The Chicago International Music and Movies festival began its eighth annual run at the Music Box Theater in Logan Square. The marquee — a glowing beacon that reflected my own excitement for the festival and the hesitantly warm weather — displayed the name of the show that would kickoff the five-day long festivities. “The Smart Studios Story” was showing, to be followed by a Q&A with those heavily involved in the film. The 90-minute documentary tells the story of the titular recording studio in Madison, a facility that once provided services to legendary musicians like Chicago’s own Billy Corgan, The Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Garbage. Moderated by 93XRT radio DJ Marty Lennartz, the panel discussion included Butch Vig and Steve Marker, the respective drummer and guitarist of alt-rock band Garbage, as well as director Wendy Schneider. The film has been previously screened at SXSW and was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
Day 2: Thursday, April 14, 2016
For the second day of the festival, CUSP Magazine spread its reach to opposite sides of the city. On the southside, David Banner performed an intense set at Promontory, the popular lounge/club that’s quickly becoming a viable music venue in Hyde Park. The “Get Like Me” rapper, whose upcoming album “The God Box” is set to drop next month, gave a performance that was surprising not just for its ability to draw a crowd after years of being away, but its political tone. Citing a recent trip to Tanzania, Banner hyped up the crowd with soliloquies he deemed to be “socially conscious” by discussing topics like Hillary Clinton and the necessity of uplifting the black community in the U.S.
Political statements aside, Banner’s first show in six years was a testament to his talent and proved that meaty lyrics as much as a catchy beat can a good rapper make. His set was preceded by performances by local talents John the Author and duo Foster and Jack. Banner played songs off his new mixtape “Before The Box”, a preview for his upcoming album in May.
In keeping with the thread of social consciousness, CUSP began the night on Friday at the screening for the film “Fela Kuti: Music Is The Weapon”. The 1982 documentary chronicles the life and work of the Nigerian musician, who was outspoken about numerous issues plaguing his country. The documentary was directed by Jean-Jacque Flori and Stephane Tchalgadjieff.
CUSP continued on Milwaukee Ave. to Subterranean for a chance to watch the musical performances headlining the legendary Wicker Park venue that night. The Noble Thiefs, a funk-rock band from Montreal, began the night with a high-energy opening set. The dance-worthy songs performed by the four-piece outfit was a perfect opener for headliner The London Souls.
In Hyde Park, another night of highlighting a musical great was under way. Several artists showed up and showed out for a tribute to the late hip-hop legend J Dilla. Slum Village headlined the performance dedicated to one of its founding members in addition to several opening acts.
On the eve of the last day of the festival, the headlining performance by Minneapolis-based band Poliça at Thalia Hall quickly became one of the most memorable moments of CIMMfest. The drum-heavy synth rock set was haunting and set a mesmerizing tone across the packed floor. The synth rock drums coupled with lead singer Channy Leaneagh’s vocals reverberated in every corner of the 124-year-old venue while they played cuts off their newest album “United Crushers” as well as older favorites.
Mothxr opened for Poliça, a band that immediately won the crowd over before the night even began. The four piece band from Brooklyn had their own following that night as many attendees sang along to songs from their new album “Centerfold”.
CUSP Magazine also attended viewings at the Logan Theater on Saturday, including the film Beatbox by director Andre Dresher, and a documentary about the life and career of James Lavelle of UNKLE fame, titled “Artist & Repertoire”.
CIMMfest wrapped up the week with CIMMcon, a recent addition to the festival to expand its reach in the Chicago and international music industry. The conference is a partnership with local media arts incubators and music tech companies to provide education and events in the music industry to CIMMfest attendees. With a multitude of panels at Wicker Park and Logan Square venues, the conference portion of the festival included workshops, panel discussions and social mixers with knowledgeable creators immersed in the industry.
The festival held its closing event at 1st Ward at Chop Shop in Wicker Park. The multi-functional space was the site of the awards ceremony, where films, musicians and creators were honored for the work they presented at CIMMfest. The title of best feature film went to “Bang! The Bert Berns Story”, directed by Brett Berns and Bob Sarles. Musical performances included a three-song set by international singer Lisa Zane, who sang the three different songs in three different languages as well as a powerful David Bowie tribute by Ava Cherry.