Features | Concerts

CITYBUILD V: Teengurl Fantasy/Gatekeeper/Dust/Supreme Cuts...

By Kaylen Hann | 14 January 2013

I don’t want to make any assumptions about your life, but you are probably missing the #seapunk scene. And New York, rest of the world: you just don’t know how much you are missing when you miss the seapunk scene.

It was a goal of mine, before moving to New York*, to high-five the major seapunks in Chicago. And between previous FILTER-sponsored Danny Brown DJ set** and CITYBUILD V I think I left with the highlights fairly well ‘fived.


Last night a Seapunk DJ didn’t “save my life,” but she did stop me just in time to avoid stepping on some big honking shards of broken bottle in an alley. Clearly too intoxicated to look out for my own well-being, I was wearing sandals; that is appreciated. For a girl with a front-and-center neck tat, ZOMBELLE is a real considerate sister.

Night two of a two-or-three day/night seapunk party (part one being a BBQ the night before), CITYBUILD V was the more hush-hush of the nights. If you didn’t get the facebook invite, it wasn’t posted or promoted even by CITYBUILD itself, by any of the DJs/bands (except a brief and vague mention by Supreme Cuts an hour beforehand), and, likewise, it wasn’t listed on Chicago’s staple DIY loft show site diychi.org—which usually does promote several events for the “venue” (yeah, I will clarify those scare quotes in a sec.), Dust Bowl.

It would behoove me to not disclose on the internet where this show was, exactly, as the proprietors take such care and precaution to keep it under wraps. (If you need directions, you have to request them by email.) I’ll say this much about Dust Bowl: it is not convenient to get to by any stretch of the imagination. But, like most seapunk events, it’s fun as shit once you get there.

Dust Bowl beats like an un-air-conditioned tell-tale heart with seapunk art-students pumping—and haunted-noodle-dancing in flashy unitards—through its damp, grimy ventricles, somewhere in the sparsely populated and certainly not-downtown area of Chicago. Middle of nowhere, the next-biggest attraction the neighborhood had to offer was this empty, fenced-in lot where my friend Luke and I drunkenly played real life Angry Birds on some gigantic pile of discarded wooden planks in-between sets.

I’m not sure why there was a door guy planted on a stool outside Dust Bowl, except to be a dude looking like he had things under control. Walking up, I reached for my ID and he shooed me in like I was the least-clued-in asshole on the block (fair enough?). Inside, a cinder-block hallway was clogged with drunk kids sitting on tables that were already hemmed in empty PBR tallboys. And, behind a bar, a rotating cast of “chefs” (also drunk kids) were making what I think were tacos(?), generously saturating the place with a pungent Mexican-meat-smell that I’m sure blanketed what this place would have pungently smelled of otherwise. Many things in this world being less pleasant than taco-smell—I was already having a pretty fly time, just walking in.

(I didn’t eat them, but compared to peanuts and rose petals the tacos-plus-question-marks were tame.)

Dust Bowl, to my enjoyment, was an unusual, dank, and oddly graffiti-ed…

…warehouse-ish space with cement floors, the likes of which you’d never bother cleaning; warped plywood doors to rooms full of old bike parts and generic detritus; warped beams supporting some poor bastard’s rat-nest-like mattress and/or potential actual rat nest. An unfortunate autoharp dangled from a pipe. Wet, alleyway sludge congealed with cigarettes and crushed cans under our sandals and a big drain in the middle of the floor suggested the place could simply be hosed down—but nothing about it suggested that a hosing down was something that happens regularly or at all.

Like similar non-venue venues (the regrettably now-defunct Beerics with its inimitable half-pipe and romantic courtyard)—and I guess also a bit like Deadwood in that—there were no real rules there. No one looks at your ID, free PBR (until roughly 1 AM, when they bumped it up to $2), and poppers (um, the legal gay disco drug that does stuff to your butt?) were handed out from a small window ensconced in black-light papier-mâché monsters.

And like some of my favorite places in the world of non-venues: smoking indoors? Yes, sure.

It’s worth noting, maybe, that this was one of those shows where arriving in a t-shirt and jeans, I stuck out like the sorest of thumbs. Luke also showed up in an affable banana-cream and black striped, Mossimo t-shirt and together, looking utterly normal, we looked like such obvious assholes. (The Facebook invite, which I only stumbled onto later read: “SEWAGE SLUT ATTIRE ENCOURAGED” and had I seen it earlier I would have played this thing differently. Or I wouldn’t have. None of my cardigans really scream “SEWAGE SLUT,” or, they just don’t exactly “scream” it.***)

On the bus over, I’d honestly pictured spending my night peaceably shaking a knee and drinking a beer in someone’s loft. And, having made it several hours late due to transit construction and outright lies from Google maps’ CTA Bus Tracker, I rolled in around 11 PM, worried that I’d show up mid-end set, a band would play two songs, and then I’d have to—sulky and unsatiated—find my way back home. That was not the case and when we sweatily departed around 2:30 AM, the headliner Teengurl Fantasy was still a few sets away from going on.

Mid-lineup, we walked into the end of Yoko Homo’s set—and the guy if you’re not familiar recently had an artist on artist interview in the Reader with Twin Shadow—and having no dividing line between the bands and the crowd, it was hard to tell who was or wasn’t in the band. Like: whether this gleaming, shirtless boy in blue metallic tights was a part of the band and his role is just to writhe like a disco anemone tentacle (Are they tentacles? Arms?) or if he was just some guy really into dancing that way for the duration of the set.****

But anyways. Despite being so many feet from the actual people making music, the sound wasn’t great; we heard very little; we got some roses thrown at us. (I guess that was romantic.) We went outside figuring this might be how the night was going to go, musically. Fortunately, either the bands’ sound got better or we simply seemed to find a sound-quality sweet-spot off to the right, between the “allotted performance area”, the single, suspended, ancient fan, and the weird bike/junk room.

It was a volume-rich little nook, allowing us a notably luscious moment during Supreme Cuts’ performance of new track/remix “Physical Therapy”/“Drone On (f/. Jamie Krasner).” For all that you could say about the crowd, they were a feeling-music-crowd and the throng of woozily swaying costumed people culminated with the dank wafts of weird taco smells, and even the texture of wet floor grit between my toes, briefly transcended into a moment of euphoria.

It was everything I wanted out of a show, and, with a heavy heart it was everything I wanted out of a city right at that moment. Leaving Chicago for New York in ten days, my heart swelled with love for this kindhearted (no one really cared that we weren’t SEWAGE SLUTS) and gross little event. It felt great; it sounded great; it smelled…a way that makes you say, “well there are worse smells.” And I was pretty drunk on someone else’s dollar.

Not all roses and nascent euphoria though, as lead singer of Brooklyn’s Dust put on a hell of a performance, which is too bad considering they are just un-findable on the internet. In a hell of a multi-colored unitard of her own, while also managing to sound great, the lead vocalist managed to toss her hair around like a pop punk show pony and pull some applaudably bitchin’ David Bowie deep-thigh lunges…

…as much for us as for some guy with his own video camera. What happened to this video: who knows.

The only real downsides to these shows are: getting there/getting home/leaving early in time to grab the last bus back home, and of course the non-venue panic that you occasionally catch whiffs of, if you’re hanging around outside. There were a lot of hastily issued rules about loitering around the building and in the alley. We were frequently told to disperse, not to draw attention. Though, as we were the only two people in jeans and t-shirts, it would have been only a merit to them had we broken up the circus seapunk “SEWAGE SLUT” visuals that were leaning against the building, sitting in the alley with hordes of empty cans amongst the broken bottle pieces. Ultrademon looking, well, like Ultrademon, girls in full-body unitards or wispy gowns, a group of boys in denim overalls like Ben Hawkins from Carnivàle, but with body glitter.

At one harrowing juncture we were shooed away from the door with some Paul-Revere-like cry: “the white shirts are coming!” Which, we spent a few minutes debating what the “white shirts” actually were. It couldn’t be cops—those are blue shirts.

Some colloquial variation on the asylum “men in the white coats”?

Our best guesses were: businessmen or Mormon missionaries.

Anyways. I would impart this advice to you. Should you make it to one of these events, and whether or not you come prepared with weirdly expensive seapunk swag…I implore you, if you don’t have health insurance: just don’t fucking wear sandals.

You’ll probably have a great or okay time. But don’t wear sandals.

* Not “hip” New York; I live in East Harlem and it’s more like I just contend with the occasional angry Cuban woman holding a bag of chicken parts and shouting at me in Spanish when I go grocery shopping.

** It was a terrible show and high-fiving seapunks was the only real positive takeaway. After rolling in around 1 AM, shouting “CHECK” a lot, Danny Brown just got off stage and walked around wrecked calling the pinball machines “skeeball” and saying, “I want to play skeeball.” Then I did two fingers of molly and proposed to a friend: “LET US YOU AND I GO GRIND UP ON DANNY BROWN”…It wasn’t a good night; he doesn’t think I’m cool.

*** Loud enough…

**** If inquiring minds want to know, Luke and I did some internet detective-ing and he is a separate guy; his name is Simon Zebracorn, which has a fun “Johnny Appleseed” ring to it.