social que

Sound check: The music scene has its share of helpers

Live performances are still a ways off, but musicians are pitching in to help take the pressure off

After holding it all back for the last two months, this week I went to the dark place.

News of more festival cancellations, venues sliding closer to closures and further work-from-home developments opened the door for the flood of reality I’ve been expecting for some time: A lot that we love about the local music scene is not coming back for a while.

At this time last year we were ramping up festival coverage, prepping for a summer full of new experiences and working on some exciting new developments in our music coverage. 2020 had other ideas, though. While it started off with a bang on the local scene, it went off the rails fast as I watched friends lose incomes, saw venues on the verge of closing and found out about people I knew getting sick or dying from complications from the virus.

But if you know me, you know it’s in my nature to always fan that spark of hope, no matter how small it is.

Even as people are fighting for their livelihoods and fighting for their lives and, heck, just fighting each other over whose guesses about coronavirus are less wrong, there are people out there reaching out to help. These are the people who are guiding us through the darkness, and here are a few of them:

• Tunes For a Minute, a West suburban-based organization, has been putting musicians and charitable efforts together in the spotlight through high-quality livestreaming productions. Co-founders Jason Pérez and Colin Ryan recently ran a successful fundraiser to supply food purchased from local restaurants to front-line workers, supporting the efforts of both the eateries and the heroes working hard in the battle against coronavirus. Tonight, Covington Groove will play a livestream performance to help support the staff at Elgin’s Martini Room at 7:30 p.m. See for more information.

• OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash and his wife Kristin were among the earliest known cases of COVID-19 in America. And once they made full recoveries, he and the Chicago-born rock band (including Elmhurst’s Dan Konopka) started working on a song to capture the spirit of the time. They released “All Together Now” last week, with profits going to Partners In Health, an organization bringing health care to those in need around the world. “It’s an earnest, personal song about the moment we’re all sharing,” Kulash said in a statement on the band’s website. Any donations at the site will be accompanied by the mp3 and a bundle of other items. “We’re not delusional; we don’t think optimism or compassion alone will get us through this tragic pandemic, nor do we think the better angels of our nature are predestined to be victorious,” he said. “But as we wrestle with anxiety, every drop of hope is precious. We want to nurture it and share it.”

• Buffalo Grove native Ian Rottner and Cary’s Sam Gutsmiedl of alternative rock band Social Que recently released the song “988,” a reference to the new suicide prevention hotline. With a video explaining the background of the song, Social Que is donating all proceeds from its sales to Sip of Hope, a coffee shop in Chicago partnered with Hope for the Day to advocate for mental health awareness. “I struggle from depression. Some days are awful and some are great,” Rottner said. “My childhood best friend of mine actually took his own life last year. Outside of suffering from depression, when you lose a friend that just changes everything. … In doing this, we’re speaking out about how we’re not alone. We all might struggle with our own demons, but we’re truly not alone in that struggle.”

Proceeds from the sales of “988” go to support Sip of Hope, a coffee shop that is an invaluable resource for mental health advocates in Chicago. // Courtesy of Social Que

Social Que has also started a semiregular livestream series raising money for some of the McHenry-area breweries that have supported the band the last few years. With the Hops N Pops series, Social Que aims to bring awareness to the plight of local gathering places with livestream performances and discussions. They also designed a T-shirt, and half of the proceeds from sales will go directly to assist the staff at the locked-down venues. Watch for announcements on the band’s Facebook page.

• Earlier this month, we at the Daily Herald and Chicago Sound Check started our own way for artists to give back. Our Friday night Instagram Live concert series has featured artists such as Ryan Argast of Marina City, Kevin Farris and Tom Higgenson and Tim Lopez of the Plain White T’s, all playing and promoting different charitable organizations each week, including MusiCares, the Riot Fest Foundation and Chicago’s Metro. Catch this week’s guests Like Language when the duo joins us for conversation and music to raise money for the staff at Beat Kitchen.

• Brian Shamie is a Daily Herald multiplatform editor and local music junkie. Email him at, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter (@thatshamieguy) or Instagram (@chicagosoundcheck).

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