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BENT NIGHTS Absolutely Not; The Black and Brown Festival
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester
2017-09-06

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Rapidly ascending punk trio Absolutely Not have just released their first full-length album, Errors ( on No Trend Records )—and the damn thing has left me enraptured, amused and confounded to no end.

Having set itself apart from a pack of stellar local DIY bands ( like Melk Belly, Twin Peaks, Meat Wave, The Hecks and Ne-Hi ), Absolutely Not has carved a unique niche as glam-punk revivalists loaded with kinetic energy, oddball personality, a hearty helping of queerness, and musical smarts to burn. As one of my favorite unpredictable local bands, I expected something different—but not this different.

Errors takes the frolicsome mayhem of Absolutely Not's five previous releases ( split singles, cassettes and EPs with titles like Programmed and Haunted House Beach Party ), ramps them up, quirks them out and blows them up with a demented caffeinated blast of energy. Clearly, out front man and certified nutter Donnie Moore ( vocals and guitar ), his stunning sister Madison ( keyboards ) and the seemingly sane Santiago Guerrero ( drums ) have gone zipping off the rails, but they've done it with musical wit, muscle, and humor. In short, Errors is one flaming masterpiece that sounds like nothing else.

Errors may be less of a "punk" album and more of a Looney Tunes soundtrack but the sound, speed and intensity of it cannot obscure its brilliance. "Strictly Top" is a three-minute slice of raging pop-glam at its finest and it makes me sorry that glam-pioneers T. Rex and The Sweet didn't concoct it back in the 1970s. Against a concrete wall of guitars, a shot gun rhythm, and Donnie squealing-squeaking like all of tarnation depended on it, the recording is catchy, breathless, abrasive and hilarious. "Blood Money" is even better, with the song draped on Madison's '50s-flavored sci-fi riff ( front and center ), Guerrero slamming his drum kit with unbridled fury and Donnie ripping through the chaos like a chainsaw through a phone book.

In front of an unsuspecting crowd at The Glenwood Arts Festival, Absolutely Not stunned the uninitiated with a blistering set consisting of old and new material. "Vacation" lunged out of Donnie's mouth, but "Blood Money" was pure nirvana. The sight of Madison smacking her tambourine with hypnotic rage, Donnie literally levitating off the stage, and Guerrero flinging his arms about like some sort of haywire metal octopus put Errors and this band in the proper perspective. Obviously, Absolutely Not is one for the ages.

On a far more traditional note we have the Black and Brown Punk Collective's Will It Explode?, which took place at ChiTown Futbol in Pilsen on July 27-29. Granted, I was able to catch only the first of two days of the encompassing Black and Brown Punk Festival and it reminded me of how much I missed the event from two years ago. Like its sister queer punk festival Fed Up Fest, this event aims to provide a safe space for people of color, queer and trans punks and individuals to network and keep the Chicago punk scene diverse and safe. The festival also hosted workshops, a zine and literature market, and a kick-off party in addition to the two nights ( July 28-29 ) of music. The little bit that I was able to see left an indelible impression.

First up was New York-by-way-of-Chicago artist and "gender abolitionist" Sol Patches, who performed a solo set of rap and spoken word that surprisingly engaged this notoriously rowdy audience. With their background in theater and poetry and their strong ties to Chicago's queer Latinx and Black femme culture, though they were not overtly punk ( meaning, loud and aggressive ) they certainly belonged in that space. Before they ended their short set they premiered a new song, "Game Stop," which addressed the climate surrounding the events in Charlottesville Virginia. Smoother still was Texas collective Squid Grid ( with vocalists Troy Braham Jr., David Alvarado, Alison Papion and Faylita Hicks ), a hip-hop-focused, multiracial, gender-diverse group that fused rap and beats with velvety harmony and straight up old school soul. Both came as something of an unexpected surprise in this DIY hardcore setting.

Next up was California's in your face F.U.P.U. ( F*ck You Pay Us ), an all-Black female hardcore quartet who charged the vibe by cranking up and uncorking their rage at, among other things, the current administration ( the incendiary "Burn Ye Old White Male Patriarchy Burn" ). With all that rage F.U.P.U. ( which includes Jasmine Nyende, Uhuru Moor, a.o. and Thianna Nichol ) managed to offer, the most celebratory segment of the night when bassist a.o. spoke about her inspiration for writing their final song of the set. After being told to "Suck my d*ck!!!," by countless strangers on the street she penned the anthem, "Nappy Black P*ssy," which, with its bouncing chorus and leering joyful vulgarity, sent the crowd into a gleeful slam-dancing frenzy.

The closer for Saturday night's show was none other than legendary Pilsen and Little Village hardcore mainstays Los Crudos who ripped through a brutal apocalyptic set while inciting a non-stop slam dance melee.

Oddly enough, The Black and Brown Festival has evolved as an extremely important necessary event in our current era. Los Crudos vocalist Martin Crudos spoke about the ongoing threat of gentrification ( he, Los Crudos and his other band, queercore legend Limp Wris,t have been based in Pilsen and Little Village for decades ) but with the current climate on immigration, reproductive rights, trans individuals in the military and Charlottesville, a welcoming gathering of punks, trans individuals and queers of all flavors is just what we need.


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