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May 21, 2004

Summer Breeze under the radar: WHPK has show that might top MAB's

It's late May, the weather is getting warmer, and campus is once again bedecked with the multitude of glossy, hyper-colored posters that forecast Summer Breeze at the University of Chicago. What exactly is Summer Breeze? Judging by the variety of different posters and flyers all over campus—and by these posters' listing of diverse events, which run the gamut from Jell-O wresting to Doc's outdoor film screening—many different things are included under the Summer Breeze heading. I'd hazard a guess, though, that if you were to stop a random student on 57th Street and ask them what exactly Summer Breeze was, they'd respond by referencing either MAB's blow-out corporate rock show or COUP's cotton candy-and-Moonbounce carnival on the quads. And they'd be right.

They'd also, however, be sadly misguided. The events put on by MAB and COUP are probably a lot of fun—I can personally vouch for the free Popsicles and cheap-o veggie burgers available at the carnival—and they're without a doubt the most visible of the various proceedings that fall under the Summer Breeze heading. However, Summer Breeze has more to offer for those in the know. Perennially and tragically overlooked by the greater University community is WHPK's annual Summer Breeze concert.

WHPK's Summer Breeze show is a long-standing tradition on campus, dating as far back as anyone at the station can remember. The show is always free, always fun, and—since it starts at noon and ends by five—over in time for you to get to the MAB show without missing the opener. WHPK boasts a pretty convincing backlog of past Summer Breeze performers, among the more recent being Deerhoof, the Aisler's Set, Aden, Brother JT, the Bunnybrains, the Wild Bunch (now known as the Electric Six and notorious for the single "Gay Bar" and its attendant cut-up video featuring Bush and Tony Blair), and Flin Flon (featuring Mark Robinson of Unrest and Teenbeat Records). The show takes place on the main quads, right in front of Eckhart, spitting distance from COUP's carnival and its bounteous supply of cheap food. It's a really nice way to spend a Saturday—outside, slurping a free Popsicle and taking in a free show of awesome underground music from a bunch of really different bands. This year, as always, WHPK has pulled together a list of performers so diverse that there's truly something for everybody.

Opening the show are the Fucking Werewolves, a raunchy rock band comprised of University of Chicago (and WHPK) alums in sexed-up wolf regalia. They'll kick off the show with a raucous round of bloodthirsty booty shaking. Fans of the Oblivians, Redd Kross, and the A-Frames should not miss the Werewolves.

Next up is Vertonen, one of the best known and most celebrated experimental noise performers in the Midwest. His unholy platter of brutal drone and clanging, rhythmic sound is an aural assault that will defy your notions of just how much noise one man can make. Watching Vertonen perform live is a fascinating experience—it's amazing to observe him as he constructs layer upon layer of sound until he reaches an overpowering, hypnotic crescendo. If you've spent any amount of time in Chicago without seeing Vertonen, you're missing out.

Anyone who's been following music at the U of C for more than a year will readily recognize the next performer, the Kallikak Family. Andrew Peterson, who is the lifeblood of the sometime-solo act, sometime band, lived in Hyde Park until last summer, when he packed up and moved out West. His quirky, folksy music was well loved by those who saw him perform on campus, and now he's gaining a well deserved national following, with a new record distributed by Thrill Jockey. People are buzzing about his homecoming already, and his Summer Breeze performance should not be missed—especially if you're into bands like the Mountain Goats, the Microphones, Mirah, and Devendra Banhart. Catch him live now, before you have to pay $20 to see him at some club.

The Functional Blackouts play a wild, dangerous brand of punk rock like they really mean it. Their self-titled record, released in 2003, has been heralded as one of the best rock records of last year. This may be the only chance you'll get to see them for free, since they draw big crowds when they play for pay at the Empty Bottle, the Fireside Bowl, and, most recently, the Movieside Film Festival. If you're into the Tyrades or the Electric Eels, this band is definitely for you.

Performing last is this year's headliner, Timothy the Revelator. Timothy is most famous for his psychedelic acid-folk bands Stone Breath and Mourning Cloak. He'll be performing solo at the WHPK show, playing quiet, beautiful, acoustic psych-folk that cannot be recommended highly enough. Though he's a regular performer at Terrastock (a big annual international psych fest), he's never played in Chicago before, so his performance on Saturday promises to be a rare treat. If you're interested at all in acid folk or psychedelic music, Timothy's performance should not be missed.

Do yourself a favor and check out WHPK's Summer Breeze offering this Saturday at noon. It won't be like anything you've ever seen, it won't cost you a dime, and I promise you won't regret it.