In recent years, even in the underground rock world, the concept of the "destination festival" has become the norm as fans travel to the music. Now in its 12th year, International Pop Overthrow puts a twist on things: This festival travels to the fans.
"What happened was, especially in the last few years, many bands weren't able to get out to whatever city we were doing it in," says festival founder David Bash. "So we decided to bring it where they were. It allows the local bands a chance to play rather than having to spend the money to travel."
A devoted fan of power-pop--that jangly, hook-filled sound that started with the Beatles and grew to include Badfinger, Big Star, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub and myriad other practitioners--Bash is a former school teacher who started IPO in Los Angeles in 1998. After branching out to New York in 2001, he added Chicago in 2002--a special moment, since his festival takes its name from a song by Material Issue.
Now, IPO also takes place at different times each year in San Diego, Phoenix, Detroit, Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Liverpool, England (at the famous Cavern Club), and Austin and Atlanta may be added soon. Bash and his girlfriend Rina Bardfield still handle all of the booking, but he says IPO has had a "bit of a paradigm shift" as it's grown, expanded and developed.
"When I first started IPO, it was either all power-pop bands or bands that were on the periphery of power-pop. Now, I think I've expanded our vision to include a lot more indie-rock, folk-rock, garage bands, modern-rock bands... as long as they retain a really strong sense of melody, I'm interested in hearing them.
"Having said that, I think more bands over the years have become willing to label themselves power-pop. When I first started IPO and for a few years after that, the words 'power-pop' were anathema to many bands: They didn't want to be called that, even though most people who listened to them would categorize them that way, because they thought it had a stigma of being retro or something that record labels--remember them?--would stay away from.
"Now, with the music industry that way it is, bands are starting to realize, 'Let's just put our cards on the table and admit what we are.' And there are a lot of really young bands in their teens or twenties that are mixing pop and punk, with good vocal harmonies and a lot of melody, and they have nothing to do with Badfinger or Big Star. It's not just music for 40-year-old guys in Beatles boots anymore."
Indeed, there is an impressive variety of styles and sounds represented among the dozens of bands performing at four Chicago clubs over 10 days later this month as part of IPO Chicago, 2009--a bounty of music benefiting fans and bands alike, and yet another prime example of the sort of celebration that could be endangered by the city's proposed promoters ordinance.
Bash was unaware of the city's plan to require independent promoters like him to obtain a pricey license and additional costly insurance, even though he's working at clubs that already are licensed, insured and strictly regulated. None of the other IPO cities require anything similar. "It makes very little sense," he says. "And frankly, if I knew about it, it would have scared the hell out of me."
Thankfully, for now, Chicago has yet to succeed in driving Bash or any other indie promoter away. Here is a look at this year's IPO lineup; for more information, visit www.internationalpopoverthrow.com.
Thursday, April 16, the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace ($8 cover): 7:30 p.m., Karlye Lapetina; 8, the Shifties; 8:30, Common Shiner; 9, the Sonnets; 9:30, the Rolls; 10, the Right Tidys; 10:30, the Wall Clocks; 11, the Luck Of Eden Hall.
Friday, April 17, the Abbey ($10): 7:30, the Spindles; 8, Anison; 8:30, Epicycle; 9, Tomorrow the Moon; 9:30, Penthouse Sweets; 10, the Bad Examples; 11, the Handcuffs.
Saturday afternoon, April 18, the Spot, 4437 N. Broadway ($8): 1 p.m., the Gilligans; 1:30, Wiplot; 2, the Deccas; 2:30, Ken Kase Group; 3, Shooting Blanks; 3:30, the Moves; 4, Superfly Samurai; 4:30, the Unemployed Misfortune.
Saturday evening, April 18, the Spot ($10): 7:30 p.m., Brice Woodall; 8, Zerostars; 8:30, Last Days Of Pompeii; 9, Ray Dafrico and the Shanghai Gesture; 9:30, the Lackloves; 10, Alan Bailey; 10:30, the Cells; 11, Keith Betti
Sunday afternoon all-ages, April 19, the Abbey ($8): 1 p.m., Leah Stargazing; 1:30, I Fight Dragons; 2, Dan Wallace; 2:30, the New Diet; 3, Otter Petter; 3:30, the Blissters; 4, the Laureates; 4:30, Robot Love Story.
Sunday evening, April 19, Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood ($8): 7:30 p.m., Drew Neely; 8:00, Tash; 8:30, the Help Desk; 9, the Oohs; 9:30, BrownLine Fiasco; 10, the Desperate Club; 10:30, the Sweeps.
Monday, April 20, Red Line Tap ($8): 7:30 p.m., Nick Bognar; 8, the Injured Parties; 8:30, Crash Street Kids; 9, First In Space; 9:30, Incredible Shrinking Boy; 10, Miles Nielsen; 10:30, the Auramatics.
Tuesday, April 21, the Abbey ($8): 8 p.m., Make This City; 8:30, Soft Speaker; 9, Honest Engines; 9:30; Twilight Revival; 10, Inkbat; 10:30, Vertigo Whales; 11, Rabbit Children.
Wednesday, April 22, Bird's Nest, 2500 N. Southport ($8): 8 p.m., Am Interstate; 8:30, the Pralines; 9, Catsplash; 9:30, Wild Bores; 10, Steve Sizemore Group; 10:30, the PondHawks; 11, This Magazine Is Haunted.
Thursday, April 23, Red Line Tap ($8): 8 p.m., Michael Seger & Band; 8:30 Middle 8; 9, Frank Tribes; 9:30, Doleful Lions; 10, the Clergymen; 10:30, the Nice Outfit; 11, Van Go.
Friday, April 24, Red Line Tap ($10): 8 p.m., Phil Angotti; 8:30, Eric Howell's Greatest Hitch!; 9, Tenniscourts; 9:30, Swinger; 10, the Effingways; 10:30, the Webstirs; 11, the Valley Downs; 11:30, Ted Ansani Project.
Saturday afternoon all-ages, April 25, the Abbey ($8): 1 p.m. 92 Degrees; 1:30, Atomic Flea; 2, the Ringles; 2:30, Hollus; 3, Love In October; 3:30, V Sparks; 4, the Ideamen; 4:30, Cyclesomething.
Saturday evening, April 25, Bird's Nest ($10): 7:30 p.m., Jeremy; 8, Suzy Brack & the New Jack Lords; 8:30, the Fuglees; 9, the Romeros; 9:30, the Abbeys; 10, the Velvet Cadillacs; 10:30, the Humbugs, 11, the Bad Assets.