Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Turn It Up

Homegrown Audio/Visual Xplosion brings together the best in underground music and art

by Anthonia Akitunde

As the sun burns brighter, Chicago has more festivals than any citizen could possibly hope to attend. But one event this month brings music and art together in some of Chicago's most popular music venues, making for a unique summer festival experience (you know, one that won't make you melt from heat and humidity). The Audio/Visual Xplosion (A/V XPLO) will present the best in underground music and art Aug. 15-18, with 100 artists, 32 musical acts and eight DJs performing and exhibiting their work over the span of four days.

According to its website, the A/V XPLO is a "cornucopia of everything creative in Chicago that you probably don't know about." The event will be held at various locations around town; opening day Wednesday was at the Empty Bottle, and they'll rotate one day each through Double Door, Subterranean and Abbey Pub. Creator and music director Paul Heintz and art director Tony Vega "[weren't] aware of any event [like] the A/V XPLO" before its creation six years ago. "Our experience was that our artist friends would ask their music-making friends to play some ambient music at their gallery openings," Heintz says.

But the favor wasn't reciprocal, as Heintz points out it's difficult to host an art exhibit in a rock club. So their hope for the XPLO is to embrace the idea of exhibiting art in an untraditional venue. "The walls and the atmosphere are completely different," he says. "Lucky for us, the artists we work with are cool with trying new things."

This year's XPLO returns after a three-year hiatus; Heintz's band Midstates' nationwide tour effectively took out most of the festival's volunteers and coordinators. Vega, Heintz and Midstates (who will be performing every night) are excited to bring the event back. "Tony has tons of ideas, and since we're going to attempt to pull this off annually, we hope to incorporate as many as we can in the years ahead," Heintz says.

Culling visual artists from ads on Craigslist ("You can judge," Heintz says of the come-one, come-all approach. "But I've seen probably 80 percent of the work and it's phenomenal.") and innovative music groups from across the country, the A/V XPLO just might live up to its claim of being "the ultimate DIY art-music xplosion."

The A/V XPLO will be held at various locations Aug. 15-18;