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Filtering by Category: Music

The Unexpected Outcome of Googling Yourself (and Other Adventures in Modern Technology)

Bree McKenna

By Bree McKenna  |   Illustrations by Leah Roszkowski
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A few years ago, a concert alert arrived in my email. It said Tacocat was coming to the Empty Bottle in Chicago.

This is standard inbox activity, since I get alerts like this all the time. This one, though, was different. Tacocat is a Seattle pop-punk band with quirky lyrics and a bassist named Bree McKenna. That's my name, which makes her my name twin.

In my world, she is the other Bree McKenna. 

Oddly enough, a few months earlier, I actually had reached out to her. After Googling myself and finding out another one of us existed—someone who's way cooler than me, it appeared—I had emailed her, via her band’s website. I wanted to see if she had ever Googled herself and found me—or if this was simply one-way curiosity on my part.

I never heard back.

But now her band Tacocat was coming to Chicago. Here was my chance. It sounded stalker-y, I admit, but I decided to go to the show, introduce myself and see what happened. I was on a mission.

Middleouest_mag_BreeMcKenna_Tacocat_v2.jpg
 

When the day arrived, I dragged two friends to the show. It was energetic and great. Bree was up on stage, rocking the bass guitar like only a badass lady musician can. During the last song, I beelined it to the side door where I had a chance of meeting the band and introducing myself. 

I was more than prepared for a blasé reaction. An, "Uh, oh, hey." Or a "Cool, nice to meet you." I was sure our meeting would fall short of the dramatic buildup I had constructed in my mind.

I wasn't going to let that stop me.

Bree was there, to the left of the main stage. I walked up to her and said, "Are you Bree? Bree McKenna?" She nodded yes. I responded earnestly, with my hand on my chest, "I'm Bree McKenna.” And then I waited nervously for her to respond.

Middleouest_Mag_BreeMcKenna_doc_martens.jpg
 

I GREW UP WITH AN UNCOMMON NAME. Not long after my parents found out they were expecting a second child, they went to see the 1971 film Klute. In it, Jane Fonda portrays a prostitute named Bree Daniels who gets involved in a police investigation of a missing executive. If you’re connecting the dots right now, yes, I was named after a prostitute. My parents didn't share that detail with me until I was older. 

At the time, Bree wasn't in the realm of normal names. Nothing had my name on it. As a child, I longed to buy one of those cheesy personalized bike license plates when we vacationed in Florida. Or a key chain with my name on it even though I had no keys. Thank God for a custom nameplate necklace my Godmother gave me as a gift. I still cherish it to this day. 

As I grew up, I encountered a few other Brees but never another Bree McKenna. Mine was a truly original name . . . or so I thought.

Then one day, I Googled myself and discovered another Bree McKenna.

If you've ever Googled yourself, perhaps you understand how it feels to stumble upon your doppelganger and be hit with the feeling that, well, your doppelganger is way cooler than you. Maybe it's because I've always loved music and am quite the rock star in my own mind, even though I’ve always lacked any real musical talent. In the artists I've always appreciated most—the Breeders and Juliana Hatfield when I was younger, and more recent favorites such as Waxahatchee, Courtney Barnett and Bully—I could always see my alter ego: the badass chick who doesn't give a fuck.

In reality, though, I always have given way too many fucks. In high school, I toed the line between arty and mainstream, balancing my Doc Martens and Kool-Aid dyed hair with good grades and lots of sports. Even now, I'm pretty much the same. So when I looked at the Google images of the other Bree McKenna, I saw a rock star. So she had reddish hair and bangs, like me. But she had an edge.

Middleouest_mag_BreeMcKenna_empty_bottle_v2.jpg
 

STANDING AT THE SHOW, MY INTRODUCTION HUNG IN THE AIR. Then her eyes widened with excitement and she yelled out to her bandmates: "Hey, guys! It's the other, more successful, Bree McKenna!"

I was in shock.

"What? No! You're the cooler Bree McKenna!" I protested.

She admitted she had gotten my emails but didn't write back. She had “so many feelings” about it, she said. Then she told me to wait while she ran back on stage with the rest of the band for the encore. There, she grabbed the mic and shouted, "This goes out to the other Bree McKenna that's here tonight.” Beaming, I cheered and woo-hoo’d. I did not expect that reaction. At all.

After the show officially ended, we chatted some more. She told me that she, too, had been Googling me for years. She thought some of her former art school classmates might have mistaken the two of us. I introduced her to my friends and we snapped a picture together. Then the night was over.

Middleoust_Mag_BreeMcKenna_insta_post.jpg
 

SINCE THEN, I'VE PLAYED THE NIGHT OVER IN MY HEAD. I think that's because the whole idea of another “me” out there in the world is weird. We spend so much time—our whole lives really—being in the bubble of our own minds. We know our own hang-ups, worries, strengths and desires, and we measure ourselves in certain terms, eager to be a little more one way and little less another. We believe that if we were just a bit more “fill-in-the-blank,” we would be more interesting and appealing.

And then there she is, a twin in name, filling in those gaps. As I write this in a Starbucks, I even consider how the other Bree McKenna would probably have chosen an independent coffee shop to work. Here I am again: mainstream, pedestrian.

THEN RECENTLY, I RECEIVED AN IPHONE ALERT FROM VENMO, one of those payment apps where you can easily send money to people. Someone was sending me money. The note attached simply said, “Christmas Trip.”

The name attached to it wasn’t familiar, so I wrote the sender, telling her she'd sent money to the wrong person. She messaged me back, explaining that she was trying to send money to her daughter. Her daughter shared my name and even resembled me in her small profile picture.

I asked: “Your daughter isn’t from Seattle and in a rock band, is she?”

The answer: “Yes, she’s in a band called Tacocat. How did you know?”

I told her to say "hi" to Bree for me.

I’ve come to accept that there are two Bree McKennas in the world. She’s the rock star, traveling the world playing music, going to bed late, living out of a tour van—and borrowing money from her parents to visit for the holidays. I’m the responsible one living here in the Midwest, working a day job as a designer, practicing yoga a couple times a week and generally going to bed by 10:30 p.m. My only connection to music is getting concert alert e-mails and being in the crowd.

For rock star Bree, maybe there will be a day when she settles down to a more quiet life.

For me, well, there’s always karaoke.

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98 Concerts That Make Us Love Summer in the Midwest

Bree McKenna

The bands are coming, the bands are coming! From left: Waxahatchee, Fitz and the Tantrums, Lollapalooza, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Julie Ruin. Photos by Matt Lief Anderson (Waxahatchee), Will Rice (Lolla), Matt Lief Anderson (Tweedy) and Kristina Pedersen (Julie Ruin).

by Cassie Walker Burke and Bree McKenna

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The Midwest is the best place in America to see music in the summer. Period. We're home to two of the world's biggest festivals—Summerfest and Lollapalooza—that lure bands of all stripes. Our ticket prices aren't sky high, our throngs of partygoers tend toward the mellow and, disparage our cruel winters all you want, the breezy summer weather makes for an abundance of festivals and concerts under the stars. Granted, not every event on the list happens al fresco; some are special, one-of-kind happenings worth a road trip, others are Midwestern acts (Whitney, Har Mar Superstar) who deserve your serious consideration. 

The list below starts with Illinois and runs by state, with concerts listed chronologically. Like our list? Share it. Think we overlooked someone? Tell us on Facebook. And hey, if you end up in the crowd somewhere, tell 'em this cool new mag called Middleouest sent you. 

 

Illinois

1 / Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson
June 25
RiverEdge Park, Aurora
Two American songwriters, each without parallel, in one night.

2 / Blitzen Trapper at Logan Square Arts Festival
June 26
Logan Square, Chicago

3 / Lower Dens
June 30
Millennium Park, Chicago

4 / Wild Belle at Mamby on the Beach
July 2­-3
Oakwood Beach, Chicago
The local pop-reggae band shares a bill with Animal Collective, Lupe Fiasco and Kaytranada.

5 / Chris Cornell
July 3
Ravinia, Highland Park
 

 

6 / The Roots and Donnie Trumpet at Taste of Chicago
July 6
Petrillo Music Shell, Chicago

7 / Sheila E. at Taste of Chicago
July 10
Petrillo Music Shell, Chicago
The percussionist’s new album is inspired by Prince, naturally.

8 / Femi Kuti
July 11
Millennium Park, Chicago

9 / Rachel Barton Pine plays Bruch at the Grant Park Music Festival
July 13
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago
One of the Midwest’s best-known classical music stars.

10 / Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds at Pitchfork Music Festival
July 15-­17
Union Park, Chicago
Pet Sounds under the stars at one of the best of the big summer fests.

Pitchfork Music Festival is in Chicago's Union Park on July 15-17. Photo by Erez Avissar.

11 / Whitney
July 15
Empty Bottle, Chicago
Chicago band on the rise.

12 / Erykah Badu
July 15
FirstMerit Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago

13 / Emmylou Harris
July 18
Ravinia, Highland Park

14 / Philip Glass tribute at
Grant Park Music Festival
July 20
Jay Pritkzer Pavilion, Chicago
A multimedia tribute concert to the great composer, complete with projected images by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting.

15 / Hall & Oates
July 22
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Tinley Park

 

16 / Kenny Rogers
July 24
Ravinia, Highland Park

17 / On an On
July 28
Empty Bottle, Chicago
The Minneapolis band spins its magic in a favorite Chicago setting.

18 / Oh Pep!
July 11
Schubas, Chicago

19 / Swans
July 15
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

20 / The 15-piece Amy Winehouse Orchestra plays Back to Black
July 19
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

 Swans play Chicago's Lincoln Hall on July 15.

Swans play Chicago's Lincoln Hall on July 15.

21 / Wolf Alice (Lollapalooza aftershow)
July 29
Lincoln Hall, Chicago

22 / Jose Gonzalez and Tall Heights
Aug. 1
Millennium Park, Chicago

23 / Esme Patterson  
Aug. 3
Empty Bottle, Chicago
The Colorado-raised singer-songwriter knows how to turn a phrase.

24 / Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds
Aug. 4
Schubas, Chicago

25 / Dolly Parton
Aug. 7
Ravinia, Highland Park

 

26 / Mbongwana Star + Dos Santos Antibeat Orchestra
Aug. 11
Millennium Park, Chicago

27 / Yo-Yo Ma
Aug. 18
Ravinia, Highland Park

28 / The Go-Go’s with Best Coast 
Aug. 19
Ravinia, Highland Park

 
 
 
 

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to David Bowie on June 24-25. Photo: Creative Commons 

Indiana

29 / Tribute to David Bowie at Marsh Symphony on the Prairie featuring the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
June 24-25
Conner Prairie Amphitheatre, Noblesville

30 / Tribute to Cream featuring Kofi Baker
Aug. 5
Slippery Noodle Inn, Indianapolis
Ginger Baker's son in dad's band in Indiana's oldest bar

31 / Melvins
Aug. 19
The Vogue, Indianapolis

 

32 / Chris Stapleton
Aug. 26
Klipsch Music Center, Nobleville

33 / Tri-State Bluegrass Festival
Sept. 1-4
Noble County 4-H Fairgrounds, Kendallville
This may be the best deal of the summer: $30 for a 4-day camping festival that features dozens of touring bluegrass acts. If you like bluegrass, that is.

34 / The Flaming Lips at Middle Waves Festival
Sept. 16-17
Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne
The progressive two-day festival also features Best Coast and locals Metavari.

 

Tallest Man on Earth plays Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa on July 17. Photo by Cameron Wittig.

Iowa

35 / Peter Bjorn and John
June 22
Englert Theatre, Iowa City

36 / Loretta Lynn
June 25
Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, University of Northern Iowa

37 / Tallest Man on Earth 
July 17
Codfish Hollow, Maquoketa

38 / Bear Hands and Atlas Genius
July 20
Wooly's, Des Moines

 

39 / Shakey Graves
July 22
Wooly's, Des Moines

40 / Carrie Underwood at the Great Jones County Fair
Jul 22
County Fairgrounds, Dubuque

41 / Wavves
July 30
Wooly's, Des Moines

 

Clear Soul Forces play Majestic Cafe in Detroit on June 21. 

Michigan

42 / Clear Soul Forces
June 21
Majestic Café, Detroit

43 / Violent Femmes
July 10
Saint Andrew’s, Detroit

44 / Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Ryan Adams
July 12
Meadow Brook Amphitheater, Rochester Hills

45 / The Decemberists
July 12
Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor

46 / Hurray for the Riff Raff
July 12
The Ark, Ann Arbor
New Orleans eclecticism at its finest.

 

47 / Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show
July 15
Interlochen Arts Festival/Kresge Auditorium, Interlochen
Because The Firewatcher’s Daughter is one of our favorite albums of 2015.

48 / Garbage
July 16
The Fillmore, Detroit

49 / Daughter with Julien Baker
July 26
Majestic Theatre, Detroit

50 / Lucius
July 28
Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit

51 / Ghostface Killah & Raekwon RAGU Tour
July 31
Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit

 

Har Mar Superstar plays the Minneapolis Zoo on Aug. 20.

Minnesota

52 / Ellis Marsalis at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest
June 24
Mears Park, Minneapolis

53 / Violinist Joshua Bell at Minnesota Beethoven Festival
July 5
Harriet Johnson Auditorium, Somsen Hall Winona State University, Winona
He’s been a classical music star since he was 18 and has 40 albums to his name.

54 / Death Cab for Cutie and Gary Clark Jr. at Basilica Block Party
July 8
Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

55 / Case/lang/veirs
Aug. 10
Minneapolis Zoo
Neko Case, KD Lang and Laura Veirs—three independent female musicians team up for a tour.

 

56 / Har Mar Superstar
Aug. 20
Minneapolis Zoo
The soulful Minnesotan plays a hometown show—at the zoo.

57 / Kurt Vile + the Violators 
Aug. 20
Historic Hall's Island, Minneapolis. Wilco headlines.

58 / Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Sept. 6
State Theatre, Minneapolis

59 / Sigur Ros
Sep 29
Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis
 

 

Flight of the Conchords land in Kansas City on July 7.

Missouri

60 / Live and Let Die: A Symphonic Tribute to Paul McCartney by the St. Louis Symphony
June 24
Powell Hall, St. Louis

61 / Flight of the Conchords Tour
July 7
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City

62 / Alunageorge
July 19
Ready Room, St. Louis
This British act is inspired by PJ Harvey.

 

63 / Dolly Parton
July 30
Scottrade Center, St. Louis

64 / Joan Jett, Heart and Cheap Trick
Aug. 15
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City
Because Heart.

65 / Lucinda Williams
Aug. 21
Crossroads KC at Grinders, Kansas City
There’s that voice, then there’s her touring guitarist, Stuart Mathis, a talent in his own right.

 

Grimes appears at Maha Music Festival in Omaha on August 20. 

Nebraska

66 / Bernanza Music Festival
June 30-July 2
Sokol Park, Omaha
These festival organizers are clearly still feeling the "Bern," with a lineup heavy on local bans and bonfires every night.

67 / Black Lips
July 11
The Waiting Room Lounge, Omaha

68 / Woods
July 18
Slowdown, Omaha

 

69 / King Yellowman at the Omaha Solstice Reggae and World Music Festival
July 23
Lewis & Clark Landing, Omaha

70 / Grimes at the Maha Music Festival
Aug. 20
Stinson Park, Omaha

 

Waxahatchee at Pitchfork Music Festival in 2015. She plays Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on June 21. Photo by Matt Lief Anderson.

Ohio

71 / Waxahatchee
Jun 21
Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland

72 / Guided by Voices
June 23
Oddbody's, Dayton

73 / Passion Pit
June 24
Bogarts, Cincinnati

74 / We Were Promised Jetpacks
June 25
Grog Shop, Cleveland

75 / Bob Dylan
June 28
Fraze Pavilion, Kettering

 

76 / Ray LaMontagne
June 30
Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland

77 / Guns N' Roses
July 6
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

78 / The Avett Brothers
July 9
Toledo Zoo Amphitheater

79 / Paul McCartney
July 10
U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati

80 / Maxwell
July 11
Palace Theatre, Columbus

The Avett Brothers are playing July 9 at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheater.

 

81 / The Julie Ruin with Speedy Ortiz
July 16
Mahall's, Lakewood

82 / Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings
July 23
The Rose Music Center at The Heights, Dayton

83 / Jane's Addiction with Living Colour
July 23
Jacobs Pavilion, Cleveland

84 / Miranda Lambert with Kip Moore
July 28
Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls

85 / Justin Townes Earle
July 29
Musica, Akron

 

86 / Diana Ross
July 31
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, Northfield

87 / Snoop Dogg with Wiz Khalifa and Kevin Gates
Aug. 14
Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls

88 / Explosions In The Sky
Sept. 13
Newport Music Hall, Columbus

89 / Nada Surf
Sept. 22
A&R Music Bar, Columbus

 

Car Seat Headrest play Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee on July 17.

Wisconsin

90 / Fitz and the Tantrums at Summerfest
June 26  
Harley Davidson Roadhouse, Milwaukee
Everyone from Willie Nelson to Pitbull show up at Summerfest, which runs through July 10.

91 / Bully
July 7
Meyer Theatre, Green Bay

92 / Chris Thile and Bela Fleck
July 13
Door County Auditorium, Fish Creek

93 / The Madison Early Music Festival
Finale performance July 16
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The multi-day fest gets into the spirit of the international Shakespeare 400 celebration.

 

 

94 / Car Seat Headrest
July 17
Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

95 / Wye Oak 
Aug. 2
Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee

96 / Grace Potter 
Aug. 5
The Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

97 / Sturgill Simpson
Aug. 9
Meyer Theatre, Green Bay

98 / Summerset Festival with Grimes and Chance the Rapper
Aug. 12-14
Somerset, WI
Camping!

 

Fitz and the Tantrums perform at Summerfest in Milwaukee on June 26.

It's not summer without a playlist. Hope you enjoy our first such endeavor. Tell us how you like it on our Facebook page. 

 
 

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Requiem for a Piece of Chicago Music History

Bree McKenna

Photos by Dave Rentauskas
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676 North LaSalle is a brawny, squat and unremarkable building that, for 40-some-odd years, cloaked a rollicking recording studio in its basement. Under the guise of a series of eclectic owners, the space lured musicians of all stripes, jingle writers, B movie producers and, for a long streak in the 1980s, the audio engineers for Mutual of Omaha’s TV show Wild Kingdom.

Then, last year, the building was sold for $12 million to Chicago development firm Cedar Street Capital. On a cold day this past February, a bobcat was pulled in to dig up the floor, presumably to make way for a loading dock or a basement gym.

Diana Ross once recorded the soundtrack for Mahogany here. Now it will be 114 city apartments.

So the natural way of real estate goes. Even the owner of the last recording operation here, Wall to Wall, acknowledges that the 9,000-square-foot studio stayed open way longer than it probably should have, financially speaking. Music engineering software has made recording a do-it-yourself enterprise, and bands that want to make professional albums increasingly rent scrappy, smaller studios in cheaper neighborhoods like Humboldt Park.

River North is no longer a city frontier, but home to tourist-soaked Brazilian churasscarias, the Rock N’ Roll McDonald's and lots of expensive residential real estate.

Recognizing this sliver of Chicago entertainment history was about to be lost forever, Middleouest brought along Chicago photographer Dave Rentauskas on a tour of the studio. Most of the information in the captions comes from Dan Dietrich, the co-owner of Wall to Wall.

High-end turntable for digital transfers

One of the hallmarks of the studio was the bevy of giant, rare equipment from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, much of which Dietrich’s studio partner (whom he does not want to name) collected over the years and now plans to sell. “That’s a broadcast turntable we used to do a vinyl transfers; it had been at a radio station in the 1980s,” Dietrich says. The unique assemblage of equipment was a draw to a wide spectrum of Chicago bands, from Andrew Bird and Neko Case to the Redwalls and Waco Brothers.

Another distinguishing feature was its sheer size: 9,000-square-feet divided into a labyrinth of hallways and recording rooms. “The shape of the place was kind of crazy, and it didn’t really make a lot of sense—but it worked out OK," Dietrich says. The building, he says, had been bought around 1969 by a photographer named Ed Van Baerle, a creative type with a fondness for surrounding himself by artists. He had gotten the long-vacant building cheap. "He told me that you didn’t come west of Michigan in the late 60s and early 70s, that beyond Michigan was warehouses and slum. He was a photographer, he did a lot of advertisements for Marlboro and Playboy. There were always photographers and audio people and crazy people in the building."

Around 1971 or 1972, a entrepreneurial pair named Chuck Lishon and Hans Wirsum started building out a recording studio in the basement. Lishon's family owned Frank’s Drum Shop on Wabash, and he had a lot of musical connections. "I don’t think there was much of a plan; Chuck Lishon was a little crazy and was trying to fit this big studio in between (the building’s existing concrete) pillars. I’m not exactly sure why he made some choices, like putting in an orchestra pit. In a studio setting that doesn’t make any sense.”

Rare audio compressor

“We never made any money; it was just able to pay for itself. People don’t pay what they used to for studio space. We found some old receipts from someone who had recorded there in 1977, and they were recording for the same day rate we were charging in 2010.”

“The deer head was in one of the rehearsal rooms. The green box is a Magnasync Recorder, which is something they used to sync music to film back in the 1970s. Until computers came into use in the 1990s, that’s what you had to use. That kind of work took a lot of people and a lot of machinery.”

“In the 1970s they were doing a lot of music, but in the 1980s, they were doing more film and video. They made all their money doing Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. This is the room where they did all the sound effects. They would do all the sound effects there, and then mix it there.”

"The red shag carpet was on the wall of one room built in the 1970s, and the gold paneling was from a vocal booth built in the 1980s. The aesthetic went from 1970s to the 1980s all in one space. It would have been expensive to replace it, and there was really no reason, it still sounded good. And we didn’t think people would like it anyway.” As for the picture of Tiger Woods, Dietrich says he has "no idea" where that came from.

“That’s a studer tape machine; the last generation of analog tape machines built in 1990s.”

“A lot of vintage guitar amps. We definitely had the advantage of having a lot of access to a lot of equipment. It gave bands more choices for sound and more varieties of sound. Not long after we opened, Andrew Bird recorded Mysterious Production of Eggs—he was taking off at the time and starting to be more than a local artist then. I think that kind of helped us to get other local clients.”

“The cartoon was drawn by Jon Langford. He recorded a Waco brothers live record here. The sign is from the freight elevator. We never wanted anyone to fall down the elevator pit.”

“When we got here in 2003, the walls were white, then we painted it. It was like a hospital down there. Not sure why we picked that red color. It was weird.”

“This is the main recording room—you can see one of the original mic panels from 1971. On the floor is a drum riser. Drums sound better on a riser than sitting on the floor, strangely enough.”

“There aren’t many studios that are this size anymore. Now it’s just one guy with a little room, because that’s what you can support. People can do a lot more on their own, so the money is just not there as much. You don’t necessarily need a giant mixing console," says Dietrich.

As for his next chapter, he says he has bought a house and plans to have a studio there: "I can do a lot of what I need to do with a much smaller space.”

 

 

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Dave Rentauskas is a freelance photographer in Chicago.