Dedicated to Grimzee

Abstract

I began writing and reflecting on this retrospective on my plane back home to Arizona, only to finish it quite sometime after finding my bearings and adjusting back home. I spent 3 days in Illinois; The place where many firsts happened for a myriad of individuals that partook in the party. First UVC show. First time meeting all these people. First time in a state outside the desert. First time flying. First time filming a concert. Ultimately, various first big moves, so to speak, of that nature. I digress, I was afforded the luxury to shoot UVC’s first ever concert (courtesy of UVC member Trent, a writer/promoter and Bernard, none other than our fearless leader). I found myself experiencing various stages of distress and joy as I ranged from facing some inclement weather in the wee hours of the night to being bestowed a simple hug, respectively. These stages nonetheless made this trip pretty memorable. If you weren’t there for the show, and have not managed to watch the footage yet, read on to get a feel for how it went encountering the UVC family, friends of the site, and the wonderful acts that played their hearts out as I pranced about the venue with a camera in hand and a hangover to nurse. 

I currently sit jammed in a Delta airplane. I’m restless, so I’m going to fucking struggle writing this in my notes app for the time being. It’s been a pretty long three nights. I’m also equally somber, reasons varying, but not all reasons feel quite as incredibly relevant as this: I’m going to earnestly miss the events that unfolded and the people that made it all happen. 

The Story As It Is

Before I take us back to the night of, allow me to add some transparency. As I write this juncture of the article, it has now been roughly two weeks since the show took place. Our recap is out now courtesy of our editor IHATEPVRPL. I’ve had a decent amount of time to reflect and as memory currently serves I can only recount the events of the show with an idyllic fondness rather than an eidetic memory for detail and timing.  Despite this, I’m going to guide you through the night from this point on.

An hour passes as the XXIX camp, comprising of Lundeen, Pvrpl, SxberBlu, and myself barely find parking and make our way to Subterranean. A tall lanky figure reminiscent of a Jay Howell (Bob’s Burgers) character greets us with warmth and benevolence. This elongated drink of water is the heart of the show known on Twitter as MGMTrenT. “I’ve been pacing around here in a circle for an hour waiting for someone to show up!” he exclaims as he shows us around the sparsely populated venue. We make our way to the green room that’s just a tight spiral staircase trip away above the stage. At some point Trent goes on to resume clerical work for the show to start but not before he remarks that I and the rest of XXIX look like zombies. An hour of parking space hunting and celebratory substances the night prior will have people make remarks. It’s humbling and endearing. Austin and myself set up camera gear as our first pertinent character arrives; DJ Preme, a heavyset individual who sports an all black outfit and large happy grin. Following him is South Carolina artist Midwxst who comments that he jumped right from school to Chicago in a matter of hours. At first I had no idea Midwxst even arrived, his smaller stature not calling immediate attention to his presence, that is until I saw a bright ass orange hat complimenting his darker complexion over in the corner. I snap a picture and exchange formalities. More acts fill in the green room and pleasantries continue on, I believe an extended conversation about Teejayx6 goes on as this diminutive green room (which had blue walls and yellow scribbling adorning it) fills with laughter. Following that, an ecstatic rumbling is felt between Trent and I as he announces the arrival of Bernard, the porcelain skinned, meek faced owner of UVC. This sort of ecstatic reaction to his arrival should not be puzzling, for those familiar with Bernard are familiar with the fact that seldom does Bern show his face, let alone carry himself in a way outside of UVC that garners a lot of attention. Bernard barely makes it into the venue considering the conditions of his travel, and his minor status. The motley crew of UVC members assembled at the venue to greet him at the entrance (Trent, Pvrpl, and myself) go on to dap him up as he trots up the stairs. The venue manager sets him aside within earshot to mark the top of his hand with the universal insignia of “under 21”- an X for the age and a circle representing talent; “No drinking, no smoking. Just behave. You’re lucky you’re even getting in here man” he states, an understandable sentiment all things considered. 

“Man I can’t wait til Sybyr gets here” comments Midwxst. “Can you guys believe they’re giving us Anti-World hand tattoos tonight” Bern jokes in his baritone, slightly southern accented voice as he settles himself in the green room. I take more pictures of Trent and Bern as they converse. Like clockwork, several minutes later this easily spotted character wearing an black tee and grey skinny jeans with plaid straps running along the legs walks up. The room shifts and goes dead silent as Sybyr arrives, commanding impeccable attention and respect with his presence. “Who’s the DJ?” he asks as he scans the room. He makes a remark about getting ready for soundcheck. Sybyr and the acts go down and prepare as Pvrpl and I officially set up a tripod onstage shortly after. On stage I then meet Tibby, Dutcho, and Zona. Soundcheck goes well, I’m floored at the amount of control and knowledge to be found within the artists as they ask Preme about levels and volume with each practice set. I make my way back to the green room as I wait for the whole event to pop off. 

Some point later there comes various performers in and out of the green room occupying the space, as well as a sizeable Jimmy John’s tray on the far left table of the room. I don’t get to meet each person individually, courtesy of mild social anxiety, but I know for a fact Kari, GU$TO and HateSonny as well as their respective company are present somewhere in my periphery. I leave to stretch my legs and explore the venue space to get a feel for where I can snap flicks and record the show apart from tripod placed at house right. 

I stand on the balcony of Subterranean’s second story watching Preme’s DJ set as Midwxst approaches me. “Imma need you to take lots of good pictures of me!” he says behind a grin as he comes in close. I nod in agreement planning to do him justice on camera. “I gotchu!” I retort excitedly, just amused at the fact he personally requested. This small request allows me to get a significant fire beneath me to really try and capture each acts’ moments as best I could. Midwxst is no exception. Come time for his set he pulls no punches in energy or stage presence as he belts out highly frenetic and bold lyrics, completely juxtaposed of his seemingly lithe, short frame. Stature aside, Midwxst sets an excitable tone for the show as an opener. 

Following him is Zona, his short bleached hair and headband attracting my full attention as I’m recording . At certain points I lose focus of the show itself to focus on tripod/camera, unfortunately enraptured not in the presentation, the energy of the show or the songs themselves but rather in my viewfinder. I pay close attention to making sure this reflection of the show goes well and looks crisp as overbearing bass lines vibrate my feet. I sometimes find myself with my camera in hand bobbing and rocking to and fro along the backing instrumentals until I snap from my listening stupor to realize “Shit… you’re fucking up the shot”. Zona breaks from his set to beckon to the audience, subsequently garnering my attention away from the camera as well, to proclaim “Imma need yall to turn up a bit more”. Tibby and Gu$to follow with equally exuberant performances and catchy songs as I stride around the venue going from tripod, handheld, center upstairs, and the balcony staircase to film different angles. These acts go on to punctuate their sets with  acknowledgements to Trent and the UVC team, a sentiment not unnoticed nor unable to send goosebumps across my skin. 

Next to take the stage is XXIX Club, of which I’m the only one in the collective not a musician, therefore I get the equally fun task to eye fuck each member with Pvrpl’s camera as they perform under my extraneous scrutiny- a privilege I feel I deserve considering I’ve now spent an extended 48 hours with them. Their set is mold breaking at the very best, considering three members get to perform vastly different genres of music: Lundeen spearheads the XXIX set, managing to wrangle the crowd into a moshpit as the shirtless spitter runs rampant on the stage aggressively delivering bar after bar with little to no stopping. Blu interacts with the crowd as he leads into a slower song that can be categorically defined as “emo”, yet musters up an equal amount of vigor from the crowd as Lundeen previously orchestrated. Pvrpl then pacifies the audience as he sits directly in front of the audience and sings an even slower tempoed song. This cycle occurs twice, the crowd riles up, Blu and Lundeen stomp around stage to the enthusiasm of the crowd as they remain topless and tireless, and Pvrp slows it down. It’s a beautifully exhibited bit of yin and yang, only to be followed with an equally beautiful yet sobering tribute to late XXIX member Grimzee. Pvrp requests that the crowd takes a moment of silence as Grimzee’s song plays. I put the camera down and take solace in this moment. Her vocals echo in the room, it’s almost as if the sound of her voice worked to bolster the aura of the crowd awoken by the earlier acts. 

Following the set, Trent makes his way on stage to give out his heartfelt acknowledgements. Controlling the center mic stand, he broadcasts his thoughts to the crowd that involve shouting out his friend who was unable to attend, Bernard, Underground Vampire Club, and surprisingly me. “Eddy on camera back there slept outside in the rain last night and made it here. Shout out him” he laughs. I laugh too, but not without a tinge of embarrassment knowing the full tale behind the statement. Save for sloppy details, I locked myself outside the night before. Lundeen, Pvrp and I stagger our way outside to take a smoke break sometime intermittently between Dutcho’s set, whom Pvrp manages to record the tail end of while I only obtain a picture. I get arguably one of my better pictures of the night; A glimpse of the artist adorning a Knuckles from Sonic t-shirt just beneath me from the balcony. His tattooed arm visible, just slightly off center while the stage and cables comprise the rest of the composition. When the XXIX trio does happen to cross paths all at one time once our visual duties were in order, we settle ourselves right below the train tracks as Lundeen introduces us to other local rappers from the Chicago scene that we stumbled upon by chance. We talk and have a friendly sesh and part ways shortly after.

I settle myself on the balcony again and wait for the next set. HateSonny is up next and I take some time away from the camera to just bask in the performance. Soon enough, I’m partially entranced by the way the light hits Sonny and how he looks on stage in relation to the tight knit crowd. Little did I know, the storm that Sonny brings is a veritable force to be reckoned with. At a certain point, the shifting crowd transformed from swaying bodies, to chaotic vessels colliding into one another. Let not this excerpt fool you, this is not a big crowd I’m witnessing. There is no luxury of some unlucky soul coasting their way through a pit by sheer inertia and bodies lazily carrying you to the action. Within this small familial crowd, each individual manages to muster up a fire that, comparatively speaking, gives larger acts’ walls of death a run for their money. The bodies thrash about below me as I’m quick to try and grab my camera. I miss the wall. Saddened-but not entirely defeated- I take flicks of Sonny, capturing the view I was previously entranced by. As if witnessing a black Moses (actually that’s redundant) leading his chosen people, Sonny continues to direct the small sea of a crowd to mosh about the room and then corrals them in closer so he can do it all over again. This time I am quick to record the ongoings of the set. My next surprise was even more visually captivating. I move slightly to my left, now unobstructed by a piece of the architecture that supports the 2nd story. I now take notice of a fully packed stage comprised of all the key players I had not yet introduced myself to earlier in the day. They all wild out on stage along with everyone else, completing a puzzle that is a full, beautiful community of people that no matter how small or how large, work off one another’s passion and stamina to come together around music. It’s a wonderful sight to behold, as this small venue’s standing area has this handful of people buzzing- complimenting the ton of people on stage equally affected by Sonny’s performance. 

Once that set ends, Preme begins another DJ set. I spend some time in the green room, take more pictures of Bern- who is now sporting a JVC camcorder I gave to him so he could record on tape- and rest for a moment on the couch while Pvrp records ADOT downstairs. Eventually, a chill and deafening silence finds their way into the room again. It’s time. An underground heavy hitter is slated to take stage at any moment now. I grab my camera, switch to a new battery, and mosey my ass downstairs as to not miss anything. 

Sybyr’s demeanor is entertaining and charming to say the least. Audibly slurring some of his words, the jovial tone of the night is encapsulated the most in this artist (and maybe Trent who later revealed he used roughly 8 drink tickets to his full advantage). Despite the seemingly faded state Sybyr exhibited, his music and performance is hardly affected. At this point, I glue my eyes to my viewfinder. Suffice it to say, this is the home stretch of my camera duties and I refuse to fuck it up. Every step, every sound, every stumble Sybyr took I intend to capture. Still seemingly coasting off of Sonny’s set, Sybyr elevates this already zealous crowd and took many chances to insert himself into it during his set. At one point, a lull reigns over the setting, Sybyr had taken a moment to go through the setlist with Preme on the laptop; “Fuck it!” he belts out, immediately running into the crowd and riling them up as he performs the novel yet incredibly stirring “A”. The crowd never ceases to shift, bob, or thrash around during the set. In a flash, Sybyr gives his thanks and the house lights turn on. The illusion is broken. The magic persists though. 

We gather our things. I take some time to converse one last time with some of my newfound friends. Sybyr gives exiting fans handshakes and high fives, me being one of the many he daps up. I give Trent a bro hug and thank him for everything. I’m met with slight disappointment as he tells me Bern had already taken off, not a total loss though as he gave me a hug sometime between Dutcho’s set and Sonny’s. “Man are you dipping already?” I panic, dumbstruck at this arbitrary hug. “Nah bro. I’m just feeling good. This really came together. Thought I’d give you guys hugs” he replies warmly. 

Belongings in hand, gas ready to be rolled up again, the XXIX camp depart from the Subterranean. The tungsten colored lights accent the team as I stay some steps behind them, observing. There’s a tiredness to them, but easily a sense of confidence is visible in their gaits. I take a picture of Lundeen on my phone as he strides down the sidewalk with the bright red of a Walgreens sign making him glow. We end the night at a Subway with hopes to double up on White Castle on the way home. While back on the road an hour elapses, maybe two. Lundeen gets dropped off safely, and in a flash we make it to our beds. None of us truly remember how we made it home. We never did get White Castle-we forgot that too. There are a few things to be certain of though; Check to make sure your locks work from both the outside and inside. Or you’ll look stupid like me and get locked out. Whether there’s two people or two million people, HateSonny get every-single body moshing. Lastly, you really should’ve pulled up to the UVC Chicago show, I would have shot you.