WBEZ | indie music http://www.wbez.org/tags/indie-music Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Declaration of independence: From politics to indie rock http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/declaration-independence-politics-indie-rock-100628 <p><p>The Fourth of July is, without question, my favorite holiday: It is the only holiday where it is socially acceptable to set off explosives, spend part of the day in a potato sack&mdash;ideally eating potato salad between hops&mdash;playing a fife with a flag painted across your face. But somewhere between a spontaneous relay race and a Roman candle flare, as Whitney Houston&rsquo;s (R.I.P.) rendition of the &ldquo;Star Spangled Banner&rdquo; blares in the distance, you stop to think about what it is you&rsquo;re celebrating: independence.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/wupsPg5H6aE" width="420"></iframe></p><p>When you think about what it means to be independent, context is key: When used in the American historical context, it is a celebration of sovereignty; when my mother uses it to explain why none of her adult children are married, &ldquo;independent&rdquo; is a euphemism. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5974_AP080425032416-scr.jpg" style="height: 215px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Kim Deal (AP/File)" />Given the broad breadth of its meaning, <em>Afternoon Shift</em>, decided to focus on three threads: political, personal and cultural. We gathered a red-white-and-blue-ribbon commission, comprised of independent thinkers, activists and artists: Laura Beth Nielsen, Susan Nussbaum, Steve Albini and Kim Deal.</div><p>Attorney and sociologist Laura Beth Nielsen is the director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University. She says the idea of independence in America is one of the most powerful concepts one can deploy in a political or legal argument. Its meaning has, like many things, evolved over time. In modern America, Nielsen says, independence is the freedom to do certain things&mdash;to speak, to assemble, to worship. But it&rsquo;s also the right <em>not</em> to do certain things.</p><p>&ldquo;So there&rsquo;s a positive and a negative element to declaring independence and freedom,&rdquo; Nielsen explained. &ldquo;And those things often come into conflict. And so it becomes the role of government to moderate and maintain that balance.&rdquo;</p><p>No problem there&mdash;one unanimous decision after another in American politics.</p><p>Independence Road is long, windy and difficult. Which is why, Nielsen says, we celebrate people when they&rsquo;re able able to break out of whatever oppressive system they&rsquo;re in.</p><p>Author, playwright and disability rights activist <a href="http://codeofthefreaks.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">Susan Nussbaum</a> says it is a uniquely American perspective to overemphasize and worship independence and the idea of &ldquo;going it on your own.&rdquo; The ability to pull oneself up by the bootstraps is revered. The trouble with that mentality, Nussbaum says, is that the feature we&rsquo;re raised with is that dependence equals shame. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The ability to produce, engineer and create music independently is a point of pride for artists like <a href="http://www.electricalaudio.com/" target="_blank">Steve Albini</a>. Several years ago, the man who engineered Nirvana&rsquo;s <em>In Utero,</em> penned a manifesto of sorts, titled, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.negativland.com/news/?page_id=17" target="_blank">The Problem with Music</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>In less delicate terms than these, Albini described the moment before a band signs with a major label as teetering on the edge of a trench that&rsquo;s about 4-feet wide and 5-feet deep, maybe 60 yards long...filled with runny, decaying poop.</p><p>Albini was interviewed in the 2002 documentary, <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0397380/" target="_blank"><em>D.I.Y. or Die: How to Survive as an Independent Artist</em></a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Doing things yourself is valuable in its own sake because it teaches you more about the circumstances that you work in and it teaches you more about the different aspects of your existence,&rdquo; Albini said.&nbsp;</p><p>Established artists will frequently turn when an alternative, indie route reveals itself to claim complete control. For her band&rsquo;s first self-release, frequent Albini collaborator, <a href="http://breedersdigest.net/" target="_blank">Breeders</a> leader and Pixies bassist Kim Deal and her band mates tackled everything from artwork to web sales.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems that now, more than at any other time in the past, we could put the music out ourselves - hand-screen some cool artwork ourselves, sell the EPs at our shows and on our website, as well as get them to traditional record stores and other online outlets. So, we&#39;re just going to press up a thousand twelve-inch vinyls,&quot; Deal wrote in a press release about <em>Fate to Fatal&rsquo;s</em> release.</p><p>Deal is currently working with Albini at his <a href="http://www.electricalaudio.com/" target="_blank">Electrical Audio</a> studios in Chicago. So they joined <em>Afternoon Shift</em>, Nielsen and Nussbaum to declare their own interpretation of independence.</p><p>And we want to hear from you too! Tell us what independence means to you: <strong>Call 312-923-9239</strong> or join the conversation on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23AfternoonShift" target="_blank">#AfternoonShift</a>.</p></p> Tue, 03 Jul 2012 13:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-07/declaration-independence-politics-indie-rock-100628 Exploring Pilsen's indie music scene http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-13/exploring-pilsens-indie-music-scene-93120 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-13/Ivan Resendiz.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Musicians and other artists in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood joined forces: They’ve found new spaces in which to collaborate and produced sound-rich results. For WBEZ, Catalina Maria Johnson shared the story featuring cuts from the <em>Pilsen Soundtrack 2.0.&nbsp;</em></p><p>The CD comes out over the weekend as part of the <a href="http://pilsenopenstudios.net/" target="_blank">Pilsen Open Studios</a> events.</p><p>Pilsen has been known as a port of entry for immigrants for centuries. Since the 1970s, the neighborhood developed a reputation as the city’s classic Mexican neighborhood, and today boasts a 93 percent Mexican-American population. Pilsen’s immigrants brought their art with them too – today, the neighborhood is famous for its murals, cultural centers, galleries and the National Museum of Mexican Art. In more recent decades, Pilsen has also become known for its vibrant indie music scene.</p><p>According to musician and producer Jamie Garza, indie music means, “music that is not engineered or sponsored by major corporations.”<br> <br> The scene includes sounds that range &nbsp;from the punk reggae ska beats of a group like Malafacha to the Chicago Latino blues of Argentinean Maria Blues to the classical guitar of Ivan Resendiz.</p><p>But Garza said, over the years, it has been a struggle to find venues for indie music.</p><p>“One of the most difficult things is spaces that are open to non-commercial politically active art and music,” Garza said.</p><p>So musicians sought a home in less traditional spaces, said Robert Valadez, a visual artist and gallery owner:</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-13/pilsen.jpg" style="margin: 10px; float: right; width: 325px; height: 276px;" title="">“In the case of Pilsen, it’s been jelling for the last twenty years, in the '80s I was a youth organizer at Casa Aztlan, and we put on a punk rock show in 1987, it was pivotal back in the day. Later on through the nineties, it was more and more of that thing going on. Kids thinking about different ways of expressing themselves musically and creatively, and it’s been continuing with that momentum,” Valadez said.</p><p>Using community cultural centers as venues for music led to indie artists banding together with visual artists, according to artist, musician and gallery curator Victor Montañez.</p><p>“When we began organizing shows, we would mainly look to Mexico for guys like José Molina, or Ampara Ochoa, or Zazhil, and we would bring them to places like San Pio, or the basement of Casa Aztlan, or Instituto de Progreso Latino when it was on Blue Island. We would transform those spaces, that was like the beginning of the guerrilla art shows and music shows,” Montañez explained.</p><p>It was a community affair.</p><p>“If musicians wanted to have a show, they called the artists, if artists wanted to have a show, they called the musicians,” Montañez added.</p><p>The spirit of that collaboration is behind a new CD. The second album from the Pilsen Soundtrack series was recorded by Jaime Garza and two other producer-musicians and includes a booklet featuring Pilsen’s visual artists.</p><p>The CD also reminds listeners that musicians are going beyond Pilsen’s borders to find spaces for the arts, vocalist Maya Fernandez said.</p><p>“I think that these Pilsen soundtracks, the first and second and hopefully many more to come, their goal is to tell this Pilsen story, and what is Pilsen, of course many people when they think of Pilsen it’s like Pilsen, that’s that’s only Mexicans...there’s some of us who travel to different neighborhoods, and others who are in different neighborhoods that travel to Pilsen all the time, through the music it all comes together, through the unity of everybody who likes music and plays music,” Fernandez said.</p><p><em>Pilsen Soundtrack 2.0</em> includes songs by Buya, a large ensemble from the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Johnson asked Buya member Roberto Perez how a Puerto Rican traditional bomba group ends up on a Pilsen Soundtrack.</p><p>“I don’t know! Pilsen seems to have an open door for us, and you can feel it when you’re playing, we’re welcomed here, and we’re welcomed almost as if it was our community, and we get nothing but love here, and we’ll come back to play anytime here. We love it,” Perez chuckled.</p><p>It’s all part of the Pilsen revolution, neighborhood artist Diana Solis explained.</p><p>“What is so important is that in the past, the Latinos would always do things in their own place, we would never exchange, and today there is so much more of that, being open and learning about each other through our art and music,” Solis said.</p><p>Artist and gallery curator Montañez agreed.</p><p>“Pilsen is really much more than just 18<sup>th</sup> Street, it’s a whole vibe and whole attitude, and it’s revolutionary thinking, there’s always this optimism that we can change the world, we can rock the system, and we are just at the verge of a great movement,” Montañez said. “Pilsen is not a geographic location, it’s a state of mind, it’s a state of heart, it’s a state of art, it’s a state of the art,” he finished.</p></p> Thu, 13 Oct 2011 15:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-13/exploring-pilsens-indie-music-scene-93120