I've got a whole city to hold down

May 17, 2005

Following on our story of last week about the looming threat to the future of the Velvet Lounge, there was a terrific, in-depth piece on the subject by Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich on the front page of Sunday's paper.

"In a few weeks or a little longer--no one is saying exactly when--a wrecking ball will demolish the last great jazz club on the South Side of Chicago," Reich writes.

"And though the Velvet Lounge, on South Indiana Avenue near Cermak Road, doesn't exactly date to the days when Louis Armstrong and Nat 'King' Cole made the South Side swing, the end of the club's 23-year-run has galvanized music lovers trying to help relocate the club nearby.

"Unfortunately for Velvet Lounge owner and celebrated Chicago saxophonist Fred Anderson, and his fans, the move will cost about $120,000, which to a typical jazz musician may as well be $120 million.

"'I don't have that kind of money, that's for sure, but we're trying our best to try to raise it real fast,' said Anderson, who in 1982 transformed a dilapidated, shoebox-shaped bar into what would become a nexus for cutting-edge jazz in Chicago.

"'I'm just hoping we can get the money together before they tear this place down, so we can pick right up in the new place, before people forget about us.'

"If Anderson, 76, doesn't succeed in keeping the name and spirit of the Velvet Lounge alive, said admirers of the club and the oft-rambunctious music it presents, the cultural import of the South Side and the city at large will be diminished.

"'It would be damaging to say the least,' said Timuel Black, a cultural historian whose landmark oral history, 'Bridges of Memory' (Northwestern University Press), documents the great migration of Southern blacks north to Chicago.

"'The loss of the Velvet Lounge,' added Black, 'would be devastating to the perpetuation of the music the club has presented to all kinds of listeners through the years--black and white and locals and visitors.'

"Moreover, the possible demise of the Velvet Lounge comes on the heels of the closing of the legendary Checkerboard Lounge, a blues institution on East 43rd Street, in 2003, and the shuttering of Gerri's Palm Tavern, a historic music spot on East 47th Street."

And there's much more. The piece is a must-read for those who missed it in print - and the cause deserves a serious outcry from anyone who cares about music, art, our city and its history.

May 15, 2005

Sunday special: Intonation

A rare weekend post to note that our dirt-digging on the Pitchfork Intonation festival is finally being followed by the print rags. Jim DeRogatis has this in today's Sun-Times:

Intonation Music Festival, July 16-17
The uber-hip indie-rock Web site is curating this two-day event in Union Park at Randolph and Ashland (it has moved from the smaller Pulaski Park), with two stages and some of the best names on the current indie underground. The July 16 lineup is, in order, the M's, Beans, Magnolia Electric Company, AC Newman, Four Tet, the Go Team!, Death from Above 1979 and Tortoise; the July 17 lineup is Head of Femur, Xiu Xiu, Out Hud, the Wrens, Deerhoof, Les Savy Fav and the Decemberists. (Previously announced headliners Fiery Furnaces have canceled their summer tour.) Advance tickets go on sale Wednesday via at $15 a day or $22 for a two-day pass, and a portion of the proceeds benefit various local charities.

The news here is that, as we suspected, Fiery Furnaces have canceled - and their headlining spot has been taken by Tortoise. The advance-ticket plan and slightly higher price is also new information.

In other respects, the DeRo report doesn't appear to be as complete as it's made out to be - it fails to mention five acts we've previously ID'd as confirmed, namely Andrew Bird, Broken Social Scene, Diverse, the Hold Steady, and the joint Jean Grae/Will Oldham DJ set.

Update (Monday a.m.): As noted in the comments, the Intonation site has at long last been updated. It adds one act not previously reported here (Dungen) and advance ticket information (on sale Wednesday 5/18 at noon Central via Music Today, cost is $15 per day or $22 for a two-day pass, plus $3 service charge).