Situations – A Logan Square Diy-Venue Goes Off-Line Permanently After 9 Years Of Dedicated Underground Punk Service To The North Side Of Chicago
all photos by Sarah Marie Coogan
I went to Situations many times. You had to walk through a door in the alley opening to the venue’s rear garage that hugs the elevated tracks of the CTA’s Blue Line Trains whizzing by. The trains occasionally make a full-blast wind-like roar at speeds of up to 35 mph with up to 110 dB of sound—if you can tolerate the loud noise! As you entered, there seemed to be a few chairs in the roughly 1000 square feet of space. The waft of cigarette and pot smoke from the patrons was very heavy. Then as you entered the main door, on the farside of the room you would see a concession stand flanked on its right side by a mirror, where beer, wine, CDs, and other merch were sold. Just east of the concession stand was a half-circle sofa for people to sit and socialize intimately. Along the right was a sofa and a table where you can also put your DIY music/merch. A stairwell led to the basement where most of the DIY shows happened. In the basement itself, brick-patterned foundation walls and an untiled basement floor. The performing stage was very loose – no distinct upright risers, no temporary “raised” flooring. On the south side of the basement, there was a short corridor leading to the door that will open up to the outside on the south area, leading to the 1st floor terrace, with a gangway only 5 feet in width.
The only bathroom there was a bit unkempt but much used and much needed, because even though I never drank alcohol at that venue, lots of Situations’s patrons did. If you did not know, alcohol is a diuretic which forces some people to go pee. Bathroom lines I saw at Situations could be up to 20 people in line at one time but no one ever pissed themselves in line, or peed in the alley, keeping the venue safe from unwarranted searches for criminal/city violations. Sometimes, it was possible for Situations to let a few people crash the place overnight if they were dead drunk, especially if they used a car to get to the show. This, besides being a nice thing to do, avoided the possibility of liability which could have threatened the venue. These kinds of actions kept Situations going as long as it did.
Situations was also highly adaptable which helped keep it alive and well. When the smoking bans on cigarettes were enacted, it was fairly enforced— no one was allowed to smoke cigarettes inside Situations, with the exception of marijuana. If you wanted to smoke cigarettes, you had to do it outside on the gangway or outside the venue.
Honestly, I appreciated the smoking ban, because I already had asthma and inhaling lots of second hand smoke could lead to worse health effects, like ending up with COPD or even pulmonary fibrosis. As far as marijuana, patrons had to be careful if they intended to smoke or toke reefers outside—especially if the noises from the DIY band at Situations were within earshot of Chicago cops who loved to bust events at Situations. Fortunately, the requirement of entering through the back frustrated cops who wanted to bust the place.
The dining room, also bounded by red painted walls, just on the south side of the bathroom was a bit less in floor square footage than the basement, and often used for extra social conversing, sitting down for chats or to sell DIY merch. At one time, a used upright piano sat on the south side, by the large “Chicago window” design that looked out at the gangway of the space leading to the 2000 N. Milwaukee address, the licensed bar next door. Finally, the east door to the dining room leading to the space’s bedroom were technically off-limits to the public—it was likely a bedroom where the operator of the space would sleep after a show, when the last patron had left.
Situations as a venue was first operated by Sarah Marie Coogan, Kevin Cribbin, Bret Koontz and Chip Hamlet. Throughout its 9 year run, the venue responsibilities were shared among the roommates living there, also including Bo Meija, Emily Hutchings, David Lineal, Conor Hutchinson, Amanda Soto, and Tate Schauer. Sarah Marie and Kevin had the longest run as the main runners of Situations, and I was most familiar with Sarah Marie who was always around running shows. Sarah Marie, who was a sort of Chicago DIY fan and visual artist, as well as a hippie freak in its first years, tolerated almost anything Situations had to offer, from rough-and-tumble DIY rock bands all the way to interactive performance-art displays, and nearly everything in between. It had a good 9 years. Midway through its 9th year, when Sarah Marie moved out as the main tenant, the members of the Chicago DIY rock band, Unmanned Ship, took residence at the place to book shows for its final year in operation.
Situations was a very versatile music venue, hosting a lot of events outside of the typical 4 band rock show. As I confirmed with Sarah Marie, they had dance parties, performance art, art installations, and music video shoots. I remember Nance Klehm, a radical permaculturist/horticulturist, came in and did a seminar on basic composting there.
The final live show at this Logan Square watering hole was on March 11, 2020, right as the 1st wave of the Covid-19 virus worsened, becoming something as bad as the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Underground venues voluntarily terminated their shows, or else face permanent scorn, ridicule, backlash, and distrust for a long time to come (not to mention citations, fines, and/or shutdowns by the city for violating COVID-19 guidelines). The final goodbye was a 24 HOUR HALLOWEEN TWITCH filmed by Sarah Marie with LIVE performances from Unmanned Ship, YKK (formerly The Rolling Stones), Brett Koontz, and Murph The Band.
Since Situations is definitely flatlined as a DIY venue, I can now spill details of the location, without worry. It was located at 2202 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the house was actually built way way back in 1879! It had 2,379 square feet of space, and it is now off the market because it was sold at a whopping $200,000, according to the Realtor.com website. The picture of the back façade (which included the garage door and back door just adjacent to it to the right) used to be white, but now, it is painted brown.
One more thing – Situations’s attendance creeped up a little bit in number in its last few years when Ottoman Empire, a former venue about 2 blocks north of Situations, was torn down, and Wally World, another DIY venue that was very close to Situations, was sold around 2016 and was forced to end its run of DIY shows after its beginnings around roughly 2010 or so.
And sadly, after all of my excitement there, and all of yours, we bid adieu to Situations—shockingly right in the midst of a pandemic striking us.
But we all hope that after this is all over, Logan Square’s DIY will be reinstated in all of its glory, hopefully in 2021!
But as I said before, that “2202” watering hole had such a good and exciting near-decade of running. So I did a little digging to showcase a little bit of that history!
The first show was on March 3, 2011 and booked by Ruth Oppenheim-Rothschild. This was a defining time in the Chicago DIY scene, 4 years after the Internet web blog, Gonzo Chicago, made its mark to track down almost every DIY band that played at any of the nondescript or underground DIY shows in Chicago, ran by John Yingling.
I had to track down several other selected Situations shows on the Internet using YouTube. Following, I give short summaries of each and also credit the original YouTube videographer or videographers who shot these gigs. I then list the shows that were documented on the songkick.com website and provide as complete a list as I can of the bands that played Situations over the years.
From what I gathered on my own, there was a yearly average of 10 to 20 shows (just a rough range) at Situations, and there seemed to be between 100 to 200 shows – maybe even more – that happened at Situations over the 9 years! It will be missed!
But Situations lives on! Visit their patreon to keep up with new Situations news and events, and support!
Some Situations Shows Documented on Youtube
June 8, 2013 – Russian Tsarlag (Carlos Gonzalez) – video by Angel Marcloid
The videographer involved also plays for the DIY noise rock music project, Firetoolz (which also played at Situations), and Russian Tsarlag was a one-person band that focused on modernized chillout in his original songs.
Feburary 22, 2014 – Lungs Face Feet (Pittsburgh, PA) – video by Pete Spynda.
This is a sort-of-a acoustic rock band that mixes Afrobeat and circus punk band music elements, since several members of the band have horns – trumpets and trombones.
A website named Obscuro Chicago focused on Situations DIY venue at 2202 N. Milwaukee after a Halloween Party at the one-floored DIY loft house. The website showed photographs of the venue, such as a unicorn on a red-walled background, candy-wrapper paraphernalia strewn the basement, and a DIY spider-web design just above the first-floor corridor, between two red-colored walls on either side joined by a jagged white-and-black floor pattern.
Feburary 18, 2017 – Potions (Chicago, IL) – video by temporary Correspondence
The presentation went roughly 35 to 36 minutes, and for those who were in the show to dance – they got it and a bit more. Potions was a DJ act that focuses on eclective-progressive EDM mixes. The visuals provided were given by another DJ-turned VJ artist (formerly DJ Sick Cakez) – Jillian Musielak, whose visual displays strongly focused on her talents in using old-school glitch techniques of distorting, twisting, and altering existing video into something that the corporate copyright juggernauts will have to think twice
August 8, 2017 – Suspirans (Austin, TX) – video by temporary Correspondence
The show was roughly 32-35 minutes long, and the backdrop focused on glittering lights of reds, blues, and greens. The performers (two of them) was using a guitar with a lot of effects and the overall music is mainly experimental drone noise. Eventually it morphs into something like power rock after about 5 minutes of introduction. And to punctuate this was a drummer. So it was a threesome – not a single musician.
August 17, 2018 – Blood Licker (Chicago, IL) – video by temporary Correspondence
The twosome seen in Blood Licker were DIY rockers of the Chicago band, Toupée…..Whit Fragrassi aka Couteau Sang (or “Knife Cut” in French) plays bass and sings vocals, and Mark Fragassi plays drums. Blood Licker embraced other Chicago DIY underground venues, including the already-defunct Prairie Project in east Pilsen (1822 W. DesPlaines Ave.). The style of music is post-anarcho/noise/post-punk/experimental punk rock.
June 21, 2019 – Lower Tar (LA, CA) & Cube (Oakland, CA) – video by temporary Correspondence
Lower Tar was an experimental post-EDM act focusing on old-school gadgetry and Lower Tar’s own vocalisms and vocalises. Cube is a post-EDM act that focuses on post-minimalism as well. The performer uses an electronic platform with two TV screens on either side of the that focus on intense walls of light and old-school glitch art.
Some Situations Shows Listed on Songkick
- Saturday, April 6, 2013 – Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Mines, John Bellows
- Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 – Lungs Face Feet
- Friday, April 4, 20 – Cloud Becomes Your Mind
- Saturday, July 5, 2014 – Ed Schrader’s Music Beat
- Friday, March 27, 2015 – Laser Background, Boy Hersher, Hastas, J Fernandez, Famous Laughs
- Saturday, October 31, 2015 – Platinum Boys and Oozing Wound
- Friday, July 15, 2016 – Show Me The Body
- Wednesday, September 27, 2017 – Weeping Icon, Desert Liminal
- Friday, June 29, 2018 – Zigtebra, Planet What, The Sueves
- Saturday, November 17, 2018 – Laser Background, Izzy True, Richard Album, Bret Koontz
- Friday, May 17, 2019 – Wild Firth, Tenci, Bret Koontz, Richard Album
- Monday, May 27, 2019 – Super Thing, Sutphin, Bunny Love, Eggnort
- Friday, June 21, 2019 – Cube (Oakland, CA)
- Saturday, July 13, 2019 – Imelda Marcos
- Monday, August 5, 2019 – The Lodestones
- Sunday, November 10, 2019 – Mines, Jnana, Mossmen, Treatment (Madison, WI)
Dr. Charles Joseph Smith, aka Lamar Jacobsen Linden, is a performer, pianist, dancer, composer, zine maker, writer, and a fixture of the Chicago music scene. He started his performance art work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he got his master and doctoral degrees in Piano performance (1994-2002), and previously, he went to Roosevelt University (Chicago) to get a bachelor degree in piano (1990-1994). But not until he met an alternative group called the School of Designing a Society (members of Champaign-Urbana who, outside academia, want to design performance-art displays related to politics, socialism, and overall, a radical reaction to the ordinary world) did he started to love the world of performance art. After 10 years, he realized life is precious, so he is now showing his performance art style to others.
During uncovid times he is often traveling between multiple concerts on any given night, dancing front and center at each one. A frequent contributor to The Sick muse, we highly advise checking out his similar retrospective piece on Chicago’s famed DIY venue Morteville, published in The Sick Muse Issue #7, and also his creative writing featured in The Sick Muse Issue #2.
“Bow and Spear”. https://bowandspear.bandcamp.com/ . Created 2017. Accessed on October 22, 2020.
“Gonzo Chicago”. Internet blog site founded by John Mingling. https://hotmetaldobermans.blogspot.com/2011/ Accessed on October 22, 2020.
Obscuro Chicago Website. “Situations: The Aesthetic Aftermath of Halloween”. November 10, 2015. https://obscurochicago.wordpress.com/tag/situations-diy/ Accessed on October 22, 2020.
“Twenty-Two Zero Two North Milwaukee”. Picture and details of property on Realtor.com website. https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/2202-N-Milwaukee-Ave_Chicago_IL_60647_M79725-65655. Accessed on October 22, 2020.
“Unmanned Ship”. https://unmannedship.bandcamp.com/album/unmanned-ship-bloodlicker-split. Accessed on October 22, 2020.