Saturday, December 4, 2021

Ravenswood Notes: Mangled Tusk

      One of my favorite bands, Poi Dog Pondering, is playing at SPACE in Evanston on Dec. 30 and 31, and while I bite my lip and wonder whether, in this post-omicron landscape, I dare jam myself and my wife into a crowded audience, vaccinated or not (spoiler alert: I don't) EGD's Ravenswood bureau chief Caren Jeskey steps into the void and fills our Saturday with music, as if to make up for my deficiencies. Her report:

     “Any decent realtor, walking you through a real shithole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful," from Good Bones by Maggie Smith.
     Yeah, right. It’s taken me to the medium ripe age of 52 to realize that there is more shit in this world than can be cleaned up. So what’s next? Escapism. A nervous system needs comfort. Pleasure. Joy. I will, as always, lean heavily on music as a steady source.
     From flapping my wings with Do Bee in Romper Room, to strumming a ukulele at 3, to sitting at the feet of Ella Jenkins, the First Lady of Children's Music in a basement bar when I was 5, to picking up a silver flute at 6, to Walkmans full of TDKs, XRT and WGCI radio as an adolescent, to symphonies, operas, operettas and musicals (that I was forced to attend until I realized they were cool and went on my own volition), music has been a saving grace. There is always hope to be found in the form of dancing, singing, blowing into a woodwind or a horn, shaking a rattle, slapping a djembe- or listening to everyone from noodlers to stars do their things.
     I am not the first person to notice that music is a form of church. When lost in music nothing else matters. We are allowed to feel. To be quiet, or to scream. To feel connected, even as we rest in our own silence.
     That’s why I invited Jason Narducy to have a Zoom visit this week. To be inspired. Thanks to Jason mentioning Cheap Trick, I can hear sweet voices in my head as I type today. We all know the feeling of the body and brain lighting up in response to certain sounds. With new music there’s always the chance we'll have that moment where we think “what is happening right now?” as new neural pathways tunnel and weave, thought ceases, and presence ensues. Time stands still.
     I felt this when listening to Jason’s band Split Single’s new album Amplificado. From the intro to the outro I was engaged, and have listened all the way through several times. I wanted the album to be longer. Jason’s voice is bright and strong. Some of the songs reminded me of Neutral Milk Hotel (aka NMH) with languid far away horns and clanging sounds that suggest the wheels of industry, Echo & The Bunnymen and The Smiths with an '80s vibe that alternates from crisp to melancholy, and Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl. It's said of Jeff Mangum of NMH that some of his lyrics are literal translations of his lucid dreams.
     Jason, too, has dreams inform his lyrics. "I often [have] structural engineering type dreams where there are very complex buildings, and I am somehow either on a train going through them, or [on a plane] flying through them, in cityscapes. There's a song on the new record called Mangled Tusk where I reference that." He cracked me up by adding that the song is also "about how I have to wear a night guard- I mean most songs are about wearing a night guard." The lyrics in Mangled Tusk "structures of engineering, genius and doom is a reference to how I dream. A lot of metal and very large structures that are non-conventional shapes that I wouldn't even know how to describe, it's so equidimensional."
     I find the song Satellite on Amplificado impossible not to sing along with, and it comes with a pretty neat video. It's one of those songs I've just recently heard, but when it comes on it has the comfort of a song I've known forever. “I had the concept of someone who would wrap themselves in aluminum foil, climb to the top of a building, and try to connect with something. They made a homemade antenna— my son made the one in the video— but then they ran out of foil and had to go and get their fix for more. In the video I am trying to connect with something but there is nothing. The sky is gray. Then I look over and there’s the guy I buy aluminum foil from all the time, right there.” The point of the story is that the character ultimately connected with somebody who they have known the whole time while falsely believing they needed a special antenna to connect with something unknown. In the video, when Jason sees his aluminum dealer played by actor Jimmy Chung they break into smiles beaming towards each other. I have to admit I got full body chills to witness this joining of minds.
     The video was filmed in a parking garage in Evanston and directed by Jason’s pal Brendan Leonard. “I’m proud of it. I love the way it came out.” It seems that Jason is thriving in life, with a nuclear family, extended family, friends, and collaborators he lovingly peppers into his conversations, a new album, and two live singles that were released yesterday on Bandcamp.
     Jason has a solo (vax'd, masked, limited capacity) living room show coming up in Madison on December 11th, and a show at Gman Tavern next to Metro on Clark Street in Chicago on December 18th. You can find the ticket information here.
     When the pandemic hit, Jason’s line of work as a touring musician with Bob Mould and his own project became precarious, as did his business Inside Outside Painting. Fortunately, SPACE in Evanston hired him for lawn concerts. They were so well received that he performed them 53 times during COVID summer of 2020.
     Lyrics in the song Bitten by the Sound (on Amplificado) give us a glimpse into Jason's formative years. "All four wheels lifted at night, I’ve never seen a car sit on bricks” refers to one morning in 1979, when Jason was 8. He looked out of the window of his home on 53rd and Woodlawn to see his family’s Honda Civic sitting up on 4 bricks. The wheels were gone. “I thought ‘that’s crazy,’ then asked my mom when we were leaving to go out for the day.” It didn’t even occur to him that they’d been robbed and would have to spend the day untangling from this ordeal.
     Later Jason lived on Sheridan and Jonquil Terrace in 
East Rogers Park with his father— his parents had gone through a tough divorce when Jason was 4. Jason recalls seeing his mother Sally Iberg and the man who would later become his stepfather, Jim Iberg, play music together at Biddy Mulligans. Jim was the founding guitarist for The Special Consensus bluegrass band that’s still together (sans the now retired Jim) today.
     Jason was handed his first instrument in about 1977, a mandolin that he played until the strings could no longer be fixed. A year later he got his first electric guitar that he adorned with a Star Wars decal. Jason met a pal Chris Kean at Lincoln School, and through Chris met the person destined to be a friend he calls his brother, Zack Kantor. Jason and Zack shared an “obsession with playing and practicing and getting better. I had my partner in crime.” The three, along with vocalist Tracy Bradford (whose cousin is Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters) formed a punk band of 10 year olds they called Verböten.
     Early in life, Jason felt “unsettled at times due to a lot of change, and not enough security. Music provided that safe place. The sense of community. The tribe that I wanted to be a part of.” Jason is not just a part of the Chicago music scene, but a prolific and integral player, with the passion and drive to keep us entertained with his voice, musical prowess, humor, and kind spirit.
     Hope to see you all at a masked limited capacity show soon, but if not, happy listening.


  1. Caren: There's no such place as "East Rogers Park", it's just Rogers Park!
    The Metra Station is Rogers Park & the L station is Morse-Rogers Park.
    There's also the Rogers Park Community Council.

    1. This comes up from time to time. I'll point out that place names shift, as residents, realtors and map makers assign various names for areas. Some stick. Some don't. Just as the language is mutable and plastic, so are place names. If enough people decide there is an East Rogers Park, there is, whether you like it or not.

    2. Thanks for reading, Clark St. And Neil, thanks for weighing in. As person born in Ravenswood, and a resident of East Rogers Park and West Rogers Park growing up, that's just what we call it. Always have, always will. Also, if you take a look at this map from, they clearly list it as East Rogers Park. That said, po-tay-to po-tah-to but let's NOT call the whole thing off. Happy Saturday. (enlarge it to see the bright green East Rogers Park if you'd like).

    3. Neil! I love Poi Dog. Abra Moore, a founding member, was my sister's dog's groomer in Austin. She gave me a few CDs of her solo project. I injured my foot dancing for hours the last time I saw Poi Dog at 3TEN Austin City Limits Live, just a couple few years ago, a small club next to ACL Moody Theater on 2nd Street in downtown Austin. It was worth it.

      Too bad I won't be going to SPACE. If it was a distanced sit down show, yes, but not a drinky dancey club these days. Damn you Omicron.

    4. I've heard many times that Chicago does not have an East Side. The first time I heard this, my family and I were living at 2922 EAST 78th Street, an area everyone I knew, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, called "St. Bride's." Now I hear it denominated "South Shore," which rings false to me, but I don't live there anymore and poor old St. Bride's is gone: the school closed more than 20 years ago and the church just recently, so it's unlikely that people will revive the name.


    5. While there are no street addresses east of State St. in Rogers Park there can still be an "east Rogers Park". Direction is relative and if you're standing at Damen and Fargo Glenwood will look like east Rogers Park to you. And you really can't get much further east than Sheridan and Jonquil Terrace when you're that far north.

    6. That "Chicago Neighborhoods" map is fascinating. There sure were some micro-locally-oriented folks in the stretch from Edgewater over to Sauganash in 1978, I gotta say. Meanwhile, the huge expanse of "Lake View" found nobody that thought they lived in Wrigleyville, Lakeview East, Roscoe Village, Southport Corridor or some other Real Estaty section? Those were the days!

      Still, that map, for which "approximately ten residents were selected at random for interviewing" is not the final word. At the severe risk of agreeing with Clark St., and though it contains far fewer distinctions, the official "77 community areas" map refers to Rogers Park and West Ridge.

      I just think it's hilarious that out of this whole, long post about music, he chimed in again about that topic. The fact that I'm replying is even sillier, to be sure...

    7. I don't care what you West Rogers Parkers call my lifelong neighborhood, it has always been just Rogers Park to those who live here.
      We decide the name, not outsiders!
      And heres a newer map from the city when Richie Daley was mayor.
      It's just Rogers Park!

    8. Ah, jeeze...the old East-West divide again? Gotta be the third or fourth time I've seen this touchy subject has come up at EGD. These fights always start from the same source, and always end the same way, in a split-decision draw. And I've weighed in on this topic every time.

      Sure, I could easily hunt down my old comments and do a cut-and-paste, but I'm too tired, especially after watching NIU football (they kicked Kent's ass and won the MAC title again). So I'll just repeat what I've said so many times before: A place is what its people call it.

      My grandmother lived near Sheridan Road, at Estes and Glenwood, from '56 to '62. It was called East Rogers Park, even back then. And I have lived on both sides of the border (usually thought of as Ridge Avenue). First at Pratt and Ashland, in '71. And then, fifteen years later, at Artesian and Albion. People west of Ridge (in "West Ridge"?) always said West Rogers Park, just as people east of Ridge said East Rogers Park. The word "East" was never affixed to either the Metra stop or the Morse Ave.'L'stop, most likely to prevent a lot of confusion.

      And, yeah, Jakash is correct about those "official" maps of the "Chicago Neighborhoods"--each of the 77 community names is based on a lousy ten random responses fromn each community, by ten residents who were chosen at random. The easy and lazy way out, and not nearly thorough enough for any kind of accurate or scientific place-name survey.

      Around '68 or so, the area closest to the lakefront briefly had its own hippie newspaper. It was called "The Roger Spark." Lifelong neighborhood resident Clark St. might not have appreciated that one, but I know I did. Fifty-plus years later, I still call my old neighborhood by that same goofy name. Or sometimes I just call it ERP, pronounced as "earp" in Wyatt. I am what I am.

    9. Thanks for reminding us of The Roger Spark! And for your comments, ERP brethren.

    10. I take no position on the Rogers Park controversy, but Tate, I’m surprised by your South Shore skepticism. I spent my earliest years near 71st and Jeffery (not that I remember), and my grandmother remained in the area after we moved to the suburb where my mom grew up. I only heard it referred to as South Shore, and it was blocks from the South Shore Country Club (now the South Shore Cultural Center, where the Obamas’ wedding reception was held). My parents were married at St. Philip Neri.

    11. But now that I see that the neighborhood I lived in for the first years of my marriage is n/k/a “Wrightwood Neighbors,” I think I have some sense of how you feel.

    12. My fathers family is from 3000 East, off of Commercial. We always called it the East Side, or the South Side. :)

  2. Wonderful stuff, thanks for sharing it. If you really meant KVON and not WVON, then please say more about your own special antenna.

    1. Ha! Thanks! And thanks for pointing out my error. I had been thinking about 102.7 but honestly WGCI was more often on the dial.

  3. I wish I felt as comfortable considering whether a concert was worth the risk of getting reinfected as you are Caren.

    We didn't even have a family get together for Thanksgiving. As important as music and dancing are to ones well being it seems too much like so many other people's choices that make no sense to the vaccinated. As breakthrough case move higher and with another variant that indicates higher levels of illness for children. Zoom me for a while longer.
    Roll the dice if you wish but remember the more times you throw them the greater the likelyhood you'll crap out

    1. Yes FME- I only go to places that require vax card and very rarely, but you’re right.

  4. Go to the Civic/ lyric opera house. They require vax cards to get in.


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