Richard Clark founded Logan Square DIY venue D.C. Torium to serve as a performance and rehearsal space where he and other musicians could more fully and freely exercise their creative control over their space. Clark had been searching for such a space for several years, and over a year ago found it at a storefront building at 3026 W. Armitage Ave., which had previously been occupied by an artist and religious group.
The name D. C. Torium alludes to Richard Clark’s own name, as well as to Dick Clark, the long-time host of American Bandstand, a popular TV show from the 1950s through the 1980s featuring music and performance. And D.C. Torium is also a play on the word ‘auditorium,’ a place where something is heard, or rather where Richard Clark hosts his version of American Bandstand, inviting different mostly local musicians, bands, and performers to be heard.
Clark is a member of several rock bands, including The Icarians and Get Up with the Get Downs, and a graduate with a college music degree who also conducts music lessons for all ages at his space. To encourage collaboration, as well help pay expenses, Clark has also recently initiated an artist in residence program at his space. The first resident artist, Erick Deshaun Dorris, has a space set aside in front of the building, which includes his piano, and Dorris performed with a backup band that Clark, the drummer the Monday night that I visited the space. For several songs, two women, each offering her own style and interpretation, stepped into Dorris’s vocal role and provided alternative versions of his songs. Also, for certain versions of some of the songs, there was only acoustic guitar accompaniment.
Dorris, a singer and songwriter who plays piano, staged an ‘Informance’—that is, a practice and preview performance of his new songs and music that he had recently written and composed after a week-long retreat in Wisconsin. Audience feedback was encouraged to the new work to indicate what songs were liked or disliked on a ballot.
Dorris’s ‘informance’ also constitutes a part of a monthly “Werkshop” program in which, according to a D.C. Torium information leaflet, “Each month, new and original work is workshopped at D.C. Torium. The workshop culminates in an ‘informance’ that is recorded live in front of an audience.” The Monday night I visited there was a recording engineer present who will edit and produce an album for distribution.
Most nights of the week D.C. Torium is a rehearsal space, but there are three regularly held monthly events open to the public that are posted on Facebook: the “Werkshop Informance,” the Fun-Gasm, a night with “live music, visual art, dancing,” and the Kinky Butch Witching Hour, a late night variety show. Artists who are interested in the variety show, or who would like to rent space for a rehearsal, can inquire at the website for more information.
Magic and Mermaids at D.C. Torium’s Variety Show
On a Sunday night I also stopped in at the D.C. Torium to watch and talk to some of the performers from The Kinky Butch Witching Hour. Malic White, the curator and host of this variety show, characterized it as “a place where all kinds of genders and bodies are represented.” White, a friend of Dorris’s, is an ensemble member of the Neo-Futurists and performer in their long-running late night show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Molly Brennan is a co-curator with White, but could not make it to the February show.
Before the show began, White asked the audience to engage in a magic spell: everyone found a partner, looked into another’s eyes, and drew a requested personally meaningful image or symbol in sharpie on one another’s arm or hand or wherever requested. Hopefully, the effects of the Witching Hour show that followed, would strengthen the audience member’s symbol.
A three-person band led by Dorris, The Booty Calls, serves as the show’s house band, and opened the show with Dorris playfully engaging the audience. The band played near the entrance to the performance space, opposite the stage, so the audience needed to adjust their view accordingly. Several solo spoken word, queer performers took the stage—Sol Patches, Twistine Renee, and Garcia—and they shared their personal stories of struggling to maintain their dignity and balance in the face of rigid gender and sexual norms that family and society enforce. The trio Marxist Mermaids moved and interacted on stage wearing giant fins, while electronic music and a taped reading of passages from Guy Debord’s Society of Spectacle. The meaning the text and the movement and interaction of the mermaids is left for the audience to determine.
The music duo Hahalala with Zack Violet on piano and Emilia Parr on ukulele ended the show with their raucous vocals and an intense, lively, audience energizing, let it all out style. They played near the entrance area of the performance space, and Dorris joined in to round out the evening. After the performance, I lingered for a time, and dance music began to play, and anyone who wanted to stay could dance and talk to the performers and extend their evening.
The Kinky Butch Witching Hour IV will happen Sunday, March 27 at 10 pm. Admission is $5.