Freakalb grooves into House Cafe


Elgin jam band Casa Karma performs at the Freakalb music festival Saturday at the House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway.

By Ross Hettel

Awwwwww, Freakalb.

With a wonderful name like that, and the great listing of genres such as funk, psychedelic, reggae, groove and jam bands in between, I had to go check it out this weekend.

A two day event spanning Friday and Saturday, there was more than enough live music to satisfy anyone’s craving.

Pat Marek, the brains behind Freakalb, said he was inspired to create it by the fellows at local concert promoters Kickstand Productions, especially John Ugolini.

The purpose of Freakalb is “to get people aware of their music and their surroundings,” Marek said.

“The House has some of the best shows I’ve ever been to, it’s like a catalyst to many bands,” he said.

I sat down with the bloggers at Gaian Eye and Art of Ill Fusion, the opening act on Saturday. When I asked them if they prefer larger shows with a variety of bands like Freakalb, AIF’s lead singer answered quite positively.

He said it’s great chance to network and hang out with other musicians. Not to mention that there’s a greater chance someone who’s never seen them before might get a spark of interest.

On that, I can’t help but completely agree with them.

Sitting next to my laptop as I write this are hastily written notes and sample CDs by at least three different bands I heard for the first time that night, and I’m excited to go discover some great new music.

One of the weirdest bands I ran into is a local group called CMKT4. Self described as a “hackerspace rock-trio;” its odd, spacey noises and masks made out of baby dolls and hacked together children’s electronic toys demanded my attention.

While I could write more than an article’s worth on just CMKT4 and their awesome circuit bending experiments, I think they summed it up quite succinctly when they said, “We were invited along to this festival of jam bands, we just wanted to add some freakiness.”

So with such great variety and atmosphere, you would expect the place to have been overrun by the NIU community.

Not quite.

According to my completely unscientific methods of crowd sampling, it seems the majority of people at Freakalb weren’t from DeKalb or NIU. Rather, they were from the surrounding suburbs of Chicago, or even Rockford.

And that saddens me. Too often I hear things like “DeKalb sucks, there’s nothing to do on the weekends,” or “I can’t wait to go home this weekend to escape DeKalb,” etc. You’ve heard them too, I’d wager.

It seems odd then, that people would travel from all over to come see our entertainment when members of the NIU community often refer to this campus as a “suitcase school.”

The truth is we have quite a great music scene here in DeKalb, and events like Freakalb are making it even better.