CHICAGO -- Seattle, Athens, Minneapolis and New York. These U.S.
cities roll off any rock fan's tongue as readily as John, Paul, George and Ringo.
More than names, however, these places are scenes.
More than scenes, they are towns with definitive "sounds."
But as rock cities go, Chicago is an anomaly, perhaps most noticeably because
it has never been characterized by one particular style of music. Although it's
got a scene -- and several at that -- it has never really had a "sound" per
Now Chicago rock has a film to explain why that is and why it shouldn't matter.
"Out of the Loop," a new feature-length documentary, addresses the indie music
scene in Chicago. The movie looks at 11 bands and artists, ranging from the
Wesley Willis Fiasco to Steve Albini to the Jesus Lizard, and examines the
diverse Chicago sounds and styles and how the bands have dealt with fame
Producer/director Scott Petersen spent two and a half years doing the
interviews and putting the film together -- paying for it mostly out of his own
"The bands in my movie don't sound alike," he said by phone from his
Chicago office. Neither do the bands that have really broken out of
Chicago, he adds. "Smashing Pumpkins don't sound like Liz Phair. Liz Phair
doesn't sound like Veruca Salt."
Interviewing many of these bands at different stages of their careers, Petersen
tries to give a broad overview of "all the different styles that have been
percolating for decades in Chicago," he said. From the industrial powerhouse
label Wax Trax! to mega-alternative rockers Smashing Pumpkins to Midwest
power-pop -- featuring Cheap Trick, among others -- the Windy City has seen its
share of success stories and given birth to a great deal of influence in today's
"The scene gets national attention at some times more than others," said Julia
Adams -- co-owner of the Chicago mainstay club, Lounge Ax -- citing the media
attention surrounding the signing of Urge Overkill and Red Red Meat, among
others. "But I don't think that it means the music is any better or any worse at
The film will be screened at festivals and on college campuses in
the upcoming months.
Having already taken second place for documentaries at the Chicago
Independent Film Festival late last year, Petersen said he hopes to have it
entered in the annual South by SouthWest music conference in Austin, Texas,
For more information on the bands, the movie and upcoming screenings, visit
the "Out of the Loop" website at http://www-
personal.umich.edu/~demonner/Scott/ [Mon., Jan.
26, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]