The table is messy. Scattered with large slices of greasy pizza, paper plates, beer cans, and surrounded by a few college kids and two bands who don’t know each other. They’re talking about food – what they eat on tour, what messes they leave around. Just like on the table in front of them, they’re intimate and unpacked and ready to talk. Then, they stand up and play a concert. Friday night pizza-lovers either smile and stay or walk out, but they don’t forget the moment.
These Dishin’ at Dimo’s concerts happen every other Friday, with new bands and new conversation topics every time. The intimate atmosphere stays the same. Dishin’ at Dimo’s is a segment started by the Chicago Vibe, a young-adult music publication started out of DePaul University. On May 12, bands So Pretty and The Fundamental Kink performed at Dimo’s in Wicker Park as part of this segment.
Chicago Vibe founders Alicia Maciel, K.P. Peters and Lauren Stufflebeam are young, love DIY, and are doing exactly what they want to do. They’re embodying Chicago’s DIY culture by telling their own stories, and not waiting around for someone to show them how.
“I haven’t had anyone tell or show me what to do, I’ve just done it,” said Maciel. “So that’s probably kinda different, because I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m doing it…I’m not scared to ask questions or be really forward about stuff.”
Maciel, a sophomore at DePaul University studying marketing with a minor in P.R. and advertising, is familiar with the challenges of breaking into the DIY scene as both a young person and a woman. Maciel has been working on festival street teams since she was a freshman or sophomore in high school. At the end of her freshman year, she rebooted the DePaul Music Business Organization, a previously inactive club. It was at the first meeting of the 2016-17 school year that the Chicago Vibe was born.
Freshman students Peters and Stufflebeam came to Maciel with the idea, and they all flew with it. The team wanted to focus their energies on going where most students can’t, and then bringing that back home for peers to access.
“I loved how connected I felt to the bands I followed,” Peters said. “They were like my far off friends, I want to help other kids feel that. It’s easy for musicians to feel larger than life, I wanted to bring them back down to earth. They are just people after all.”
With this idea in mind, the Chicago Vibe pushed themselves even further into the DIY community by putting on their own concerts. The Dishin’ at Dimo’s segment brings in a crowd of young people, both on the stage and in the audience.
“With Chicago being Chicago, I can’t really see another like, heart of music hub that would be doing this as frequently,” Maciel said.
The table talk “interviews” before the shows give the bands a chance to get involved with the community in a way not all other DIY shows offer – conversation. According to Rachel Manter, guitarist and singer of So Pretty, the Chicago Vibe is doing something different than other local music outlets.
“What I like is that you were being interviewed with another band,” Manter said. “So you kind of get to vibe with the other band. I got to know those guys [The Fundamental Kink] way better than other bands we’ve played with before, because you don’t sit down all the time and like, you know, have a conversation.”
As the founder of the Dimo’s segment, Maciel herself wanted to see more unique ideas from local music publications. With the same sort of questions asked over and over, the interviews can become boring – for both the bands and the interviewers. Maciel turned that idea on its head by combining elements of the DIY scene with elements of the professional music scene. She ended up at Dimo’s, a venue arguably as middle-grounded as the Vibe itself.
“It differs from DIY shows because a lot of people don’t know what they are there for,” Peters said. “When we first started this project we had so many people walking past the window wondering if they could come in. With a DIY show one shows up for the band, with this people show up for pizza and get a pleasant surprise.”
Just like in any other venture, the Vibe faced challenges on their May 12 show they hadn’t encountered before. Unlike other DIY shows, the Dimo’s concert is free, and not BYOB. As the Vibe attracted young DIY goers to their shows that bring their booze along with them, Maciel had to clarify that they must be 21 to purchase alcohol from Dimo’s and not bring their own. Otherwise, they’re out – no more Dimo’s shows.
The May 12 show also had a larger crowd than any of their previous concerts. With the third show in the series, Maciel is learning as she goes. Since May 12, there has been one more Dimo’s show, and more to come. Maciel continues to mine her spreadsheet for new and interesting music to bring to the table – literally. The reviews, photographs and concerts from the Chicago Vibe are piling up for the next two years. June 9 will be the next Dishin’ at Dimo’s show.
“I just like pushing people to do things that they should be doing,” Maciel said. “Because they’re already thinking about it, so they might as well just make something.”
Maciel and Peters both hope to pursue a career in the music business industry after graduation, while also keeping the Chicago Vibe alive and well. They’re open to bringing in new managers and editors though, as they have bigger plans for themselves. Maciel hopes to own and manage her own venue space one day, and Peters aims to start another, larger music publication and work on event planning. Maciel and Peters keep the Chicago startup spirit alive, DIY-ing it wherever they go. Neither really want to go corporate.
“I kind of see that as the go-between,” Manter said. “They’re doing what they’re doing professionally, but they’re also able to tap into all the DIY…the DIY is becoming more legitimate and people are doing more in that scene, and so the more people pay attention to it, the more the Chicago Vibe can tap into that.”