by Ali Weiss
photos by Karla Svatos
Local bands Elev8tor, ODE and The Grace Lincoln Project played the monthly KEXP Equalizer Chicago at darkroom on Friday. Headliners Elev8tor played a variety of their downtempo and breakbeat music, added a guest vocalist and threw in a cover of the Beastie Boys’ instrumental “Ricki’s Theme.”
For this re-cap, we decided to go behind the scenes and speak with Stefania Rudd of the KEXP Chicago Posse, the group that supports Equalizer and other KEXP-related events here in the windy city. You can usually find Stefania at the KEXP table during Equalizer, getting names on the mailing list or handing out swag. Here’s what she had to say about KEXP, Chicago and Equalizer, which turned two years old this summer.
Ali: What were some highlights of performances Friday night?
Stefania Rudd: Some of the highlights for me included the singer of The Grace Lincoln Project’s voice. She’s the pretty sweet looking girl then she got on stage and just belted it out. Her voice was amazing like Duffy. I also thought ODE was a pretty solid band, part DeVotchKa and part Beirut. Elev8tor sounded very polished. There were several times I had to look at the stage to remind me that they were playing and it wasn’t music from the DJ booth.
How did u get involved with KEXP and Equalizer?
I started getting involved in October of 2007. John Richards and Cheryl Waters were out here for a week broadcasting live from Engine Studios, due to Chicago winning their city-to-city challenge during a pledge drive. I volunteered to help out one day and that is when I met Tobias Cortese, the main organizer of the KEXP Chicago Posse. That night there was a member appreciation happy hour followed by Equalizer at darkroom. I got to know Cheryl, John, and another DJ, Shannon. I had such a good time and really wanted to play a bigger part in the Chicago-KEXP scene. I told Tobias that I was willing to help out even more, and from that point on I had a role.
Why does a Seattle radio station have an event in Chicago? What’s the connection between the Chicago scene and KEXP?
Outside of Seattle, Chicago has one of the largest listenerships of the station. With it streaming online 24/7 and playing a variety of music from indie, to alt-country, to grunge to world music to electronica, it is easy to find something you will like. And because it’s public radio, anyone can be a member of the station and support it. I think people in Chicago, just like people in other cities that listen to the station, have a connection with not only the music but with the on-air personalities.
Every morning John Richards broadcasts from NYC [where KEXP is on the dial]. Most major cities have a street team/posse. NYC, Austin, and San Francisco do events similar to our Equalizer. KEXP also has a presence at SXSW and other music festivals. In 2008, they were a Pitchfork sponsor. KEXP also is supportive of out Chicago acts. They play Chicago artists on their station. For example, “I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way For A Boy” by The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is featured on KEXP’s Live At KEXP Volume 4.
What’s your role at Equalizers?
I promote the shows via our KEXP Chicago Posse listserv. We are also getting started up on more social networking sites. At the show I’m at the KEXP table giving out free swag (button, stickers, magnets, postcards, posters) and answering questions about the station. Just general promotion.
We get a good mix of people at the show, those who know it is an Equalizer show and come because they know a good band will be playing, or those who are there for the band and then see that it is an Equalizer show. It’s also great when someone comes up to the table to compliment the station and say they have been a listener for years. You see this light in their eyes — a genuine excitement that KEXP has a presence in their city. You especially see this with people who lived in Seattle at some point.
Any specific things you want to tell us about the bands that played the July event? Had you heard them before?
I had actually not heard any of them before. Arunas Ingaunis (manager/booker of darkroom) is normally the one who books the bands for the show. There are times when I will suggest someone or send him a manager’s contact info, but he’s the main guy in charge of booking. He has been with Equalizer from the start and also works with staff at KEXP. Overall, the bands this month were solid. They all had different styles, but as a show from start to finish it worked. Good music is good music, no matter what the genre.
The Grace Lincoln Project: