Events

Celebrating 20 Years of Ghostly International, Art, and Community in Chicago

Ghostly International took over three of Chicago's best artistic spaces, the Metro, Smart Bar, and Notre Shop, to celebrate the culture and communities that supported their legendary 20-year creative mission.

Twenty years ago, Sam Valenti IV started Ghostly International out of his dorm room in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since then, the boutique record label has flourished into a multimedia collective of legendary and emerging musicians, visual artists, and designers. To celebrate these two decades of music, visuals, and design, Ghostly held a series of collaborative events throughout the globe. From Austin, Berlin, Movement, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Detroit, to Chicago, Ghostly spotlighted the artists and communities that pushed their 20-year creative mission.

In Chicago, the celebration started as Ghostly held a pop-up shop in Notre, a staple boutique store that is known for its careful curation. On the second night of the pop-up, Valenti joined the Notre Talk series to discuss how the record label developed into a multimedia collaborative effort. Amid the pedestalized Vans x Ghostly slip-on's and hanging Notre x Ghostly hoodies, soundtracked by the many tracks that broke genres and the artists that bridged the globe, the pop-up embodied Ghostly's 20-year creative mission.

That same weekend, Ghostly took over two neighboring Chicago venues, the Metro and Smart Bar. The night began at the Metro as SV4, aka the founder Valenti, dropped a decades-spanning mix. The same thoughtful curation that developed Ghostly's 20-year catalog guided every artful movement of Valenti's hand to drop mood-setting selections. It was the preamble to the forthcoming night.

Thereafter, Steve Hauschildt discreetly walked on with a cellist and guitarist. As a trio, they took up only the left half of the stage, but their sound certainly demanded the whole venue. Even the gentlest strums and bows, met by minute keystrokes, created tunneling drones that rumbled the marble floors. As soon as the textural swellings hit an apex, the trio walked off as discreetly as they entered. Taking after the transient nature of Hauschildt's roving compositions, his performance appeared, evolved, and then fled.

From the unassuming to the assertive, the middle act Drama hopped on with a completely different but just as endearing disposition. As a hometown duo, Via Rosa and Na'el Shehade truly took over the Chicago crowd. With every towering croon by Rosa and heavy synth drop by Shehade, the whistles, yelps, and singalongs grew louder. "I'll never be / The girl of your dreams", the audience lustily cried for "Billy". As the crowd continued to howl every chorus, it became clear that they came to celebrate the homecoming of Drama. Rosa knew it too, infectiously smiling and held speechless at times by the overwhelming response.

After the crowd gave a tender goodbye to Drama, their anticipation for another midwest musician grew palpable. The Chicago crowd greeted the Michigan-bred, Ghostly staple artist Shigeto, aka Zachary Saginaw, with excited hops, feet ready to move. Encircled within a table of MIDI gear and a drumkit, Saginaw single handily controlled an array of instruments and samples, while also dismantling the dancefloor with his drumming. At times, Saginaw's outstretched arms reached for both MPC buttons and cymbals, literally pushing the limits of his body. The audience certainly admired his all-out, sweat-drenched performance as they moved to every diverse rhythm, from grooving jazz like "MCW" to grinding beats like "Detroit Part 1". Just about the only moments the crowd stood still was during Saginaw's virtuosic drum solos, standing fixated on and amazed by the whirling drumstick that flowed as if they were possessed.

To close the celebration at the Metro, a massive LED screen rolled onto the stage to flash the name of the legendary TOBACCO, aka Thomas Fec. Accompanied by the seven fields of aphelion, aka Maureen Boyle of the late Black Moth Super Rainbow, and a masked drummer, Fec made a grand entrance. As soon as the trio began, TOBACCO's signature blend of vocoders, analog synths, and crispy drums pushed the limits of the sound system. As the closing and loudest act of the night, the piercing psychedelics entranced the crowd. Heads collectively banged to the rolling beats of "Got Wet in the Bomb Shelter", and eyes closed to really hone into the sweeping synths of "Gods in Heat". Before the show, Fec spoke with PopMatters about "the thought of pressure from the weight of the event". Of course, such pressure led to a heavy performance that reflected the massive energy of that night.

As I walked down the grand steps of the Metro to head next door to Sound-Bar for the second round of artists, I noticed fans donned in not only Ghostly apparel but also Warp, Brainfeeder, Hyperdub, and various artist tees of all genres. Really, that night was a recognition of something more than the label itself. It was a beautiful sight, artists and fans coming together to celebrate the "cities we love, communities that inspire us, places and people vital to our culture of music, art, design, and creativity", as Ghostly intended. Their dedication to the culture is not necessarily held together by the workings of a record label, but rather the idea of a flourishing alliance of artists. Rightly, Ghostly International took over three of Chicago's best artistic spaces, the Metro, Smart Bar, and Notre Shop, to celebrate the culture and communities that supported their legendary 20-year creative mission.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.