Alderman Proco Joe Moreno and disgruntled neighbors aren’t the only ones questioning the quality of security at the Congress Theater: Electronic dance superstar Bassnectar, who’s performing a sold-out show at the Milwaukee Avenue venue on April 14, is bringing his own security team rather than relying on the theater’s “to ensure that this weekend is a step above any show you have experienced at the Congress before,” according to a post on his Website.
As reported here Friday, the music-friendly 1st Ward alderman has called a Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance Hearing at City Hall on April 17 because of what he says is Congress Theater owner Eddie Carranza’s recalcitrance in addressing problems at the 86-year-old landmark, including shoddy security, unabated noise difficulties for neighbors and underage drinking and drug use.
Carranza and his attorney responded to those charges in an interview published here Monday, and passions have been running high on both sides of the issue in comments posted on this blog and others.
Under the stage name of Bassnectar, Santa Cruz, Calif.-based DJ and producer Lorin Ashton has become one of the major forces in electronic dance music and dubstep, selling out shows around the world and earning a reputation for community activism. He is relatively unique among artists at the theater or arena level in bringing his own security to concerts to assure that his fans are treated well, but he has not emphasized the practice for any other show on his current tour except the Congress.
“He’s pretty large scale; he sold more tickets than any other EDM artist in America last year—250,000 here alone to his solo shows, some as large as 15,000 people,” said the artist’s spokeswoman, Kathryn Frazier of Chicago-based Biz 3 Publicity. “He also gave a dollar a ticket away to charity, and gives a percentage of his larger income away, too. He brings in his own epic PA and additional security to each show so that it sounds better than what was planned and is safer for kids.
“His security make sure kids are OK, have water, etc. He heard about the Congress and what happened after the Rusko show”—the sexual assault and beating of a young woman outside the venue on New Year’s Eve—“and was concerned. I believe they were going to move to the UIC Pavilion or United Center. He is adamant to make it super-safe on this one.
“He never did press or talked about all this until now.”
Meanwhile, as defenders of the Congress continue to charge Moreno with a political vendetta against the theater—with some going as far as accusing him of an ownership interest in another nearby venue, V Live—Moreno issued the following statement through Matthew Bailey, his director of legislative affairs and communications:
“He has zero financial interest in anything but his house. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.”
Meanwhile, in what is clearly a concentrated public relations campaign to stem off complaints about the venue prior to the hearing at City Hall, Carranza has sent the following letter to his neighbors:
Logan Square Community-
When The Congress Theater first learned about the Deleterious impact and Public Nuisance Hearing on the 17th, it was not from the Alderman's office directly. Unfortunately we read about it on [a] community blog, through a posting from a community member who forwarded out the information she received from Ronda [Locke, Moreno's assistant]. We feel we weren't given a chance like other businesses in the past to speak with the community directly in order to resolve issues and hand before going to the city. We are taking it upon ourselves to set up a meeting to invite the community out to the theater to engage in an open dialogue with me as the owner of Congress Theater and the members of my team. We have selected Sunday April 1st at 2:00pm to make this happen. I want to make sure Congress Theater understands any issues the community may still have and what we can do to resolve them. I also want to explain to you all who we are, what we do, and what are plans are for the neighborhood going forward. I encourage any of you who have unresolved issues or even future ideas for our theater to attend.
Alderman Moreno and Ronda scheduled the hearing for the Deleterious Impact Public Nuisance committee against The Congress Theater in representation of the community. Since they act as the voice to our community within the City of Chicago, they will each receive an invite to this meeting as well to see first-hand if the people are satisfied with our actions and our plans going forward. Members of the Logan Square community, we want your voices to be heard and we want to speak directly with you.
It is my wish that through a mature adult conversation we can cancel what The Congress Theater feels is an unnecessary hearing on April 17th for the Deleterious impact Public Nuisance Hearing and close any unresolved issues with open community dialogue. I believe The Congress Theater is good for the community and encourage you all to come out and show your support and bring to us your ideas you have that might make us better.
Please RSVP through this email chain or directly with Alberto by Saturday March 31st at 630-550-9934 so we can prepare for seating/food. Light snacks to be served.
Owner- Congress Theater