Chicagomuzik

I've got a whole city to hold down

December 10, 2004

Logan Square Auditorium: MP Shows speaks (Plus: More from the Bottle!)

In response to our recent give and take in re the Logan Square Auditorium, MP Shows proprietor Brian Peterson weighed in with extended comments to the post below. I'm going to transcribe those comments here, for two reasons; one, so they're visible without having to click through, and two, because Haloscan wipes its comments out after a certain period of time. Anyway, after Brian's comments, a clarification from the Empty Bottle's Pete Toalson. Boys?

Brian Peterson: Hi, it's Brian from MP Productions Inc.

- I like Pete, have been friends with him for years, but yeah, there are always lines to read between.

- LSA is being set up to handle 7 nights a week, that does not mean it will be booked 7 nights a week, esp during the slow touring season. During this time we are working out the bugs, setting up offices, dealing with staffing issues, promotions etc...by spring/summer the room will be extremely busy and we will be ready for it ... YIPPEEEE!!

- I will not be booking cover bands, Mr. Blotto or anything of that nature just to keep business in the room, I am confident that the room will have quality shows 90% of the time (nobody's perfect).

- I was the one that insisted on putting in a new sound system. I feel that a lot of damage was done to the room due to outside promoters putting on events with extremely poor sound. I am still working with the owner on improving the sound of the room and the sound system so that we are ready for 2005.

- The owner has assured me that there will be a drink special soon, most likely a $2 can of something yummy.

- The Empty Bottle would never consider booking LSA 7 nights a week because it would be direct competition for the club they already own, so yeah, it would be a conflict for them ... but when bands out-grow bottle they are going to be more than welcome to present shows at Logan. The owner values the business.

- Shows I have presented at LSA that I am most proud of: Sage Francis, Peaches, Dillinger Four, Against Me, Blood Brothers, Incredible String Band, Joanna Newsom, Typical Cats, Gravy Train!!!!, Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, Mouse on Mars, Captured by Robots, Weakerthans, Devendra Banhart, Battles, Mahjongg, Clutch with Fu Manchu, and High on Fire (which sounded fucking amazing, I might add).

- I beat Bruce in Golden Tee once.

- I love the Empty Bottle, it's a great bar! I was a regular when they were at a different location, before they did shows.

- I don't miss the Fireside.

- My favorite band right now is Lucero.

Feel free to e-mail me with questions. Don't miss U.S. Maple with Pelican next week ... or the Psalm One record release show, both should be hot as shit. Bye bye.

Pete Toalson: I went to high school with a guy named Larry Tate, so in his honor, I should clarify things a bit ...

There is no bitterness on our part about the LSA, and I'm not sure where he sees this. (Why would there be any? We're doing shows as we've done them, the room is better then ever, and so on?) In explaining our decisions as they relate to the LSA, they have nothing to do with MPShows or anyone else. Our reflections and thoughts on the space as a seven-days-a-week venue have been the same all along, before MPShows ever entered the picture.

That we don't think we have the wherewithal to supply enough big, strong artists to fill the space seven-days-a-week has nothing to do with MPShows, and probably speaks instead to our complete lack of ambition in that regard. (We barely have lives as it is.) We're only interested in doing certain things in the space that appeal to us, because - and Brian is right - we're already doing three hundred and sixty other shows a year. Just because we don't think we could make it work, doesn't mean that MPShows can't.

And far from insulting MPShows or mocking their efforts, I actually like the looks of the calendar thus far, and we ourselves have worked with many of the artists that MPShows have brought to the LSA. I was in no way inferring that MPShows would be doing cover bands or other whack jams, but was instead attempting to illustrate our thoughts on the matter back when the owner of the LSA expressed an interest in doing more shows, before MPShows got on board.

So, Larry, really, there's no bitterness here. Miles of smiles over here, I'm telling you.

Oh, and an interesting sidenote? (Maybe not.) The Larry Tate I went to high school with had a subscribtion to Playboy that his MOM paid for! Since Junior High! How dope is that? We thought he was the king, that guy...

December 09, 2004

Logan Square Auditorium: The Bottle responds

Yesterday your pals Jack and Lazlo discussed the merits (and demerits) of the Logan Square Auditorium. That conversation drew a long and thoughtful e-mail response from Pete Toalson, who books bands at the Empty Bottle and LSA.

Jack: !!!, 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.

Pete: First of all, let me say, when looking at the lineup of shows there, it is pretty impressive. Having done most all of them, I don't think any of us here had really laid them out and put them together. (We’re always working so far in the future, we rarely stop and take looks back.) There is indeed a lot of talent on display. Which then leads to...

In approaching the LSA, we've never thought of the space as a seven-day-a-week venue, and have ourselves been very selective as to what we’ve brought into the room. We think of it as a 'special occasion' place, and have approached the room critically when programming it - an approach that is borne out by the list you've provided.

Jack: 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.

Pete: From our point of view (and I can assure you, we're particular), you can't really bring the sort of artist quality we ourselves are interested in on a seven-days-a-week schedule. Which is why we've never had any interest in getting involved in booking the space full time, right? We don't want to stand around at a show we wouldn't want to do, listening to music we're not interested in. Unfun. We’re in it for the love of the game, when it comes down to it.

Booking that space seven days a week is a huge challenge, and to do so successfully one has to be willing to sacrifice artistic credibility and/or personal integrity. We talked about it, for sure, but then asked ourselves, "Do we really want to wait around until midnight to settle up with some cover band?" The answer, of course, was resoundingly "No." It’s just not what we do, nor is it something we're interested in. But that just might just be the stuff you gotta do to fill that place night in and night out. It's f-n’ huge, yeah?

Which is why we've never gone haywire in the space, and the reason we'll only continue doing shows in the space that we feel are a good fit. That may be one a month, it may be four a month, one can't really say. But we'll keep on doing things as we see fit, when the opportunities arise.

Lazlo: 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?

Pete: Much has been made of the fact that MPShows is also booking the LSA, and many folks have positioned this as some sort of battle between the Empty Bottle versus MPShows. This is unfortunate, as it simply isn't true. We'll continue doing the shows we want to do in the space, marquee shows that we feel benefit from what the room has to offer. MPShows will continue to work independently to fill out the rest of the calendar, as they see fit. As booking the room full time was of absolutely no interest to us, it’s understandable that the owners would look to other parties to fill their needs. If we don’t feel it appropriate for the spot, or isn’t something we’re interested in, we just aren’t going to do it.

As far as other spaces are concerned, we’re always looking at other options, as it’s our intention to present artists in rooms or spaces that are appropriate and/or unique. As the Reader article mentioned, we are indeed looking at developing another new spot, and things are coming along as expected. (Well, okay, a bit slow, but that’s what we expect, anyhow, as that’s the way these things are and we’re used to it – our ‘now’ is generally four to five months out.) The spot in question is mad fresh, and we think folks are going to love it. It’s the total jam, and we’re really excited about it. At the point when it’s readied, we’ll approach it as we do everything: if the room is good for the artists, and good for the fine folks who follow our efforts, then we’ll do it. But it won’t be a seven-days-a-week affair, because, well, see above.

Lazlo: 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.

Pete: You know how we do it when we have control of things. Obviously, there, at the LSA, we don't. And we like drinking as much as the next guy, for reals. (See ‘damaged livers’.)

Jack: 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.

Lazlo: 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.


Pete: Regarding sound, you alls is right, it’s not great. It has improved, and the owners have brought in new curtains (goodbye view) and a new PA. The sound is indeed more consistent, and it’s been an overall improvement. But, it is what it is, and will remain so – not bad, not great. That being the case, we feel it important to recognize this and try to bring in music that has the best chance of sounding good. Simply put, some stuff doesn’t sound good in the space, and never will. We try to avoid that stuff.

Lazlo: 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?

Pete: In response to the whole of the current LSA calendar, we’ll have to defer to MPShows for an explanation on this one, as I’m not really sure, in looking at the shows, what their intentions are for the space in the long haul.

In summary, I’m supposing the emergence of the Logan Square Auditorium is noteworthy, at least when looking at the listing of artists that have played the room. We hadn’t really thought of it in that context, and have instead been focused on bringing ‘more of the best’ to the Chicagoland area. However, I guess a room can only take you so far though, right? It’s really the artists and you folks supporting them IN the space that really make the show. That’s how we look it, anyway.

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?

December 07, 2004

Grammy-nominated, hotel-accommodated, cheerleader prom-dated

The envelopes are stuffed, the word is out, and you might as well start calling him Kon the Grammy Nom Don. That's right - leading the list of prospective statuette recipients this year is the pride of Chi, Kanye West, with no less than 10 nominations.

Clear some room on the mantle, the bandwagon, the jockstrap: Boy's up for Album of the Year (The College Dropout, natch, but also as a producer on The Diary of Alicia Keys), Song of the Year ("Jesus Walks"), Best New Artist, Rap Album, R&B Song (co-write on Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name"), Rap Solo Performance ("Through the Wire"), Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Slow Jamz" with Twista and Jamie Foxx, and "All Falls Down" with Syleena Johnson), and finally Rap Song ("Jesus Walks").

Update: The Trib has a strong rundown of the Grammy nominations from the Chicago point of view - which even tips Gretchen Wilson as a local. (Hmm.) The Sun-Times wasn't sleeping, either, and they pulled off the scoop of getting exclusive quotes from Kanye hisownself: "Damn! I'm happy to be a Chicagoan," West told Jim DeRogatis ("before signing off to take a congratulatory call from his mother"). Oh and Kanye's on the cover of that brain-numbing rag RedEye this morning.