Electronic music has always had strong ties with the city of Chicago. Going not too far in the past when house music was born in the underground clubs of the Windy City, to now, where there is a renaissance of it in mainstream music with acts like Kid Sister and disc jockey duo Flosstradamus. Whether it be imported or homegrown, Chicagoans love electronic music.
Música electrónica has a strong presence in the Pilsen neighborhood, where if you ask people from the city, most will say, “those Pilsen kids, they love their New Order,” and this weekend brings the second annual Festival de Música Electrónica Latina (FMEL). Like last year’s inaugural event, the festival takes place in the city’s multicultural Pilsen neighborhood, and brings a wide variety of performers into one all-day event at the APO building in the heart of Pilsen.
I sat down with two of the festivals organizers, Fundraiser and Logistics Extraordinaire Brenda Hernandez, and music guru and self-proclaimed “rescator de la musica” FMEL creator Charlie Garcia. The festival started as a way for Charlie to bring bands he felt were really good and would have a strong fan-base in Chicago, and bands he really wanted to see live himself.
Charlie feels that Chicago’s electronic music scene has been mainly focused on DJ’s and not on the musicians for a long time now; “el DJ toca el hit del momento y es el heroe” (“the DJ plays the hit of the moment and he’s a hero”). FMEL’s aim is to bring the real heroes of música electronica to Chicago. “If we’re in the digital time, it’s obvious that we have to have this digital culture,” says Brenda. “When people think of electronic music, they think of some kind of Polish rave music, or techno, but it’s not ponchis ponchis ponchis all the time.” A similar generalization is often made about Latin music, in which people think it’s always really romantic–the salsa, or the cumbia, or reggaeton. “We want to bring a fresh, new, different, and Latin electronic sound to the Latinos in Chicago and show them that the cool electronic music isn’t just coming out of Germany or New York City.”
This year, FMEL brings newer, more innovative bands than last year. “We want to bring electronic bands that don’t just come with their laptops and fancy music software.” The crop of bands selected for this year’s line up do use laptops and software, but they also come with a more music-savvy background. These bands were selected based on their talent and a newness they bring to the very broad and open electronic music genre.
This very Mexican-heavy line up includes hot y hip bands off Mexican record label Static Discos:
–Fax, founder of Static discos a one man with a dark minimal and down tempo sound (http://www.myspace.com/faxmusik)
–Kampion, a name some might be familiar with, he comes to Chicago fresh off a show in NYC, known for his abstract hip hop & minimal hip hop (http://www.myspace.com/kampion)
-Female fronted duo Carrie, bringing an indie electronica Mexican Catpower-esque sound (http://www.myspace.com/carriestatic)
-Opening the festival are Chicago’s own Dark Party, giving us a down tempo we can dance too (http://www.myspace.com/drkprty)
These acts and more will play Saturday, September 20th at the APO Building, 1436 W. 18th St. (between Laflin & Blue Island Ave.) in Pilsen across the street from Café Jumping Bean.
There will also be a symposium on Latin Electronic Music featuring some of the musicians from the festival and Catalina Johnson (host and producer of Encanto Latino for Chicago Public Radio), followed by live DJ sets by Ejival, Antiguo Autómata Mexicano, Carlos Icaza, on Saturday the 19th starting at 8pm at Café Efebos, 1640 S. Blue Island Ave (next to the McDonalds on 18th and Blue Island).
For more information on FMEL and workshops they’re offering check out there website at www.fmelchicago.com