“Most festivals in Chicago are put on by large-scale production companies such as C3 or Jam productions. These are huge corporations that have the manpower and money to put on massive, successful, wonderful events, yet sometimes balk at the DIY ethics that are a staple in the modern music industry. I AM FEST is filling that void!” -Luis Rodriguez, Gapers Block

The original I AM FEST in 2009 was a product of the Chicago Noise Machine, a partnership of nine local Chicago rock bands. It was hosted at the Congress Theater and involved 25 bands playing on two stages. All of the bands involved in the Chicago Noise Machine were acts playing the festival and the other 16 were local acts invited by the partnership.

In 2010, Brian Bender (a former member of the Chicago Noise Machine) chose to take on the project for it’s second year, backed by the Elbo Room. He narrowed down the roster to ten bands; eight established and talented Mid-West bands along two winners of the I AM FEST Battle of the Bands hosted at the Elbo Room. The festival was held at the House of Blues and included performances by Mason’s CaseRyan PowersLaser LoveThe Flavor SaversJack in SpaceBambi Raptor,Kelsey MontanezDigital MindyThe Alaya Conscious, and The Bob Clymers. Local Chicago artists occupied the lobby and sold their work to attendees, and some band members even donned body paint creations by the artists for their set.

The show proved to be a successful one, so for the 2011 year, the Elbo Room was at the House of Blues Chicago for a second year. Two acts returned from 2010′s roster, Mason’s Case and Kelsey Montanez. Other 2011 acts included FinleyKnight,Gunnar & the Grizzly BoysJip JopOn Your MarxWayland, and Workout Music. The two opening bands were the first place winner and runner up in the I AM FEST Battle of the Bands, which was Board of Governors along with Sunshine and the Feel Good Nation.