2015 Was a Killer Year for Local Music

How does working in music change your perspective on music? It simply makes you want more.

In my role as a music “selectah”, radio co-host/producer, I’m always in search of new music and events that tie into their community instead of distance away from. In my neighborhoods, a night out include doses of culture, dance and creativity, plus, some tacos if you’re lucky.

As the year comes to a close, the last of this cycle’s events take shape across the city’s neighborhoods. On any given night, in almost any part of the city, you’ll find something magical going on.

If you’re a Facebook fiend, such as I, then you’re bound to see that notification pop up in your feed reminding you of the impossible-to-get-to-in-one-night list of events that you had clicked ‘interested in,’ right? Well, seeing that growth in number as the year wraps up, I think about all the events I attended throughout the year and all the great music and artists that roam our city.

Being part of a university-based radio station, WLUW 88.7 FM, and focusing on independent music, I’ve seen and heard the passion for sound these Chicagoans exude. It’s a beautiful thing to observe another human blossom as they immerse themselves in their craft.

In 2015, there were quite a few releases across the board and I’m proud to focus specifically on Chicago. Here’s a recap of the sights and sounds that kept this writer thrilled in 2015.


For Chicago Voz, I asked a few musicians and event organizers about their overall view of the year 2015 for the Chicago music scene.

Jose Calvo, bass player in Kelroy and Devilocks, said:
“There were lots of new, but also familiar faces. Bands like The Dead Feathers, Bionic Cavemen, The Kickback, Killer Moon and You are Here are some of them, to name a few. Musicianship and camaraderie amongst bands has grown this past year at the indie level, leading to more doors opening from higher-end venues to allow more Chicago music to be showcased.”

Drummer, Nils Higdon said:
“Looking back, 2015 was particularly special due to this history not only maintaining itself, but expanding. While Chicago’s musicians steadily work to honor traditions, they are also producing great compositions and performances that will project the art form into the future. And the best thing is that there is too much good music in the city to hear all that you want to… I found myself trying to decide between two great concerts a little too often.”

Fernando Garza, DJ, photographer and local music junkie, said:
“I can’t think of any notable ‘major’ label releases from 2015. It seems as major artists played it safe by sticking to their usual formulas. The live music scene, however, was a different story. I think the history-making Ruido Fest reminded me why I love alternative music in the first place and I’m anxiously awaiting next year’s lineup. This past year was also huge for local artists like Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta and Esso Afrojam Funkbeat who are getting much deserved recognition in other cities. I think we might be at the cusp of a new generation of artists and music and the outlook is hopeful.”

Armando Perez, who released new music this year with his band ESSO Afrojam Funkbeat, said:
“I’ve always said you can find anything you want in Chicago. No matter what style of music you are into, there is a venue, club, party or event that will be including a bit of that scene or genre, so much so that genres are blending and fusing more and more. I see a lot of bands and DJs doing new things and ultimately bridging the gap between styles. This city may be going through a lot of cultural division in politics and business, but the young generation is seeing the benefit of common ground to move forward.”


As far as the year itself, Perez continued, “2015 was great for Chicago. Smaller festivals from yesteryear continue to get bigger and more organized, like Clark St. and Villapalooza. New festivals came in and broke new ground, like Ruido Fest and Hermosa Fest. While other neighborhood fests varied their programming, such as Logan Square Arts Fest, Do Division, etc. New music releases have cemented the city as a burgeoning hotbed and taste-maker on the national stage (SXSW, CMJ, touring bands). I am always excited to see the productivity of Chicago’s musicians. It inspires me, and that’s all I can ask for.”

I couldn’t have said it better! Whether debuting a new music project or premiering never-before-heard recordings, Chicago went deep to produce some killer sounds.

Locally, Sonorama continued its mission of reviving vintage Latin sounds on vinyl. Their residency on-site at 5 Rabbit Brewery served as the backdrop to their monthly ‘El Tocadiscos’ night featuring guests like Rock Sin Anestesia’s (88.7FM) DJ Resistol Cincomil.

It was definitely time well spent listening to Chicago homegrown, in all its sound variations, from artists such as Aryk Crowder, Kelroy, Population, Hurakan, Lykanthea, Antenna the Band, Pinqy Ring, You Are Here, Landmarks, Buya, Killer Moon, Chai Tulani, Black Japan, The Lemons, Son Monarcas, Miss Chiff, Bumbac Joe, Born on Jeffreys, Las Manzanitas, Low Swans, Subele, Nola Ade, Axons, Rumores, The Just Luckies, and everything Chicago Singles Club records because they’re also all about the local.

All the while, Future Rootz, The Boogie Munsters, Soulphonetics, The DisAssociates, Motown Marauders, Basement Boogie, Sobremesa, The Hip Hop Project, Soul Togetherness, Vocalo, Alegría, Beat Swap Meet, ¿Que Horas Son? and other music aficionados put together dance nights to share with each other in the awe of discovering something new.

The summer gorged our ears with sights and sounds from around the world presented in our own neighborhoods. Ruido Fest roared fiercely at the top, joined by community festivals like Villapalooza, Mole de Mayo, Fiesta del Sol, Open Studios, Cumbiasazo and a myriad of cultural events at places like Cultura in Pilsen, OPEN Center for the Arts, La Catrina Cafe, Pilsen Breakfast & Grill, Citlalin Gallery, Lobi Space, Plaza Tenochtitlan, Martin’s Corner, El Mezquite, Caminos de Michoacan, Jumping Bean, Pl-zen, Victims of Art, Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts Gallery, Honky Tonk BBQ, Co-Prosperity Sphere, many of the shops down 18th Street and, of course, the National Museum of Mexican Art. We can’t leave out Coyote’s and Atotonilco for the late night, munchie-induced, brainstorming sessions.


There were new nights for DJs at places like Lumpen Radio, Maria’s, Harbee, Simone’s, Punch House, La Vaca and Thalia Hall with one-offs at community spaces like Pilsen Art House, Tonantzin, Pilsen Outpost, Sip & Splash, plus the Las Artelitas and Villarte pop-up showcases in Little Village.

A rainbow of art exhibits lit the city year-round. It was great to see the scope of art in Chicago. Local artists hosted art walks and art parties, a successful neighborhood artists month, Day of the Dead celebrations, poetic adventures, afternoons con café, conchas y lotería – even Selena karaoke – and so much more!

Speaking of café y conchas reminds me of all the culinary events that happened throughout the year. Oh, no. I can’t even begin to think of starting a list for that.

What were some of your favorite musical moments in the neighborhood? Please let me know what I missed. Leave a comment below, on our Facebook, or Tweet at us.

Article by Sandra Trevino @sandratrevino
Photos by José Calvo

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