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MUSIC May's concerts: An intriguing mix reflects the weather
by Vern Hester
2019-06-05

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Despite the promise of hot fun in the summertime, the month of May largely delivered an infuriating mix of dark skies and torrents of rain. On local stages, the concert offerings seemed to mirror the weather in tone if not in temperament.

First up was a double bill at The Sleeping Village on May 6 that started with Lollygagger showcasing its latest EP, Life on Terminus ( available on band camp ). Vocalist/guitarist Matt Amalgamate may still be the most handsome queer rocker in the universe but he's also the nuttiest. Despite him whipping out caffeinated song intros ( "this is a disco song about queer love..." ) and cracking non-stop sausage jokes, his bandmates—Michael Sunnycide on drums and Kinsey Ring on bass—almost one-upped him with pure fire power. Granted, Sunnycide is still one of the finest bashers within the city limits and it's always fun to watch him work ( his sartorial accoutrements this time included a vintage Jaws T-shirt and some oral S/M gear ), but the real player here was Ring, whose bass work was some of the hardest and most articulate that this listener has ever heard.

Headliner Avantist, a four-piece led by vocalist/keyboard player Fernando Arias ( and including his brothers Erick, David and Luis ), debunked their image as nerdy intellectuals by pounding through a set loud in volume and hard on abrasion. With a lighting scheme that kept the stage bathed in a murky burgundy the look and sound of their set was close to a sensory assault. I still don't know what to think of this version of the band ( love their brainy ideas, loathe the concrete shredding attack ), which is reason enough for me to go and check them out again and get a third opinion.

The Empty Bottle has been investigating presenting shows in intriguing environments ( like hosting Bauhaus at The Rockefeller Chapel ) and, on May 17, it hosted post-punks Facs at the Garfield Conservatory. Granted, the performance was interesting and almost abstract, given the stage area. ( There's something pleasantly eerie about being surrounded by a jungle in an enclosed space while a thunderstorm rages outside. )

Vocalist/guitarist Brian Case yowled into the dark while slivers of sound crashed and sliced through the air. Headliner Drab Majesty, by contrast, ran with all that atmosphere and played to it for all it was worth. With vocalist/guitarist Deb Demure ( Andrew Clinco ) and Mona D ( Alex Nicolaou ) on keyboards they easily mixed the nuance of the space with gender bending, techno, and rock and roll into a haunting blend. The mix of the two bands in that space made for an ethereal and disarming evening.

By the Memorial Day Weekend, the sun actually came out for the second day of The Chicago House Music Festival, which featured a blowout all over Millennium Park with DJ stages scattered throughout the area and performances by house pioneers Gene Hunt, DJ Humphry, Gant-Man, Moodymann, Mr. A.L.I. and Boogie McClarin. Between the amplified disco beat wafting in from the park, impromptu dance crews busting moves in every direction, and a steady parade of out-of-town leathermen investigating Michigan Avenue, downtown Chicago felt queerer than ever.


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