It’s been “Red Summer” for over a hundred years. While the term “Red Summer” typically refers to the race-driven violence in the Summer of 1919 across the United States, its repercussions, its vocabulary can be felt or heard on every corner of every street. In Chicago, it has a special significance, as Chicago was one of two catalysts for that era’s violence, exploded by invisible racial borders along the South Side, a phenomenon that exists today, constantly considered by long-running gospel industrial band ONO.
ONO bandleader P Michael Grego and frontperson travis had met before 1980, sharing a love for written and spoken word, the transcendent, and the genuine. Through continual poking and prodding, P Michael convinced travis to join him in ONO, the name coming from shortening “onomatopoeia,” and underscoring a desire to create “noise not music.” P Michael would handle the audio. travis the words. Since January 5, 1980, ONO’s roster has changed drastically, but always fiercely defended a singular construct: “The ONO STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Experimental Performance, NOISE, and Industrial Poetry Performance Band; Exploring Gospel's Darkest Conflicts, Tragedies and Premises.”
ONO began Red Summer in 2015 and finished three years later. It is a record about Chicago, racial violence, and the long arm of history, starting with events as distant - and relevant - as 1619, the year the Dutch ship Pearl filled with African slaves appeared on the American East Coast.
Though Red Summer is named after a specific era, it explodes temporal constraints, necessarily so. As is made clear in books like Claire Hartfield’s A Few Red Drops and Cameron McWhirter’s Red Summer, these things are hard to bookend. Racial violence occurred before the Red Summer, and it is still occuring now - systemically, to boot.
We hope that this record instills a need to learn, to study, and functions as an inlet into something much bigger.
- Jordan Reyes