Dec 1, 2021 - Things to Do

Material Issue film premieres Thursday with concert

Guy crowd surfing.
Jim Ellison of Material Issue performing at a Tower Records release party in 1994.  Photo: Philin Phlash, courtesy of Arvonia Films

It's been 30 years since Chicago's Material Issue released its first major-label album "International Pop Overthrow."

Why it matters: The Chicago pop trio was one of the first local bands to sign to a major label in the 1990s, starting a frenzy that saw the rise of Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill and Liz Phair.

On film: "Out of Time: The Material Issue Story" features live performances and interviews with band members, producers, engineers and local luminaries like Metro owner Joe Shanahan.

What they're saying: "Few bands really impacted Chicago as Material Issue did," filmmaker Balin Schneider tells Axios.

  • "The 90's Chicago music scene was this gritty place with a family at the core of it. All these bands were highly competitive but at the end of the day all of them were trying to help each other out - Material Issue were the initiators for this."

How it ended: Material Issue followed up with two more LPs but never matched the success of that first album before frontman Jim Ellison died by suicide in 1996.

  • "Jim Ellison, to me, was one of the best songwriters of his generation," says Schneider. "He wrote three (four if you include the posthumous release) really tremendous albums."

What's next: Catch the film and a live concert by surviving band members Thursday night at Lincoln Hall.

  • More information about the film here.
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