Three Beats: A prepared-piano preview of A John Cage Festival | Three Beats | Chicago Reader

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Three Beats: A prepared-piano preview of A John Cage Festival

Plus: A posthumous party for incredible string man Sandy Bull, and an eighth-birthday bash for punk label Underground Communique

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PUNK | Kevin Warwick

What's so special about an eighth birthday? Justin Schwier of Underground Communique Records admits that there's no real reason his punk label is throwing an anniversary party on Sat 3/31 at Township, as opposed to doing it some other year. The label didn't pat itself on the back when it turned five, and it probably won't when it turns ten—why now?

Short answer: because some of the acts on the label decided to. Most of UC's 60-odd releases have been about finding audiences for Schwier's friends' bands, and those friends want to show their appreciation. "The bands are super supportive," Schwier says. "Shot Baker, who were behind this whole thing, have been waving the Underground Communique flag the highest."

UC began as part label, part radio program, but in 2005 Schwier handed off the WLUW-branded show to friends so he could focus on putting out music. "I was frustrated seeing friends' bands not getting the attention I thought they deserved," he says. "It just drove me to the point where I was like, 'Screw it, I'm going to put my money where my mouth is.'" Since then his label has dropped albums by no-frills local punk groups such as Vacation Bible School, the Methadones, Rollo Tomasi, the Copyrights, and Mexican Cheerleader.

Like any grassroots label run out of an apartment by one person—especially a person who slaves all day reading contracts at a computer sales company—Underground Communique is sustained by ambition. Even after eight years, Schwier sounds wide-eyed when he talks about his plans—which include reissuing 90s ska records.

"The one that's out already is a reissue of a 1995 split CD between the Suicide Machines and the Rudiments," he says. "We also did a Kickstarter campaign to do four records, and those are going to be from the Pietasters, the Pilfers, Edna's Goldfish (who were on Moon), and a band from California called the Suburban Legends."

On Saturday, Schwier will be hawking crisp new T-shirts and copies of the hot-off-the-presses debut seven-inch from the first band, Eastland Disaster; the rest of the bill, headliner first, is Shot Baker, Vacation Bible School, and Infected.

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