In 1994, Chicago became the hottest music scene in the country. Though music industry attention will begin to wane in the coming year, 1995 will not be without its surprises and significant stories. Below are some events to look for in the new year.
Local record producer and self-styled iconoclast Steve Albini ventures into publishing with the release of his debut self-help book I'm OK, You're a Sniveling Tool of THE MAN. The slim but densely worded volume offers 475 reasons why one man's $50,000 check from a major record company is entirely appropriate while everyone else's $50,000 check from a major record company is proof of their abject, bootlicking, mealy-mouthed corporate toadyism.
The entertainment world reels when the new Steven Spielberg/David Geffen/Jeffrey Katzenberg company buys Wicker Park outright from the city of Chicago and turns it into the world's first alternative rock theme park, "Indieville." Among the new additions:
The Enervation Coffeehouse: Run by a Starbucks holding company called "Slay Beans," the trilevel Enervation opens as the world's largest espresso bar. A company spokesperson assures prospective customers that the vast size of the facility will in no way diminish the traditional coffeehouse experience. "As with all coffeehouses," she says, "uproarious mirth making will not be tolerated. We expect all of our customers to maintain a demeanor that's self-consciously pensive, consternated, and generally angst-addled."
The Veruca Salt Lick: Rich Melman's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises opens this novel "grazing" eatery featuring all kinds of exotic chips, pretzels, and jerky products indifferently tossed at customers by elaborately tattooed and body-pierced riot grrrls.
Lubricated Goatee: This Hair Club for Men offshoot provides quick, attractive faux goatees (or "merkins" as they're known in the trade) to unfortunate young hipsters who possess the brains but lack the robust hair follicles required to establish their alternative credentials.
In a tersely worded press release, radio station WXRT admits to a major media faux pas. Their highly visible 1994 ad campaign featuring the line "Last night, we snuck into your home, stole your CD collection and we're playing them right now" was mistakenly placed in newspapers and magazines geared toward young people. The station immediately begins running the ads in more appropriate publications, such as the American Association of Retired Persons newsletter Golden Slumbers.
In an unusually progressive move, the city of Chicago creates Performance Art Free Zones in neighborhoods with large numbers of music clubs and theaters. The zones are designed to restrict this inexplicable activity to specific venues where those with the requisite tolerance for the inane can endure it to their heart's content.
In the first ever transaction between a major sports franchise and a rock band, the Chicago Bulls send awkward bean-pole center Will Perdue to the band Red Red Meat in exchange for nimble drummer Brian Deck. Joining RRM twin towers Glenn Girard (guitar) and Tim Hurley (bass), Perdue plays the drums standing up. Few question the Bulls' motives in this deal, but Red Red Meat's rationale is less clear. Diminutive band leader Tim Rutili vehemently denies that the move was a cheap media stunt to surround himself with the three tallest white men in the city.
Media-dependent rock chanteuse Liz Phair makes headlines again when she obtains a restraining order against Du Page County political boss James "Pate" Philip after Philip spends several months shadowing her all over town. Philip confesses that his obsession with Phair began after he heard her song "Fuck and Run," which, he says, perfectly encapsulates his political philosophy and attitude toward Chicago.
In an attempt to get more young people interested in classical music, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra opens Club CSO in the basement of the newly enlarged Orchestra Hall. The iridescent "culture" club features black lights and industrial dance mixes of music by confrontational composers like Xenakis, Scelsi, Cage, Boulez, and Stockhausen. It also offers Richard Wagner bondage nights, an acid-baroque DJ every other Sunday, and a rather scandalous champagne fountain depicting Franz Liszt in the buff. Though initially a big success, Club CSO is eventually forced to close due to legal problems after the mayor of Lake Forest suffers a broken nose while moshing to a particularly frenzied section of Ives's Fourth Symphony.
Chicago's favorite musical dirtball, Al Jourgensen (Ministry, Revolting Cocks), surprises everyone by abruptly retiring from rock music to make children's records. Jourgensen claims that he made the switch because most children's records are out of touch with today's toddlers. His debut release, Screw Raffi, features grimy reworkings of a number of Dr. Seuss stories. Among the more notable tracks are "The Cat in the Hat Tries Smack," "Horton Humps a Who," "I Shot My Goo in Solla Solew," and "There's a Wocket up My Socket."
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Paul Moch.