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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015
So, the day we have wanted life to slow down for has arrived, much to our dismay. Tomorrow, Gapers Block will be going on hiatus. Before this happens, we wanted to share some of our most cherished memories and moments from our time spent writing for Gapers Block's Transmission section. To all of our readers: thank you, thank you, thank you. We are so proud to have shared concert reviews, previews, interviews, festival coverage, and more with you over the years. Here are our thoughts during our final Transmission days.
Well, today is the final day of Gapers Block existing as we all know it, and I couldn't bring myself to write this until today. Now it feels so final and so permanent. However, all good things must come to an end someday.
I first learned about Gapers Block when its founder and editor-in-chief, Andrew Huff, came to speak to one of my DePaul journalism classes. A fellow classmate of mine wrote for their Transmission section at the time, and I thought to myself, I'm going to do this, too. An avid music fan, I'd been going to endless amounts of concerts each year, and wishing I could write about them, but I didn't know where to start. With an email to Andrew and subsequently submitting pieces to the Transmission Editor Anne Holub, I began my Gapers Block journey, not knowing that 3.5 years later I would have learned more than I can ever pen in this farewell note.
I took the reins from Anne in July of this year to become the next Transmission Editor. She had immense faith in me to advise the team, which I can never thank her for enough. Since 2012, I've gotten the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible artists and work with talented, kind press contacts, venue representatives, and publicists. I've gotten to cover music festivals and sold out shows, interview my musical idols, and showcase a diverse array of up-and-coming local artists.
My favorite memories cannot be captured here and would need an extremely verbose platform, so I'll leave you with a few standout moments (which, while re-reading, I have noticed is extremely verbose anyway). I had the chance to do a phone interview with Sam Beam from Iron & Wine, one of my favorite bands, and enjoyed his wise words as he spoke to me from the porch of his Southern home, with the biggest grin on my face the entire time. I sat on the grass at Pitchfork Music Festival, circling up with Hundred Waters as we discussed their genius musical stylings. I chatted with Chicago's beloved local groups, from Celine Neon, to Dastardly, to Twin Peaks. I got the opportunity to attend three music festivals with press passes in 2014, including Pitchfork Music Festival, The Hideout Block Party & A.V. Fest, and Riot Fest, and saw Chicago's pure love of music in full force, which never ceased to make my heart grow full. I've experienced spiritual musical moments, from listening to Neko Case sing to a full and reverently silent crowd at The Hideout Block Party, to reviewing Andrew Bird's Gezelligheid and Wilco Winterlude shows, and attending my first Gapers Block assignment that I reviewed back in 2012, Punch Brothers, and taking notes while feeling such a surge of elation.
Beyond the assignments and pieces that have been created, I've gotten to work with the best staffers who challenged me daily and brought endlessly creative ideas to the table. Each with different personalities and musical niches, they've been able to showcase both their creativity and individuality within their writing for Gapers Block, and I'm so grateful they've had the forum to do so. I've enjoyed getting to know them all during my time here, with all of their brilliance, uniqueness, and true joy for music and Chicago. I'm glad we were able to produce something so special together.
I'll never be able to thank Gapers Block enough. My time writing for Gapers Block has not only made me a better writer, but it has also shown me the power of independent journalism to connect individuals and give them irreplaceable experiences. It has made me proud to be a part of something that was and will be so revered in the hearts of both Chicagoans and dedicated readers hailing from far and wide. Thank you to all the readers who instilled such pride in our work, and thank you to Andrew and Anne for getting me started at Gapers Block. I will be forever grateful.
My time with Gapers Block began because someone liked something I'd written about an ASL signer at a My Morning Jacket show in 2006. Over the last nine years I've written about music in Chicago completely straight and also sometimes with a goofy slant. I've covered events with crowds of over 50,000 and others where fewer than 10 people showed up. I've written about a band from halfway across the world that played two blocks from my apartment, and I've reviewed a Chicago band's set in Barcelona. I've written (glowingly) about my favorite band ever, and I've tackled some acts I disliked just to figure out why anyone would like them. I've incurred the wrath of fans of one of the biggest bands ever for pointing out a grammatical error in their visual performance. And a fan of another very popular band took so much offense at a throwaway line in a positive piece that they left a comment longer than the review. I've rallied against terrible parents who take young children to shows but don't give them ear protection. And I've excoriated chatterboxes who think five feet from a stage is the perfect place to talk about what a bitch Corinne is, among other topics. But, out of all that, I think my favorite thing about Transmission has been talking to people who'd ask me what I was writing when I'd make notes during a show (after the show, of course). A lot of fun conversations came out of that.
I've had the pleasure of writing for Gapers Block since 2008, which didn't seem like terribly long ago until I glanced through some of my older posts and saw that one of my firsts was a review of a MySpace secret show. In the past seven years I've covered Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, North Coast Music Festival, Riot Fest, and a handful of defunct festivals like Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements. I've interviewed Questlove, Q-Tip, Ludacris, and The Prodigy, among others. I've had the opportunity to see a handful of big artists in small venues - from Fun. at Schubas, to Andrew Bird at The Hideout, to The Dead Weather in a warehouse, to Broken Social Scene performing atop a billboard in Wrigleyville. But when I look back at my years at Gapers Block, one thing will always come to mind - that time I was inadvertently entered into a Ninja Warrior-style competition in front of a crowd of people and totally humiliated myself.
Back in 2011, Dave Matthews Band announced they'd be holding a three-day festival on Chicago's South Side. I'm no fan of Dave Matthews (or the massive dump he took on our city), but the rest of the line-up included Sharon Jones, Ben Folds, Kid Cudi, and The Flaming Lips, which was enticing enough for me to want to check it out. Then the perfect opportunity arose - a PR rep for Dos Equis, one of the major sponsors of the festival, asked if I wanted to attend the festival and compete in their Most Interesting Blogger In The World competition. They'd send a car service to drive me and my friends to the festival, they'd provide us with tickets and drinks, and if I won the competition I'd get a trip to New York. It was all too good to be true.
Naïvely I had assumed that a Most Interesting Blogger In The World competition was an actual blogging competition, so I brought my laptop along. When I arrived I discovered that, while it was a competition specifically for bloggers, we were actually going to be having a log rolling competition. Now, coordination and physical fitness are not my strong suits, besides the fact that I had shown up wearing a dress. On top of that, I didn't fully understand how the log rolling mechanism worked. I thought there was a motor inside that turned the log and we were just supposed to be balancing on it when in reality we were supposed to knock the other person off the log by turning the log ourselves. This gave my opponent, a food blogger from Time Out Chicago, a huge advantage... But let's be real, there was no way I was winning this thing anyway. The result was me falling on my ass six times in a row, as ungracefully as possible, in front of an entire festival of concertgoers.
Many thanks to Gapers Block founder and editor-in-chief Andrew Huff and Transmission editors Anne Holub and Sarah Brooks for granting me the good fortune to be able to write for a top notch Chicago site for so many years. I'm gonna miss this place.
My most beloved Gapers Block moment was covering the very first Neon Marshmallow festival at the Viaduct Theatre (the space now known as Constellation) back in 2010. The event was a four-night pressure-cooker of experimental music/drone/noise/weirdo acts (over 75 of them, by my count) from all over the world. Nights often ran until 2 a.m. or later, and Saturday and Sunday both started around 10 a.m. the next morning. I remember spending 8+ hours each night (and even more on Saturday, which contained an afternoon and an evening lineup) absorbing one amazing set after another, coming home for a few hours' sleep, waking up as early as I could stand and writing full recaps of the previous evening for several hours before hobbling back for another long night. It was like running a sonic marathon (with sore feet to match my ringing ears!), and the type of immersive, lengthy, autonomous writing experience, covering an event with an admittedly limited mass appeal, that only a group like Gapers Block would have freely allowed one of its writers.
Every moment I've spent connected to Transmission has been amazing. I got the opportunity to fall for musicians I never heard of and reinforce passions for those I already enjoyed. I've dealt with drunks at quiet shows, transcendent sounds that were physically grueling, and seen bands that I sincerely thought I would never see. Gapers Block and Transmission have provided me with so many treasured memories since 2013 that it's really difficult to pick just one. No one concert really encapsulates my time writing for Transmission. Instead it's a collection of one type of moment: conversations with my fellow staffers. Moments like having tea with Anne Holub to get a quick rundown on posting to Gapers Block, talking with Sarah Brooks and Mike Bellis about who we were seeing at 2014's Pitchfork Musical Festival, the countless times Andrew Huff enthusiastically said hello and promptly started a conversation when he saw me, etc. These are the moments I cherish the most because it reminded me that I was a part of a great community of writers trying to do the same thing: share our love of the best music Chicago had to offer. Best of all, I think we did it pretty well.
Transmission allowed me to see all my favorite bands, from Youth Lagoon to Yo La Tengo, so it's tempting to highlight the concerts I've been to. But I learned that my reporting could contribute to something larger than myself: I've been able to connect to the larger Chicago community. From interviewing the organizers behind Chicago's new O+ Festival about musicians who lack healthcare, to talking to the CEO of the Chicago Institute of Music about the underrepresentation of women in music, I've seen how music and the arts can build community.
About three months ago, Andrew Huff gave me, a recently unemployed 23-year-old, more excuses to hop in my car on a weeknight, travel to the city and check out the music in different hot spots. All I had to do was report about it.
Covering music, in and of itself, takes an extra ear for listening. Every music journalist knows there is no such thing as "bad music," but there is music that isn't played well.
While music journalists adhere to the basics of reporting rules, they come with an extra set of respect, awareness and understanding to the art form, and they pay very close attention to details.
Practice, production, promotion and perception are all part of the package, and music journalists have to keep an eye out for how those aspects sustain the musicians' messages and their end goals.
At that point, music becomes more than just a beat.
From a journalist's and fanatic's standpoints, it is more than being able to list musicians' albums in chronological order, making a case for which projects were best and what tracks showcased their talent. All of that is arguably subjective anyways.
There comes a point when music transcends into a movement, a timely anthem waiting for that moment, waiting for an appropriate audience. Music is a part of a culture that feeds off of political, racial and social change, and journalists are held responsible for recognizing that, so that "the message" doesn't fall on deaf ears.
In Kendrick Lamar's song "Mortal Man," he boldly and repeatedly asks, "When shit hits the fan, is you still a fan?"
My answer: Always, yes.
I'll always be thankful to Transmission for giving me my first opportunity to write for more than a little college radio station blog. For a kid fresh out of college, it was an amazing opportunity to cut my journalistic teeth and learn my way around the city's myriad venues.
One of my favorite pieces to write was my feature on The Empty Bottle's Free Mondays. I had mostly been covering national touring acts to that point, and hadn't yet indulged in the one place in the city that regularly puts on quality shows with no cover. Going there was not only my first exposure to the city's rabid punk scene--as typified by the evening's opener, Flesh Panthers--it was a beautiful return to the rebellious roots of rock music.