The day after the sad news that it was closing at the end of July became public, I paid tribute to the venerated Hoboken, N.J.
The album covers Cal Schenkel designed in the ’60s and ’70s may not be as iconic as, say, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But they’re close, and arguably stand as far better art. Among then: Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Nighthawks at the Diner by Tom Waits, and We’re Only in it for the Money by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
Born in Philadelphia, Schenkel relocated to the West Coast and began his career as a freelance designer with a specialty in album cover art after only a year at the Philadelphia College of Art. He had a hand in many of Zappa’s best-known cover images—others include Uncle Meat, Hot Rats, and Just Another Band from L.A.—but in recent years has been working more as a painter and print-maker, showing his work internationally.
That work will be on display at the Firecat Projects gallery at 2124 N. Damen, starting today through Aug. 20. Schenkel will chat about his art with WBEZ at 3 p.m.
Following the hubbub of the Pitchfork Music Festival, there were a couple of music news items worth noting in recent days, starting with the announcement of a new music venue in Wicker Park/Logan Square that may put the final nail in the coffin of the troubled Congress Theater.
My Sound Opinions foil Greg Kot got the scoop for The Chicago Tribune on the Concord Music Hall, opening in a 20,000-square foot space at 2047 N. Milwaukee Ave. that formerly housed a Latin music club.
UPDATED with a correction below *
As hopefully was made abundantly clear in the Kelly Conversations, the Pitchfork Music Festival’s booking of Chicago superstar R. Kelly as 2013’s ultimate headliner raised a lot of complicated questions.
I didn’t expect to find answers in Union Park about the big issues of separating the art from the artist and the music from the man’s misdeeds. But it did help narrow down what the presence of the self-proclaimed Sexual Super Freak and Pied Piper of R&B meant to one of the most important music festivals in the world in year eight (or nine, if we count year one as Intonation).
Neither is positive.
My first conclusion is that the appreciation of Kelly by Pitchfork’s powers-that-be and by some (not all) of the paying customers was indeed fueled by irony.
How does the true fan of R. Kelly’s music balance the pleasure that music provides with the unpleasant knowledge of the acts he’s been accused of? Should the private actions of an artist ever impact the appreciation of the art? And what is the responsibility of the fan who supports an artist whose misdeeds are hurting others?
Jenny Benevento is a librarian, a blogger, a cultural commentator, and co-host of the pop-culture podcast “Jenny & Paul Sell Out.” Last October, she participated in an evening entitled “R. Kelly 101: Trapped in the Closet—What, How, Why?” sponsored by Homeroom at the Hungry Brain.
Jake Austen, who also sat on that panel, went to high school with Kelly at Kenwood Academy.
How does the prevalence of rape myths affect society and our appreciation of art? Why is statutory rape—sex with a partner who is not of the age of consent—viewed differently than other kinds of sexual assault? And what does it say when society champions the work of an artist whose personal deeds most would condemn when confronted with them?
Annmarie van Altena is a sociologist who teaches at Loyola University Chicago and specializes in issues of gender, work, media, consumption, and subcultures. A former riot grrrl, she also volunteers with Rape Victim Advocates.
Here are some of the highlights of van Altena’s interview:
"That he was acquitted we seem to believe means that he was innocent… Only three percent of rapes actually result in a prison sentence."
"It’s a responsibility of us as a society to know the truth, and if people are being victimized, it’s up to us to raise that awareness."
"Music is an extension of a lot of our core beliefs, really, and it reflects our culture and how we think... Music is never just music."
"As far as the artist goes, everybody is human.
Does R. Kelly’s music mean something different to younger music critics and self-proclaimed “pop omnivores?” How do they balance discussion of his art and his actions? And why do they think their peers in the Pitchfork audience have embraced this musician?
Simon Vozick-Levinson is an associate editor at Rolling Stone whose work also has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and The Boston Phoenix. In March, he participated in a panel discussion at South by Southwest on the state of pop fandom entitled “Guiltless Pleasures: Imagining a Post-Snob World.”
David Greenwald led that panel.
From the perspective of the psychologist, why do older men seek younger women for illegal sexual relationships? Why would someone videotape such an act? What is the impact on the young woman? And how can fans appreciate the music of someone accused of such acts without thinking about those crimes?
Charmaine Jake-Matthews is a professor of psychology who teaches professional counseling at a university in Arizona. She attended Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park with R. Kelly and the two shared a mentor in the legendary gospel choir teacher Lena McLin. She previously worked as a therapist in Chicago and taught psychology at several local colleges, in addition to counseling troubled teens.
Here are some of the highlights of Jake-Matthews’ interview:
[On the prevalence of older men preying on younger women] "In my work as a counselor I’ve seen many young ladies who have been in that situation at some point in their lives…. I’ve seen many young ladies who have been, I’m going to use the word “victim,” a victim of these situations. It seems to happen pretty frequently from my experience, both professional and personal."
"The impact in my experience is devastating.