The Big Sideshow

(Sarah Mendelsohn)

If you’re entertaining thoughts of coming to the University of Chicago’s annual Summer Breeze festivities, you may have noticed that, in addition to the main stage performers–Nas, Damian “Junior Gong” Marley, and the Dirty Projectors–there’s a separate event organized by the University’s radio station, WHPK 88.5 FM. The following is a guide–written by station DJs –to the various groups and solo acts performing at WHPK’s free stage, which will be located on the University’s main quadrangles near the intersection of 58th Street and University Avenue.

WHPK DJs on the Other Summer Breeze

Eric and the Happy Thoughts
Do you remember July of 1969? Cruising the strip in your dad’s ‘stang with the top down, pulling your shaggy hair out of your face so you could scope out chicks on the boardwalk? These Indiana pretty boys do. Classic garage jingle jams and summer punk: Eric and the Happy Thoughts are a velveteen time train to warmer days. If the love-son of Joey Ramone and Alex Chilton and the love-daughter of Caetano Veloso and Brian Wilson were to have their own children, those kids would grow up to be Eric and the Happy Thoughts. Throw logic out the window, grab your shorts and Vans, and order yourself a pizza in the middle of class–Eric and the Happy Thoughts will not fail to turn your frowns upside-down. (Alec Mitrovich)

Pants Yell!
Pants Yell! has perfectly realized the disarming impact of the teen anthem written for the day you wake up and you understand that you’re 21 years old, and that life moves in small, modest ways. Andrew Churchman’s songs touch somewhere between the understated, stately pop of groups like the Go-Betweens and the Cat’s Miaow and the rampant joy of Another Sunny Day’s “Anorak City.” The band’s records, from their earliest cassette to their latest and final LP, on the legendary American pop label Slumberland Records (whose bands–the Aislers Set, Cause Co-Motion!–have graced the Summer Breeze stage in past years), encapsulate the heart of sincere guitar pop, growing ever more sophisticated as the early twenties roll on. Pants Yell! was the band of my teenage years, the living pop ideal, and no other group even came close. Summer Breeze will be the band’s first and last appearance in Chicago, as they will play their final show in Boston on May 24th. (Eric Hanss)

Electric Bunnies
These Miami psych-garage rockers evoke images of teenage puppet shows performed in front of a swathe of angsty and darling bop-stars. Their 2009 LP, “Through the Magical Door” (Florida’s Dying), runs the gamut of punk and post-punk modalities while transcending into poppy cutesiness through electric organs, harmonies, and tambourines. Negotiating the divide in the contemporary garage scene between psych-happy janglecats like the Black Lips and Strange Boys, and grungeface killah’s à la Wizzard Sleeve, the Electric Bunnies inhabit a zone in which Pitchforkers and disdainers alike can commingle. (Alec Mitrovich)

James Ferraro
Premiering nostalgic tendencies from stratosphere reverberations, Ferraro destroys all conceptions of identity and historicity in contemporary culture. Twinkling new-age synths overlaying paranoid and sometimes sentimental samples transport the listener to 1970s Midwestern truck stops and outer-rim stations. Sometimes known as Edward Flex, Ferraro was part of the drone bands The Skaters and Lamborghini Crystal. Though each of his projects and LPs orchestrates its own unique environment and language, all carry traces of the Southern California composer’s tumescent brain idea. Expect loop-rich drones, lush keyboards, and a pleasurable assault on the listener’s senses. (Alec Mitrovich)

The Dreams
If Angelo Badalamenti had composed a soundtrack for a film about Dale Cooper’s evil doppelganger, he would have pre-empted the Dreams. These French glue-wave champs (the band includes members from the Anals, A.H. Kraken, and Crack und Ultra Eczema) blend anarcho-dub bangers with twangy, reverbed-out guitars and vocals in order to generate paranoid night terrors from the Black Lodge. Echoes of Public Image Ltd. inhabit the dark corners of the Dreams’ understated and hopeless odysseys, where fans of trance-inducing oblivion will not be disappointed. (Alec Mitrovich)

Eric Lopez-Zarino, a.k.a. Teepee will burn this Summer Breeze into your nostalgia hub. Also from Florida, Teepee has released a number of cassettes and seven-inches, along with an LP, on numerous labels, including Florida’s Dying, Night People, and HoZac. Teepee’s set promises to end the WHPK stage’s events on a cozy note. Naïve and innocent waves of guitar loops and effected vocals meet to hold hands and synthesize teary-eyed smiles. Occasionally, a drum machine appears to encourage leg-bobbing, but even these moments are delightfully pure. An appropriate counter-balance to the afternoon’s moodier moments, Teepee’s Summer Breeze appearance will surely be one that you warmly recollected years in the future. (Alec Mitrovich)
University of Chicago Quads, near 1118 E. 58th St. May 15. Saturday, noon. All ages, Free.

Shooting the Breeze

This year’s Summer Breeze concert will include a collaboration between the Major Activities Board and Fire Escape Films, the student filmmakers group on campus. Fire Escape members have been re-cutting their work over the past few weeks to provide visuals intended to accompany DJ OCD Automatic’s set during the festival.

UofC third-year Justin Staple, one of the current co-chairs of the organization and the mastermind behind this collaboration, describes the process of choosing what would be in the screening: “We’re compiling a bunch of the work that has come out this year from various filmmakers on campus and making one long, visually stimulating commercial to promote how much fun making movies can be and the vibrant community of filmmakers already around on campus. Expect something you might find late one night on MTV during the 80s.”

As ever, Fire Escape members are eager to screen their work for an audience. Member and UofC third-year Joey Brown says, “We’re extremely excited to gain access to the crowds that Summer Breeze draws. Hopefully we can use this event to show the campus what we can do.” (Rebecca Kilberg)