What is Transistor?
It's a shop and gallery, with work and wares from 100+ artists, many based in Chicago. It's a recording space and screening room, with live music, movie nights, and a webcast. Time Out Chicago likens Transistor to 'your coolest friend's apartment ... and just like that apartment, you'll want to hang out here a lot.' If you're in Chicago, we'd love to see you; as of May 5, 2016, we're open in the Andersonville neighborhood, 5224 N. Clark Street. (The Broadway location is now closed.)
The art currently featured in the shop is comprised of prints and photography by more than 80 artists, among them painter Matthew Schommer, digital collage artist Jason Brueck, printmakers Hiroshi Ariyama, Dan Elliott and Dan Grzeca, collagist Beth Hoeckel, mixed media artist Erika Iris, photographers Michael Bullard, Matthew Coglianese, Jordan Cramer, Sean Gallagher, William Harper, Brad Meese, Kent Drake Morien, Ellie Pritts, Trevor Parks, Rafael Rivera and Carl Vogtman, and iPad painter Steve Connell. If you're looking for something to display on your wall or hang on a shelf, check out our collection of wood block art prints from Kevin Lucius (LuciusArt) and Chris Degiso (Dark Island City). Jennifer Burak (Zerobird Studio) offers prints depicting, in corresponding color, the various CTA train lines (Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Red, Orange, Pink, Purple). Duluth-based The Medium Control's 'Drop the Needle' print -- available in various sizes and colors -- is a mainstay at Transistor.
Our books come from art & culture publishers, several university presses, and more. The titles we carry focus primarily on art and design, culture, film and television, media and technology, music and sound, photography and fashion. Some of our best-selling titles over the years have been 'Amusing Ourselves To Death' by Neil Postman, "David Bowie Is," "The Empty Bottle Chicago: 21 Years of Music/Friendly/Dancing," 'Handmade Electronic Music' by Nicolas Collins, 'Just Kids' by Patti Smith, 'R. Crumb's Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country,' 'Thinking With Type' by Ellen Lupton, 'The Wes Anderson Collection' by Matt Zoller Seitz, 'This Is NPR,' 'Bicycle Diaries' by David Byrne, 'The Polaroid Book' by Taschen, 'Art & Fear' by David Bayles and Ted Orland, and "Yes Please" by Amy Poehler.
Our record selection consists mostly of indie rock, classic rock and electronica -- new releases and reissues, all on vinyl. Adele, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Atlas Sound, The Beach Boys, Beach House, The Beatles, Beastie Boys, Belle & Sebastian, Black Keys, James Blake, Boards of Canada, Bon Iver, Broken Social Scene, Caribou, The Clash, John Coltrane, Daft Punk, Miles Davis, Death Cab For Cutie, Deerhunter, Bob Dylan, Father John Misty, Flaming Lips, Fleet Foxes, Fleetwood Mac, Florence + The Machine, Flying Lotus, Future Islands, Gorillaz, Grizzly Bear, PJ Harvey, The Head and the Heart, Gil Scott-Heron, Interpol, Iron & Wine, Norah Jones, Joy Division, Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem, Led Zeppelin, Low, MGMT, MIA, Mumford & Sons, The National, Of Montreal, Pavement, Pixies, The Postal Service, Radiohead, Real Estate, RJD2, The Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, SBTRKT, The Shins, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Spoon, St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, The Strokes, T. Rex, Talking Heads, Tame Impala, A Tribe Called Quest, Vampire Weekend, Velvet Underground, Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, Kanye West, White Stripes, Wilco, Amy Winehouse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Yo La Tengo and XX are among the popular artists in our collection. Here's a list of our best-selling records of 2015.
The electronics we currently carry include musical instruments, turntables, radios, speakers, and headphones from Artificer Woodworks (Timbrefone handcrafted passive speakers for your phone), Audio Engine (speakers), Audio Technica (turntables), Gramovox (Bluetooth speakers, turntables), House of Marley (headphones), Lexon (radios, speakers), LSTN (headphones, Bluetooth speakers), Music Hall (turntables), Otis & Eleanor (Bluetooth speakers), Outdoor Tech (headphones, Bluetooth speakers), SACKit (Bluetooth speakers and headphones), Stellé Audio Couture (Bluetooth speakers), Tivoli Audio (radios, headphones), U-Turn Audio (turntables), Vifa, among others.
On the handmade side, the Pocket Piano and Bolsa Bass from Critter & Guitari are mainstays, as are the Nebulophone from Bleep Labs, handcrafted sound gadgets from brandnewnoise, and Unatronics' analog sound machines. Transistor also carries handcrafted audio speakers from Andersonville-based Ikyaudio, Jefferson Park-based Starburst Audio, and upcycled suitcase stereo systems from Lakeview-based The HiFi Case.
WEARABLES (T-shirts, jewelry, buttons)
The Medium Control's 'Drop the Needle' T-shirt -- available in various colors and sizes -- is a best-selling item in the store. We carry a number of other designs from the Duluth-based company. We also carry a selection of clever and creative t-shirts from local Flatlander Design Collective and Manhattan-based Busted Tees. Transistor (sometimes) has a T-shirt, produced by custom apparel print shop Lucky Prints (2023 W. Carroll Street).
Most of the jewelry we carry is upcycled and re-purposed; all of it is handmade. Tracey Dobson contributes bracelets and necklaces made of hexagon hardware nuts, under the name Hard Wear; Laurie Freivogel makes fused-glass necklaces under the name Kiku Handmade; Derek Keenan produces earrings and belt buckles from reclaimed skateboards, under the name MuKee Design; Rosamund Lannin offers CTA token necklaces, under the name Wonderwheel; Bethany Nixon (Reware Vintage) contributes earrings made from old records, many of them color and clear vinyl; Anna Soltys creates earrings from discarded leather; and Betsy Siber's Foxglove Accessories produces necklaces and earrings constructed from vintage stamps.
Pop culture and Chicago-themed buttons from Arthur's Plaid Pants (pictured) among our best-selling goods at Transistor; the same can be said of ElSarah's CTA train stop buttons. We also carry a selection of buttons from Chicago-based Busy Beaver Button Co.
Jennifer Burak, working under the name Zerobird Studio, provides pillows depicting, in corresponding color, the various CTA train lines. Rossana Reformado's Chicago-themed coasters and magnets are popular items in the store, as are fused-glass coasters by Laurie Freivogel, who works under the name Kiku Handmade. Our stock of Chicago-themed coasters was recently added to with the work of Dark Island City and Trevor Parks. Pop culture and Chicago-themed magnets from Arthur's Plaid Pants are best-sellers at Transistor.
We also sell multimedia and upcycled lamps; Chicagoans Craighton Berman, Michael Darin, Beau Hale, Michael Jones, Paul Snagel and Patrick Willi contribute these. Transistor's newest lamp contributor is Studio Cheha; based in Tel Aviv, their fun and alluring 2-D lights (pictured) feature laser-engraved clear acrylic glass and hidden LED elements that deceive the eye into thinking that there is a shade. Our 'Record Time' vinyl record clocks are a Transistor exclusive, produced by Andy Miles and Rani Young. Chicago woodworker Joe Wallace produces beautifully crafted 8-inch multi-speed table fans (pictured), under the name Chop Chop Woodshop. The handmade wooden boxes have leather and metal grilles.
CARDS & STATIONERY
Transistor carries letterpress greeting cards (many occasions) from Orange Beautiful, Paper Parasol Press, Survival Press, and Violet Press, and cards and prints from Arthur's Plaid Pants. Bethany Nixon, working under the name Reware Vintage, re-purposes record album covers, and the records themselves, as notebooks, many of them showcasing great releases of '80s New Wave, while Keelan Andrews produces line of notebooks from vintage and reclaimed fabrics, mostly from men's suits, neckties, women's skirts and more; he works under the name Keelan Rogue.
Sometime soon Transistor will resume presenting live performance events; breaking from our Friday night tradition, these will now take place on the third Thursday night of the month. Show time is 8:30 and performances generally run till 10:00 p.m. Typically we present two acts in an evening. We book a wide range of music that includes (but is not limited to) indie rock, electronica, experimental, noise, hip-hop, soul, folk, Americana, jazz, and classical. You can find a rundown of upcoming events here. Our schedule also comes in calendar form.
If you'd like to perform here, you might find this page helpful.
Transistor also hosts regular film screenings, in which a guest curator, often Michael Glover Smith, presents a film and leads a discussion about it afterwards. Other nights we present short and feature-length films made by local and independent film makers. These screenings will soon move from one Saturday night a month to the first Thursday of the month.
Transistor Radio is the webcast of Transistor. Tune in to hear programs featuring indie & archival rock, Americana, electronica, house, tracks from our live performance archive, original sound pieces specially made for Transistor Radio, interview and discussion programs, and more. Check out the latest shows, or visit our archive of all shows.
Transistor's sound man, Jon Monteverde, records almost every live performance at Transistor. Those recordings are available in a streaming archive of more than 300 recorded sets on our Recordings page.
Here's a selection of print and online write-ups of the shop.
Soon after opening in our current location at 3441 N. Broadway, Serena Dai wrote this story for DNAinfo.com. It includes a nice five-photo slideshow, some of the first images published of our Broadway space.
Transistor Solves the Cultural Omnivore's Dilemma
In June 2012 Transistor was featured by the Center Square Journal in what we think is the best article written to date about the shop. The article was written by Patty Wetli, who calls Transistor "a hub for cultural omnivores — both those who consume it and those who produce it."
Biking Lincoln Avenue: A 24-hour trek reveals the return of a great city street
In June 2012 Transistor was featured in a Time Out Chicago story by Jason A. Heidemann. If you read the article you'll have to scroll down and look carefully to find us.
A Look at Transistor: A Bookstore and Then Some
In April 2012 Gapers Block published the first article written about Transistor in our new location at 3819 N. Lincoln Avenue. Reporter Claire Glass wrote, "Visually, the store is as appealing as a well curated art gallery crossed with a thoughtfully decorated apartment."
In July 2011 Transistor was listed by the shopping and style website Racked as one of the 38 Most Essential Shops in Chicago. See the piece.
In April 2011 Chicago weekly newspaper New City included Transistor in its Record Store Day issue. Read the story.
Transistor: An Andersonville Shop for the Art/Book/Music Lover
In April 2011 UpChicago.com, "the insider's guide to urban life," featured Transistor in a very nice article by Molly Tranberg. (Some of the information is now out of date, in part due to our move, but it's an article that we are very happy to have discovered!)
Amplifying Neighborhood Artists in Andersonville, Chicago
From J.F. at Trazzler.com: "Browsing at Transistor is like hanging out in your hippest friend's living room. The owners -- two artists who are as personable as they are enterprising -- have converted their modest storefront into a local mecca for high-end audio gadgets, amateur photography, diverse music selections and community events that range from film showings to software tutorials to live podcasts. It's probably the only shop in the city where you can order an apple juice on a hot summer's day and walk out an hour later with both a hand-crafted lamp and a turntable that converts vinyl to mp3s. It's distinctive, unclassifiable places like this that lend neighborhoods their unique character."
Bookstore Profiles: Transistor
Transistor owners Rani Woolpert and Andy Miles were interviewed by Web publication GapersBlock.com; Amy Ganser wrote the introduction and asked the questions. The piece appeared January 13, 2011.
In Chicago, Village Life in a Big City
Transistor appeared in the Sunday Travel section of The New York Times on October 17, 2010, with a handful of other Andersonville spots. The online version, a slide show with photos by Sally Ryan, was published two days earlier.
Stay and Play Award
In August 2010 Time Out Chicago gave us their Stay and Play award in the Shopping Awards: Critics' Picks section of their online and print editions of August 19-25, 2010. In both a large photo appeared depicting webcast hosts Jeremy Pautz and Sayward Schoonmaker met in a game of Sunday night pingpong.
Tune in to Transistor
Also that month, on January 27th, the Chicago Tribune profiled the shop in a three-quarter-page spread in its Play section, with lovely photographs by Phil Velasquez. The online version of the story (which is no longer available) called Transistor a "unique mix of hangout and shop." Read the story.
Clark Street Retailers See Online Parallels
On January 20, 2010, Northwestern University fashion publication Stitch published a story on its website (and subsequently in print, we've heard) that talked about various Andersonville shops, including ours.
Read the story.
Transistor opens in Andersonville
Soon after we opened, Time Out Chicago ran a short story about Transistor in the Shopping & Style section of their October 22-28, 2009 print and online editions. The piece likened Transistor to "your coolest friend's apartment."
Danielle Echols is a Chicago-based PR specialist who loves producing shows that promote local creatives. Her most recent endeavors include co-creating Can We Kick It Chicago, a brunch that features performances by Chicago hip-hop and soul artists; and serving as the program manager for Collective Voices, Chicago’s Ethnographic Film Festival. In addition to promoting the works of others, she has her own artistic niche: she is a trained belly dancer and SLAM poet competition winner. Daniell can be found hanging out at Transistor most Saturday mornings. You can also hear her voice on Transistor’s webcast, interviewing local creatives as a contributor to Depth of Field.
Andy Miles has written for various publications on the arts, history & culture, made audio documentaries, worked in radio and public television, owned and operated a company specializing in congressional hearing transcripts, and since 2009 owned and managed Transistor. Born near Chicago and currently residing in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, he has also called Madison, Washington, D.C., and Berlin home. He holds a bachelors degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and plays drums in four or five bands.
Jon Monteverde has been doing live sound and recording in-store performances for Transistor since 2012. He is active in honey bunches of music-y, sound-y things around Chicago, including playing in XYZR_KX, Volutes, and Feature Flick; writing and playing in musicals at the Annoyance Theatre; and doing original music and sound design for commercials, documentaries, and Web stuff. Keep tabs on him at www.jonmonteverde.com (and visit the Recordings page to find dozens of sets he has recorded for Transistor).
Rani Young is a Chicago-based artist, musician and designer. The recipient of a 2014 Individual Artist Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Rani works out of her studio at Fulton Street Collective, with her current focus on narrative figurative oil paintings. She has a BFA from Colorado State University and a post-baccalaureate from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2009, Rani co-founded Transistor, from which she curated a weekly music performance series, hosted a radio interview show, and taught fine art and design software classes to hundreds of students; she stepped away from those roles in 2011. Rani is a graphic designer, creating digital signage, print materials and outdoor advertising for Hyatt, Hilton, Omni and other hotel clients. She is also the lead singer in three Chicago bands: Girl Detective, Dreams of Falling and Dream House (the latter a Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute band). Visit Rani’s website.
The photo at the top of the page was taken by Rani Young.