Tuesday, August 30, 2011

27 Aug 11 - I AM Fest

Hey, blogspot readers, it's a single-day festival in which there's a focus on Chicago's thriving independent art and music scene. Held under one roof at the world famoust House of Blues, I AM Fest brought together varied musical performances from experimental/rock to folk-Americana and funk/soul/hiphop fusion with local artists/crafters as well as photographers and filmmakers for a third straight year. Yet this year's fest was quite special for all involved behind the scenes ...and for the record books. SouthSide will allow Brian Bender (co-founder/Elbo Room talent buyer, sound guy and more/front man of The Branded) comment on this. "...House of Blues' [maximum] capacity limit is 1300 ...we had 14000 in paid ticket sales..." However when factoring in the staff, techs and etc with that number, the grand total for this local fest was *drum roll* - 1492! That's an amazing feat for a 3 year old single-day independent festival, blogspot readers, to sellout the entire House of Blues.

Despite not being able to cover this year's extraordinary I AM Fest, SouthSide did survey those who did while rockin' at Elbo Room for the afterparty. First, she caught up with Tim Muldoon of Workout Music for his synopsis about the fest and his band's House of Blues' performance. Here's what he had to say "...it was unbelievable ...great acts..." plus Workout "...rocked it out with an encore..." Blogspot readers should be on the lookout for Workout Music to release a CD sometime in October. Singer/songwriter Ryan Powers (who performed last year's I AM Fest) said "...it was good ... a fun night..." Everyone else she spoke to had glowing remarks about I AM Fest which many included raves about Workout Music's performance as well as the other acts included in the lineup like JipJop, Board of Governors and Finley Knight. This reviewer asked Brian what was his personal highlight of the fest in which he responded with two answers. Besides saying it was "...awesome...", he briefly discussed about the pairing of a photographer (who snapped a facial photo displaying only half of the photo) with an artist (who painted the other half) while on stage. Then he talked about the facial reaction from the House of Blues' production manager upon seeing the silly string (and confetti) during Workout Music's performance.

SouthSide snagged a few (funny interruptive) moments with (Andrew) Coate, Art Director/etc of I AM Fest to get his insight about the day's event. First, he commedted by saying "...I AM Fest was brilliant ...having more and more momentum than the last two..." however stating that he didn't view this year's fest as "year three", blogspot readers. In his opinion, Coate felt this I AM Fest was the start of the next phase ...or "...climbing towards the plateau where I AM Fest was first envisioned ...it's [definitely] going somewhere..." adding "...this year we put the focus on where it could go in the future..." He was happy that I AM had a sellout attendance at the House of Blues as well as seeing the many people inside the venue at all times, according to him, was "...fantastic..." When asked about his personal highlight of the day long Fest, he also picked the artist-photographer collaboration commenting that someone immediately brought the art piece once it left the stage. Coate gave another example to SouthSie about an artist who sold 20 pieces during I AM Fest though not knowing how small or large the pieces actually were. For him, this year's festival was more about showcasing the independent art scene but also showcasing the financial support and appreciation of the arts. Between Matt Elgeston (Elbo Room's famed door guy/bartender and groom-to-be) interrupting the interview to say "I love you, man...", Coate wanted SouthSide to mention he had a few celebratory shots courtesy of Dave Cooke (Elbo Room's owner/manager) "...we Irishmen stick together..."

So how does one top this year's I AM Fest ...or what's in store for next year's fest? That's was the main thought on SouthSide's mind after hearing how successful this year's event was. So she posed the question to Brian Bender for his opinion to which he mentioned House of Blues might consider giving I AM Fest a two-day (weekend) run instead of its current status - a single-day event. He understands that running a fest on that magnitude would mean double the work for him, the staff and bands, blogspot readers, yet for now ...he's taking it into consideration before making a final decision on the offer. According to Brian, "...I'm not saying 'no'..." The same question was asked to Coate who replied "...expanding it [I AM Fest] to two days would mean more flexibility for the artists and musicians to promote themselves as well as fans to explore more of Chicago's local scene ...that's what this fest is all about getting more people interested in the local scene and more..."

However Dave Cooke had a completely different prospective about expanding I AM Fest into a two-day festival. He said "...it's a big deal to run it for two days ...but I do not want to dilute it..." adding his concerns about the caliber of the bands chosen to perform if I AM was two days instead of one day. Plus he added on more concern, blogspot readers, remarking that he didn't want to see I AM Fest turned into another MOB Fest or Lollapalooza. On that note, SouthSide asked Dave for his thoughts about I AM's record breaking sellout crowd of nearly 1500 in attendance. Dave had one word to say "...awesome..." commenting that the "...bands were thrilled about it ...and getting the chance to play at a venue like House of Blues which some may not get another chance like that again..." He also said they were all humbled but sincere about the experience. To truly sum up I AM Fest, this reveiewer turned to Matt for the last word and here's what he had to say "...after a culmination of months and months of hard word of wrapping up a [long] year of local music, it [I AM Fest] was another outstanding event by the Elbo Room music family ...and it showed Chicago's local scene is more than thriving..." adding "...a rousing 'thank you' to everyone involved..." and that he loves Andrew Coate. What a wonderful way to wrap up I AM Fest, blogspot readers, and now it was time to party!

RayIsDude is the shit! ~ Shawn & Coatswood

Both floors of Elbo Room were jammed pack with partying patrons and fans rockin' to vibrant high energy performances by Damon Dotson (acoustic lounge) and Prom Band with RayIsDude headlining (downstairs). Damon with special guest on percussion performed an excellent double set of covers (i.e. Black Crowes' She Talks To Angels and more) as well as a few of his original material. This dynamic singer/songerwriter had many (especially those near the front of the stage) dancing along to his intense acoustic sound and falsetto style including this reviewer after sharing a couple of turns on the floor with her mystery partner.

Meanwhile downstairs, Prom Band also had another crowd rockin' to their energized double performance of popular cover songs such as Stevie Nicks' Edge of Seventeen, Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer, Britney Spears' Hit Me, Baby, One More Time (in SouthSide's opinion was WAY better than the original version) and some hiphop like Limp Bizkit's Rollin' (which had this crowd totally fired up and movin' to the beat). However, blogspot readers, this band wasn't merely rockin' a show in front of their fans. They were also raising donations for Babes For Boobs in which 70% of their door entry fee/merch purchases were going to breast cancer research to find a cure. SouthSide highly recommends rockin' your next party or prom with Prom Band.

Though not as hardcore as Eminem or any other underground rapper from South or Westside, Nortwestsider RayIsDude rocked the stage with his one-man act of lively rap/hiphop tunes that included City Girl and more. This reviewer recently saw this artist during the I AM Fest Finale in which she really didn't like his style or rap however she did give him a second chance enjoying what she heard this time. And now she could understand why fans flock to each of his performances, blogspot readers. Ray is quite "positive" in his own special way meaning he doesn't drop the F-bombs or call women "bitches" or "whores". What he did feature within his set was "old school" (think LL Cool J, Run DMC, Will Smith) when hiphop/rap was still in its infancy yet with his own rhythms and beats (to which he disclosed to SouthSide his difficulty in coming up with fresh music for his songs). RayIsDude will be rockin' the scene with a mix tape coming out soon but in the meantime, this reviewer highly suggests checking out this rap/hiphop artist at his next show.

Until next time, support your local scene,

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