Food stamps and drink tickets

I’m one of the lucky ones, and I know that. When I got sick, I had a multitude of people reach out and offer their support, be it through kind words, lending me their car, driving me to Cleveland for appointments, cooking and delivering meals after surgery, sending gift cards, and plenty more. Every single one of those actions was something that didn’t just make my life a little simpler during a trying time, it reminded me of why it’s important to exist within communities that care for one another. Those are the things that were there for me when I needed them and now that, well, a lot of shit is going down, I’m going to try to repay that favor as much as I can.

I’m not delusional enough to think that this newsletter is going to affect some sort of massive change but, right now, I think every effort to try and help others is a positive one. And since all that looking at the internet does for me is cause a good bit of despair, here are a handful of GOOD THINGS you can do to help REAL, ACTUAL PEOPLE during all of this.

Chicago Service Relief

Spearheaded by Spencer Tweedy, this is a fantastic resource to use in the coming weeks to help contribute to the local venues, bars, restaurants, and stores that have temporarily closed because of COVID-19. There are estimates that 24 percent of the workforce will be affected by layoffs or have their hours cut dramatically due to the pandemic. Given that many of these people were (and some still are) continuing to work well past the point that many others have been told to work from home, and many are without adequate healthcare, please consider giving them a boost—especially if you see a place you frequent on this list.

Donate to a food bank

I’m not going to link to every possible food bank here, but you see all those photos of empty grocery stores and people filling their carts with four-gallon tubs of mayonnaise at Costco? Well, that’s bad, but there are people who don’t even have the option to go to a place that was already ransacked and grab whatever the hoarders have left behind. So, if you can, please donate to a food bank. There are surely many great ones to choose from in your local community, but if you want a quick catch-all, hey, here’s Food Not Bombs.

Become a Chicago Reader member (and donate to City Bureau, too)

We all agree that quality, local journalism is important. In a city like Chicago that is becoming increasingly strangled by rich doofuses (doofusi?) who like to make a bunch of money while exploiting their employees and harming the media landscape as a whole, it’s incredibly important to support those who have been able to survive despite all that. The Reader is one such place, and making a monthly donation helps ensure that everyone involved can keep doing that for years to come. Please do this! Also, since I’m going long about journalism, donate to City Bureau, an organization that does incredible work arming people with the tools to cover and care for communities that have long been underserved here in Chicago.

Donate to a Patreon

We’re in an interesting moment when a lot of writers, podcasters, and even musicians are on Patreon, and since many of them are doing that without a fixed income, if you can, subscribe and support them. Again, I’m not going to list every single Patreon and paid newsletter that I think is worthy, but if you’ve been on the fence about donating to one, now would be a great time to hop on.

Buy some music on Bandcamp

Okay, obviously I was going to get to the fact that musicians are getting hit pretty hard by this whole “every show and tour is canceled” thing. There have been lots of calls to buy merch (which, hey, for sure do that) but this Friday, that’s March 20, Bandcamp is waving their revenue share so that artists can get every cent of your purchase. I’m sure plenty of folks who read this steam music on a service like Spotify, and as you may know, while they do pay artists, it’s not very much. Right now, most artists make their money from touring, plain and simple, so if you want them to be able to continue to make records and maybe, eventually get back out on the road, giving a few bucks during this sale will go a very long way. And, guess what! I’ll even offer up some recommendations, too!

  • Laura Stevenson’s new song “Time Bandits” is a love song that acknowledges how bleak life can be sometimes. It only costs a buck (though you can give more if you want) and it’s worth way more than that, so go and grab it!

  • Yogurt! It’s not just for eating anymore. Fans of Hickey—and more on them at the very end of this newsletter—should know a bit about this weird recording project, but any lover of weird, lo-fi pop music would surely find something to like here. A recording project from Aesop and Matty from Hickey, Yogurt is what you get when a bunch of weirdos treat music like collage art, and it’s finally on Bandcamp.

  • Slow Mass’ Music For Ears 2. I will always be a champion of this band, and the latest installment in the Music For Ears series in essential. ESSENTIAL!

  • NNAMDÏ’s new album Brat. I hate to say outlandish shit about new music this early in the year, but I’m willing to bet that NNAMDÏ’s new record will be unlike anything else you hear in 2020, and I mean that in the best possible way.

  • Really any band you like because they probably had a tour canceled. Pitchfork is keeping a running list of canceled tours, and while it surely is missing stuff on the smaller, DIY scale, or even stuff that falls outside of their regular coverage, scrolling through that feels wholly indicative of the fact that musicians are not in great shape. But that’s only one part of the equation. Tour managers, front-of-house people, people selling merch, van and bus drivers, and many, many more people behind-the scenes are hurt just as much, if not more. It’s a cruel industry, and it’s proving that more than ever right now.

And now for something completely different

If you’re wondering where the title of this newsletter comes from, I stole it from a Hickey song. I referenced the band above, but recently that phrase—and I guess that song, too—has been bouncing around my head pretty regularly. For one, it’s the band’s contribution to the greatest split 7-inch in the history of music. One side is this Hickey song, a diss track written about the third-wave ska band the Voodoo Glow Skulls, and the other side is eight-minutes of threatening voicemails the Voodoo Glow Skulls left the members of Hickey.

The story goes that Hickey got added to a Voodoo Glow Skulls show in Arizona, made some jokes about Rancid and Epitaph Records, and then VGS got real, real mad about it. So, doing what anyone in their right mind would do, Hickey stole a trumpet from VGS and disappeared into the night. The 7-inch comes with a 28-page zine about the whole thing, so if you’re able to find a copy, I recommend buying it.

But the real reason I’ve been thinking about this song so much is because, in better times, I’ve often joked that getting into music and then deciding to try and build a career around writing about music was a deeply bad idea. Not to say I don’t love doing it, as I very much do, but it’s never been particularly lucrative. Having played many shows for drink tickets that I just ended up giving away, and having written stories that I never got paid for, the concept of “food stamps and drink tickets” always felt a bit like a motto to me. But now, there are people who are hurting really badly because of their pursuit of something similar, and that phrase rings a little more dire than it ever did before.

It’s going to be a long time before things return to normal, and when they do, the music world may not look the same as it did before all this hit. That may be a small part of a larger problem, but I love this stuff too much, and I hope you see the necessity in art during what is, for a lot of us, a truly unprecedented moment.

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