Busted in Chicago

Post Author: Will Deitz

A curtailed “Conceptual Carwash,” courtesy of the Chicago Police Department

In December, a small warehouse slightly east of Bucktown, Chicago played host to a show titled the “Conceptual Carwash.” The warehouse had been decked out with hanging strips of toilet paper to indeed look like a gigantic Autobell, with video art playing out of a dozen televisions against one wall, while a noise-rock quartet appropriately named Soloing Over Alanis Morissette blared from a corner.

Given the unheated state of the warehouse on a 10 degree night, the crowd topped out at about two dozen people (before 10:30 PM), but it was loud, it was amusing… and it didn’t last that long. It took slightly over an hour of music before no less than four CPD cars pulled up and eight armed officers arrived to shut the show down.

To be fair, the owners had no licenses or permits of any kind, not to put on a show, not to sell alcohol, and not to make a shitload of noise. But wasted college students have seen half as many officers shut down parties five times the size, tens times as crowded, and fifty times as raucus. The common refrain from these particular officers was “We’re not the enemy.” However, given the number of times the word “douchebag” and, strangely, “doofus” (yes, doofus) was used amongst them, they certainly weren’t friends.

Are there parallels between the Chicago underground music scene and East Germany in the deepest throes of communism? No. But, despite its status as the public art capital of the world, Chicago has paradoxically little tolerance for broke musicians as they attempt to put on loft – and apparently, warehouse – shows in under-trafficked areas of the city. Will this change in the near future? Unlikely. Will those who care find a way around it? We’ll see.