ECC musicians of the Chicago underground music scene

“There’s nowhere else for $10 that you can go see four amazing bands and have an amazing three hours.”

Matt Brady, Photo Editor


On a cold and icy February night in the orange-lit neighborhood of Roscoe Village, Chicago, 18-year-old Frankie Gotter sits in the green room of Beat Kitchen having a crippling panic attack. 

Staring at the walls in an anxious haze, which are coincidentally and comedically painted green, Gotter’s mind becomes a whirlwind battleground of self-sabotage and hateful doubt.

Is my guitar even going to stay in tune?

Do I even know the songs?

How am I supposed to act on stage?

Stinking of frozen beef and the salty taste of hot sweat, the room begins to close in on him as his anxiety takes hold.

“Gotter, you’re up.”

As if the feelings of confining worry never happened, Gotter shakes off the blues, gets on stage and joins the band to put on what would be their biggest and most energetic show to date.

Frankie Gotter

First-year ECC student Frankie Gotter is one of two guitarists in the fiery alternative rock band Broken Demeanor. 

Apart from Gotter, the band consists of lead singer Damian H. Quijas, drummer Marz Quilapio, guitarist Jesse Rodriguez and bassist Grant Potter.

Growing up in the rural town of Gilberts, Gotter’s earliest memory of being exposed to music was through listening to AC/DC with his parents and the video game “Rock Band,” using the smooth guitar-shaped controller to rock out to classic songs, mashing the colored buttons that functioned as a fretboard. 

Later on, he would find influence through “Hot Topic” bands such as the flannel-clad grunge legends Nirvana and the pop-punk powerhouse Green Day. 

“It was something that a lot of kids didn’t really listen to,” Gotter said. “It’s kind of like an elitist feeling that comes with it, I guess, to be the only kid in the sixth grade who’s wearing the American Idiot t-shirt…”

Even though he plays guitar in Broken Demanor, Gotter is primarily a bass player and picked up the instrument at 13, saying that it seemed easier, comparing the beefiness of bass strings to the smooth, metallic slink of guitar strings. 

According to Gotter, the first couple of months of practicing a new instrument were rough and mediocre, as he tried to make sense of an object completely foreign to any of his proficient muscle memory at the time. 

“[I was] trying to play things that I definitely should not have been trying to play, like overreaching where I truly was,” Gotter said. “[For example], trying to learn a crazy Rancid bassline when I could barely play ‘Seven Nation Army.’”

Around the same time as picking up the bass, he began to fiddle around with the guitar as well, stating that he actually had a guitar before a bass and that he would practice both instruments by learning the bassline of a song and then learning the guitar part to sonically complement it. 

“Bass is a little bit more forgiving I feel like, so I definitely became a better bass player than a guitar player,” Gotter said. “I started to focus more attention on the bass and it definitely has influenced how I look at and play the guitar.”

Following the brightly-lit path that any ambitious musician must follow, Gotter ventured out from solo bedroom practices to jam sessions with fellow musicians, one of which included his future band member and friend, Jesse Rodriguez, who Gotter has gone to school with since middle and high school.

“The first time [I actually jammed with someone] was with a kid named Roeby and Jesse. Roeby was playing guitar, I was playing bass and Jesse was playing drums, and it was just an absolute mess.”

Broken Demeanor was already a full-fledged unit when Gotter first met everyone in the band.

“…I bummed a ride with Jesse to the Bookclub show [that Broken Demanor] played at [along] with Atheena, Scam Likely and Rigby; that was when I was formally introduced to everyone. We were hanging out at Damian’s house and he was doing the rough vocals for ‘Revenge.’ I was just sitting there, he started screaming and I was like, ‘Okay, was not expecting that.’”

After being formally introduced to the band, Broken Demeanor posted an ad on their social media putting the call out for a possible second guitarist, which prompted Gotter to eagerly jump at the opportunity.

After Gotter had attended many loud and intense practice sessions, he was “put on trial” for the first couple of shows, eventually becoming an official member as of last month after the band’s show at the DIY venue Streamwood Basement.

Stage fright haunts any musician, new and old, and Gotter was no exception. 

Gotter’s first show with the band was at Beat Kitchen, a restaurant and bar with an intimate concert venue in the back, not to mention bigger than a normal DIY basement show.

“They really just threw me into the deep end,” Gotter said. “I was incredibly terrified…. I was only playing the last second half of the set, so [when] they finished the first half, I got on stage, put on my guitar and decided to headbutt the wall a couple of times for an energy release. The rest of [the show seemed] like a blur.”

Playing live to Gotter is an experience, being able to see people’s faces and reactions when his band rips into a thrashing, stage-diving song. 

He explained further that playing live is a heartwarming experience and functions as a pick-me-up for when things don’t turn out well.

“I can’t describe [the feeling behind playing live],” Gotter said. “It’s almost euphoric [and] such an energy release to know that I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to do with some of the coolest people in the world- for the coolest people in the world.”

Beyond the sea of heads in a mosh-pitting crowd, Gotter hopes to become a teacher with a primary focus on special education, transitioning from the grimy-lit stage to a paint-splattered classroom.

Not only is Gotter in a band and attends school with the intent of a promising career, but he also works at an after-school program at the YMCA and helps put on their summer camp. 

“It’s really weird,” Gotter said in terms of balancing the contrasting activities and obligations in his life. “Broken Demeanor went on a little weekend tour; so I went to class, got out of class, packed up the van and went to Minnesota. It’s a weird dynamic… [For most people], it’s either work and band or school and band; it’s not school, work and band, so it’s definitely something I’ve had to learn how to [do], but I feel like I’ve learned a pretty good balance with everything.”

Supportive of his determined drive in Broken Demanor, Gotter’s parents are adamant about him not dropping out and want him to pursue a career that would compensate him with a stable income and future. 

“I love to joke about [dropping out] with them, but as long as I’m making the correct life choices, they’re cool with it,” he said. 

The DIY music of Chicago and its suburbs is a special thing to Gotter, who said there’s no reason not to get into the scene and there’s nowhere else for $10 someone can see four amazing bands and have an amazing three hours. 

“There are so many people [in the scene] and it’s so nice to start recognizing faces,” Gotter said. “….Even if you don’t know someone’s name, you start to know who they are, like, ‘Oh, that’s the kid who’s gonna mosh to a shoegaze set,’ or, ‘That’s the kid who crowd kills’… There’s an overwhelming sense of community and compassion; anytime someone falls, you always get picked up.”

Jesse Rodriguez

Not only is 18-year-old Jesse Rodriguez Frankie Gotter’s guitar counterpart in Broken Demeanor, but he is also a first-year student at ECC.

Growing up in Hampshire, Rodriguez was first exposed to music by playing cello in the 5th grade.

“I played the cello all the way through middle and high school, but halfway through middle school, I picked up guitar,” Rodriguez said. “It took a couple of years to get out of just learning basic riffs and stuff, but probably around COVID was when I started to get some skill with it and just learn all I could.”

Rodriguez draws influence from the wide spectrum of bands, specifically alternative music, including the thrash of Metallica, a post-grunge flavor of Foo Fighters and the nu-metal of Slipknot.

“[I think a lot of the music in the Chicago music scene] is fueled by anger, which is the basis of a lot of punk rock music, you know; people are mad at somebody,” Rodriguez said. “For me, [my influences are] a way to be unique; not many people listen to alternative music, and even fewer people are actually able to express that…. I don’t care what anybody else listens to, but this is what I like.”

The possibility of playing guitar was first presented to him through his longtime friend, Jake, who, along with his dad, had amassed a guitar collection that piqued Rodriguez’s interest. 

“[Jake] would occasionally bring a guitar into school and play it on his lunch period, and I was like, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool,’” Rodriguez said. “That’s what got a guitar into my hands…”

After finally acquiring a guitar, Rodriguez committed to the instrument and began to practice tirelessly, admitting that the first couple of months seemed to drag. 

“[In the beginning], I would just learn a riff of a song, like, ‘Enter Sandman,’… that awesome intro riff and that was it; that was the only part of the song,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t until after I had discovered different techniques after a couple of years of playing that I was able to learn an entire song all the way through.”

Through the sound of his stylistically-varying influences, Rodriguez was able to smoothly hand-craft his unique style of guitar playing, stating that his guitar solo construction derives from Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and the punk rock-esque playing of Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl greatly impacts his rhythm playing.

In 2020, when COVID-19 first struck and chased students and workers into their homes for an anxious, indefinite period, Rodriguez took advantage of the copious amount of time that was unexpectedly thrust into his hands and channeled it into getting more proficient at his instrument.

Through his rigorous practice schedule of playing hours at a time, he was able to grasp what the guitar truly is, stating that he began “modding” his instrument, swapping out pickguards, tuners, bridges, and pickups- physical parts of a guitar that determine how the instrument looks and sounds. 

Ambition toward a particular area of life gives someone the strength and energy to keep going, but once burnout sets in, it can be hard to see clearly again, which became no stranger to Rodriguez in his guitar journey. 

“I was obsessed with watching Metallica play live, so every time I would see [one of their videos], I would watch them religiously and get motivated to pick up the guitar,” he reflected. “That was really instrumental in me keeping the motivation up, because it is hard.” 

Rodriguez was not the first guitarist in Broken Demeanor, but when he first saw them live, he felt like the band spoke to him on a musical and emotional level. 

“…The first time I had seen any punk rock show was in January 2022. It was in [a basement in Streamwood] and it was the first time I had seen Broken Demeanor,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t get to see too much of their show because I was toward the back, but I heard a lot of their sound and I was like, ‘This is something different;’ They’re a little bit more intricate than a lot of punk bands. I think they were going for a different sound at the time, I mean we still are, but this [was] something different.”

Similar to how Frankie Gotter joined the band, Quijas put an ad out on the Broken Demeanor Instagram and Facebook asking for a new guitarist and bassist. Eager to get the part, Rodriguez instantly jumped at the opportunity, recording a video of himself playing guitar to show off his chops and sent it to the band.

“I later learned that nobody had done that, so I was really surprised,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, Broken Demeanor isn’t the biggest band in the scene, but people know them. I talked to Damian for a while and he said, ‘We’ve had a couple of other people send in DM’s, but you’re our top pick right now because you sent in a video.’”

Even though Rodriguez felt competent on his instrument and knew most of Broken Demeanor’s discography by ear, he was overwhelmed by the fact that his dream was becoming very real, very fast.

According to Rodriguez, the first couple of practices with the band were nerve-racking, stating that it was a big step to go from playing in his basement by himself for five-plus years to actually playing with a full-fledged band that he had never known before.

“As I was confirmed into the band over the next couple of practices, it became less and less strenuous, but the beginning couple of practices, it was a whole different world,” Rodriguez said. 

Playing live for the first time with Broken Demeanor was an experience like no other for Rodriguez, stating that his first show with the band was in Ohio. 

“It was June 11 and that was originally supposed to be the day of my graduation party, but we moved it back and it was fine,” Rodriguez said. “We left Chicago and it was a 7-hour drive.” 

As any parent would- along with the fact that Rodriguez had not known the band for that long before the Ohio show- his mother was skeptical and insisted he bring his older brother along.

“I was a little nervous to ask the band, because, you know, I’m the new guy! Why the f— am I bringing somebody?” Rodriguez said. 

Split up into two cars, the band- along with Rodriguez’s brother and the roadies- made the tedious seven-hour trek to Ohio, arrived a couple of hours before the show, checked into their hotel, then got Chipotle.

“We got to the venue and it was a house,” Rodriguez said. “That’s not uncommon, but it was the University of Akron in the summertime, so nobody was there. I know basement shows aren’t the cleanest venues, but this was a murder basement. I don’t man, some shit had gone down there; there was a hole in the middle of the floor for a drainage pipe, the entire thing sloped inwards, so the drumkit was angled down, and it was really, really small; an insanely small space.”

According to Rodriguez, even though the musically-diverse crowd of 12 people was mostly unenthused about their music, he still wouldn’t have asked for a better first show.

“Financially was it worth it? No,” he said. “But being able to travel with these people and learn more about them and finally play a show with them was a magical moment.”

To Rodriguez, the fact that the band puts on an incredibly enjoyable show is more impactful than missing a couple of notes and possibly playing a part of the song incorrectly.

“I can headbang or throw myself around as much as I want, but it never feels like enough,” Rodriguez said. “Even when [we play] our song, ‘Revenge,’ [specifically] that insane part towards the end, I can be on the floor spinning in circles, and [I still feel] like I need to break something.”

Right now, Rodriguez is a criminal justice major, intending to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“I’ve always been interested in law enforcement,” Rodriguez said. “Going to ECC and getting my associates degree is the backup plan; music is a really hard industry, and not everyone makes it, especially with so many bands in Chicago. It’s hard to quantify how many bands around the world are trying to make it; it’s in the million, it has to be.”

To add to his already hectic schedule of playing shows, practicing and school work, Rodriguez works as a mover at Advantage Moving and Storage, and there’s no doubt that he feels the weight of having numerous mental reminders throughout his day. 

“It’s f—ing hard man,” Rodriguez said with a laugh. “It’s a little easier because my dad happens to work at the same company, so I see him a couple of times a day, but a lot of nights, I’m home late or out doing stuff. My family hardly ever sees me, and they tell me. They [ask], ‘You gonna be home tonight,’ and I’m like, ‘Nope.’”

For all the things going on in his life, Rodriguez’s parents have never left his side, stating that he doesn’t give enough credit for how much they support him and how much of a weird dynamic it is now from before he was in a band to now being in a band.

“If I have something to do with the band, [my parents say] it’s no big deal, go do whatever you want,” Rodriguez said. “I think it opened their eyes to [the fact] that I’m an adult now and I can make my own decisions. It used to be, ‘Oh, I’m going out with friends [to] Chicago,’ and they would ask, ‘Ok. Who’re you going with? What time are you going to be back?’ But now it’s, ‘I’m going to Minnesota then Champaign the next day,’ and now they just say, ‘Ok.’” 

Rodriguez believes that the DIY music of Chicago and its suburbs is incredibly nurturing, stating that it’s a safe space for anyone who wants to go, not to just be exposed to music and art, but also to meet new people, relax, unwind and hang out.

Because of everything that has happened in such a short time span in his life, Rodriguez says his bandmates have become his best friends and believes that the sense of community and safeness in the DIY scene is much needed in the mainstream.

“…There’s [a] real sense of individuality, you know; to be your own person, and that also comes along with the punk mentality,” Rodriguez said. “Coming from Hampshire, I was welcomed into the scene as much as anybody…. It’s something more than just the music; it’s the atmosphere, it’s everybody mosh-pitting [and] letting out emotion; I guess that’s a way to describe it.”

Fred Mason

Straying away from the alternative rock flare of Foo Fighters, sitting on the far end of the musical spectrum is Fred Mason, a 20-year-old punk-rocker and first-year ECC student from Genoa, IL. 

With his long, shaggy turquoise-dyed hair, shiny earrings hanging from his left ear and multi-colored tattoos running up both of his arms, he is the drummer of punk bands Satin Black and Nightfreak.

“I wasn’t huge into music when I was a kid,” Mason admitted. “I was like everyone else; I just listened to it now and then, but in 5th grade, I got a trumpet for band class. That was my first exposure to actually playing music.”

After realizing the trumpet wasn’t his calling, he quickly swapped in the shiny instrument for a pair of cracked wooden drumsticks.

“So I [played drums] the next year [after trumpet] and from there, music just kept catching my interest in different ways, through finding new bands or joining jazz band once I got to high school,” Mason said. “I played drumset in jazz band [all] four years of high school. I pretty much did everything I could with band: marching band, jazz band, pit orchestra [and] I even did drama for a bit.”

To Mason, there was no intricate or specific reason for deciding to pick up a pair of sticks. To him, they just looked cool.

“You know when you’re in fifth grade and they ask, ‘Hey, do you wanna play drums,’ obviously you think of playing the drumkit and rock music, but it’s not like that at all; it’s pretty boring, but I stuck with it.”

Mason took solace in the angst-ridden pop-punk of Green Day and Blink-182 to clinging onto the speed and aggression of the intense hardcore punk rock of Misfits and Black Flag.

“The first time I listened to Misfits I was terrified,” Mason said. “I remember watching a music video for them and it actually scared me; I didn’t wanna watch it again, [but when I was a bit older], I remember [coming back to it] and that fear turned into being intrigued. I was like, ‘This is scary and dangerous, but I’m liking it now.’”

According to Mason, the attitude of the genre hit him on an emotional level, which helped draw him further and further into the world of punk rock. 

“I guess you could say that I was more of a rebellious kid,” Mason said.

Mason first met his Satin Black band members- bassist Thomas Guzy and guitarist Sebastian Acevedo- in high school jazz band and things took off from there.

“We would just show up beforehand and just play whatever, like AC DC or whatever we had up our sleeves,” Mason said. “We formed Satin Black, then known as Diamond Back, and it was just an excuse to jam even more with the same guys.”

According to Mason, the first Satin Black practices were nothing shocking; just three dudes sitting in a room, throwing ideas out into the air until something would stick.

“…The early Satin Black practices were funny because it’s when we were first trying to… learn songs and… write them [too], so [there were] definitely interesting ideas thrown out everywhere that were terrible… ideas for songs and covers to do.”

Over the years, not much of the band’s practice routine has changed. Mason stated that the ideas have just gotten a little bit better.

The first time Satin Black played live with other bands was at Fargo Skatepark in DeKalb, back when the band was still doing covers and trying to learn the ropes of band chemistry.

According to Mason, the gig was a stark contrast from any live show they had played before.

“…We played the skatepark and it was the first time we actually played with other bands that played similar music and it was just cool, you know,” Mason reflected. “[We] actually felt like [we] were playing a show, like [we weren’t] playing the local pool with kids running and swimming; [we] were playing at a skatepark with people skating and it [was] loud as hell. It was a lot of fun.”

At a certain point in the band’s life, things went still for a little while due to conflicting personal obligations getting in the way of creative endeavors, which prompted Mason to find someplace to continue his drumming journey.

According to Mason, the first time he heard of Nightfreak was on a Darkroom flyer, another DIY venue located in South Elgin.

“…I remember listening to their music and thinking [that it was] pretty sick,” Mason said. “…I was looking for a band with the perfect blend of punk rock and metal, and they definitely nailed it… I saw that Nightfreak was looking for a new drummer and I thought this might be my new opportunity, so I auditioned, they liked me and now I’m here.”

Watching a musician play live is a magical opportunity to witness, prompting any audience member to wonder what is going through the head of the musician. For Mason, nothing goes on.

“You’re in this weird state where you’re pushing yourself beyond your own limits,” Mason said. “…There’s a lot of times where I have to play faster than I feel like I physically can and it gets to the point where you feel like… you’re almost over the line of where you can go, but your brain doesn’t care.”

It’s impossible for Mason not to go wild while he drums live, stating that it’s hard to sit still because of the type of insanely energetic music he plays.

Not straying away from the colorful brick road of art, Mason is currently going to school for graphic design, which caught his eye after discovering that he had a knack for designing DIY concert flyers and his band’s stickers and shirts.

“I thought I would like to do music as a full-time career in some way,” Mason said. “I’ve talked to people who do it and what they’re doing is not the thing I’m looking for, which is totally cool.”

Mason stated that it’s difficult to maintain a sane way to balance everything in his life.

“…School takes up a lot of time [and] the band takes up a lot of time,” Mason said. “You wouldn’t really think that it takes up a lot of time, but there’s a lot of stuff you have to do… I have to make time for relationships, whether it be family or my girlfriend or whatever; it’s like a balancing act sometimes, and a lot of times you don’t figure it out and it [can] blow up in your face.”

Short-term and long-term goals have already been set up by Mason in varying aspects of his life.

“I guess with graphic design, I would like to at least have some sort of steady income, whether it be some sort of design job or freelance,” Mason said. “A goal of mine is to start a clothing line; nothing crazy, just selling some shirts on Instagram that I made; I love making shirts [and] it’s something I would like to make money at.”

With many things that he hopes to achieve, his musical life never strays from his mind; Mason articulated that if his bands break up in the future, as long as they still have a positive relationship and still get together to have jam sessions and make some noise, it’s good enough for him.

Mason’s outlook on the DIY music scene in Chicago and its suburbs is as similar to Gotter and Rodriguez as anyone else who attends a concert.

“I think it’s an experience that everyone should try because I know people who have no interest in punk rock or heavy metal or whatever and they’ll go to a show and be like, ‘This was wild,'” Mason said. “You don’t get to see something like this very often… You have people that are really just doing it to do it; they have no ulterior motives behind them.. They’re doing it just because they love to do it.”