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Feature Thu May 24 2007

Lampo's Hot 100 — 10 Years in the Making

Encased in concrete and carpeted with rows of folding chairs and a few couches, the not-for-profit organization Lampo has quietly welcomed its guests into new and challenging musical terrain for an entire decade as of this year. Through a combination of arts grants, member donations, and, of course, admission fees, Lampo has brought almost one hundred experimental sound artists and groups, many of them playing their very first concert in Chicago (or the Midwest, or even the U.S.) through the good graces of Lampo. Most shows happen at Odum (2116 W. Chicago Avenue), the aforementioned concrete womb.

Rafael Toral. Gloves from "Space" project. (Photo courtesy of Lampo.)

This Saturday, Lampo welcomes turntable manipulator Phillip Jeck for its centennial performance. Jeck's approach to the wheel of steel sidesteps the path of conventional rhythmic wizardry that one comes to expect of turntablism, instead hewing a path through the knotted brambles of an LP's out-grooves — the place where pops and scuffs and scratches go to die. Jeck lingers on these "unwanted" sounds with the loving devotion of a scientist mapping every nuance of a favorite mold spore under a microscope.

Like tape-loop wizard Joseph Hammer (the 99th performer in the Lampo series), Jeck's compositions tend to evoke strong nostalgia in his listeners, whether it is through a brief record fragment, looped and distorted into vague sense-memory, or simply the warm, reassuring sounds of record crackle. Therefore, it's no surprise to find that Lampo's central organizer, Andrew Fenchel, specifically chose these artists for these final performances — the first 100 shows wind down, and as we see in the interview below, the next series will already start with some big surprises.

Joe Colley. Detail with clay. (Photo courtesy of Lampo.)

Gapers Block: Have your goals or mission statement changed in the past 10 years? Has your scope changed at all?

Andrew Fenchel, Lampo: Chris, first off, thanks a lot for the interest. The focus has always been on the artists and helping people create new work, under the best conditions we could offer. Lampo has never been about picking up touring artists. Nothing wrong with that at all, of course. But the people I was most interested in working with weren't touring anyway. So, we bring artists here directly — with an emphasis on doing something new.

Our first couple shows, in 1997 and 1998, were kind of ad hoc. We then re-organized as a non-profit organization, and sought grant support. In September 1999 we started a more regular series approach, organizing 3-5 concerts per season, and doing three seasons (fall, winter and spring) in a Lampo year, with relationships between individual concerts. We've continued to follow that approach.

In 2003 we added a "special projects" initiative, as an adjunct to the ongoing concert series. Basically, the idea is to help artists do more ambitious work, stuff that would require long-term planning and special support.

GB: Is Odum used for anything other than Lampo events? Do you live there? Does anyone? How did you/the board come to acquire the building?

L: We rent it and the 100th will be our last performance there. We'll re-open in September, and celebrate our 10th anniversary, in a new and better space.

GB: I know it's a stock question, but I still gotta ask: what was the most memorable show for you? Do you have any favorite memories from Lampo 1-99 that you'd like to share?

L: Not any one show that would be most memorable. Working with Phill Niblock, first in 2000 and then continuing an ongoing friendship, has been especially important. Mushy, maybe, and I don't like the sound of it — then again, neither would he.

GB: Did you ever get an act that was billed as one thing, but then came and did something else entirely, for good or ill?

L: Like expecting Señor Wences but getting Zbigniew Karkowski?

GB: More likely the other way around.

L: Nothing comes to mind. There's always a lot of back-and-forth with the artist prior to the visit, so we have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen.

Fe-mail (Maja Ratkje and Hild Tafjord). U.S. debut. (Photo courtesy of Lampo.)

GB: What act was the biggest coup for you to get?

L: I understand the question and don't mean to be coy, but I don't think of it in those terms at all. We're not trying to score coups. We've been lucky to work with a lot of amazing artists, and I'm extremely proud that in many cases, their Lampo performances have been their first in Chicago or their first in the U.S. Can I turn it back to you? Which ones were you most excited about?

GB: I'm looking through the past list now…certainly, the three nights of AMM and related projects (particularly Keith Rowe's solo performance) did a number on me. Kapotte Muziek was a serious revelation — I knew it was going to be good, but if I had known they were going to take me so far out, I would have packed a change of clothes. I was also on my feet both times that Joe Colley (with and without Jason Lescalleet) came to town. And yeah, Joseph Hammer — a consummate artisan with his chosen equipment. He works a tape loop like a master blacksmith works a piece of steel — not a square millimeter is left to chance.

Did any act have an especially difficult setup process? I heard that Maryanne Amacher's amplifier placements were pretty daunting.

L: Maryanne definitely had ideas about speaker placement. She spent several days in the space, trying different things. And, the concert was special. That's really the whole point for Lampo and the fun of it — work closely with people, ask them what they need or want, and then help make that happen within the limits of our resources.

GB: How safe is Odum's location in the community? By that I mean, how likely is it that someone's going to want to charge in, buy it out from under you, and build something beige in its place?

L: We don't own the building, so it's not something we think about. But, if the implicit question is Lampo longevity, we'll be in a new and better space by September, and no doubt at all that we'll continue on.

GB: Any thoughts on experimental music venues in Chicago? A lot of new places seem to be opening up on the south and near-west sides.

L: Such a rarefied thing we're talking about, so my main thought is the more the merrier. Can only be good for Chicago. Places are bound to pop up, do their thing for a while, hopefully a long while, and then for different reasons go away, with new venues replacing them. Each one will do it a little bit differently and that's very good too.

David Behrman. First Chicago concert in 30 years. (Photo courtesy of Lampo.)

GB: Who, if anyone, has slipped through Lampo's grasp, either because of scheduling issues, challenging asking price, etc.?

L: None yet.

GB: Is there any significance to Philip Jeck as the 100th participant? Is he a special favorite of yours?

L: I mentioned earlier that each season is programmed with relationships between individual projects. I'm not interested in being didactic about that, so the connections are mostly left unspoken. It's cool if the audience sees links between concerts, and o.k. if they don't. This Spring, Yasunao Tone, Joseph Hammer and Philip Jeck use modified CDs, tape and vinyl respectively. I also was interested in thinking about Tone as part of Fluxus, and Hammer as part of L.A.F.M.S. — both collectives but the former a much more organized thing, and the latter much looser. And, everything this spring was put together with the 100th in mind — revolving or looping media and some sense of ironic nostalgia, connected to ideas about memory and retrospective thoughts. Then, to be simple about it, Jeck is great and I wanted the 100th to be a good time for everyone.

GB: What's on tap for Lampo 101-200?

L: C'mon, I can't tell you that. Any ideas for us?

Journey through Lampo's past (and present) here: Their 100th performance, with British avant-garde turntable manipulator Phillip Jeck, takes place this Saturday at 9pm at 2116 W. Chicago Ave. Details in Slowdown.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
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