On the first day of 1990, Chicago-based, Drag City Records put out a 7″ single called “Hero Zero” by the, then-relatively unknown, duo of Neil Michael Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema (aka: ROYAL TRUX). It was the first release by the label (DC1) and, while endless other independents have come and gone over the years, very few have started off so promisingly. When the money was recouped from that first single, it was reinvested to release another 7″; the Demolition Plot J-7 EP (DC2) by Pavement. Things were looking surprisingly decent, so the founders, Dan Koretzky and Dan Osborn, decided to try and pull off the release of a full-length; the terrifyingly ambitious double-LP, Twin Infinitives, again from Royal Trux. Since then, Drag City has gone on to release project after project based on one defining/primary criteria: their personal belief in the artists and material. When the name Drag City is mentioned these days, prolific artists like Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Palace Bros., etc), Silver Jews, Bill Callahan (aka: Smog), Joanna Newsom, and, of course, the Trux, instantly come to mind. There is definitely some intangible element of credibility that runs throughout the various projects and unifies them, but what exactly that defining “genre” behind the label is has puzzled many a categorization-obsessed journalist, througout the years. In a November, 1993 issue of Spin Magazine, David Berman (Silver Jews) was quoted addressing the phenomenon by describing Drag City as a label with an “intellectual streak” throughout its roster, while “American rock music is about glorifying stupidity for the most part.” I think that, not unlike Berman himself (also a poet, illustrator, & aspiring screenwriter), Will Oldhan (producer, actor, musician,etc.), and many others who call the label their home, Drag City is much more than a one-dimensional institution content with simply retracing their footsteps over and over again. So, is it surprising to hear that the next big adventure for Drag City may involve a foray into the comedy world? Maybe… but, in reality, it probably shouldn’t be.
Last year showed Drag City branching out by entering into the world of film distribution, taking the feature-length “Trash Humpers” by Harmony Korine to theaters and releasing Vernon Chatman‘s (Wonder Showzen, Xavier: Renegade Angel) experimental erotica, “Final Flesh” on DVD. Based on the limited information that I read regarding Drag City‘s decision to enter into the film business, I got the general impression that the decision stemmed from a perspective that was relatively close to, “Fuck it! We haven’t really done this before, but I bet we can pull it off. Let’s give it a shot.” They’ve released literature in the past, comic books, and even a new audio book read by Will Oldham. However, aside from Jen Hanneman (aka: Fred Armison) and his instructional drumming video, Neil Hamburger has operated as the label’s resident funny man – releasing multiple comedy albums, DVDs, 7-inches, and even a Western album– and, for all intents and purposes, it’s sole comedy act. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name “Neil Hamburger“, he’s the miserable looking bastard on the left side of the header image. To his right, is the equally aggravated, and equally hilarious, Todd Barry (Delocated, Flight of the Conchords) who will be joining him on the “SPRING VALUE” comedy tour this April. I’ve seen Neil quite a few times, but it’s generally been in dive bars with a musical act (and once, a semi-pornographic magician) opening up for him, so it’s great to watch his stock rise with comedy tours like this and the one that he recently did with Tim and Eric.
The week-long SPRING VALUE dates (listed below), which were sent out to us recently, showed the tour running from April 8-15 and hovering exclusively around the mid-west and Southern portions of the country (OH, PA, WV, KY, & IN). For now, not much has changed, except for 2 additional shows being added for Chicago, both of which will take place on April 7th. What is, perhaps, the most exciting thing about this bonus kickoff date is that it actually marks the launch of a regular Drag City-hosted comedy showcase that will be taking place at the Chicago venue, The Hideout. At least it appears that it will be a monthly routine… What I wasn’t previously aware of was the fact that DRAG CITY actually held a regular showcase called “THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STARES” at the very same spot , which featured an amazing group of, now-infamous, comedy stars like Paul F. Tompkins and Zach Galifianakis. As you will soon read in the following press release, those monthly events took place throughout the year of 2007 and this Hamburger/Barry show is being credited as the relaunching of those discontinued TPUTS comedy nights.
[List of additional Tour Dates are featured below]
The Return of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STARES featuring Todd Barry and Neil Hamburger! Brought to you by Drag City.Way back in the summer of 2007, Drag City launched a highly ambitious comedy series that convened once a month in the toddlin’ town of Chicago, on the buzzkill night of Monday. You might not remember as you were pissing your britches back then (ah, college). For lack of an actually funny name, it was called The People Under the Stares and it was known for hosting a combination of local acts and national acts and that raised brows and lifted hemlines. Performers included Fred Armisen, Neil Hamburger, Paul F. Tompkins, Heather Lawless, Hannibal Buress, Ron Lynch, T.J. Miller and Zach Galifianakis, amongst many funny others. There was a guest speaker night fearing several of the original writers and editors of National Lampoon Magazine, crossover acts like Will Oldham (whose set killed!) and a live house band playing the opening and closing themes (and standing uncomfortably in-between). Naturally, by the time a year had passed, exhaustion had set in – twelve months in a row of one funny night per month was just as difficult as you might imagine. Of course, 2008 was “The Year Comedy Broke” – (no) thanks in no small part to the efforts of The People Under the Stares, Drag City and yes, even the Hideout even! After seeing everybody who got their start on the TPUTS stage go to Comedy Heaven (apparently, NYC), it’s been a bitter dream of Drag City’s to return to the realm of comedy and harvest from another generation of funny talent. Behold! On April 7th, it’s starting again. You won’t want to miss us dipping our little toe back in the water at The Hideout on Thursday, April 7th, as we promote the Spring Value Tour! Featuring Todd Barry! (Drag City’s own) Neil Hamburger! And Brendon Walsh!
4/7/11 7 PM & 10 PM @ The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $20, 21+.