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Filtering by Category: Photography

23 Signs of the Midwest Resistance

Bree McKenna

Protest paraphernalia has long occupied its own special little corner in the realm of art—occasionally elevated, sometimes celebrated, most often ignored. But while we were walking among the 200,000-plus crowd in late January for the Women’s March on Chicago, we kept being struck by how resistance seemed to draw out cleverness and creativity in so many. Too bad, we thought, that signs and actions are mostly ephemeral: here today, in the trash can tomorrow.

So we decided to capture a few of our favorites and preserve them for you. A few counties in the Midwest might have tipped the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor, but, judging from the fact that Chicago’s march was one of the largest outside of D.C., our people promise to be powerful—and vocal—watchdogs moving forward.

Want to add to our image bank? Add #middleouest to your Instagram photos from the march.

 

Cartoon-inspired signs.

The Newberry Library is archiving some of the signs from the protest. Many were very personal pleas.

  Star Wars  inspired its own language and imagery of the resistance.

Star Wars inspired its own language and imagery of the resistance.

Sometimes the facts are pretty compelling sign fodder.

 
 
 
 

Mini "Cheetos" and Cheetolini: There was no shortage of cheese puff iconography.

Some of the more popular phrases we saw.

Pink hats and abundant usage of the word "nasty"

Kids and dudes showed up in support.

Lots of these powerful Shepard Fairey posters—that were printed in the NY Times and the Washington Post papers on Inauguration Day—were peppered throughout the crowd. 

Simple, yet powerful messages.

 

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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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21 Signs of Life in Detroit

Bree McKenna

By Jeff Myers
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“Detroiters are prideful people,” says Jeff Myers, who should know. Born in Detroit in 1974, Myers has lived in and around the downtown for the past 16 years. His day job as a facilities manager at a digital agency doesn’t interfere with his near-daily hobby: chronicling his troubled native city’s slow rebirth.

On his walks to and from work, he captures on his iPhone snapshots of architecture old and new, signs, intersections, even spring tulips—a mix that could be summed up as the hopeful and the historic. “I see a beautiful city. In all its grime, as well as all its glitz,” he says. “It’s complex. It's like no other city in the U.S.”

Asked by Middleouest to show us his Detroit, Myers delivered these 21 images. “I feel like I'm letting people in on a secret I've known for a long time. I want other people to see the beauty I see.”

1 | “This ‘Nothing Stops Detroit’ neon sign is on Woodward in the heart of downtown. It’s kind of the ‘new’ Detroit mantra towards moving the city forward. When I first moved downtown, in 2000, living around here was way against the norm. But there was real hope at the time—the Tigers had built a new stadium, the Lions had a new stadium. Then the housing market crashed and everything . . . stopped. There was a long, uncertain time, but in the past 24 months everything has snowballed. Downtown is now full of people in their 20s. Folks, like me, who've been living here a while—we call ourselves Detroit 1.0. We've made a joke of it for those who talk about Detroit 2.0. ” 

2 | “The lobby of the David Whitney Building, which was built in 1915. It’s now the Aloft Detroit, a hotel. So there's beautiful original architecture paired with stylish modern rooms. This building had been vacant for decades and reopened just over a year ago.”

3 | “Standing in Grand Circus Park, the view of the David Broderick Tower (left) and the David Whitney Building (right). These buildings are now restored and occupied after decades of decay.”

4 | “The historic Fox Theater marquee, recently restored and updated.”

 
 
 
 

5 | “Construction of the new Red Wings Stadium, which they’re going to call Little Caesars Arena. People here are not very happy about that name. It sits just a block north of downtown in what is to be called 'The District,' connecting downtown to the trendy Midtown, which people used to refer to as the Cass Corridor.”

6 | “The beginning of the new M-1 Rail (recently named the QLINE), a line that will stretch 3.3 miles north from the core of downtown through Midtown and up to New Center. At one time, Cass Corridor was the skid row of Detroit—a really rough area. Now they’ve re-branded it, and it’s this hip area where Shinola is headquartered.”

7 | “Lower Woodward, just off of Campus Martius. Campus Martius is now the central gathering point in the city. There are food trucks, and people play live music in the summer, and there's ice skating in the winter.”

8 | “Griswold Street facing south towards the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario. It's unique to have another country right across the river."

9 | “The John Varvatos retail store in the historic Wright-Kay Building (also called the Schwankovsky Temple of Music) now also houses the popular Wright & Co. gastropub on the second floor.”

10 | "This crane game sits at the entrance to Green Dot Stables, one of the most popular new restaurants in the city. It’s a major success story considering its location.”

11 | “Looking into the Guardian Building in the early morning. This Art Deco masterpiece sits within the rapidly growing Central Business District. The dim light of the coming day accents the beautiful warm interior of the lobby, which is magnificent."

12 | “Also in the business district sits the historic First National Building, which is now full of tenants like Roasting Plant coffee and Central Kitchen, a restaurant.”

13 | “In the Central Business District, office space is suddenly at a premium for the first time in decades.”

14 | “The inside of the recently renovated Cobo Center, where the North American Auto Show takes place. The Penobscot Building is at the top right.”

15 | “Many of these hand painted murals and signs are disappearing from the downtown landscape, and I'm trying to document them before they're gone. The salsa photo is just one of the old painted wooded signs that's still there, on the outside of the old Loco Bar in Bricktown. I just like the folk art aspect of it.”

16 | "The '8 Mile' photo was from the drivers side door of a tow truck. I thought it looked cool, and 8 Mile has always been known as the great divide between the city and suburbs. That line is finally starting to fade a little."

17 | “The bobble head chess game was set up outside of Comerica Park for the Tigers Opening Day festivities. Opening Day is still an unofficial holiday here in Detroit. It signals the beginning of spring after the long Michigan winter."

18 | The Stroh’s photo is from the Garden Bowl, one of the oldest bowling alleys in the U.S. Stroh’s was brewed in the area for 135 years before the company left Detroit in 1985.”

19 | “This view from the restored Campus Martius really hits the Detroit 2.0 vibe. It’s what you see looking up at the Soldiers & Sailors statue.”

20 | “A stadium construction sign on Woodward just north of downtown. You can see the Fox Theater in the distance. Downtown Detroit hasn’t experienced this amount of restoration, new construction and upgraded infrastructure in 30-plus years."

21 | “A sign on the window of one of the many new businesses in downtown. Detroit was always here, waiting. Now it’s being discovered and shaped by a new generation—a generation that has cast aside the stereotypes and stigmas of the past."

 

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Jeff Myers is a Detroit native.

 
 
 

Coming Back from the Wild

Bree McKenna

By Esther Kang
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Just over a year ago, before K was born, I imagined that I would strap her into a baby carrier and ride the L everywhere. In my mind, I would read a magazine while baby slept beatifically on my chest—on our way to doctor’s appointments, to Maggie Daley Park, to summer music shows, to friends’ homes in various neighborhoods. I imagined that my husband, Zach, and I would take baby on our travels: We booked Hawaii for a friend’s wedding; perhaps Korea, Argentina, Lebanon would soon follow. Baby would fit seamlessly into our life. I imagined I’d be the kind of mom everyone wants to be—going with the flow, taking baby anywhere, finding time to shower and work and host fabulous dinners.

It turns out I am not that kind of mom.

 

STREETERVILLE, CHICAGO

When K arrives via Caesarean section at Prentice Women’s Hospital in downtown Chicago, her cries pierce the quiet of the operating room. Zach and I are overcome with emotion at the sound of her entering this world. K sucks her fingers, and we do skin-to-skin with her because we were told by the nurse in the breastfeeding class that it will help her latch on and feed better.

Our third night at the hospital, a friend advises, “Send her to the nursery so you and Zach can get some rest.” After nursing her, with Zach fast asleep on the pull-out cot next to the window, I hand K over to a sweet nurse. She wheels away baby, who is swaddled tightly like a burrito. Instead of using that precious time to sleep, I walk the halls and make my way over to the nursery.

Peeking through the glass, I expect to see K sleeping soundly. But I spot her in her little cart at the end of a row of babies, next to the waste bin, her face scrunched up. She is crying, while all the other babies—babies that look bigger and healthier—sleep soundly. I burst into tears as I watch a nurse pick her up and put a pacifier into her mouth.

Spotting me, another nurse asks if I’m OK. Still sobbing, I lie: “My baby is in there crying and waking up all the other babies. I feel bad. I can just take her back with me, it’s no problem.” The nurse reassures me: “They all take turns waking each other up, and we love holding them! Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of her.” I shuffle back to my room and sob some more as Zach snores a few feet away. The image of my crying baby is seared into my mind, and I am certain that if she were in my arms, she would be dozing snugly. I don’t understand or recognize the intensity of this feeling. Motherhood is wild.

 
 

ELEVEN DAYS LATER, the day after Mother’s Day, I’m back downtown, at my ob-gyn’s office across the street from Prentice. I have, quite literally, a hole in my stomach. Thinking myself some sort of superhuman, I’d sprung into action immediately after K was born—lifting things heavier than baby, climbing stairs and stepstools, driving. Now an infection from an opened staple has rendered me unable to walk. Zach drops me off in front of the building and waits in the car with baby; she’s sleeping, and he will need to keep driving around the block so she doesn’t wake up. I hobble to the door, wrapping my scarf around my neck. It’s May in Chicago—windy, gray, cool.

 

Albany Park, Chicago

We’re home. We’re always home. The only time we’re not home is when we take K on walks in her stroller. We walk to Kedzie Avenue and polish off ice cream cones from the paleteria in two minutes flat, before rushing back home for the next feed.

For the first three months of her life, Zach and I sit on the couch from 7 p.m. until about 10 or 11, or whenever baby goes down for the night after alternately nursing and snoozing for hours. She has acid reflux from an underdeveloped flap over her stomach, which means we have to hold her up for at least 20 minutes after each feed. Each time we think she’s in deep sleep, we swaddle her and gingerly carry her to the Rock ’n’ Play. Should she wake during this process, we start the cycle all over again—nursing, holding her up, etc. We have no idea if this is what we’re supposed to do; we just know this is what works for us.

Parenthood, so far, is a huge pain in the ass. A black box, Zach calls it. “People disappear for a while at the beginning, and you think they’re happy,” he says. “But it’s hard. Then they come back.”

Most days, it seems, Zach and I take care of K out of love for one another—not so much for her. We don’t know her yet, but we do know and love each other.

I TAKE PHOTOS—LOTS OF THEM. This baby is the most photographed child on the face of the Earth after maybe Suri Cruise. One of my favorite shots is a poorly-composed iPhone selfie of the three of us in our bedroom. Zach is lying with his head at the foot of the bed with his T-shirt hiked up, revealing his belly, and he is reading an article on his phone. I’m splayed out on the other side, nursing a face-planted K, my legs paler than they’ve ever been. Our bed is covered with pillows and bags and clothes. The indignity of it all makes me chuckle every time I see the photo.  

Zach, whose job requires some travel, goes back to work after his paternity leave. I begin flying solo just as things get really hard. The hormones, my brain, the lack of sleep, the drastic life change, the isolation, the baby’s reflux, an acid elimination diet that means no milk or soy, the lack of control over anything K does—these swirl into a potent postpartum maelstrom. I don’t know if it’s anxiety, depression, or a combination of both, but I cry—a lot—almost every day. I try to do it when she’s asleep, but sometimes I can’t control it, so K sees me cry. I worry that I’m traumatizing her. I have trouble resting even when baby’s sleeping, and disturbing nightmares haunt me for days. I hear phantom cries and wake up anxious about nursing, about tummy time, about the weird noises K makes, about whether or not she’s developing as she should.

One breezy summer day, while walking K in my carrier around our block, a car speeds by me and clips a curb. A thought pops into my head: It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if we got hit by a car. I don’t dwell on the idea because it’s stupid and scary.

On another occasion, I am sitting on our living room floor while standing K up. This is her pooping stance. Her eyes begin to water, and her face turns red. She sneers like a bull and strains. Zach is finished packing, and he brings out his suitcase and grabs his jacket; the cab is waiting outside. He comes over to kiss me, and tears start streaming down my face. “Oh,” he says, with sad eyes. I don’t want to cry, but I can’t help it.

THERE IS NO RATIONAL THOUGHT LEFT AT THE END OF A LONG DAY where baby has cluster-fed and not slept more than an hour. That evening, with Zach out of town again, I concoct a brilliant plan: “I’ll check myself into the emergency room. Someone there—yes, one of the nurses!—will watch K, and they’ll let me get some sleep.” Somehow I have the presence of mind to run this idea by a friend. She texts back, “???” It occurs to me that if I proceed with my plan, the Department of Children and Family Services might come and take K from me. I call another friend, and she offers to come spend the night—to give baby a bottle of pumped milk and hold her to sleep while I string four or five hours of sleep together for the first time in months.

The next evening, Zach comes home from his work trip. He unpacks his suitcase, changes into a T-shirt and shorts, and joins me on the sofa, where I’ve been nursing and waiting for K to fall into her deep sleep. Holding her with one arm, I reach for his hand. He squeezes mine tightly, and I begin to cry.

 

MAGGIE IS MY FIRST FRIEND TO SPEND THE NIGHT WHILE ZACH IS OUT OF TOWN. Jane comes the next week, and then Monica, who is in her third trimester of pregnancy but cheerfully offers to help like it’s no big deal. And during the following month, as K sleeps longer stretches at night, I don’t so much need help with a late feeding as I want the company when Zach’s gone. Being home alone with a baby terrifies me, and having a sleepover with a friend helps. So other gracious ladies get acquainted with our couch: Markeyta, Diane, Megan, Dawn. Some weeks I even make dinner for them.

In parenthood, I find, every cliché is absolutely true. It takes a village, truly. And in the absence of blood relatives living around us, I am thankful for the village Zach and I have cobbled together here in Chicago—and through the web, around the world. Friends bring us food, watch K while we go on dates, offer invaluable advice, listen when I call them panicked, sobbing, desperate. They email and text me regularly, with choruses of “I love you.” “Let me know how I can help.” “We are praying for you.” “It will get better.”

 
I begin flying solo just as things get really hard. The hormones, my brain, the lack of sleep, the drastic life change, the isolation, the baby’s reflux, an acid elimination diet that means no milk or soy, the lack of control over anything K does—these swirl into a potent postpartum maelstrom.
 

Ravenswood, Chicago

With Zach regularly out of town, I grow desperate enough to call a hotline for postpartum anxiety and depression. The young woman on the other end of the line kindly gives me names of counselors covered by my insurance plan. I search them all and find the one nearest to me—a woman who also appears to be the most stylish, which is a plus.

Every Wednesday afternoon, I strap K into her car seat, and we drive to the therapist’s office. The baby nurses and naps while I talk about the dread I feel, the sense that this harrowing slog will never end. I talk about the bad dreams and the worst-case scenarios in my mind. I describe the fear that comes over me when K stirs in the morning as I watch through the baby monitor.

My therapist, Lisa, is reassuring: All this is temporary. She tells me she loves how I talk about Zach, that I have great support systems in place, that she can tell I love K by the way I interact with her. I ask, more than once, where I fall on the spectrum of postpartum anxiety and depression; Lisa tells me I’m on the milder side, and somehow that’s enough to help me get through each week. She says I can pursue meds if I want them, but they won’t be a cure-all, and they’ll take some time to kick in. I’d rather not. I’m not a patient person, I tell her. “They’d have to be some magic-ass pills.”

I can never find parking in front of the therapist’s office. And on street-cleaning days, I walk four blocks carrying my heavy car seat with my even heavier child in it. She has catapulted from the 20th percentile in weight to the high 80s. It doesn’t help that I’m short, and the car seat barely clears the sidewalk when I carry it. I know someone somewhere in this neighborhood is watching me and thinking, “Why is a 12-year-old lugging a fat baby down the street?”

A couple of months after my first counseling session, Nashville actress Hayden Panettiere announces that she is receiving treatment for postpartum depression. She had a baby with an older gentleman twice her size, a world champion boxer, and a few months later, she checked herself into a treatment center. There was a time, I’m ashamed to say, when I was skeptical about women’s claims of postpartum woes. But not anymore. I find myself relieved that a B-list actress is raising awareness about the issue.

 

Evanston, Illinois

Friday of Independence Day weekend, we drive up to the lakefill on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston. It would be easier to stay home and go from feed to feed, nap to nap. But Zach thinks we should venture out for some fresh air. And I want to take photos so I can look back someday and say that I tried—I really tried.

Zach gives K a tour of my old college campus—an abbreviated version of one that I gave him when we were dating years ago: “This is where Mama fell asleep during lecture….” He is trying to get me to smile, but I am stressed out: Where will I nurse her? Am I wearing the right shirt to nurse her? What if we don’t have enough wipes? What if she doesn’t fall asleep in the car and cries the whole way back?

Thankfully, we make it through the day. It’s nothing like the dozens of other times Zach and I came here. Before K, whenever we had a free Saturday, we would drive up, walk along the lake, take a nap on the grass, and watch the sailboats. I loved our former life so much, but there is no time to mourn it properly. We are sprinting just to keep up. As Zach puts it, even trying to have fun is stressful.

I look back on photos from that day and see two kids who don’t know what they’re doing, but trying. We’re in our mid-30s—hardly young—but we are definitely making it up as we go. Maybe years down the line, I’ll see those pics and think, “Oh, that was a fun outing.” But today, I know better.

 
When I watch a Nora Ephron documentary in which she describes her young son as ‘a dish of ice cream,’ I feel jealous that she came up with that phrase. K is a dish of ice cream.
 

HONOLULU

K is four and a half months old. It has been a particularly difficult week: Zach has been dealing with stresses at work, and K has been staging a nursing strike, a deathblow to my already fragile psyche. We are sitting, again, in the dark on our couch. We can’t go to Hawaii. We just can’t. K’s nursing strike, the logistics of pumping and washing bottles, jetlag and living out of a hotel for a few days, then returning home and adjusting back to life here—it’s too much. I am disappointed in myself yet again. But when Zach himself agrees it would be too much, that our little family needs time to regroup, we cancel our trip to Hawaii and breathe a sigh of relief.

Zach still takes the next week off. We sell my beat-up Corolla and buy a more suitable family car. We sleep-train K, who takes to it quite well, and we agree that not spending a week on beautiful Waikiki Beach is the best decision we’ve ever made as a couple.

 

North Kenwood, Chicago

With more sleep, therapy, the passage of time, and help from those around us, the fog begins to lift. The things I wrote in my journal during those traumatic early months start becoming unrecognizable. I begin to delight in my daughter: her protruding, smooth forehead and receding hairline, her little diapered butt, her downturned lips, her peachy jowls, her funny personality, the bizarre babbling, the propensity to summon her tears on a dime—then turn them off as soon as she gets her way. I find her so exceptionally adorable. When I watch a Nora Ephron documentary in which she describes her young son as “a dish of ice cream,” I feel jealous that she came up with that phrase. K is a dish of ice cream.

The second half of Year One flies by; I jot down a few notes each month about how we’re doing, and the entries get shorter and shorter. Almost daily, I experience times with our daughter that I can only describe as moments of grace. It’s as if the wasted early months are being restored.

I feel balanced enough to take on freelance projects—an exhausting but much needed addition to my schedule. Zach and I begin hosting dinners again. I go out with my girlfriends. We are back at our church regularly. I’m singing and playing the guitar; Zach is back on the keys. We fly to see my folks in D.C. one weekend; then to Florida for our niece’s birthday. We visit both sets of parents for Christmas—an eight-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio, (including breaks for feeding baby), another eight hours to the D.C. area, then back. We are OK. We still don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re doing so much better. Doing well, even.

Our little condo in Albany Park, which I bought when I was 25, is bursting at the seams. On days Zach works from home, he does so on a makeshift desk along our bedroom window ledge because K occupies his former office. When family members visit, they stay at an Airbnb nearby. So we go house-hunting and put an offer down on the first condo we see—a duplex in a South Side greystone just a few blocks from our church. I take pics of Zach and K that morning at the property because I have a feeling this will be our home.

We close on the condo in April. We start making repairs and hope to move in soon. As I write, K is babbling and rolling a soccer ball on the floor with Zach. I imagine them kicking the ball in our building’s yard. I see us riding bikes along the lakefront trail, walking to church on sunny Sundays, riding the bus up Lake Shore Drive to visit the Art Institute, getting a membership at the nearby Museum of Science and Industry. And when she’s old enough to remember, we’ll take her outside of the country to someplace cool.

I can’t be certain we’ll do all these things, but I think we will.
 

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Esther Kang is a journalist in Chicago.

The Renegade Farm

Cassie Burke

By Cassie Walker Burke  /  Photos by Bree McKenna
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A hunter is walking up the drive, and that spells trouble. So begins the slow dance of damage control: The farmer scoops the last pancake from the griddle onto his wife’s plate, slides in socked feet to the door and yanks on rubber boots. He charges into the yard, and the farmhouse door slams shut behind him. Breakfast is now an afterthought.

Hunters and farmers share the land here in stark northeastern Michigan, but their interests often collide. The point of conflict this morning is a dog—actually, two—owned by the farmers, 32-year-old Lindsay Steele and his wife, Katie Cooper. Sometime in the early morning hours, Apollo, a fluffy white Great Pyrenees, and his sidekick Maia, a Border Collie mix, stealthily escaped the welded-wire fence that encloses the couple’s five-acre farm and hightailed it to a duck-filled marshland nearby. The hunters, who pay for the privilege of hunting that land, don’t react kindly to such disruption—particularly when they’re trying to stock their freezers on one of the last decent weekends of fall.

Most of the morning will be lost while Steele and Cooper search for their dogs, anxious to find them before one or both meets a bullet. “We patch one hole and then they make another and get out again,” Cooper says. “All we do is make constant mistakes,” she adds, laughing, “and try to live with them.”

Five years ago, Lindsay Steele was a graphic designer at a Chicago branding agency, and Katie played in a rock band. Their only brush with agriculture was a produce-stuffed CSA box they got every week or so from a Wisconsin farm through a city drop-off program. How they ended up taking the plunge and exchanging their urban lives for five acres in eastern Michigan is a story powered by equal parts stubbornness and serendipity. That—and a lot of farming videos on YouTube.

Then, just as the couple started making the final rounds of markets last fall, Katie discovered she was pregnant, and a whole new set of priorities slid into view. Babies have a way of forcing their parents to shuttle serendipity, especially in light of a particularly tough-to-swallow fact: It's still tough to earn a living off the land, even in the era of farm-to-table everything.

THE FARMHOUSE ISN'T JUST ANY FARMHOUSE. It’s a century-old, worn in many parts and currently missing most of the wall between the linoleum-covered kitchen and the modest living room with a warm wood-burning stove Steele installed himself.  
 
The work on the house—well, that has to happen in the cold months. Since the couple moved here in 2012, the farm has been a whirlwind of sunup to sundown workdays from first thaw until winter. “Farming is a challenging choice. It just is,” Cooper says. “There is a really daunting place, where you start with whatever you have, which is usually next to nothing and really small—

Steele jumps in. “—you have to be crazy. If you look at it on paper, it is so complex. There are so many variables—how am I going to find land? how am I going to find equipment?—that are so expensive. There is an insane amount of questions, and you can’t always answer all of them. You have to just do it, and be OK that you don’t have all the answers.”

They are sitting on a hillside on a beautiful fall day, describing what may be the world’s hardest job in a practically perfect Midwestern setting. Crop beds line up in perfect geometric formations every direction we look. Chickens cluck an acre or so over, and a light breeze delicately blows their warbling your way. The air is crisp enough to sting our nostrils.

The setting wasn’t always so bucolic. When the couple moved here in 2012, the land hadn’t been used for farming in more than a generation. All possibility was buried under quackgrass, an invasive weed with a persistent root structure. There wasn’t even a garden.  

Besides quackgrass, other things that needed clearing—namely, some dark corners of Katie’s childhood. The property actually had been in her family for a generation. Originally, the plan had been to crash and save some money before taking the plunge and buying land elsewhere. But a pit stop became a long-term residency once the cost of buying a plot of land elsewhere began to make their dream seem impossible. Not long after, Katie’s father signaled he might want to sell to the couple.

“I’ve always loved this property, and I do remember, when I was really little, actually thinking about owning this place one day,” she says. “I started thinking this could be a really empowering experience for me, to take something that has a lot of good memories—and a lot of not-so-good memories—to face those and turn them around a bit and build on that.”
 
Standing inside an old garage that he intended to convert into a greenhouse for winter seed starting, Lindsay handed Katie and her sister a sledgehammer. Clear out the ghosts of her parents’ fighting, her father’s depression, the ensuing divorce. Make it theirs.

Today that greenhouse is full of light and, in late fall, full of empty seed trays that will come into service around the first signals of spring.

STEELE IS HOLDING A PLUG OF SOIL THE SIZE OF A GENEROUS ICE CUBE. The cube is his own adaptation of a recipe by Eliot Coleman, better known as the "godfather" of the organic movement. It contains peat moss, compost, a healthy dose of the native soil, perlite, kelp meal, and, for PH balance, lime. Like the cube of dirt that he is slowly turning around in his hand, each deliberate action is a building block for a tightly choreographed system that the couple describe as “moreganic.”

There are other words for it that are clinical-sounding words—but they don’t really capture the warm, fuzzy feeling of rolling hillsides, homemade chicken coops and a simple and stubborn conviction that peppers any discussion about what happens here. Call it regenerative farming. Call it agro-ecological. Just don’t call it organic.

The conversation at the farmers’ market in South Lyon typically goes like this. A shopper comes up to the couple and asks if their farm is organic. No, they reply, "We’re 'moreganic.'"

"What’s that?" the shopper asks.
"Better than organic."
"What’s better than organic?"

Steele has his answer down: Organic farming is a great idea philosophically but at some point it was hijacked by laws and big ag. Today, for example, organic farms in the United States can still use certain pesticides, which he refuses to use.

In a 2012 survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s census of organic farms tallied slightly more than 14,000. States such as California and Wisconsin and Minnesota led the pack with the low thousands. Michigan, with nearly 332 in 2012, fell in the middle.

Of those 14,000 farms, 3 in 5 reported annual sales of less than $100,000.

Steele’s farm doesn’t even get counted in those numbers since it isn’t organic by government standards. This is what you call renegade in a region known more for auto parts than heirloom squash. “There are lots of different interpretations for what we’re doing,” Steele says, going on to explain how their farm operates as close as it can to closed-loop agricultural system. Their chief mode of fertilizer is a moveable chicken coop—a homegrown shit delivery service on wheels that prevents them from having to purchase manure or chemicals from the outside. They use intensive planting techniques such as cover cropping, crop rotation, aggressive composting and all that chicken manure to maximize soil health and deter pests. Data—reams and reams of data that Steele has laboriously catalogued—determine how much of which crops to plant and when and what seedlings should be rotated in. Nitrogen to nitrogen, dust to dust. That, and a heavy reliance on Wi-Fi.

For all of the ancient techniques the couple employs here, they readily recognize the virtues of technology. Their WiFi-enabled soil whispering is informed by a Facebook group of like-minded farmers who happily dispense advice to one another; by YouTube videos from clean farming advocates whose advice is hallowed in certain agricultural circles; by podcasts with quirky titles like Permaculture Voices; and by detailed crop rotation charts that Steele designs on the graphic design software Adobe Illustrator. This is a talent from his former life in Chicago that has proved particularly handy.

Try unpacking all that in a quick conversation at a farmers’ market when someone stops to quickly buy fresh-farmed eggs. Bending customers’ minds at small town markets, Lindsay says, is “exciting—but challenging. There are people out there who know we are growing this produce the way we are, and they understand the quality that it is, and we have them hooked.

“But it’s a challenge—because the other side of that is that people are used to the other vendors at the farmers’ market," he continues. "There is this one big farm: They grow 40 acres of produce, they spray it all the time, they sell their produce really cheap. Sometimes they’re just straight up undercutting us, like, ‘Oh he’s selling his peppers for $1.50 a piece, we’ll sell ours three for $1.’”

He adds: “I don’t want to sink a farmer, but I want them to farm better.”

As he explains, you hear more examples of Steele’s former ad agency life proving useful in other ways. Rather than a past life, his agency work is essential DNA upon which he is building something new, from the clever name of the farm—Garden Fort—to the logo that is stamped on each box of fresh-laid farm eggs. He and Katie even have a tagline for Garden Fort: the really real.

When the couple describes their farm of the future, they don’t talk in terms of acquiring more acreage. Rather, they dream of fostering an experimental station that can be a stop along the way for others who, like them, are the wayward agricurious—be it renegade beekeepers or goat farmers with dreams of being artisanal cheese mongers. Land is hard to come by, and expensive. But they can help others crack the code and share what they've learned. Perhaps this sort of residency program can even become part of the business plan and yield modest rental fees or more goods for market. 

Already, an artist friend of theirs has been driving in on occasion from Chicago and painting her signature flower motif on the sides of their barns and fences, in essence bartering her talent for a quiet place to recharge. Like the seed trays in spring, she's an early sign of what could be a budding agri-art commune on property that was, a decade ago, just an old dilapidated house surrounded by lots of grass.

STILL, AS MUCH AS STEELE HATES TO ADMIT IT, FARMING IS TOUGH ECONOMICS. After three years, the couple was first able to pay themselves a wage this past summer. Consider the math: a good week of farmers’ markets and some wholesale to grocers and restaurants can yield $1,200 to $2,000. Multiply that by 25 or so weeks of produce-rich summer and fall for a combined annual income that is in the five figures—one that has to cover mortgage, equipment repair, seedlings, before anything goes to the people tending the land.

To make the numbers work, Steele picked up freelance graphic design projects. His wife worked in the off-season a natural food market in nearby Brighton.

The numbers were barely adding up when Cooper found out she was pregnant. It was around the time the root vegetables were going to market. Talking about the plans for the baby, she was glowing, Lindsay was glowing, the dogs—which had come bounding back safely after their adventure with the hunters—were practically glowing. But the coming baby forced a reckoning with reality for two people who had previously let creativity and serendipity be their guides.

Lindsay considered some hard choices: try to muscle through another season short a laborer—that is, his wife, who'd be occupied tending to the baby. Or he could take out a loan so he could invest in some critical tools, irrigation materials and manpower that would help the farm be more productive—but require an undesirable lien on the farmhouse. There was a third option: step back, dive back into his old life as a freelance graphic designer and steadily try to build back his bank account. The trade-off would be putting the farm on hiatus for the coming year.

"Flying by the seat of our pants, being creative, using what we have, and muscling through has been a good approach while we figure out exactly what it is we're doing and continue to learn," he said. "But we aren't going to survive without establishing better systems and putting in place the infrastructure needed to be more efficient and productive," from better irrigation and hoop houses to some equipment essentials such as a walk-in cooler and a proper pack shed.

When a little girl arrived two weeks early, on Easter Day, the right direction seemed immediately clear. Here was a new life around the time of the first spring plantings. Only Steele wouldn't be planting much this year: He decided to plunge his energies into graphic design and being a new father. He'd still farm but mainly for his growing family; any spare cash and spare time he'd pour into infrastructure improvements on the property with the hopes that Garden Fort would be fully operational again in 2017. 

Before Steele decided to slow down operations, he had been thinking of taking on an employee. A cousin of his wife's—a young German woman—had paid the farm an extended visit and become an indispensable resource while the expectant mama had been sidelined by first trimester nausea.

At night, Steele says he and their visitor had plenty of conversations about whether she could start something similar in Germany. It’s tough to say what’s more daunting to an aspiring farmer: The cost of land, and the lack of farmland in general, or the knowledge gap that has widened as the number of farmers dwindled over generations. If those things don’t scare people away, the idea of toiling away 80 hours a week for a barely livable wage can.

Still, Steele says he coached his wife's cousin to take the plunge and let instinct lead her. “Once you start doing it, people start to believe you.” He points out that, once he did, plenty of small miracles happened. Other farmers willingly offered critical advice. He used real estate records online to find the owner of the land adjacent to his farm, and she let him use it for free. Ultimately, Katie’s father decided to sell the house to the couple.

“This isn’t what we envisioned,” says Cooper. Steele picks up her thought. “Trying to come to terms with your life—trying to come to terms with what you actually have to do to do it—is hard.”

“Which is interesting,” he says, “because I am waiting for that person, for those people to show up and say, should I do this?”

What would he say?, you ask.

Yes, he says. “I would say yes.”

 

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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.