blues, indie rock, jazz and more. "We’re really trying to mix all the genres. Chicago is a melting pot and so is the music… But when you go to venues and you see these national acts and you only hear one local band, you’re really not getting a feel for the entire, common sound that’s in the Chicago scene" Schraeder adds.
And it's not just a diversity in local music that this festival celebrates - It's diversity in a variety of art forms that include comedy, poetry, literature, film, photography and more. "We’re really trying to expand these other forms of art in the actual venues that would best represent the art form" explains the organizer.
Last year, "Chicago, I Love You" took place in only one venue and this year it takes place in nearly thirty. The bands are playing virtually for free and the venues have waived cover for this impressive, ten day celebration of Chicago culture, a feat that feat can most likely be credited to Tom Schraeder's contagious passion, not just for the event that he's created and curated, but for the city of Chicago itself (as well as his parternship this year with Do312). Attending any number of the "Chicago, I Love You" events, Schraeder will be performing as well on a bill alongside Shiloh and more on Friday, October 18th at Lilly's in Lincoln Park.
"I’ve toured for years and I’ve been a part of, I feel like, the majority of the larger scenes – as far as just going out and seeing bands and seeing what cities are really about for their music. And right now, and this isn’t an insult to other scenes, but Chicago has something that is unique and common throughout every genre and I think that’s what the community, Chicagoans, will discover from going out to all of these events."
In the nineties, a Chicago scene once infamously labeled "the next Seattle" by Spin magazine spawned an incredible array of musical talent that included bands and artists like Material Issue, Urge Overkill, the Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco, Liz Phair, the Smoking Popes, Veruca Salt and countless others. And with the high level of undiscovered talent rehearsing and performing night in and night out throughout Chicago, it's bound to happen again.
"I think with cycles evolving, everything is moving towards local – so get on the scene before the world gets on Chicago’s scene because it’s really there" concurs Schraeder.
Until October 20th, doing so won't cost you a dime.
(More "Chicago, I Love You" details after the jump)
- Jim Ryan (@RadioJimRyan)
(Jim also hosts "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" Sundays at 6PM central on WIMS and WHFB - streaming at wimsradio.com and via the free TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet)
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Chicago, I Love You
October 10-20, 2013
Hundreds of local Chicago artists
Thirty venues across the city
Click HERE for the full event itinerary