My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

It’s been such a wild ride.

So, I know undergoing this ~K-Pop Awakening~ (I now say with a hint of an eyeroll @ myself) has been weird, not only for me but also for my friends and probably everyone I know as well. K-pop, as I learned, can pretty much completely take over a person’s life, and I now realize I am a living example of this. Where is my shame, though? Do I have any? I really don’t think so anymore.

I learned a lot by entering the k-pop community. First: there is rarely such a thing as a casual fan. You either hardcore stan a group (or more than one, in most cases) or you don’t. Gray areas don’t exist, and once you catch feelings for a group, there’s no turning back.

Second: k-pop fans have no chill. Contrasting to my last point, this can vary from fan to fan. You can show your love for your group in small ways such as wearing items of jewelry or clothing adorned with the group’s relative symbols or your bias’s name, whereas other times fan groups with numbers in the hundreds or thousands get together and purchase ad space in Times Square to honor their bias group’s anniversary or plaster their faces on a bus for their birthdays. How they manage to pull it off is beyond me, but there is no denying the love they have for these groups and members is real.

Third: the k-pop community is one of the most accepting communities I’ve ever been a part of. Aside from fan wars (which is a completely different story), every person I’ve met and disclosed my “I don’t know what is happening to me but I love it” spiel to has given me a look of sympathy and said “it’s okay, I’ve been there too and I know what you’re going through and you will be okay,” followed by an exchange of how we discovered our bias groups and/or consequently gotten sucked into the k-pop void. It’s comforting to know that having your entire mindset and lifestyle taken over by this stuff is not only not unusual, but it is rampant, and you form an immediate bond with everyone else who this has happened to. In losing yourself, you find others.


Fourth: K-pop groups don’t come to America very often, but when they do, everything happens so fast. I am used to western artists announcing a tour anywhere from several months to more than a year before they actually hit your city. This gives you plenty of time to plan when you can go, maybe save up for a ticket or at least purchase it and make the money back later, but for k-pop groups, you get maybe a month or two’s notice before they begin a tour. This is stressful as h e c k. Not only are you bewildered that your bias group is coming to America at all, can you actually go? And if you can, can you afford it?? (Ticket prices are no joke, even the cheapest seats are half of one of my minimum-wage pay checks). If you’re able to take off school or work (which many, if not most k-pop fans go to that extent to do), you’re set… that is, as long as you’re part of a major US city. Likely, if you live anywhere that’s not NYC, LA, or Chicago, among other factors (being underage/can’t travel by yourself, can’t drive, can’t take off school/work, etc), you have to face the agony knowing your favorite group is in your country for once but it’s impossible for you to go see them.

Being a k-pop fan is not easy, especially when your dream is to see your favorite groups live even once in your life. In stanning these groups, both your pride and your wallet often ache with frustration.

That being said, in a surprising turn of events…

I got to see both of my bias groups within a month of each other!! Something I thought I would never get to do in this lifetime!!! Especially considering I’ve only adopted this lifestyle for a mere few months, whereas most of the k-pop fans I’ve met have been into this stuff for years. I’d be lucky to catch even one group’s show, but for once the stars (and my bank account, miraculously) aligned and I managed to see both of the two k-pop groups I fell in love with over the fall! Continue reading “My K-Pop Awakening Part 3: I Saw Both My Bias Groups In One Month”

Fast Romantics Interview with Noteworthy

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Photo credit: Jen Squires

Ivan of Noteworthy here again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org). Make sure to mark your calendar for this Wednesday, June 28. Fast Romantics, an indie rock band out of Toronto with a flair for big Springsteen-style hooks, will be performing at Township (2200 N. California Ave.) in support of their latest album, American Love. I spoke with lead singer/guitarist Matthew Angus through e-mail (pictured 3rd from right) about love in times of political turmoil and rebuilding the band.

Noteworthy: For folks who may be hearing about you for the first time, tell us the origin of the name Fast Romantics.

The name Fast Romantics precedes this band.  It was the result of a brainstorming session we had in the very first version of the [group] many years ago. We just locked ourselves in a room and came out with those words. There’s no meaning behind it really. But when we reformed Fast Romantics a couple of years ago with all these new members, we decided to keep the moniker, and now it’s just one of those meaningless names you give to anybody. Like “The Beatles” or … “Fred.”

NW: The band got its start in Calgary and you recently filmed the video for “Alberta” there during a tour off day spent visiting family and friends. What is one surprising thing about the town that most people wouldn’t know about it?

Calgary is known for the Calgary Stampede and most people in America picture it as full of cowboy hats and boots and rodeos and farms but really it’s nothing like that at all. It’s become a pretty cosmopolitan town with a lot of amazing subcultures and a thriving music scene.

NW: Another American Love track, “Why We Fight” was recently played during a broadcast of this year’s NHL playoffs. What was that moment like and do you have any all-time favorite players from the Calgary Flames?

It did, that was a trip. As Canadians, having your song open up a hockey playoff game is kinda like playing the Grammys, it’s a big deal y’know. You’re talking to a band of mostly Toronto Maple Leafs fans, believe it or not, but Jeff’s still holding out for the Flames. Me personally, even though I’m a Leafs fan, you gotta love former Flame Lanny McDonald. Not only was he a badass hockey player but I went to school with his daughter and met him a bunch, and he’s just a super nice guy. Continue reading “Fast Romantics Interview with Noteworthy”

Blues and News: Kingston Mines Interview

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For my upcoming show on Sunday, May 21st, I will be airing an interview with Donna and Lisa Pellegrino from the Kingston Mines Blues Club. During our conversation, we discussed some of the club’s history and impact on the Chicago Blues Scene. Coincidentally, I interviewed them during the club’s 49th year anniversary.

Kingston Mines is owned by Dr. Lenin ‘Doc’ Pellegrino, who will be celebrating his 92nd birthday this August. The club originally was founded in 1968 by a group of individuals as a non-profit organization called the Kingston Mines Theatre Company located at 2356 North Lincoln Avenue. The theatre offered a variety of acts and entertainment, including musical productions, poetry readings, Blues music, Folk Music and more.  In fact, the original version of “Grease” the musical was premiered at the Kingston Mines Theatre.

The live Blues music proved to be the most successful at the Theatre. Eventually, the original founders parted ways with the theatre and pursued their interests through different routes. ‘Doc’ purchased the rights to the club in 1972. In the early 1980’s the Kingston Mines relocated to its new location at 2548 N. Halsted Street. Many Blues Legends have performed at the Kingston Mines, including but not limited to Koko Taylor, Magic Slim, Valerie Wellington, and Eddie Shaw just to name a few. I should also mention that a lot of rock stars tend to stop by the club. The Rolling Stones were frequent visitors and even would perform live on stage. If you go to the club today, some of the artists you will find include Billy Branch, Vance Kelly, Mike Wheeler, Joanna Connor, Nellie Travis, Nora Jean Bruso.

Kingston Mines Outside

Part of the Kingston Mines’ great success as a long-standing Blues Club is their ability to attract a diverse audience of all types.

Sunday – Thursdays, college students (and faculty) can get into the club for free. Fridays- Saturdays, college students(and faculty) can get a discounted rate. You need a valid ID for the discounted rates, and you must be 21 years or older to go to Kingston Mines.  They offer two bands on two different stages, every night.

Kingston Mines is open every day of the year (including holidays).  They are located at 2548 N. Halsted Street. For more information about the Kingston Mines, then you can visit their website at www.KingstonMines.com.

Doc Pellegrino is an alumnus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In February of 2004, Doc was awarded the “City Partner Award” from the University of Illinois Alumni Association for his “outstanding contribution to the vitality of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Chicago Metropolitan Area. His daughter Lisa Pellegrino and son, Frank Pellegrino are also UIC Alumni.

Make sure you tune into Blues and News with Brother Jacob this Sunday, May 21st from 6 pm – 8 pm (CST) for the full interview with Donna and Lisa Pellegrino.

Personal Space: PWR BTTM and How Online Mob Culture Hurts Both Accusers and the Accused

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Lena Dunham and Matthew Rhys, S6E3 of HBO’s GIRLS

Earlier this year, my favorite show GIRLS made waves with a bottle episode called “American Bitch,” in which the main character Hannah meets one of her literary idols, the fictional Chuck Palmer. Chuck’s had some allegations made against him- several women have come forward on the Internet with claims that he sexually assaulted them, specifically, that he forced several of them into oral sex on his book tour. Hannah, a burgeoning writer, publishes a piece on a “niche feminist website” expressing her rage and frustration at the accusations, stating “If one more male writer I love reveals himself to be a heinous sleazebag, I’m going to do a bunch of murders, create a new isle of Lesbos, and never look back.”

Continue reading “Personal Space: PWR BTTM and How Online Mob Culture Hurts Both Accusers and the Accused”

A Working Spring

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

Three jobs and twenty one credit hours have kept me off of UIC Radio’s front page this semester, much to the dismay of my twelve readers (I ❤ you guys & gals). A busy spring also kept Nick V, Cheech, and me from sitting down in the same room together for about two months. When we finally found overlapping free time, we spent the better part of two hours animatedly talking about Syria, Chicago’s water, and the prison system. But between catching up and conversations eventually bleeding into politics, I managed to ask a few questions and listen to some phenomenal answers.

I wanted to interview the FreeFAM founders for a second time. Last fall, they’d impressed me with their business-minded approach to their genre. Without sacrificing individuality and independence, they seek to create a brand to support all kinds of artists. Coming from a city with a music culture that’s very “out-for-yourself,” their message is refreshing. FAM is in the name.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

 

An obligatory catch-up is needed first, as these guys have not sat still since the last time they visited UIC Radio’s studio. They’ve been playing gigs, traveling, and working with producers like CB Mix, credited on Chance’s Coloring BookThey’re working with LRG to create clothing and Pat Banahan of Lost TV to make videos. The group just released a music video for Bless the Bottles, (my personal favorite so far) featuring the same BMW I8 King Louie and Vonmar used in their own video. They even played a show at College of DuPage, which only sounds mildly impressive until you learn COD won’t back anyone without a tax ID and business number. They even have a website. FreeFAM is officially in business.

On Tuesday, I asked Nick V and Cheech about branding. I wanted to know what audience FreeFAM would draw as a full-blown music label complete with t-shirts and dispensaries. Both brothers said “local” immediately. They don’t want to limit themselves to Chicago, but their focus is building up a platform to support all members of music production. Their circle includes engineers and videographers, animators, and even a few family members for legal counsel. The want anyone who’s drawn to an image of family, brothers, positive moves, and a platform that’s there to serve their clients. Cheech commented that “non-threatening artists” are what resonate in Chicago today.

 

Nick said he wants people with energy. “Energy to party, to help, to create.” He’s got a vision of FreeFAM as a charity and force for good in Chicago. We inevitably broke into ranting about senators and bills, but Nick had a ton to say about water quality. It was endearing and inspiring and had me walking home thinking how one could add water filters to a music label…But that’s beside the point.

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Courtesy of Lost TV.

I asked about brands that could “make or break” an artist. Lil Wayne and Cash Money were brought up, as was Future, who got in a legal battle with his manager and was forced to release two albums ahead of time so he could start making his own money. Some artists get caught promoting BS; Cheech brought up the Fyre Festival flop. But Jay-Z’s own streaming website was mentioned as a positive. “It all depends on if a brand will encourage or control you,” Nick told me. A label obviously wants a return on investment and will have to control an artist’s image if money is lost. So who’s got their label working for them? Cheech laughed at this thought and brought up Kanye. “His label has been taking so much money from his music. Someone’s been making 50% off all of his songs.”

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Photo courtesy of Lost TV.

Controlling the artist is beyond the aims of the Freedom Family. Both brothers explained respect for their artist is the only reason they’d sign someone, and there’s no need to control someone they respect. They don’t intend to cultivate a brand that interferes with music production or limits the evolution and development of an artist.

“At the end of the day, music is the most important. But music won’t be heard without branding.” Other groups have PR people to handle web pages, social media, and scheduling. But for FreeFAM, “It’s just me and Cheech,” Nick says. The work is taking a toll; Nick V’s been off social media and left with what sounds like carpal tunnel in his hands and a prescription for range-of-motion exercises. “Shouldn’t be constantly posting, anyway,” he admitted. I told him not to worry about it. “It’s always nice to hear from family.”

 

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

American Rage and Suburban Malaise: A Study of the Urban Punk Underground

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Martha’s Got a Limp Wrist (Photo by Christian Contreras)

This piece has been censored for the UIC Radio blog.

It’s difficult to write about punk without draining it of its chaos.

The greatest punk shows are soaked in sweat and blown into the red. The best punk lyrics are incomprehensible, the best punk venues include a highly suspect dirty mattress in the corner, and the best punk showgoer is one who will sweat all over you, push you into other strangers, scream in your face, and then let you bum a cigarette at the end of the night. When writing about punk neglects to include that sense of disorder and entropy, you get sterile talk of what is, above all, the art of violent, cathartic release.

When I was a teenager, DIY punk shows in Chicago were my safe haven. Growing up gay, there are very few spaces in which you know that you’re not the only outcast- which isn’t to say that I was some sort of hunchbacked adolescent hermit, but when you come out of the closet early, there’s a very thin line you have to walk, knowing all the eyes that rest on you. Getting drunk, then moshing and screaming and sweating in trashed apartments on the weekends was just the sort of chaotic release I needed to keep from cracking under the pressure.

There’s an energy at every great punk show that finds its way up your spine and lets you know you aren’t the only one who just needs a f*cking break. There are systems in place working against all of us- some more complicated or institutionalized than others- but the fun of a punk show is sourced from the moment it allows for young, frustrated, bored, and fed up people to stop needing to think for a while.

Eventually though, you stop being seventeen years old and it’s no longer socially acceptable to struggle through an Aquafina bottle full of whiskey, sweat through your shirt and make out with a high schooler at the end of the night.

Continue reading “American Rage and Suburban Malaise: A Study of the Urban Punk Underground”

Note To Self

“this is an open diary. this gives my insides a voice through visuals and poetry; this is me spilled out on paper.”

Typically on this blog you’ll find album reviews and updates on everything new in the music scene, but for right now I would like to do something different and talk about a book.

Books and albums are pretty similar. They’re both a form of art, they both tell stories, and they both can be used as a mental crutch.

I’ve recently finished reading the new book, Note To Self, written by Connor Franta. Connor Franta is a YouTuber, New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur, and a LGBTQ+ philanthropist. This is Connor’s sophomore book following his memoir, A Work In Progress.

Note To Self is a collections of poems, memories, thoughts, and essays that come from a deep and vulnerable place. Connor Franta allows readers to see the world from his perceptive as he opens up about love, heartbreak, and dealing with mental illness. Note To Self gives us an interior look into Connor’s life that cannot be seen online.

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This book is real. A lot of these pages I read with a heavy heart and truly could empathize with Connor. I found myself reading a line and thinking, ouch, that really hits close to home.”

But then there were the pages that left me feeling hopeful and inspired. They were reminders that I’m not alone with my feelings, and to always keep an open heart and an open mind.

Connor Franta wrote this book for himself (hence the title) as a way to reflect on his past few years. Through this self-reflection, Connor has opened a gateway for readers to come in and find their own meanings and to find comfort. Through the highs and the lows, this book made me feel something; it was something I could relate to and something I could find a sense of ease in.

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I highly recommend everyone picks up a copy of this book. It’s a great read, and it offers a little something for everyone. You can buy a copy of Note To Self Here.

I also had the pleasure to meet Connor Franta at the Chicago stop of his book signing. I will also be attending the Note To Self Tour in Milwaukee, which includes visuals from the book created by Connor, and a Q&A and discussion session. You can buy tickets for the tour Here.

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Tips for Music Festival & Concert Goers

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A couple of useful tips to keep in mind when attending some of those awesome festivals and concerts I mentioned in my last blog post:

Stay hydrated

Don’t be that person that gets carried out from the crowd during the show 😦 it makes us sad and you don’t get to enjoy the show.
Whether it’s water you’re sharing with the people you’re with or water bottles some of the nice security guards offer – drink it, stay hydrated. No, beer doesn’t count as staying hydrated, neither does juice – H2O bro.
Also, if water is allowed during the entrance bring more than one bottle! If not, drink your 8 glasses before going to the concert / festival but also use the bathroom first – Porta potties suck.

Wear appropriate clothing

Don’t wear a jacket because it’s cold out — I made this mistake once. I wore my north face windbreaker to a concert and regretted it one song in because I was front row and everyone’s body heat almost made me pass out even though I was drinking water. When it’s hot, wear clothes you’ll be comfortable in (for example tank tops and sports bras).

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Wear comfy shoes

It’s hard figuring out what shoes are best. I’ve worn running shoes to concerts before but I made the mistake of wearing NEW running shoes…to riot fest…after it rained a whole day. Those new white running shoes are now brown. I also wore converse to some concerts and even before the headliner performed – my feet were killing me! I had waited hours standing.

Be nice

Don’t be the jerk to start a fight because someone accidently pushes you, I’ve made so many friends just by apologizing before and after a concert to the people around me if I was pushing them or if my hair gets in their way. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Purses

Always a purse with a zipper ladies you don’t want people being able to open your purse without you noticing and stealing your phone or wallet. Side purses are my go to because I don’t need to be bothered during a show holding my purse. Also a book bag!! Especially for music festivals, essentials: water !!
And…

Portable chargers

These are life savers. Make sure to fully charge them before a concert.

Lastly,

You don’t need that merch

The merch table is always exciting, and the merch guy is always charming but don’t spend your paycheck on merch like some people (I’m pointing at myself).

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Troye Sivan Takes On Coachella

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The incredibly talented Australian pop star, Troye Sivan, surprised his fans with a surprise performance at the 2017 Coachella music festival.

Sivan joined DJ Martin Garrix on the Sahara Stage during his set to drop their new song together, “There For You.

This is the first piece of new music that we have gotten from Sivan since his 2015 debut album, Blue Neighbourhood, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Sivan has been hinting on his Twitter that a new album is in the works, and new music will be coming our way in the, hopefully, near future.

There For You” is a brilliant song with a beautiful message. It’s pop heavy and radio-ready, and while it may be a great song to bop to, the lyrics hold a lot in them.

“I got you, I promise

Let me be honest

Love is a road that goes both ways

When your tears roll down your pillow like a river

I’ll be there for you

But you gotta be there for me too”

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship. You cannot expect someone to always be there for you, if you cannot be there for them. Communication, and as stated in the song, love, goes both ways. One sided relationships are toxic and unfair and I cannot stress this enough.

There For You” is a song I feel like everyone can relate to at some point in life, and songs like this are perfect to find comfort in. Sweet and soft.

With that being said, I cannot wait to hear what Sivan has planned for his sophomore album.

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As a longtime fan of Troye Sivan (and a fan of music and talent in general,) it’s been an emotional ride watching Sivan go from posting quirky videos on YouTube, to preforming on the iconic Coachella stage.

It just goes to show that if you’re passionate about something, and you want your dream bad enough, hard work and dedication pays off, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of, is possible.

Indie Binge is Small Places

It’s been a very busy few weeks for me. Along with finishing school and working, I’d like to share that I’ve put out an album with my band Small Places. Last week marked the release of my second Small Places EP, Towers. Small Places started last summer in my garage with myself writing and recording each instrument to release my first project in September 2016, the Hello EP. This time around, I had a lot more help from friends on keyboards, drums, and some trumpet. In our new EP you’ll find evidence of indie-rock, folk, soul, prog, and psych rock all in just 6 songs. We’ve worked very hard to get the music to sound groovin, and I’m very excited to hand over this project to those willing to listen.