I had never been to a street festival by myself before, so I didn’t know what to expect going into Do Division 2017. The entire street was lined with dozens of DIY tents, showcasing everything from candles, to metal sculptures, to paintings and homemade dresses. I came so close to buying many of these trinkets not only to fuel Chicago’s thriving DIY scene, but to decorate my room next year and flex my interior decorating skills to my friends.
The armada of food trucks filled the air with the smell of heart-stopping greasy bliss. Unfortunately for my aching stomach, the line for the taco truck proved insurmountable. To address this, I purchased a deep-fried pickle, the consumption of which probably took a year off my life. The crowd was quite diverse, and the friendliness in the air was contagious. I was surprised to have multiple complete strangers approach me to discuss the festival, the food, or their dog, my favorite of which was a stout French bulldog named Hippo.
As the night progressed and more people started showing up, I started to hear slow, droning guitars played over distant speakers. As I approached the sound, I saw two men anxiously fiddling with pedals and synthesizers. “We’re not much of a daytime act,” one of them spoke softly into the mic, his voice warped by a subtle tremolo effect, “so maybe we should wait till it’s dark out.” This was Black Marble (@blackmarblenyc), the dark yet endearing synthwave/post-punk project of Chris Stewart. The paradoxical combination of the upbeat 808 kickdrum with the slow, dreamy textures of the guitars resembled a cynical yet respectful take on 80’s bands like The Cure and New Order. While the tones of the synthesizers and guitars were undoubtedly dark, Stewart’s charming stage presence and the energetic kicks of the drum machine kept the mood light, with many in the crowd dancing hazily. The shadowy yet optimistic atmosphere of the show was incredibly unique and fun, and I would happily see Black Marble again.
Later on, the crowd swelled considerably as I approached the western stage. The band that was set to play, Lucky Boys Confusion (@luckyboysmusic), was not one that I had heard of before, despite them being based out of Downer’s Grove, which is close to where I grew up. The crowd was incredibly hyped even before the band took the stage, with many of them discussing how they’d been following the band for years. Once the band started playing, it immediately became apparent why the crowd had been so electrified. The band, led by the incredibly charismatic lead vocalist Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav, played song after song of energetic ska-infused pop-punk ballads.
The crowd would perfectly scream every lyric whenever Stuhby would point the mic at them. The lyrics perfectly encapsulated the early 90’s to mid-2000’s era of pop punk music, with themes of alienation, heartbreak, aimlessness, rebellion, and friendship. Ska punk has always had a special place in my heart, as the genre rose and fell within my lifetime. The genre’s focus on relatable lyrics, energetic ballads, and catchy power cords make listening to it both uplifting and nostalgic. Lucky Boys Confusion was clearly very happy to be performing in their native Chicago, and their passion was clearly felt by the crowd, who moshed and danced frantically, hardly taking a breather between songs. Stuhby spoke proudly of the band releasing their first LP in years, Stormchasers, with the crowd shouting congratulations at him. That show had one of the strongest connections between crowd and artists that I’d ever seen, which made for a fantastic and infectiously fun performance.