West Side native Avery R. Young and his music collective de deacon board performed at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Ave. in West Garfield Park, on Sept. 14 and transformed the botanical cathedral into a foot-stomping Baptist church.
Wearing a white robe, leather jeans, black ankle boots and a black Faaji hat, Young delivered his signature sound, which he describes as “Sousfunk.” Sous is a delicacy made of hog head cheese, which includes “every part of a hog’s head,” Young said.
“My music is everything from the rooty to the tooty,” he said. “It’s the church, blues and rock.”
Young, who grew up in Austin on North Avenue and Central, said the West Side heavily influenced his music.
“When I was growing up on the West Side, it was saturated with Blackness,” he said. “The West Side gave me a concentration of Black voice—from the church to the houses, the juke joints, the liquor stores, the girls playing double-dutch on the corner, the boys hanging and talking, cars going by with a booming system. I grew up around Black folk. I’ve stored these things in my brain and incorporated them into my music.”
Young grew up attending Sunny Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Thomas and Parkside in Austin. During his Sept. 14 performance, he recreated the emotional call and response environment that would have been a staple of his Sunday worship experience.
“Church is the first place I learned to engage people,” Young said. “So, I carry what church taught me into my performance. The minister is the first spoken word artist I’d ever encountered. The minister’s job is to retell stories, to conjure a transformation into the spirit realm. And that’s not just about language.”
Young, who is also a poet and spoken word artist, transported his Garfield Park Conservatory back into the local past with songs like “Senate Theatre,” which is named after a grand movie palace once located at 3128 W. Madison St. in Garfield Park. The facility opened in 1921 and was torn down in 1976.
Young’s latest body of work is what he calls Sound Monuments, or “musical compositions that resurrect buildings that were damaged and destroyed during the riots that followed Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968.
“A lot of what we see on Kedzie, in East Garfield Park and even the Lawndale neighborhood are buildings or lots that have never been rebuilt,” Young said. “I am building a thing that nothing can destroy and that’s song. Nothing can destroy songs. Although people can stop playing them, they can’t destroy the vibration.”