When Kenn Goodman was enrolled as an art major at Northern Illinois University in 1984, he and roommate Rick Mosher figured it’d be a sound plan for them to form their own independent record label — expressly to put out vinyl discs and cassettes by their brash guitar-pop band, the Service.
Nearly four decades later, Pravda Records is among Chicago’s longest-running, most indefatigable indie imprints. Sporting a multi-artist, multi-genre talent roster and a voluminous library of titles, the label celebrates its 38th year of continuous music June 24-25 with PravdaFest, an outdoor celebration on the grounds of Skokie microbrewery Sketchbook Brewing Co.
“People are asking me, ‘What’s with this 38th?’” Goodman noted with a laugh. “Well, we’d planned to do the 35th — but it was sidelined by the pandemic. And we don’t want to wait till it’s 40. So, Pravda 38. We like the sound of that.
“[And] What’s a music fest without beer?” Goodman asked rhetorically, noting that Sketchbook will unveil its all-new brew, Pravda 38 — characterized as an “indie-rock lager” — at the anniversary festival.
Pravda’s longtime art director Sheila Sachs, who met Goodman at NIU in the mid-’80s and has worked with him ever since, crafted an intricate, organic design for the can label. It incorporates the names of the 37 artists who have recorded for Pravda.
Eight of those artists, spanning the label’s impressive timeline, are set to perform at the festival; four different bands per night. Venerable punk-fueled brother act the Slugs, Pravda’s second signing after the Service, are reuniting for the occasion, as is the Service.
Josh Caterer, idiosyncratic crooner of ’90s lounge-punk combo the Smoking Popes, fronts his own band (which, according to Goodman, dishes up plenty of Popes amid punched-up vintage standards like “My Funny Valentine” and “At Last”). Caterer tops the bill on Friday night. And Goodman’s “brand-new signing,” the Handcuffs, will be showcasing the provocative, gritty glam-punk of their just-released second album, “Burn the Rails,” which is the Chicago quintet’s first full-length for Pravda.
“Putting music out is always exciting, always something to look forward to,” Goodman said, reflecting, “When I started the label, I was 22 years old, really just figuring life out. It became a way of life for me – and I’m lucky, because I love it. There isn’t anything else I can think of that I would have rather done that lasts 38 years.”
From the outset, according to Joe Shanahan, founder of premier live music venue Metro Chicago, “Kenn and Rick had a basic understanding of DIY, bonding together the elements of the ecosystem that’s so important to the lifeblood of indie music.”
Beginning in 1986, Metro’s lobby housed Pravda’s newest venture: an actual physical record store whose entire inventory was of independent provenance: recordings, t-shirts, additional music merchandise.
Artists playing the Wrigleyville concert venue would make pre-show appearances at the Pravda store, which also served as Metro’s ticket office, and then everyone would hang out there post-show until they closed up shop at 2 a.m.
“Kenn and Rick were stewards of the message that the indie spirit clearly had a home in Chicago,” Shanahan stressed….