Sound check: 'Local Band' premiere puts Chicago, suburban musicians on the big screen
Dan Stewart, guitarist and singer for Chicago rock band Damager, gives the local music scene grind the gravity it deserves in "Local Band," a feature-length film he directed showcasing the highs and (more often) lows of artists trying to chase "an adequate show."
Stewart, who co-wrote the film with longtime friend Nick Wandersee, created "Local Band" both as a thesis project for his MFA from DePaul University and as a way to shine a spotlight on the DIY scene he's surrounded himself with.
"It's authentic to our experiences," he said. "As much as I love movies about bands, they're typically about success and not necessarily the work. You don't go see a biopic about Mötley Crüe that's about them writing a song or learning to get along as a band."
The movie, celebrating a world premiere at Beat Kitchen this weekend, eschews the typical Hollywood-ization of a life in music, skipping over the unrealistic coincidences and seemingly magical shortcuts to the top; "magic" in this film is limited to a comic scene with a Ouija board and an amusing moment of inspiration from OK Cool's Haley Blomquist and Bridget Stiebris.
Stewart said his twin loves -- music and movies -- are rooted in his upbringing in St. Louis, where his musician brother was also into filmmaking, and his father was involved in TV broadcasting.
"Growing up, I started making films and home movies. And my brother, we recorded music together," he said. "Those things are inextricably linked loves of mine."
So naturally, Stewart married the two for the project.
With grass-roots support through an Indiegogo fundraiser and filmed at various locations around the Chicago area, "Local Band" draws in rising stars from the post-pandemic DIY generation currently taking over the scene. He populates his world with unreasonable bosses, drunken hecklers and doubting friends, all played by fellow musicians and supporters; Stewart himself even has a brief and ironic cameo. And the film features concert performances by Nora Marks, Superkick, Pinksqueeze, OK Cool and CalicoLoco as it traces its two main narrative arcs.
Up front, Lyla (played by Isa Martinez of Cut Your Losses) struggles to keep her fictional band Minor Illusion in line with her plans for (and flagging confidence in) the future. Meanwhile, real-life alt-indie band Superkick (Mike Vaughn, Joey Mirabelli and Tom Ruby) injects the movie with lighthearted moments as they try to chase down an elusive booking agent to score a legendary concert slot in a series of vignettes reminiscent of '90s record store fave "Empire Records."
"It can all be kind of tragic, and it can be really funny," Stewart said. "It's a very human experience to love something and really want to do something and have it be constantly held back by petty things like moving amps around or someone who is just not easy to work with, clawing and scratching at someone's door to get your first show booked."
With its jocular moments of camaraderie, obsession over writing a great song and the hunt for that one big break, "Local Band" mirrors the experiences of misunderstood artists everywhere as they struggle with their passions, doubts and obstacles (both real and imagined).
"There are so many stories to be told within this community and more places to explore as musicians, but I also think they are just universal emotionally because a part of the story is growing up and becoming an adult," Stewart said. "Pursuing music is a really difficult thing to balance with trying to make a living and be a functional member of society. You can do it, but it's just really hard. And that's part of the story, too."
• "Local Band" screens at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3, at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, followed by performances from Superkick and Cut Your Losses. $15. beatkitchen.com.
Big fest weekend
Labor Day weekend will be a chance to move your booty with both ARC Fest and North Coast bringing full rosters of hot electronic acts to the Chicago area.
With four stages and immersive art experiences featuring global influences, the ARC Music Festival blends world music with Chicago icons and dance faves at Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph St., Friday through Sunday, Sept. 1-3, including Nina Kraviz, Dalton Taylor, Black Coffee, Tale of Us, Chicago's Derrick Carter, Napervillian John Summit and more. See arcmusicfestival.com for tickets, set times and lineup info.
Those same days, the North Coast Music Festival packs the SeatGeek Stadium grounds, 7000 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview, with seven stages and performance spaces, vibrant and interactive art installations and a colorful blend of electronic genres, including acts such as Marshmello, Alesso, Zed's Dead, Ganja White Night, Flume, Alison Wonderland, Chicago's Czboogie, INZO, Schaumburg native ALIGN and others. Visit northcoastfestival.com for schedule details and ticket packages.
• Brandi Carlisle: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at Ravinia Festival, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park. $67-$165 for lawn, $205 for pavilion. ravinia.org.
• Rob Zombie & Alice Cooper's "Freaks on Parade Tour" with Ministry, Filter: 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at Credit Union 1 Amphitheatre, 19100 Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park. Tickets start at $25. concerts.livenation.com.
• Magic City Hippies, Kainalu: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston. $25, $12.50 for students. evanstonspace.com.
• Better Love album release show w/Tiny Kingdoms, Weekend Run Club: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. $15. beatkitchen.com.
• Carrie Underwood: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 1-2, at Ravinia Festival, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park. $77-$175 for lawn, $215 for pavilion. ravinia.org.
• Violet Crime, ZORILA, Grace Coletta: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. $15. lh-st.com.
• Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at Hey Nonny, 10 S. Vail Ave., Arlington Heights. $15-$35. heynonny.com.
• Tantric, Radar Waves: 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at Sideouts Sports Tavern, 4018 W. Roberts Road, Island Lake. $10 for general admission. 3dsideouts.com.
• Tate McRae's "Are We Flying Tour" with charlieonnafriday: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine Ave., Chicago. $62.50-$80. jamusa.com.
• Claud "Supermodels Tour Part 1" with Boyish, School of Rock Highwood: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St., Chicago. $22. thaliahallchicago.com.
• Brian Shamie is a Daily Herald multiplatform editor and local music junkie. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Instagram (@chicagosoundcheck).