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Guitarkestra Rests on E

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At 10 o’clock, shaggy haired guys are still loading in guitars and amps of all sizes through the front doors.

Inside, the stage creaks from the weight of at least 15 guitarists and twice as many amplifiers. Dozens more musicians face the stage or are lined up along the walls; They surround the audience holding Fenders, Gibsons, relics of the past and cheap plastic starter guitars.

If a center can be distinguished, Steve Krakow, or Plastic Crimewave, seems to be it. He has curly hair, a thick moustache, and is dressed like he just strolled out of the Sgt. Pepper’s photo shoot.

Finally, he takes the stage.

Krakow: “Allright, I’m Plastic Crimewave and this is the Vision Celestial Guitarkestra.”

As each guitarist starts to strum the E chord, the floor trembles from a low, inhuman noise. It’s so loud that my ears gave up. My body feels the pulsating drone. It consumes my skull and trembles up and down my ribcage.

Krakow was entranced, just like the rest of his guitarkestra.

Krakow: “It sounded pretty unearthly. I couldn’t distinguish where the sound began yet ended. I think the sound itself was so overwhelming and you could feel it in your gut. you just physically could not get away from it. It’s funny. You can hear that people are slightly out of tune, creating waves. You can definitely hear some feedback in there, too.”

These large guitar ensembles aren’t new. Artists like Rhys Chatham and Glen Branca have composed for as many as 400 guitarists. But Krakow didn’t prepare any composition, and that was intentional.

[More sounds of the guitakrestra]

Krakow: “There were so many things that happened that people didn’t tell me until later. Somebody puked, people were bleeding, people were walking around with amps strapped to them, one guy played in the girls bathroom then the boys bathroom.”

[Guitarkestra sounds]

Krakow: “Yeah we’re definitely building up here. Can hear some ghostly voices. Oh there’s a solo monster, there. But yeah, at a certain point I was definitely trying to get everyone to go to pure tones.”

This hive of guitarists is one of his dreams come to life.

Krakow: “I laid out on my bed when I first got this recording and let it kinda wash over me. It’s disorienting, which is I think how it was there. Even when i had the idea years ago, I had seen it as some sort of sonic exorcism .. because I think there is healing power in sound, it’s been proven.”

The Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitarkestra is happening again this Saturday at the Hyde Park Art Center. If you have a guitar, an amp, and a power chord, setup time is at 2:30.

The Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitarkestra is happening again this Saturday at the Hyde Park Art Center. If you have a guitar, an amp, and a power chord, setup time is at 2:30.

For Eight Forty-Eight on Chicago Public Radio, I’m Nick White.

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