“We can’t turn down the music. Let the Beatles speak for us. Anything they have to say, we have to say.” These are the words of the founding fathers of Go-Go Town, a contemporary loft venue at 3117 S. Morgan Street.
Go-Go Town is essentially a music space for the public, by the public. Cory Fehrenbacher, Robert Allen Winn, Christopher DelArcangelis, and Ross Howard are the founders of Go-Go Town. All in their 20s, the band members have congregated from various origins to help flesh out Chicago’s loft show scene. In response to the closures of some of their favorite Chi-Town DIY hotspots, such as Bridgeport’s recently shut down Soap Duck Love Club, the foursome, who have prior experience promoting shows, decided to open their first venue. The fact that the guys have their own band, always looking for the next gig to play, certainly played its part in the inspiration, too. “It was [established] for a dual purpose,” DelArcangelis explains, “Having a practice space for our band, Many Against Blue Whale, and to help continue the underground music scene in Chicago.”
Named for and dedicated to the spirit of the 1959 “Go Go” White Sox, the loft opened its doors on October 4th and hosted its first array of concerts a couple days after. Since then, they’ve been playing multiple shows a week, some with crowds of up to 100 to 200 people. First, however, they had to prepare the space. “The first thing we did was tear down the wall that was here.” The guys point to the columns at the back of the space that demarcate an open yet separate location for the bands to perform, while still allowing the audience room to dance. Next on the list was soundproofing–a crucial element, to prevent neighborhood disturbance. Fortunately for the guys (and their wallets), though, it would prove to be unnecessary. Hosting shows the first few weeks without it, they quickly realized that their neighbors didn’t particularly mind, and many supported their cause–one old man, in particular, has become a regular, often appearing towards the end of shows in a state of heavy inebriation, swaying happily in time to the tunes.
The middle space of the loft is dedicated to band equipment storage and beer sales–a buck a can, even for bands (although, as to be expected from such lo-fi venues, price enforcement varies). In contrast to the show space, the front of the house has a very chill vibe–the lights are dim, couches line the walls, and art is everywhere on the walls. A large framed landscape hangs on one, with a little shack labeled “Go-Go Town” drawn in. A whole slew of other artwork is drawn-in, too–and not just on the picture. “Our neighbor was the first one to start drawing on the walls, [after] he punched a hole in it,” says Fehrenbacher. “Eventually people just started taking Sharpies and drawing on the walls.”
Even the posters that advertise the bands who play at Go-Go Town are art. There is an offbeat oddity about these posters that draws you in, intoxicating your mind with “collaged” and “stolen” images, tantalizing your desire to hear the songs and screams of the many artists that rock out here. “Ross and I design most of the posters,” says DelArcangelis, “but we also have bands submit their own.” All of these posters can be viewed on Go-Go Town’s MySpace page, as well as the dates for upcoming shows.
While plenty a local band has graced Go-Go Town’s “stage,” many of the bands that perform at Go-Go Town are not from Chicago. “We have many touring bands from out of state come through here,” explains DelArcangelis. Go-Go Town uses the money they make from donations to bring bands out to Chicago and keep the loft running. “We make it a point to pay all of our touring bands properly, and whatever else is left we pay out of our own pocket,” says Howard.
If you want to describe Go-Go Town in one word, it would be eclectic. Unlike most venues where only a particular genre of music is played, Go-Go Town does it all. Go-Go Town brings people together with a montage of rock and roll, garage rock, psychedelic, industrial, goth, avant-garde, hip-hop, “country-esque twang”, improvised instruments, and visual shows. Usually, a rock band wouldn’t be booked with a hip-hop band, but Go-Go Town breaks these norms and “people love it”. “We believe in eclecticism,” explains DelArcangelis, “We’ve got the backs of all musical genres, and we encourage all of our patrons to explore and experience as much music variety as possible. Music is music and there’s lots to be learned from it.” The guys say their definition of eclectic is “equal open-mindedness.” “No pretense, no prejudice,” says DelArcangelis. Go-Go Town supports fun, and love of music no matter the era or technology.
This past Sunday, local acts Blueberry Fist and Judith Swan graced the stage. The next show is December 4th at 8pm, and on the 19th the proprietors’ band, Many Against Blue Whale, will play at Go-Go Town. As the band puts it, “We try not to hog the mike too much.”
Go-Go Town is definitely on the up and up. So far, about seventy bands have passed through Go-Go Town, and the venue has begun to work with B.A.D., the Bridgeport Arts District, to create more events and put Go-Go Town “on the map.” They are also looking to team up with Ed Marszewski, the head of the Lumpen arts collective headquartered approximately two blocks down from the loft. Go-Go Town wants to collaborate with anyone who is supportive of the South Side’s art scene, and the Chicago indie scene. “Music, art, performance, life. That’s what it’s all about,” states DelArcangelis. “If you think you can bring something new to the table than what’s already here, come on down. You’re more than welcome.”
Go-Go Town, 3117 S. Morgan St. myspace.com/gogotown3117