Alderman Robert Fioretti, not your typical rock star
With the release of Chicago magazine’s annual Power List, we in the culture department put together our own rosters of cultural influencers on the rise. This week, watch for our Chicago culture power lists for music, art, theatre, and more. Will these movers and shakers blow up or flame out? We’re watching to find out.
From the alderman sprinting past the mayor at creating Chicago’s first music district to the local journalist making a name for herself as Fan Landers, the city’s music community is just as much about the bands as the powerful people behind the scene.
Ald. Robert Fioretti – Although plans have stalled to create Rahm’s Uptown music mecca (not much has been said about the initiative since 2011), another councilman has stepped into action. Second ward alderman Bob Fioretti has strongly encouraged the Music Row project that would turn the once illustrious Motor Row into a thriving entertainment district linking the South Loop, Bronzeville, and Chinatown neighborhoods. Rockford band Cheap Trick may be the first to partner with Fioretti under a $13 million restauarant/music venue/museum that could open as early as this year.
Jessica Hopper – You might know her as Fan Landers, the working musicians’ advice columnist in the Village Voice or as Chicago Reader’s former Gossip Wolf, but behind the coy pen names is one of the leading female critics in music today. In January, Grimes called out Hopper, saying simply “I like this writer. A lot.” for this poignant article, which shows a discerning viewpoint rampant in many of Hopper’s pieces. Now that the The Girls Guide to Rocking author has moved into the big leagues writing regular pieces for Spin, RollingStone.com and GQ, look for her to make a name on the national scale.
Walter Flakus – If you’re over 30 years old you might remember this guy as a founding member of Chicago band Stabbing Westward; youngins now know him as the music director/assistant programming director/on-air personality at the new Merlin Media-produced Q87.7 alt-rock radio station. Under his guidance, Chicago radio has a discovery channel for on-the-cusp bands like The Mowgli’s and Atlas Genius; Flakus is about to take it even further with a new Sunday night program Queued Up that will expose local artists. Could it be the next Local 101, the Q101 program that helped bands like Kill Hannah and Fall Out Boy find an audience?
Lucas King and Jeff Callahan – Before 2009 Chicago had never heard of the North Coast Music Festival or Spring Awakening. Yet thanks to the kingpins behind React Presents, a concert promotion and production company that also runs The Mid and books acts at Congress Theatre, our city has been graced with some of the biggest hip-hop/dance acts and festivals since becoming the birthplace of house music. Last year, Spring Awakening outgrew the Congress and took over more sizeable turf at Soldier Field for two sold-out days; this year, it grows again by expanding to three days. With the new Electric Daisy Carnival (produced by L.A.’s Insomniac) heading into town this Memorial Day, no doubt King and Callahan have something up their sleeves to show they are still in power.
Patrick Monaghan – The indepent record store (and label) is alive and well thanks to this guy, the owner of Logan Square’s thriving saki and local imprint Carrot Top Records, home of Speck Mountain, Handsome Family and growing. Since saki opened in 2010, it has been increasingly active with in-store performances and a recently-inked deal with the city’s DCASE department to produce a free monthly vinyl listening party called Off the Record curated by the store’s staff and including interactive elements such as Q&A’s with the artists and live podcast tapings. Monaghan’s leadership could not only revitalize interest in purchasing music but could also lead to more event-driven interactivities in this town.
Selena Fragassi is a contributing music critic for Chicago.
Photograph: Office of Alderman Fioretti