LitCity312 Review: CHIRP Radio Present First Time: First Scare!

Location + Time:
On October 9, 2013 at 8 P.M., I attended CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project) Radio Presents First Time: First Scare! This event was hosted at Martrys’, a bar on 3855 N. Lincoln Ave. in the North Center area. CHIRP is a non-profit community organization, and though I had to pay $10 to attend the event, the funds went to their streaming costs, as this was essentially the reboot of the organization. This CHIRP series itself, The First Time, started in 2010.

Atmosphere + Feel:
Considering that October is the time of year when spooky stories are in order, I thought it was a good idea for them to establish a First Scare series. From the moment I walked into Martrys’, I was immersed in frightful, Halloween-themed decorations, ghosts hanging from ceilings, spider webs, candles, and a dark and moody atmosphere/lighting. The music was pretty mellow and standard for what you’d expect at a bar (at least before the actual event started), but overall I had the sense that it was a pretty sophisticated, adult-ish, spooky experience, especially with the Martyr paintings/mural along the back wall. A large stage area with red curtains (David Lynch style) took up one half of a wall, tables and seating situated in the middle, and the bar was nestled in the immediate back corner of the room. Though the event did not start up exactly at 8 sharp, by the time it was underway 20 minutes later, it ended up being a pretty delightful experience. (Side note: my bag ended up being in the way of the host’s, Jenn Sodini, time-keeping clock – and she touched and shifted my bag. I quickly apologized, of course, though she seemed pretty nervous and scatterbrained).

Performers + Quality:
Seven readers total were scheduled to read original stories of their first frightful experience: Adam Burke, Steve Frisbie, Ellen Lekostaj, CHIRP DJ Helean Lee, Shannon Cason, Scary Lady Sarah, and Ji Suk Yi. The show as a whole was pretty well organized and timed, as far as when it actually took off. What surprised me the most is that the stories I heard were not about experiences with ghosts or spirits or anything of the Halloween sort. Instead, these stories were incredibly real, honest, and heartfelt, undeniable first human experiences of absolute dread or fright. I found this to be especially successful because the stories were also exceptionally varied in topic and mood: while Adam Burke and Helean Lee’s readings were quite humorous at times, Ellen Lekostaj and Steve Frisbee’s readings were horribly chilling, and quite emotional (especially the latter). Another aspect of the show that also stood out to me in a positive way was that after each reader, a band called The First Time Three, who are associated with CHIRP, played two-minute cover songs regarding the mood or theme of the piece that was just read. I felt like it was a great way to express, on a musical level, the story or reading the audience just heard, as the musical pieces seemed to envelope them fully. Some of the cover songs I heard were “Breaking Glass” by David Bowie and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers, so those were nice surprises. I’m glad I attended the CHIRP Radio Series, as I felt like it was an all-encompassing event of those horrible, frightful first-time experiences which are both distinct to us, yet entirely relatable to all. Would do again!

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Amanda Hanna

Amanda Hanna earned her Bachelor's Degree in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing, from DePaul University in June 2014. She plans to pursue her MA in Writing & Publishing, from DePaul, beginning in the fall of 2015. She was born in Chicago, but has lived in a variety of places throughout Southern California, such as Riverside, Orange County, and San Diego. Post high school, she attended a nineteen-day trip to Europe and visited Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, England, and France. On her free time, Amanda loves to draw and paint, attend symphonies and plays, peruse museums, visit farmers' markets, and, of course, read and write. One of her favorite collections of short stories is J.D. Salinger’s, 'Nine Stories'.

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