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BENT NIGHTS amfm Jazz Fest; Limp Wrist
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester
2017-09-27

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On a whim I trekked down to Dvorek Park in Pilsen to check out a recent pop-up jazz festival that amfm Gallery and Chicago's Out in the Park Series presented. Looking for a break from the massive summer festivals and arena shows, I thought I was headed for a chill evening in the park—but what I got was entirely unexpected.

The festival did have a lot to offer ( grassroots organizations, art being made on the spot, various artists displaying their crafts, cute little kids running around everywhere, holistic health offerings, community-building programs and a very jolly cotton candy vendor ) but the line-up of music by a trio of unknown ( to me, anyway ) Chicago artists is what got me.

First was Avantist, a four-piece rock band made up of the Brothers Arias ( Fernando on vocals, Erick on bass, David on guitar and Luis on drums ) who, despite their youth, seem to have mastered the feel and groove of '80s-era New Wave. They play with muscle and drive ( Erick's bass lines are pure Ric Ocasek ) but what makes them pop is Fernando's charisma as a front man. On the last song of the set, "Human Driver," Avantist proved to be far more than mere revivalists. The song started as a charging rocker but midway through it suddenly devolved into a slow, gentle, spacy jam with Erick and Luis creating a cushion for David and Fernando's guitar and voice to snake elegantly around each other. The end result was enrapturing, mesmerizing, enchanting and elegiac. I can't say if it was rock or wave, but whatever it was it blew off the back of my head.

After I scooped my brain back where it belonged, out popped rapper/producer Elton Aura and his band—and they delivered an engaging and smooth set until he got to his final song, "Stress, love. "( I have no idea what the deal is with these last songs. ) Slow, melancholic, heavy, alluring and thoroughly engrossing, the song projected an atmosphere thick with murky while Aura's voice tumbled across it like a pebble skipping across a placid pond. On further listenings I've found "Stress, love" to be bewitching, addictive, enthralling and clearly the best recording I've heard yet that captures the feel of the summer of 2017.

Next up was Drea the Vibe Dealer, who is the owner of a deep, rich, smoky voice with a gentle drag reminiscent of Billie Holiday and Michael Dimani. Her tone, voice and soulful balladry are set off by her band, which creates shimmering soundscapes that make the whole of their music off putting and enchanting. The oddness of coupling Drea's earthiness with her band's ethereal outré tones turns a straight forward ballad like "Sun" into a lilting gem. Even more disarming was her reading of "24 Don't Obey," her ( you guessed it ) closing song. With the music washing around her voice instead of staying behind it, the song was dreamy, rich, and enchanting while remaining earthbound.

If curator Ciera McKissick and the bunch at amfm Gallery gave the neighborhood a chill evening in the park, Pilsen/Little Village queercore legend and native Martin Sorrondeguy and his band Limp Wrist have given it a queer apocalypse with the new Facades ( available on SoundCloud ). Its been nine years since the last Limp Wrist release, and with the band ( Scott Moore on guitar, Andrew Martini on bass and Paul Henry on drums ) living in different parts of the country, there is no telling when we'll get another one.

From the sound of it, these faggots are pissed—and the rage is entirely welcome. They make it clear that they are hardly some bunch of fey candyasses who give a damn about being polite, waving a placard and protesting obediently. This is queer rock at its most brutal and savage, and though the album has had a three-year gestation period, the tone of it is current. Better still is a custom made zine that romances queer life and history with a wide berth ( I am rather smitten with the Martin Sorrondeguy paper doll. "The Fury, The Furry, The Fashion!!!," it screams. )

For starters, "Facades"—all 56 seconds of it—blasts off with what can best be described as a nuclear banshee wail of pure fury. With equal parts bile and piss, Sorrondeguy screams, "Rich white woman, hogging the screen, deported sisters, U.S. streets are now clean," and manages to encapsulate the fear, anger and hypocrisy surrounding the rapidly shifting immigration laws.

"Wrap Yourselves in Me" takes an icy swipe at a younger queer generation who don't know a thing about the battles that were fought to insure equality. ( "Thanks for your suffering and paving the way for me," Sorrondeguy says, and then follows with the chorus, "What could old queens possibly know?" ) "Don't Want You" is a blunt hard missive to closeted conservatives as Sorrondeguy snarls "Get hard watching men in briefs, pathetic D.L. whores/We'll out you and hang you out to dry!"

For all the naked rage and fury, Facades offers another side to Limp Wrist that is something of a shock. "A Little Nervous" challenges sexual expression with a sweet-natured dare ( "I'll be patient if you like..." ) while "In My Mind" and "Dead Artists" are straight-up electronic mood music with ominous beeps and hums. With us still in the first year of a decidedly unfriendly and unstable presidency, Limp Wrist has managed to make an album that largely captures the rage of the nation—and it's clearly about time.


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