Gonzo Chicago: a videographer's videographer

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Impose welcomes Gonzo Chicago to the editorial fold. We will be featuring video and commentary by John regularly here and in our Impose.tv section.

I moved to Chicago from Wisconsin because I loved the music scene. That's it. I was travelling here every single weekend anyway. I started Gonzo Chicago in 2007 with a shitty point and shoot Canon ELPH, simply filming bands in DIY spots and other venues. Some of the things I was seeing in Chicago's underground were blowing my mind. There was a spot I found by chance called The Mopery, this huge, disgusting warehouse that quite a few people lived in. They had tents set up. The thing was, though, that some of the music was PHENOMENAL. I cut my teeth on basement shows in Green Bay at a spot called the _____ house, but that kicked it all off for me. I could never find any music online from a lot of the bands I was seeing in these warehouses and basement shows, so it was hard to check out what I was going to see. I never had a problem blindly going to shows, but it was always a bit more fun if I was familiar.

R. Stevie Moore w/ Tropical Ooze – Live in Chicago : Mortville + Empty Bottle from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.

So I just started filming. Luckily that little Elph had decent sound and video quality for a point and shoot at the time, so I started posting them, mostly with one word sentences : the band, and the place. The basic layout of the site has remained unchanged over the years (that will finally change this year).
When I noticed people starting to visit daily, I wrote a little bit more, and took it as seriously as I could with such limited equipment. I always kept a keen eye not to post addresses, unflattering photos of the venue. I didn't want to shine a light on it, but I wanted people who dug for it, to be able to find it.
I would say my success stemmed from the sheer amount of shows I went to. I met….everybody. I went to EVERYTHING. I have probably attended over 600 shows in the last 4 years. There are points in the summer when I go to 2-3 a day, multiple days a week. People told me I'd slow down but I've only sped up.

RUNNING – Live – Empty Bottle from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.

Since then I've amassed endless terabytes of over hundreds and hundreds of shows. Everything you could think of really, plus some ridiculous material that people have either sought me out for, or I've just asked….and they've said yes. Drag City had me film CAVE barreling down a main Chicago street on flatbed truck, being powered by a generator. Julian Koster of Music Tapes sang me songs in an alley.

Chicago has been endlessly supportive. I ran a fundraiser for new pieces of gear in April and raised $3,500 in 30 days. I guess that showed me that I had begun to put my time in and that people were ready to see what could really be done. I'm extremely grateful for it all. The bands' output is my content, so I'm constantly aware of that and just trying to make it look how it makes me feel when I'm there.

Julian Koster – Spare the Dark Streets from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.

The point of Gonzo Chicago is simply to get what I find to be really good artistry out to people who will appreciate it. I post about what I like, plain and simple. There has never been a single ad on it. Any DIY show I go to that I shoot, I shoot for free because that's just my passion and what I like to do. I kept seeing all of these amazing bands that didn't even have shitty YouTube videos of themselves, so I figured I would do them justice and take it one step further. If that gets a few more people to a bands show, then good. They deserve it. It's not to shine a bright light on a DIY community for the sake of growth. The people that go for spectacle of it all will never stick around past one show anyway. I've just always found it fascinating to me, and apparently I'm not alone.

MINES is a band from Chicago. from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.

This year end video wasn't supposed to be a documentary, merely a long, well put together footage dump. I recently spoke with a few (old) veterans of the noise scene about the beginnings of certain DIY spots, and each one gave me a giant list of ones that came before them that I had never heard of. I want to continue these conversations in 2012, and start doing interviews. Each one of their lists were different. My goal in 2012 is to do as much crazy stuff as I can get away with. I've noticed simply just asking yields the best result. There are some great things in the works already.

Chicago in 2011 : A recap of why we love our live music scene. from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.