When Trey Elder launched the nonprofit organization Quiet Pterodactyl with a party at Roscoe Village venue Constellation in late 2019, he had plans to support local musicians and artists by hosting events throughout Chicago. But just a few months later, events like Elder’s Tuesday night all-vinyl Chicago music DJ set at Ludlow Liquors became impossible to hold, as much of the city locked down.
"Within a few weeks, we could tell that the pandemic was not going to end as quickly as everyone had hoped," Elder said, recalling the early months of 2020. "[It was] the time in the last 30 or 40 years when musicians and artists need the most help, so I didn’t want to just sit on my hands and not do anything."
With gatherings out of the question, Elder decided to bring music by Chicagoans into the homes of supporters via a compilation album, entitled Situation Chicago. Featuring 25 artists—including acts like Jeff Tweedy, Girl K, Ric Wilson and White Mystery—Quiet Pterodactyl offered digital downloads of the compilation and released records with the help of local vinyl pressing plant Smashed Plastic. Proceeds from sales of the album were divided between 25 Chicago venues that were forced to close their doors with no sign of reopening in sight.
"When that [album] came out, a lot of people asked 'Is this going to be a series? Will there be another one?' And my reaction a year ago was 'Man, I sure hope not,'" Elder said.
While Chicago has now officially lifted all capacity limits and venues like the Empty Bottle, Thalia Hall and Hideout will host concerts in the coming months, the impacts of more than a year without live music are still being felt. As someone who has spent his career working as a musician, sound technician and talent-buyer, Elder understands that musicians and furloughed venue staff are still in need of assistance after months without steady work.
With those needs in mind, Quiet Pterodactyl assembled Situation Chicago 2 in early 2021, releasing it digitally on May 21. The compilation is a bit smaller this time around, but features many artists that Elder had hoped to include on the first edition, such as singer-songwriter V.V. Lightbody, Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and jam band Umphrey's McGee. This time around, proceeds will benefit the Chicago Independent Venue League's (CIVL) SAVE Emergency Relief Fund, which provides need-based grants to music industry staff, artists and venues.
Thanks to Smashed Plastic, Situation Chicago 2 will also receive a vinyl release just in time for the first Record Store Day drop on Saturday, June 12. Elder's relationship with the local pressing plant allowed the compilation to be moved to the front of the manufacturing line, with records pressed weeks earlier than expected—they'll be in stores throughout the city this weekend and pre-orders have already started shipping.
The success of the Situation Chicago compilations has given way to Quiet Pterodactyl projects outside of Chicago, including an upcoming Situation Seattle album benefitting an organization called SMASH (Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare) and a record that will showcase the local music scene in Bogotá, Colombia. While he's enjoyed creating compilations that give back to venues and musicians, Elder is looking forward to refocusing Quiet Pterodactyl's efforts on in-person events throughout Chicago when the time is right.
"People keep asking us when we’re going to do host events again," Trey said. "And my answer is, 'When all the member of CIVL are open and booking shows, then we’ll fall in line.'"
You can purchase Situation Chicago 2 LPs at the following Chicagoland record stores, beginning on Saturday, June 12.
Dorian's Through the Record Shop
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Mile Long Records
Squeezebox Books & Records