May 7, 2020

Sights & Sounds: Andy Cirzan

Our next set of questions is with Andy Cirzan, long time JAM Productions VP, who’s been bringing Chicago rock shows for many years. Andy became a friend of the brewery via our collective appreciation of beer and music. He’s a true believer in the power of music and has spent a career inside of it. We really appreciate Andy’s willingness to talk to us. So, here goes:

HA:What makes Chicago’s music scene unique?

AC: For starters, we’re a city with a hugely important and historic musical legacy–from the first jazz dudes coming up from New Orleans back in the 20s on through the extremely influential 50s electric blues explosion–something that literally ignited the birth of rock itself.

And of course, one can not diminish the impact of having a radio station like WXRT follow some of us from the 70s through recent times–nowadays you can listen to anything you want just by dialing it up on the web—that didn’t use to be the case, and over the decades the station exposed many of us to some pretty damn cool music that we may not have otherwise heard.

In other words, Chicagoans in the 35 to 65 year old demo have been exposed to way more cool music than almost any other market in the country, and it shows in the type of artist they support when they come to town.


HA:  I know you’re a vinyl advocate and music collector, generally.  What albums or bands have been meaningful for you during this time?

AC:  I’m all over the place as far as my personal listening habits go. As someone of a certain age who started buying vinyl in the 70s and never stopped…now with my own temperature-controlled offsite storage vault…literally thousands of 45s and LPs–and a good chunk of 78s to boot–all genres welcome!

So I tend to wander over there every once in a while and grab different things to bring back to the house to revisit–typically they have to do with a common thematic vibe–like I wanna make an all vinyl 60s hillbilly guitar mix or something..etc. Most recently I’ve been checking out a lot of late 60s brit psych-pop stuff–mostly 45s–not sure what that has to do with the crazy times we’re in, but some of it is definitely some pretty crazy shit, so maybe that’s the connection?

Go check out “Dance With the Man in the Teapot” by J.A. Freedman to see what I mean.


HA:  What is the role of live music in our culture?

AC:  Well, certainly nothing like the kind of artistic and social impact music had in the late 50s through the 60s to late 70s.

Sadly, for most folks these days music seems to be pretty much just another consumable entertainment option.

Don’t get me wrong…there is definitely important music being made today–and I know plenty of serious music geeks.

Just that generally speaking it has less of an impact on most of our lifestyles and mindsets.


HA:  I’ve always felt that people similarly dive into the interests of music and beer.  Do you feel music and beer poke similar parts of the brain?

AC:  Years ago we started hosting occasional after-shows for bands we really like, and often out of convenience they would take place backstage at the venues they’d just performed in. One thing all these gatherings had in common is that they’ve each featured a selection of beers from a specific local brewery.

For example on the recent run of Wilco dates at the Chicago Theatre we had Off Color, Half Acre, and Dovetail each host a night….though we did cheat a bit on the 4th show and did a cross-section of various Belgians, but that was an outlier.

Let me just put it this way, good beer makes bands happy…and it’s also really interesting to see how sophisticated most music fans and artist have gotten as far as what they want to drink–requests for “good local beer” are definitely on more artist riders now than they’ve ever been, and we’re happy to oblige.


HA:  You’ve seen a lot of live music, more than most.  If you could offer up one show to those reading this, either from your past of your own creation, what would it be?

AC:  Otis Rush is, in my opinion, the greatest Chicago blues guitarist ever–the singles he cut for Chicago-based Cobra Records in the late 50s are the stuff of legend–some of the greatest raw Chicago blues you’ll ever hear–tracks that heavily inspired the then-teenaged Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, and scores of others who would go on to lead some of the biggest rock bands in the world.

In fact, Otis-inspired riffs were all over some of their early recordings. Yet like a lot of older blues dudes that provided inspiration to a huge wave of late 60s/early 70s rockers, Otis never got what he so richly deserved–not even close.

So for question #5, I’d like to share my experience of getting to work with Mr. Rush on two occasions, both to this day still among the personal highlights of my career—-going with the short versions because I could go on for quite a while here.

First up, Pearl Jam is looking to play Soldier Field in 1995.

I had met the guys a few years earlier and we had a good rapport. So I get hired to produce the show and one day Eddie calls me at the office and wants to talk about who we can get to open the show that would put a cool Chicago-spin on things. So I bring up Otis with a horn section, and he loves it so we do it.

I still remember the band and I watching parts of his set from the side of the stage, and how we were all just so damn happy we did it…seeing kids body-surfing to old school Chicago blues was just nuts, to the point where Eddie suggested we had to go thank Otis in person and we did–still unclear if he had any idea who either of us was, and why should he! 

Fast forward a couple of years and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are playing the United Center and their opening act has to drop off the date at the last minute–I get the call from their tour manager and suggest Otis w/ horns (again!) and I hear a couple of English guys in the background discussing the idea and then it’s on–let’s do it.

Otis was awesome, and fun fact–his Cobra Records version of “I Can’t Quit You Babe” is actually covered on Led Zep 1! And after the show, I get to see Jimmy and Robert telling Otis how much they dig him–whew–book of life stuff.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this I just want to say I did this little Q & A because my friend Gabriel asked me to, so if it blew then it’s on him!

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