By Roy Kasten
By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
Chic-A-Go-Go is a Chicago public-access cable-TV show wherein music lovers of all ages cavort to prerecorded music, various musical eccentrics lip-sync along to their "hits" and a skinhead rat puppet interviews people like Lemmy, Hanson, Jello Biafra and Vanilla Ice. Yes, some smart folks have had the idea to revive the old dance-show format with healthy servings of humor and weirdness.
Lucky for us those smart folks were Jake Austen and his wife, Jackie Stewart, the director of the show. Austen is the genius behind the great Roctober magazine, probably the funniest, most interesting music zine in the land. Roctober's hallmarks are its humor and wide, wide range of obsessions, from '60s cult weirdos the Monks to Sammy Davis Jr. Theme issues have ranged from "Masked Rockers" and "Psychedelic Superheroes" to "The KISSue" and even a whole issue of sincere tributes to musical heroes struck down by AIDS. Austen's pure enthusiasm for exciting music makes even the dozens of small-print record reviews worth reading.
Carrying that aesthetic into TV-land is a typical stroke of Roctober brilliance. Austen and Stewart claim that they want anybody to be able to enjoy their work, and Chic-A-Go-Go is one venue where "all ages" really means "all ages": Toddlers, teens, hipsters and seniors can be seen cutting rugs and taking names. The show's musical diet is just as eclectic; Stewart and Austen dig up the best and weirdest soul, rockabilly, country, hip-hop, punk and pop to keep the in-studio audience moving. A recent video compiles the best moments from four years of Chic-A-Go-Go, and it is a mind-bogglingly entertaining parade of strangeness and charm.
Now they've taken the act on the road, complete with hosts Ratso (the aforementioned puppet rat) and Miss Mia. God knows what they plan to do at the Way Out Club, but you won't want to miss it.