District 97 rocks in Berwyn

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You can take the boy out of District 97 …

Jonathan Schang had his formative music experience as a student of Ellen Holleman at Julian Jr. High (now middle school) in the late 1990s. The influence was so strong apparently that when he and fellow Oak Parkers Rob Clearfield (keyboard) and Patrick Mulcahy (bass) formed their progressive rock band in 2006, they chose the name District 97. 

In 2008, they added guitarist Jim Tashjian and vocalist Leslie Hunt, a 2007 American Idol Top 10 female finalist whom they met attending the Chicago College of Performing Arts. The fivesome has produced two CDs (Hybrid Child and Trouble with Machines) with a third on the way. The first two albums featured CSO cellist Katinka Kleijn, making them, as they put it on their website (district97.net), "the only progressive rock band in the world that features an American Idol finalist and a CSO virtuoso."

This Friday, July 11, they're bringing the whole act (minus the cellist) to The Wire, which bills itself as "the complete creative incubator for musical ideas." Doors open at 8 p.m., show at 8:30. The Wire is located at 6815 W. Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.

This is the first Oak Park-area appearance for District 97, according to Schang, who is the band's drummer and primary composer. If he composes the copy for the website as well, he's got a definite flair. "With her fantastic voice, and looks to match, [vocalist] Leslie Hunt has captured the imagination of the male-oriented prog rock scene. Complexity is one of the hallmarks of District 97's compositions, but the album [Trouble with Machines] is laced with catchy vocal melodies."

When the band isn't playing, Schang, who still lives in Oak Park, is an in-demand accompanist for modern dance companies, including Stephanie Clemens' Academy of Movement & Music/Momenta.

Jim DeRogatis of NPR's Sound Opinions, is quoted describing District 97 as "a wildly ambitious progressive rock group whose youth belies its accomplishments onstage."

Sounds just like the elementary school district.

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