Cubby Bear rocks to Chicago noise

By WilliamPrentiss

Ten months ago, nine local Chicago bands heralded the arrival of the music collective Chicago Noise Machine,  and on Sept. 26 they’re returning to The Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison St., with some new friends.

Chicago Noise Machine is a collection of bands that support each other by sharing the costs and profits of the shows they organize. Like their first showcase, nine bands will be allotted equal time to play for the audience. They include three of the original nine bands: 72Hours, Echo Son and Bullet Called Life. They will play along with six newcomers: Aktar Aktar, Visionaire, Camera, Phat Cats, A Friend Called Fire and Along The Parallel.

Bands will have longer sets and Chicago Noise Machine organizers are shrinking the merchandise area to increase standing room. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the machine starts moving at 6:30 p.m.

Singer and guitarist Stephen Francis of Reverie, a member of one of the founding bands, said they never planned to stop with nine bands and wants to give any deserving groups a chance to shine.

“If a band’s good, they’re going to be liked eventually, but you’re not going to help yourself if you play to the same 20 people every weekend,” Francis said. “This is about getting the cold crowd into bands that deserve it.”

Jonathan Beverly, drummer for R&B fusion group Phat Cats, said he’s honored to be involved with Chicago Noise Machine.

“We aren’t necessarily a rock ‘n’ roll band, but the fact they welcomed us and showed us love was very flattering,” Beverly said.

Phat Cats’ first experience with Chicago Noise Machine was in May at the Battle for Congress, a contest held at Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave., by Chicago Noise Machine. The contest determined which final two bands would play at I AM Fest at Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave. Phat Cats won the contest along with Visioneer.

Beverly said his band wasn’t aware of Chicago Noise Machine’s involvement with the show; he just heard about an opportunity to play at Congress Theater and jumped at it.

I AM Fest featured 25 bands and 25 artists across two stages and drew a crowd of more than 28,000 people, according to a Chicago Noise Machine press release. They sold out their first show at The Cubby Bear, but the 734 people in attendance looked miniscule compared to the crowd garnered at I AM Fest.

Francis said he knew they were taking a huge step and financial risk by expanding so quickly, but felt he had to do it for the cause. He said so many bands were contacting him and asking how they could get involved that he felt he had to include them all to help foster the local music scene.

“It’s kind of the wrong step to take on a certain level, but on the other level it was a fantastic learning experience and brought a lot of people together,” Francis said.

According to an article in The Chronicle published on Nov. 24, 2008, the group’s humble beginnings started one late night in Elbo Room with a few members of the original nine bands conversing over drinks. Their conversation turned to longing for the old days when bands supported each other and frequented each other’s shows. The memory sounded so sweet, they decided to form Chicago Noise Machine.

Promoter Andrew Coate went to high  school with one of the original bands, A Bullet Called Life, and got on board with Chicago Noise Machine after the first Cubby Bear show. He said that while the sheer velocity of the group’s rise in the Chicago scene is amazing, the fact that everybody’s remained so communal is doubly so.

“With our do-it-yourself aesthetic and without the strict policies formed with big groups, there should be far more fighting, but I haven’t seen that yet,” Coate said.

That’s not to say Coate and Chicago Noise Machine are ready to settle for the success they’ve already obtained. They have bigger plans.

“We literally are trying to take over [the] Chicago music [scene], and so far we’re on track,” Coate said.