Festival Fanaticism in Chicago

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Festival season is upon us. Now that the sun has come out and the snow and rain have stopped falling, we Northerners have left our homes to bask in the light of day. While some will shed their extra pounds jogging along the lake, others shed their skins and join the crowds at one of Chicago’s many festivals this summer.

From the Taste of Randolph, to the Blues Festival, to Midsommar Fest, the list never ends. The one I can’t wait to attend is the 2nd annual Wavefront Music Festival. From July 5-7, Montrose Beach will blow off the tops of not only Chicago house heads, but people from all across the map. Chicago’s music scene sells itself, but stores like Gramaphone Records and others have been selling tickets like hotcakes to eager gophers ready to get their groove on at Lake Michigan.

This is a massive shindig with the hottest, most talented electronic musicians planet Earth has to offer. Mainstream mavericks like Nicolas Jaar and Cedric Gervais will be spinning alongside newcomers like Nadia Ali and Fehrplay during the July 4th holiday weekend. Rain or shine, the sand will be shaking beneath your feet for 3 days straight.

Music lovers across the world now have something else to talk about that doesn’t involve where to get neon headbands and slated sunglasses. Some of Chicago’s finest will be performing alongside international talent, including Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, Frankie Knuckles, Ralphi Rosario, Mark Farina, Jamie Principle, and Gene Farris.

For more information about this year’s lineup, visit the official Wavefront page.

The Finder Things Pattern Conference: Diagram, Ornament, and the Construction of Joy

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The chilly brick warehouse invited any and all into its creativity-inducing spaces for a potluck pattern conference on a beautiful sunny day in East Garfield Park.

Peppered with eclectic vintage sculptures, roaming cats, and DIY instruction books, Catington Station feels more like a friend’s house than a warehouse. The Finder Things, a DIY-inspired collective of Chicago-based artists and entrepreneurs, hosted a conference at Catington Station on Sunday, May 5, 2013. The Pattern Conference was held in conjunction with the monthly Kedzie Stop Market at 3144 W. Carroll. The Kedzie Stop Market is a great way for artists to get their work out to the public. More exposure is a good thing when it comes to crafters, artists, and entrepreneurs. Windy City Mindy had a table full of cheese boards set up for sale, which puts her in direct competition with well-known artisanal shops like Pastoral and Foodstuffs.

Morgan Martinson and her husband Dave started a string of studios in an attempt to make affordable living more accessible for Chicago’s creative crowd. And it worked. Catington Station is now home to Astrolab Studios, Adela Red, and other notable parts of the network.

Designers, artists, business-owners, and musicians all came together to share their views on lifestyle, art, leisure, work, craftsmanship, and more. The “lonely adventure” from a nascent career to a mature livelihood is a long path, and people like Adela Red, Jessica Calek, and Jackie Lerash discussed some of the obstacles freelancers are faced with on a daily basis. They also gave suggestions for successful interdisciplinary collaboration and how to be truly inspired by the work you do.

The presentations ranged from knit artistry to architectural design to a drumming demonstration by author and professional skateboarder Amos Soma Fuller. Explaining linear and cyclical rhythms in beat-keeping, he gave examples of each, showing that patterns are auditory and kinetic as well.

With such a strong community of artists, it is no wonder Chicago is home to the tightest DIY culture in America. The more events Catington Station hosts, the more in-tune we’ll all be with the youthful sentiment of this global shift in cultural consciousness. Capital can be hand-made.

6 Music Genres You May Not Know

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Nothing new in your stereo is a sad, sad thought. Listening to the same old music is a surefire way to bring you down via auditory deprivation. Your ears need music that sounds good, and you’re not getting it from that wasteland known as the radio. Unless you have satellite radio, in which case you’re a step ahead.music

Listening to different types of music not only keeps you stimulated, it gives you something to talk about when you meet someone new. Nothing makes a better conversation starter than a new song you like. Here are some suggestions to expand your musical taste.

1. Americana

What is Americana ? It’s a mix of blue grass, folk, rock, and everything in between. Although this music uses a traditional repertoire of acoustics, it has an electric sound that is unmistakably contemporary. Think Lana Del Rey, Allison Kraus, and Kacey Musgraves.

2. Trip Hop

A mix of hip hop and trance, trip hop started in the UK (specifically, Bristol) in the 1990s and made its way across the pond thanks to promotion and modern technology. It combines downtempo beats from soul, funk, jazz, and hip hop. Tricky, Massive Attack, and Bonobo are examples of the atmospheric, bass-heavy beats that give this genre its urban roots. If you want to know more, NPR’s Vivien Goldman did a recent overview of trip hop.record

3. IDM

An offshoot of the popular electronic dance music so many of us know and love, “intelligent dance music” is a term coined by listeners of electronica that wanted to distinguish the tunes the loved from the rest of the pack. Ambient, groovy, and synthetically produced, IDM is best exemplified by artists like Autechre, Aphex Twin, and Crystal Castles. It’s prodcued in museums, laboratories, and institutes, and it started in the Netherlands (go figure). Although artists think this is a pretentious label, there is an IDM mailing list and community for all those interested in this heady music movement.

4. Tribal House

If you like world music, you’ll love tribal house. It’s a synergy of synthesised drums and ambient sounds that will make your ears do a double take. If dark and deep indigenous rhythm is your thing, check out Afefe Iku, Zoe Badwi, and Robbie Rivera.

5. Gypsy Jazz

Deep in the throes of soulful music is gypsy jazz. Known by some as ‘jazz tsigan’, ‘manouche jazz’, or ‘jazz swing’, Jean “Django” Reinhardt got this ball rolling in France in the 1930s. Reinhardt literally set the bar by making it standard to not using major/minor chords. Instead, the major 7th and 6th chords are substituted for a sound that’s trill-tastically harmonic. Besides Django, John Jorgenson, Stephane Grapelli, and Tim Kliphius are all great places to start being eclectic.

Hopefully your curiosity has led you to listen to at least one of these genres by now. Diversifying your musical collection is an inexpensive way to develop a new interest and share it with other people. Music’s been around forever, and it’s constantly changing. It’s to your benefit to stay on top of those changes and keep your ears entertained.

What’s your take on music ? Classical all the way or modern must-haves ?

Seven

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As a continuation on my last post, the exception to the moderation rule seems to be McDonald’s. Lovingly called Mack Dough by the Froggies, these establishments are more like three star restaurants than greasy fast-food joints. Glistening tables and well-groomed employees give way to a stellar food menu that forms a solid first impression on foreigners entering a French McDonald’s. The chevre (goat cheese) wrap is particularly tempting, as it is glazed in a honey sauce and topped with toasted dill flakes. I don’t eat McDonald’s regardless of which country I’m in, but I guess if I didn’t grow up in a culture that raised me to be afraid of meat, I, too, would visit this magnificent mecca of American commercial culture to sup with Ronald by my side on the reg.

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The portions at Mack Dough are significantly smaller than in the United States, and the ‘super size’ option has never existed here. Moderation is in effect–not in the frequency of McDonald’s visits, but rather in the amount of food the establishment designates for one person. http://www.france24.com/en/20110203-fat-patients-force-british-ambulances-supersize

Paris is the fashion capital of the world, but the women’s wear is decidedly more conservative than the places I’ve been in America, save for Amish country. That being said, I have yet to visit Salt Lake City, so I can’t make any generalizations. Skirts and shorts are most often fingers’ length and are worn with tights. When worn without tights, they’re met with scorn and shock from other women who feel bad for the naïve little girl who dares to enter the metro with bare legs– doesn’t she know the unspoken code ? When I visited the biggest mosque in Paris with a guy friend of mine in October, I was wearing shorts without tights (I don’t care) and was forced by the proverbial “bouncer” to put on a long wraparound skirt in order to cover my lascivious legs before entering the premises. It seems that bare legs should be saved for night clubs, but even that is a rarity. Apparently tights just give your outfit that little extra flair, and that’s definitely what Parisians have got going on. The girls have mastered the just-rolled-out-of-bed look replete with bomber jacket, messy hair, combat boots, and cigarette in hand. The men are more or less metrosexual, which has given my already-faulty gaydar a run for its money. A scarf, matching clothes–usually consisting of tweed, corduroy, and/or skinny jeans–and oversized headphones can hip-ify even the homeliest of males.

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I brought my Lacoste shower bag with me thinking it was BCBG (bon chic bon genre,) but it turns out that Lacoste is the thug brand of Europe. Lacoste is to Europe what Rocawear is to the United States. This uninformed mistake has done nothing but boost my street cred, so I’m not too upset about it.

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But after reading Crime by Irvine Welsh, I realized that criminals identify more with the little alligator than with the inflated prestige of the brand itself.  Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister & Co. are huge here–flashback to the 1990s ! I tried explaining to multiple French people who were the same age as me that these brands are no longer that popular in the States. This statement was met with a confused stare, and I followed up by explaining that many people try and dress as the Europeans do. This is the biggest conundrum I’ve found so far : America is like Europe’s annoying younger sibling. America is profoundly influenced by Europe’s rich history, but Europe is undoubtedly influenced by America’s creativity and innovation in all things, but especially music and cinema.

The American music is a couple of decades behind the times, but that’s okay. I don’t really mind hearing R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” in a bar, but when it’s followed up with “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations, I start feeling like maybe the Parisian metro is really a time machine.

Sidenote : Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is an allegory for the ways in which Paris has retained so many historical qualities, as well as for how French culture preserves old ways of doing things that are stereotypical to what is considered by many as the Old World mentality. He wasn’t actually going back in time, he just felt like he was. I feel like that too sometimes, especially when they play old music and young French people swing dance to it. Yes, this behavior is totally normal at soirees and house parties, and it’s called Le Rock.

One example of the vagueness and disorganization characteristic of French bureaucracy is the lack of courteous people when waiting to be served. The lines here are non-existent. A queue forms inadvertently and resembles a swarm of fleas; there is no linear formation. Rather, people stand in a triangular crowd and elbow each other to get to the tip of the triangle before everyone else does. The movie theaters are a great manifestation of this phenomenon–I remember the first time I walked in to a movie theater. It was a bank holiday, and I was at the back of the triangle. I looked around at the old wall paneling, the grimy carpets, and the paper posters of the features that were playing, and felt as though I had been teleported back to the 1980s. It turned out that Les Intouchables was sold out– I could not have been happier to leave the scene of déjà vu / pre-cell-phone era. I finally saw the movie not long ago, and it probably deserves a blog post of its own at some point. All I will say for now is that I can’t understand how it blew up so big in France but not in the United States. Aren’t affirmative action and lesbian secretaries what make up a progressive young person’s dreams ? …..

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