Clip: Mehr on Elastic Arts Foundation, Lookout
March 3, 2006
The folks who ran 3030 get legal with a new venue.
Last Saturday the Elastic Arts Foundation opened its new venue,
Elastic, in a second-floor Logan Square space above the Friendship
Chinese Restaurant, celebrating with a four-course benefit dinner and
an open house. The EAF's previous venue, in a former Pentecostal
church at 3030 W. Cortland, had been forced to close in September
after the city determined that the building wasn't zoned to allow the
foundation to operate the space without a license.
The EAF, led by a collective of local musicians and artists, began in
1998 as a for-profit corporation called Elastic Revolution
Productions, which ran a space at 500 W. Cermak used mostly for
rehearsing and recording. After ERP moved to 3030 in 2001, it started
hosting shows regularly, and in 2003 the group reorganized as the
nonprofit Elastic Arts Foundation. Director and cofounder Paul
Giallorenzo began booking an electronic-music series called Elastro,
and guest curators filled out the rest of the schedule: saxophonist
Dave Rempis handled improvised music, for instance, and poets Kerri
Sonnenberg, Jesse Seldess, and Marvin Tate maintained two series of
Because 3030 hosted so many events, its programs developed regular
audiences and attracted the attention of out-of-towners -- over the
years its bookings included not just adventurous locals but
internationally known artists like German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann,
British folk legend Bridget St. John, and AMM guitarist Keith Rowe.
But in early 2005, provoked in large part by the complaints of a
single vocal neighbor, city inspectors checked the space out and found
a hitch: EAF had been skirting licensing laws by taking donations at
the door, but 3030 wasn't in a commercially zoned area. "It turned out
that the exception to the PPA license where you could bypass it by
just accepting donations was only applicable if you're zoned
commercially," says Giallorenzo. "So that became a problem."
The venue continued to hold shows, and in the spring the city sent
undercover inspectors, who cited 3030 for operating without a license
and accepting money. The tickets were thrown out in May when the
inspectors didn't turn up in court, but EAF was nonetheless referred
to the zoning department. "In our discussions with them," says
Giallorenzo, "it became clear that we had to become a totally
legitimate venue." The city wasn't going to look the other way, and
the building owner faced the possibility of steep fines.
Confronted with hurdles it couldn't clear, 3030 closed with a big
finale on September 17. Immediately EAF began a search for a
commercially zoned location, and with the help of 35th Ward alderman
Rey Colon they found their current spot at 2830 N. Milwaukee. "He's
been great," Giallorenzo says of Colon. "He likes the idea of having
arts in the ward, and he knew what we needed."
Comparable in size to 3030, with a capacity of roughly 75 people,
Elastic will host shows and occasional recording sessions like its
predecessor -- but unlike 3030, during off-hours it will double as an
art gallery. Elastic will get its occupancy card in mid-March, and
Giallorenzo says that by the end of the year EAF hopes to acquire a
Performing Arts Venue license -- a new type, available since December,
that allows smaller clubs and theaters to charge admission but not to
Performances begin at Elastic on March 18 with Fred Lonberg-Holm's
Lightbox Orchestra, and most of the old programs from 3030 will
relaunch in April and May -- acts already booked include local hero
Ken Vandermark and Scandinavian jazz group Atomic. "The booking will
be similar," says Giallorenzo. "It'll be built around our different
series. And we'll have other people book and curate shows to expand
the network of artists and people that come through."
As it sinks under its load of debt, the Bay Area pop-punk institution
Lookout Records is making waves that've reached Chicago -- locals the
Reputation, led by former Sarge front woman Elizabeth Elmore, are the
latest Lookout band to abandon ship. The label has been failing to
connect many of its artists with their royalties, and in July its
back-catalog cash cow, Green Day, responded to a long stretch of
nonpayment by reclaiming ownership of four early releases that it'd
allowed Lookout to continue selling after the band's move to Warner
Brothers. Other groups, including Avail, Screeching Weasel, and the
Riverdales, had already pulled their old records, but Green Day's
decision was Lookout's death knell.
In August the label announced it would no longer sign artists or
release new albums. Its six employees were let go, leaving only the
three owners -- including president Chris Appelgren, formerly of the
Peechees and the Pattern -- to mind the store. Lookout's active bands
have been defecting right and left: last month Ted Leo left for Touch
and Go and Mary Timony signed to Kill Rock Stars. Rising local stars
Troubled Hubble debuted on Lookout in May 2005 with Making Beds in a
Burning House, then broke up four months later after struggling with
personnel problems -- something a bit of label support might've
motivated them to iron out. The Twin Cities band Hockey Night is still
with Lookout, but that arrangement looks to be short-lived.
Though the Reputation is among the defectors, they're not yet sure if
Lookout still owes them anything, and Elmore doesn't bear the label
any ill will. "I believe Lookout is working hard to get back on top of
things, just in terms of getting the accounting straight with us," she
says. "They haven't managed to get there yet. But I do believe they're
trying." The Reputation released To Force a Fate on Lookout in 2004
and now has nearly enough material for a new record. "There are two
labels we're talking to, and both are labels we'd be really excited to
be on," Elmore says.
Friday at Schubas the Reputation kicks off a two-month coast-to-coast
tour, which includes a stop at South by Southwest to play a Lookout
label showcase. ("We'd agreed to do it a long time ago," explains
Elmore.) Their sets will preview a half dozen songs slated for the
forthcoming disc, which the band hopes to release by the end of the
The Reputation, Holy Roman Empire, Cardinal Sin
When Fri 3/3, 10 PM
Where Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
Price $8 in advance, $10 at the door
Where's the Bottom Lounge?
The old Lakeview digs of the Bottom Lounge, which closed in October to
make way for the CTA's Brown Line expansion, have already been
demolished, but the club isn't ready yet to announce its new location.
It was scheduled to reopen in the West Town warehouse district this
winter, but those plans have been delayed. "I've been bombarded with
people asking me about what's going on," says co-owner Dan Miskowicz,
laughing. "Judging by the number of times people have come up to me,
you woulda thought the Bottom Lounge was Woodstock."
Miskowicz says the delay isn't due to any conflict with the city -- he
just didn't anticipate how hard it would be to bring a new space up to
code. "It's a lot different to start up a rock club in the 21st
century. Laws that we were grandfathered in on at the old place we now
have to get into compliance with," he says. Right now he's only
willing to say that the new Bottom Lounge will open sometime in 2006
-- and that he's hoping for a summer launch.