Rhys Chatham is currently in the midst of a tour of the US. If you have even a passing interest in visceral, textural guitar-based music you should go out of your way to see one of these shows. There are a variety of co-headliners along the way, including electronic duo Pan Sonic in New Haven. (If only they were playing together in Boston —if only!) The tour culminates at the Wire-sponsored Adventures in Modern Music festival in Chicago [Sept. 20-24th at the Empty Bottle]. If you’ve ever had a yen to see Coughs AND Jandek at the same time and live to tell the tale, this may be your only chance…

09-05 Knoxville, TN – Bijou Theatre
09-06 Asheville, NC – Orange Peel
09-07 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
09-08 Philadelphia, PA – Community Education Center
09-09 Boston, MA – Mass Art
09-10 New Haven, CT – BAR
09-11 Brooklyn, NY – Issue Project Room
09-12 Purchase, NY – South (Purchase University)
09-14 New York, NY – Tonic
09-15 Buffalo, NY – Soundlab
09-16 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom
09-17 Detroit, MI – Bohemian National Home
09-20 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle (Adventures in Modern Music Festival)

I won’t be attending the Wire-fest (alas) but I’ll most certainly be at the opening night ofWunderground, an ambitious show at the RISD Museum that attempts to chronicle the city’s radical underground art scene from 1995 to the present. There will be eight artists-in-residence (including Lightning Bolt’s own Brian Chippendale) working on a sculptural centerpiece rising up through the soaring 30-foot high main gallery. There will also be a show devoted to poster art.

The show promises to be (nearly) as colorful and raucous as the scene it documented. Before the city was overrun by yuppie development, there was plenty of space to be found in sprawling, often run-down, quasi-legal warehouses and mill buildings. It was the perfect atmosphere to fuel an intense, diverse, and collaborative local scene. Fort Thunder was the chaotic eye of the storm —a collective founded by artists Chippendale and Mat Brinkman that grew into a mini cottage industry (Lightning Bolt, Load Records, and comics tabloid Paper Rodeo all got their start there).

Sadly, Fort Thunder was demolished in 2002 to make way for a strip-mall (not without a long and vocal fight). If you go to the group’s website, you’ll see the rubble. And yet, the spirit lives on. In the most obvious sense, because these artists are all still working and collaborating. But spiritually, too, because Fort Thunder stands as an inspiration (alongside other like-minded but less vaunted underground collectives that sprang up around the same time —the show’s poster lists what seems like hundreds of them, most sadly departed). Not just for its staunchly iconoclastic, DIY-ethic. The group’s stylistic diversity, confidence, and radical experimentation set the bar for other young artists in the city, and also serve as a touchstone and jumping-off point for anyone interested in pushing the boundaries of not just comics or music but any art-form.

All my hoarded copies of the Fort Thunder in-house publication, Paper Rodeo, have gone missing. I still have a stack of Boredoms posters I snuck down off Thayer St. telephone poles the day after the show —they were printed on cheap butcher paper in short runs of different colors. I think I snagged six of them, my favorites done in rich plum tones. It’ll be jarring to see them framed (?) on a museum wall.

I leave you with a crazed mini-Fort Thunder mix-tape. For more check out the mysterious ft.thunderRealSlowRadio. More mixtapes here.

Rhys Chatham | Table of the Elements | “Fort Thunder Forever” —fantastic article about the group. |Fort Thunder home page | Lonelyville is an Eyesore | new Coughs record soon, yo. | Wunderground

MP3Olneyville Sound System, “Waste Away”

MP3Ninja Vs. Wrestler

MP3Wolf Eyes, “Wild Thing”

MP3Many Tentacled Splendor