Bye, Richie: You were no friend to Chicago music

September 8, 2010

My "Sound Opinions" colleague Greg Kot was quick out of the chute yesterday following the news that Mayor Richard M. Daley will not run for re-election with a damning story recounting the many ways that the like-father, like-son machine politician, so quick to trumpet this extraordinary city's other accomplishments, routinely displayed a tin ear to its unparalleled music scenes -- that is, when his minions weren't actively setting out to destroy them.

I have long speculated that Daley, who was 26 at the time of the Democratic National Convention in 1968, had no more love for rock 'n' roll, the soundtrack favored by all those heads the police force were cracking open, than did his infamous "preserve disorder" dad. And maybe he even cheered when the cops beat the MC5, the only band to show up to play that event, and trashed their equipment.

In any event, reiterating Kot's roster of musical wrongs and preparing for an appearance to discuss the same this morning on WBEZ's "848," here is my short list of the ways Daley has actively hurt the music community, despite the mind-blowing benefits outlined in a 2007 study by the University of Chicago commissioned by the Chicago Music Commission, which called this "a music city in hiding" despite the facts that it generates $1 billion a year and employs 53,000 people (accomplishments a lot more real than the dubious ones the Olympics might have brought).

  • The anti-rave ordinance, restrictive legislation written to curb a scene and a culture that city officials never spent a minute trying to understand.
  • The heavy-handed post-E2 crackdown on live music venues, ignoring the obvious differences between a licensed club or theater and a dangerous dance club that should have been shut down for dozens of violations that were ignored until tragedy struck.
  • The attempts to pass a promoter's ordinance that would have made it nearly impossible for small, independent music boosters to sponsor shows by forcing them to pay steep licensing fees and obtain tens of thousands of dollars in redundant insurance, even when they were working at licensed, insured, and regulated venues.
  • Blocking the Smashing Pumpkins and the survivors of the Grateful Dead from playing in Grant Park (and Radiohead and Kanye West from playing in Millennium Park) and generally closing the city's marquee outdoor venues to any concert that wasn't proposed by an out-of-town big business, like"¦
  • Lollapalooza, and this blog has extensively reported on the long-term sweetheart deal that the city cut for Walmart on the Lake, which is represented by Daley's attorney nephew, whose friend has the beer concession.
  • Similarly, after the dictator-like move of tearing up Meigs Field in the middle of the night, the Daley administration awarded a contract for a low-quality, high-priced concert venue on Northerly Island to the giant, monopolistic national concert promoter Live Nation.
  • Daley's cronies also did their best to steer the Uptown Theatre into Live Nation's hands. Yet while the local Jam Productions prevailed in its claims to ownership of that venue, no TIF funds have been forthcoming for renovations.
  • The destruction of Maxwell Street, a key location in the development of the blues, and a general disregard for this city's rich musical history and landmark sites in genres ranging from jazz to house music.
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