Chicago residents have been grooving to Chic-A-Go-Go since 1996, and if you're not in the Windy City well you're just going to have to follow along from home. Featuring a daffy mix of music, puppets, and most of all little kids dancing their hearts out to all kinds of tunes, it's a celebration every week. I sat down with the shows co-creator Jake Austen to give you the skinny.
[caption id="" align="right" width="264" caption="Benjamin Dances with Shonen Knife"]
What is Chic-A-Go-Go?
For the last 13 years my wife Jacqueline and a crew of volunteers have been doing a cable access show in Chicago where we throw an all ages, genre-free TV dance party. It's like Soul Train or Bandstand, except with 4-year-olds and college students and elderly people moving to punk rock, disco, blues, metal and jazz records. Though it's not totally a kids show we do have a puppet co-host, some great kid dancers, and everything is appropriate for little kids (bands who come on to lip synch sometimes have to make special clean versions of their songs). We've done over six hundred episodes and had close to 2000 guests, including a number of Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers and many of our musical heroes, including the Cramps, Cheap Trick, the Shirelles, Neko Case, Hasil Adkins, Rudy Ray Moore, the Effigies, Hanson, the Misfits, GZA from Wu Tang, Andrew W. K., the Pretty Things and the Residents!
[caption id="" align="right" width="272" caption="Herc (in masks) go down the world famous El Line with their Chic-A-Go-Go friends"]
What were the inspirations for Chic-A-Go-Go? What was your motivation for starting the show?
My wife and I always loved dance shows, and we also are huge advocates of independent media (I program public affairs shows on a community radio station and do a zine; my wife is a scholar who studies lost and neglected films, and runs a home movie archive). We loved the idea of cable access (even though we didn't get cable until we had a show) and were always interested in doing something.
Kiddie-A-Go-Go not only showed how amazing a dance show for kids can be, but also showed that it doesn't have to be grueling work, or perfect. It can be raw, shambling, and error-ridden and still be just right, meaning the process can be as fun and loose as the product. That lack of pressure, as much as anything else, let us know this was something we could do.
[caption id="" align="right" width="275" caption="The Storm Troopers of Dance "]
What band/artist were you most surprised agreed to be on the show?
I'm more surprised when someone completely refuses to do it. I guess I was really pleased and a little surprised that we got to to do a segment with Phil Cohran, an older eccentric jazz musician (he helped found the AACM and was in Sun Ra's early band), and it was great because after we told him which of his records we were going to dance to he laughed and said we couldn't dance to it because of the time signature, adding "I'd like to see that." And then he saw it because our kids will dance to anything!
What band/artist were you most surprised the kids enjoyed?
Usually even noise bands or hard rock groups or freeform jazz guys or naughty rappers appearing on the show adjust to make it fun for kids, so that is rarely an issue, everyone makes sure kids will enjoy their performance. But what we love is that once the vibe gets going, our dancers will dance to anything, including Jandek, Christian Marclay and Sammy Davis Jr.
Check out Chic-A-Go-Go videos here!