The start to another year means the celebration of another amazing Ian’s Party. The Chicago-based three day music festival is always one of my favorites of the year. It’s the perfect reason to pull your seasonal depressed ass off the couch and head over to Wicker Park to immerse yourself in a huge variety of bands and artists showcasing the best of what Chicago’s (mostly) North Side music scene has to offer. I don’t know what it was about this year’s festivities, but I really felt like the event bookers out did themselves. I discovered a handful of new bands I had never heard of before, was able to check out some that I was familiar with but never got the chance to see live, and watched some long time favorites.
I tried to catch as many of the bands as I could, but I found myself drawn to the upstairs stage at Subterranean for most of the evening. While most of my musical knowledge revolves around Punk bands and music, the wide variety of bands/artists which graced the upstairs stage were so audibly and visually engaging, I found it hard to peel myself away. I started with Ohori-Koen (ultimately one of my favorite discoveries of the whole weekend), then Topomaka, who only ever seems to come out of the woodwork to play Ian’s Party.
I had caught the last part of Sophagus‘ set a year or two ago but I had WAY too many drinks to comprehend what I was watching. This year, I was clear minded and ready to take it all in. Fuck, what a show. It was fun. It was bizarre. People were dancing and smiling and laughing. What else could you ask for? Then Avantist took to the upstairs SubT stage next and blew me away for another year in a row. It’s been really interesting to watch these guys evolve their sound over the last year. And they mentioned that they had just gotten back from recording a new album, so keep an eye out for that!
Drilling for Blasting may be one of my favorite Chicago bands to catch live. It is a 100% guarantee that the duo will put on a great show. I had to take to higher ground once Typesetter took the stage. The venue’s crowd seemingly doubled in size and decreased in age and the whole front of the venue turned into one giant mosh pit. Even when singer/guitarist Marc Bannes introduced a newer, slower song off the band’s most recent release Nothing Blues, the energy and pitting never slowed down.
In between all of the upstairs shuffle, I ran downstairs inside SubT and also down the street to Chop Shop to catch bands I was more familiar with. Wig officially opened both my night and the festival itself. No Dead Heroes brought their brand of metal influenced punk to SubT downstairs. And may I add, it’s always a treat to see local drum legend Ronnie DiCola step out from behind the kit and grab a guitar. There were the back-to-back chicken bands where Chicken Happen brought their lowfi punk goodness to the stage and then I caught Wisconsin’s fully charged cowpunk band Wood Chickens. The simplest way to describe this band is with a comment I was told. “I was watching them and kept thinking ‘god the guitarist is so good. He just shreds’ And then I looked at the bassist and thought the same thing. And the same with the drummer.” I caught a few songs of Kali Masi and Two Houses too.
I ended my night with a newer obsession – Bev Rage and the Drinks – and an older one – Absolutely Not. I caught Bev last year when the band played Ian’s Party. I liked the name and had no idea what to expect. So when a practically 7 foot tall woman with PBR cans pinned to her hair like curlers walked onstage, strapped on a guitar, and started feeding the audience snacks, I lost my mind. This year, the band’s seen a bit of a lineup change, but it appears to be only for the better. Plus there were Oreos and bubbles this year. Fuck yeah. My fandom has grown even stronger. Absolutely Not has gained national recognition over the last few years, and for good reason. The four piece has a haunting yet familiar air to their sound. Their songs are danceable but bring you to the edge where you almost lose the beat. The collective sound is built and layered so thoroughly and thickly, that it’s almost too much… but then the beat picks back up and you have no choice but to keep dancing and smiling.
I walked out of the venue exhausted and completely content. I feel like each night of Ian’s Party is worth a month of local shows. I took it all in. I saw and experienced so much Chicago music in six hours’ time, I could go back into hibernation for another month and feel content. But, of course, that was not an option. There were two more nights to go!
Check out photos from Night One below. Unlike my writing, they are in chronological order:
- Absolutely Not
- Bev Rage and the Drinks
- Chicken Happen
- Drilling For Blasting
- Kali Masi
- No Dead Heroes
- Two Houses
- Wood Chickens