DIY Venue Hungry City Creates A Space for Artists to Grow & Flourish
Written by Vocalo Radio on October 2, 2019
Here at Vocalo we understand that great music is born of scenes, and there are no stronger music scenes than the ones that we boast here in Chicago…
Oftentimes these scenes are stewarded by spaces, places where creativity can flourish, where connections can be made, where art can be expressed. Hungry City Collective is one of those places.
Hungry City is a community based art space that defies genre. Their goal is to give bands a platform to do whatever they want creatively. It’s a DIY space but it is unique in that they pay their artists, bartenders, sound mixers, lighting folks, and security.
The stewards and founders of the space are David Gates, Robert Rashid, and Zachary Sogh (also known as Woes). Woes has been a fixture on Vocalo lately and it’s his collaboration with the Hungry City folks and their band Spacebones that tipped us off to the power of this space. As a special treat, the guys gave us a brand new Spacebones and Woes track to premiere exclusively…
We chatted with founder and all around go-to-guy David Gates about the advantages of DIY, seasonal depression, and why community policing works when people feel supported…
Break down the team involved in Hungry City… Who keeps the place running?
Sound, lights, and most tech work is run by our man Dan Letchinger. Dan is a sound wizard, and has installed professional audio into the space. He runs a 22 channel Soundcraft Signature board, with a sweet new PA and great floor monitoring. So we are happy to boast that we have professional – high quality sound, not only for the audience, but also for performers; something that makes a world of difference for a live performance.
“If the artists hear themselves well, the audience will hear them even better” – Dan Letchinger. As artists, we cant tell you how many “real” venues we play that have poor on stage monitoring; so this is a priority for us.
Overall production is done by David Gates & Robert Rashid (@_Spacebones_) and Zachary Sogh (@boiwoes). Ah, production – what a fun word. There’s a lot going on at all times, before, during, and after these events. We book bands typically 4 weeks or more in advance. Theres a long waiting list and that sucks, because we hate turning away artists who want to perform; but we try to limit shows to twice a month.
During events, we are floating, checking in on tech, running lights, working the door, helping with stage changeovers, keeping people out of the street in front and back, most importantly, making sure everyone is safe and comfy. Patrick Hubbard, Tyrone Reed, and Steve O’toole help all around as well.
What is the mission of Hungry City? How does Spacebones play into that vision?
Hungry City keeps it simple. Our priority first and foremost is to build community. This has come to life mainly through our event space at Division and Western in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. We book shows – for Chicago (and touring) artists of all mediums. Yes we focus mainly on musical performers, but we try to round out the events by inviting multimedia artists to sell or display their work throughout the space.
Aside from the event space, Hungry City Collective is also the overhead for our personal project Spacebones. We release, promote, and market our music through Hungry City Collective. As artists ourselves, we know what it’s like to book, promote, and play shows – maybe that gives us an edge… but it at least gives us real insight into what makes a great event and performance happen; in contrast to bar or club owner, whose main priority is to pull a profit each night.
It’s no secret this venture isn’t a big money maker, we keep entrance fees low, and we pay our artists and staff well – whatever’s left over goes into covering costs for the next show. I think, at least hope, people see Spacebones as a band that loves to consume music as much as create and perform it.
We love the music we are hearing from the Chicago scene, and nothing’s more fun than putting our friends on stage and watching them rock out.
What role do DIY spaces play here in Chicago’s music scene that bars or venues do not?
Attentive audiences is #1. Sure, some people just come to party – but for the most part audiences come to listen, watch, consume, and participate in the performances. Shows at bars and clubs might have an in-house crowd of people who have just come to drink. Thats fine, but these DIY spaces are art centered. Payouts to artists I think are often better than at venues – this depends on the ticket prices and draw of course – but from our experience, people running DIY venues are much more generous about paying out bands for the hard work they put into performing that night.
Safety is another big thing – this is a tough one – an eternal struggle that we are still looking to improve with each show. But overall, there’s usually 1-2 door people/security at bars/venues…at DIY spaces everyone seems to be part of the policing process. We are happy to kick out people who are making anyone else feel uncomfortable. Community policing works!
Lastly, intimacy – at DIY spaces you are closer to the performers. You can see and often smell them – yikes.
We’ve talked about toxic patterns that can exist in established venues…What steps do you take to make Hungry City a safe space, especially a safe space for those from traditionally marginalized communities?
Oops, I touched on this above. But I will re-iterate: Community policing works when people speak up and feel supported.
At a venue or unfamiliar space, people might feel uncomfortable “causing a scene” by reporting something that makes them feel uncomfortable. At our space, we hope, people know David, Robert, Zack etc… our names and faces; and know they can come right to us and say “Hey that dudes being a jag off…”.
We have 2-3 door people working the front and back that keep an eye on things, while we float around the venue checking in on everyone for this reason. You ask about traditionally marginalized communities… as a white male (David speaking specifically here) I will never know what it’s like to live in another’s person’s shoes. So all we can do is have a zero tolerance policy for abuse or disrespect to and from anyone who walks into our space. As far as putting together bills, we do keep an eye especially on the fact that there are a lot of dudes in bands…We try to balance most bills to make sure everyone is getting a chance to take the stage. It is not easy; but its always on our minds.
Same goes for genre – and the crowd each attracts. We host mostly rock shows, but try to switch it up every month or so and throw a hip hop event – this October 12th is a big one…Woes onstage baby.
You talk about how you feel you’ve gotten your start late in the game in Chicago’s DIY music community…
What advantages do you think there are to the delayed start? How has that helped shape your mission and your execution of said mission?
Mmmhh, tough one. I would say our growth as humans outside of art – might be our greatest strength now. Robert and I both had totally opposite careers before starting these projects. We are blessed to have seen the world from many angles. Both traveled and worked internationally – Robert as an athlete and options trader, and myself as a teacher and volunteer. We have experimented…and I think that’s the key to happiness, and inevitably, success.
You need to push yourself, try everything out there. Comfort is a luxury, and for us, might be a sign of stagnation. If we get too comfortable we know something new needs to happen.
Fear is fantastic; if you’re trying to do big things, make change, or feel inspired…and you’re not at least a bit scared of what’s to come…you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough. Shouts to Moms, Dads and jojos out there for hammering this into us.
What other folks, organizations, or spaces in Chicago resonate with or inspire you?
#1 hands down is Alex and Francis White of White Mystery. They are the DIY OG’s. Alex is the rock queen of Chicago. She is so kind, so talented; an awesome leader and someone to look up to in the scene. Alex has a hand in every event, and is one phone call away for any advice. White Mystery as a band is absolutely rad. They are a two piece and they rock the F out. I don’t know how many times we have seen them live. They are Independent with a capital I. Follow them now.
The Litterbox is absolutely killing it. A venue run by 3 badass women in logan. They have outdoor shows all summer – every event is packed – and produced amazingly. Great sound, great atmosphere, unique as hell. They are so kind, and have been supportive of what we are doing as well. Most or all of them are also artists, so they get it. Shouts Maddie, Kaitlyn & Jackie.
Nude Beach Collective – Insane. Constant shows, great production, projection, sound, lights – a huge warehouse space. The nicest dudes run the place. Spacebones played their single release show for MONSOONS – last friday. It was nuts. Shouts Danny and Ruby – thank you for having us.
Charm School is dope – super intimate.
Berenice House – an awesome garage style spot up north.
Cailey Davern of Underground Apex is amazing. Great photography and coverage of shows. She shot our EP cover; Super supportive of Chicago artists and has been covering all of these events, in and out of the DIY scene. She seems to be at every single show going on in the city – she must have clones. So much energy and dedication to what she’s doing. Someone to watch.
In another lane stands the art and music programs at Misericordia Home – a home for over 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities; we are so inspired by them. The heart Zingers are their choir, and the heartbreakers are their dance troupe.
The staff and residents put so much work into these programs – and prove that art has an invaluable power in every community. There are no boundaries to art – no limitations – it is accessible to everyone no matter what abilities or disabilities you might have.
The Artist in All is the coolest Art show in the city – held every spring at the Art Institute of Chicago; showcasing the work of the residents in the art program. This was an event that started small, scaled, and is now enormous – touching so many lives. As far as we are concerned Misericordia and their staff are the leaders of community art in Chicago; giving the most vulnerable populations a platform to share their passions with the world. This is Rock n’ Roll.
What’s your favorite show that you guys have thrown in the last year?
We had Girl K, Rookie, Ex Okays, and Towncriers I believe all in one night. Insane performers. To have them all on the same bill was mad cool.
Other notables are Sean Green – such a talented human being- he sings, writes, plays, and has a damn good whistler – playing “Millennial Jazz” the sweetest dude ever. Someone to see live.
Tell us a bit about the song we’re premiering today.
“-22, +27” is like Hungry City smashed into one track. The song was written the week of the polar vortex in Chicago. It hit -22 degrees, and seasonal depression threw an uppercut. I was thinking about loved ones I missed, and how they never fade away and how growing up was inevitable. My 27th birthday had just passed. Our heat went out a few days that week.
Everything felt heavy, and I knew I was’t the only young Chicago artist feeling this way. I looked around and realized I was surrounded by amazing positive humans like Robert and Zack, who just keep a smile on my face at all times. It was negative 22, but I was positive 27. The track is kinda indie pop rock with calm vocals to start – and out of nowhere comes Yomí the harpist. Her voice and her harp took this track to another level. Hard to describe her sound and contribution, but she is in a sonic lane of her own.
Verse two comes around and Woes comes in hot. As always, he’s blatantly honest, clever, and unique in his delivery. He manages to tell a specific story that is extremely personal to him – yet in a way that feels universal to anyone who has felt heartbreak.
The song is for everyone, from everyone. O yea – and for some shameless self promotion – our EP Boy Am I Glad To See You – drops this Friday 10/4 – its a bop. Check it out everywhere.
Listen to -22,+27 by Spacebones ft. Woes and Yomí below
Written by: Seamus Doheny
Next Hungry City Events:
October 12th – Woes
October 26th – Spacebones EP Release Show and Tour Sendoff with Engine Summer (single release), Towncriers and more
DM for the address to these events: @_Spacebones_
P.S. – Any Yogis out there want to help us put some Yoga events together at Hungry City? And/or mindfulness & meditation groups. Looking to stretch our brains and bodies.