Attendees listen to live music performed on Friday, June 4, 2021, during the Sideyard Sounds concert series outside of Compound Yellow in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

Live music has returned to Compound Yellow, Oak Park’s nonprofit experimental arts space on Lake Street.

The Side Yard Sound Series, which kicked off last weekend, is a new venture for the Compound Yellow team. Each event will safely bring the Oak Park community together in the house’s eclectic and welcoming side yard and will feature a “bevy of creative musical artists who traverse diverse forms, from the intriguing waters of experimentalism and the avant-garde to forward-reaching jazz, according to Compound Yellow’s website. The program kicked off on Memorial Day weekend with a performance by jazz musician Paul Ashford. 

Compound Yellow founder Laura Shaeffer said in an email that the concert series is supported by a grant from Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC), which will allow the organization to pay each artist what they deserve. She hopes each artist’s experience will be made even more meaningful by playing to a sizable audience. Children and pets are welcome at each event. Cold drinks are available and patrons are welcome to BYOB. 

According to their website, Compound Yellow, 244 Lake St., has long been a venue for visual art exhibitions of all kinds and places emphasis on, “the artist as a protagonist who incites our impulses to challenge the status quo, and considers brighter alternatives, reminds all that taking risks and new steps are what keeps our arts and social circles truly alive.” Over the years, its programming has included workshops, book clubs, film series, readings, discussions and performative lectures. Shaeffer said the lineup for the Side Yard Sound series was chosen to “encourage audiences [to] expand their vision of music both in and out of Chicago.”

On Saturday, June 4, futuristic jazz group Sistazz of Tha Nitty Gritty performed at the Side Yard, after their May 28 performance was rescheduled due to inclement weather. Although they have performed together virtually over the past few months, Saturday evening marked the trio’s first live event where they played to a crowd of 39 people.

Attendees sit outside of the buildings and listen to live music performed on Friday, June 4, 2021, during the Sideyard Sounds concert series outside of Compound Yellow in Oak Park, Ill. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

Featuring Black American traditional music composer Angel Bat Dawid on clarinet and vocals, Brooklynn Skye Scott on bass and Anaiet Sivad on piano and vocals, the trio took the Compound Yellow audience on a sonic journey to another dimension as they performed ethereal songs exploring themes of spirituality, healing and the preservation of Black music. Each musician commanded their instrument and each song’s intricate improvisations with prowess and passion.

But while the performance permitted listeners to “get lost in the sauce” as Dawid put it, it was also a reminder of the unifying experience of enjoying live music in the presence of others, and what a loss it has been to experience a year where it was impossible to do so safely.

“Music is about community,” Dawid told the crowd at one point. Throughout the performance, she encouraged the audience to vocalize their emotions and sing along to their powerful melodies. At one point, they even passed out instruments so listeners could join in on the sound. 

The next performance in the series, from artist and composer Norman W. Long, will take place on Friday, June 11, at 7 p.m. With the funds from each ticket purchase, Shaeffer and the team at Compound Yellow hope to sustain the series into 2022. Each event will be live streamed on Facebook for those who can’t make it to the events. 

Learn more about the concert series and purchase tickets:

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