Pilsen's punk scene then and now

March 4, 2013

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Pilsen's punk rock legacy was on display Saturday at a pair of reunion shows for the beloved and influential ‘90s band Los Crudos. The band's lead singer, Martin Sorrondeguy, grew up in Pilsen in the 1980s, but initially knew few other kids in his neighborhood who shared his tastes.

"When we saw another kid, no matter if you were Latino or a white kid who grew up in the neighborhood, if you were remotely alternative we would run two blocks to catch up with you," he recalls. "Like, 'Are you into punk? We’re into punk! Let’s hang out!'"

That would change, as bands like Los Crudos cemented Pilsen’s reputation as a haven for punk.

Los Crudos was highly influential and much beloved during its ‘90s heyday. Sorrondeguy wrote and sang entirely in Spanish, and when he came out as gay at the height of the band’s popularity, it solidified the group’s reputation for radically inclusive politics.

The hundreds of fans from all over the city lined up at the ChiTown Futbol sports facility to see the band play probably weren’t surprised by the unconventional venue; Los Crudos always had a preference for playing in underground and alternative spaces.

"If the Metro or somebody wanted us to play some show it was like, no," Sorrondeguy said. "We just wouldn’t do it. It had to be completely independent and DIY and not some established club."

In 2010, WBEZ’s Robin Amer and the Chicago News Cooperative’s Meribah Knight interviewed Sorrondeguy for a story about Logan Square’s Fireside Bowl, which was a much-loved if crusty music venue favored by Los Crudos and other bands in Chicago’s punk scene during the ‘90s.

In the interview, Sorrondeguy talked about coming out, the evolution of Pilsen’s punk scene, and trying to explain punk rock to his Uruguayan immigrant parents.

"My mom would always be like, 'What is punk about? What is it? Is this what it is?'" Sorrondeguy remembers. "She could never understand how we could all fall under one umbrella, how we could all be at the same shows but not believe in the same things."

You can hear a slightly edited version of the interview in the audio above.

(Note: The interview contains some unedited profanity.)

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the Sorrondeguy family's country of origin.