I've got a whole city to hold down

December 08, 2004

Best of 2004: Logan Square Auditorium

Our ongoing year-end retrospective continues today. To contribute your thoughts on the best albums, songs, acts, shows, or whatever other aspects of Chicago music in 2004, e-mail us post-haste.

Reader Karen Choi writes: "The best show I saw in Chicago this year was without a doubt Arcade Fire at Logan Square on Thanksgiving."

Jack Flack: All the reports we heard on the Arcade Fire gigs were something like ecstatic - and Lazlo can toss in two cents on the Empty Bottle show - but for our purposes I'd rather use this one as a jumping-off point for talking about the emergence of the Logan Square Auditorium as a regular rock venue. In little more than a year it's gone from being a home to occasional dance parties and quinceañeras to hosting a whole series of great bills booked by the Bottle--and now, under MP Shows, it’s supposedly evolving into a seven-days-a-week venue.

Before we go any further I should say that the place has some serious warts, beginning with its atrociously muddy sound. Supposedly concerted efforts have been made to address this – and it’s been a month since I was there – but I haven’t noticed a lot of improvement. Even still, to me, LSA’s emergence is a very big deal: It’s independent, all-ages, can accommodate bills that would draw far too much for the Bottle or the Abbey (for example), has been booked very adventurously – and it’s a handsome old room to boot.

Lazlo Hollyfeld: The Arcade Fire show at the Empty Bottle was most definitely one of the best I've seen in '04. Drumsticks tapping on motorcycle helmets and all that.

But on to LSA, which I definitely see as a work in progress. (Thus any backslapping or critique should be considered subject to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.)

From my last couple of visits there, it does seem that the sound is more "consistent," though still a wee bit short of the competence you would like for some of the quality in acts there. I really love the feel of the room, and how, if you look through the windows behind the stage, you can see the monument in the square all lit up at night.

Jack: The view is another big bonus in my book. But the last time I was there they’d covered over the windows with brown paper! Dumb dumb dumb.

Lazlo: Another beef, this one on behalf of the alkies in the audience: Considering the fact that the shows I've seen there have been promoted either by the Bottle (where I can get cheap Maker's Mark and Point) or MP Shows (who previously booked the Fireside, where I drank nothing but PBR and High Life), the drink prices and selection leave a lot to be desired. To me, the liquor and the shows go hand-in-hand – and the overpriced MGD and Heineken aren't cutting it.

Jack: I hear you. But this is supposed to be the Best of 2004, so if I may, let me take this is another direction. I’ll throw out some names: !!!, Adem, the Arcade Fire, the Constantines, Danger Mouse, Diplo, Electrelane, Explosions in the Sky, Junior Boys, the Like Young, Mouse on Mars, Múm, Murs, Non-Prophets, Will Oldham, Peaches, Peanut Butter Wolf, Perceptionists, Q And Not U, the Race, RJD2, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Shock G, the Wrens. You could have seen all of those acts at LSA this year (and most of them I did). So while they’ve got work to do on the experience of seeing shows there, the talent on display - when you line it up like that - is simply sick. It blows away pretty much every other venue in town.

Lazlo: And don’t forget Xaul Zan.

But seriously, a couple questions: I know that when the Reader column came out about MP Shows taking over booking LSA full-time, it mentioned that the Bottle was planning to open another, similar-sized room. Was that just blowing smoke (to pretend they weren't hurt by getting cut out of LSA, when they were the ones who made the room desirable in the first place) or is there something still in the works? Also, from eyeballing the MP Shows site, it’s clear they’re not filling LSA every night like they claimed they’d do. Is this just a gradual ramping up, or what?