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Lincoln Park, Old Town

With No Help From D.C., Indie Music Venues Launch Virtual Concerts To Help Save Struggling Clubs

The weekly virtual concerts will feature local artists performing from empty Chicago venues to raise money for a new emergency relief fund.

A sign outside The Hideout reads: "Sorry ... we are closed."
David Leep/Fabio Brienza
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CHICAGO — Independent music venues across the city are recreating the pre-pandemic days of Friday night club-hopping with a virtual concert series raising money for a local venues and their artists.

Organized by the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), a coalition of more than 40 indie music venues across the city, the weekly, hour-long shows will raise money for a new relief fund supporting Chicago’s local industry. The first show kicks off 8 p.m. Friday on CIVL’s website.

The shows will help promote the new Staff, Artists and Venues Emergency Relief Fund, which gives out grants to local venues, their staff and artists struggling with the pandemic putting a moratorium on live events.

“Most of the folks that work at our venues are gig economy people,” said Tim Tuten, a founding board member of CIVL and co-owner of the Hideout, a beloved dive-y music bar at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave.

“They might be a poster artist while working shifts at the Hideout and door at the Empty Bottle — so they’re not in a situation where they can get permanent unemployment benefits, which they need.”

Tuten said the relief fund, which is a partnership with the Giving Back Fund, is specifically for Chicago-area venues and anyone who works within the industry.

“That money stays here in Chicagoland with people that work here and need to make it through the winter,” Tuten said.

Owner Tim Tuten stands in front of The Hideout.

The free CIVLization Music Series will raise awareness for Chicago’s independent music scene and direct people to the relief fund so they can support it through the pandemic. It’s sponsored by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and Goose Island Beer Company.

The shows will feature 15-minute sets from local artists at venues across Chicago. They’re planned to air at 8 p.m. every Friday through Dec. 18, according to Matt Woodburn, CIVLization producer and owner of Chop Shop, 2033 W. North Ave.

“We’re bringing back that Friday night club-hopping experience, but doing it virtually,” Woodburn said. “And then everyone gets an opportunity to learn about the SAVE fund and hopefully contribute.”

This week’s show features pre-recorded sets from local bands ESSO (funk), Dos Santos (psychedelic) and Half Gringa (Latinx alt-country) from Tonic Room, 2447 N. Halsted St; The Hideout; and Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave.

Other shows will feature local artists such as queer pop musician SuperKnova, singer-songwriter Xoë Wise and R&B artist AMI.

For many artists, it’s their first time playing a paid gig since the pandemic hit in mid-March, Tuten said.

“Everybody involved is getting paid because the bands need the money and the crew needs the money,” Tuten said. “But really what the bands are doing is raising money for all their friends and the other parts of the industry.”

In Chicago, venue owners say 90 percent of the city’s indie clubs don’t believe they can survive several more months of being closed without federal support.

CIVL spent the summer rallying local and federal support for the Save Our Stages bill, which would give much-needed financial support to live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives.

Last month, independent venues across the country participated in the virtual Save Our Stages Festival, which featured dozens of artists performing from empty music venues across the U.S.

The Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., welcomed Chicago-born punk band Rise Against for a 30-minute set raising awareness for the bill.

But the legislation has stalled in Washington, where lawmakers won’t pass it.

“If the people in Washington won’t help us through the winter, we’ll do it ourselves and get through it,” Tuten said.

An empty stage at the Metro.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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