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ArtNight Feature Story

Ben Arguelles

Before you meet Ben at the January 6th ArtNight, we have a primer for you with highlights from an interview Jared Hochberg (ArtNight founder) and Mitchell Trachtenberg (former editor-in-chief of the Chicago Machine) did last month. 


10 years ago, Ben had a task: To set up, run, and clean up a music festival in his parents’ suburban backyard, all in 2 days before they got home.


Ben had few resources, knew few bands, knew nothing about city codes and whether or not a giant music fest is even allowed in a suburban backyard...


Family first

You can’t talk to Ben about this stuff without him coming back to talking about his Dad, Grandpa, Uncle, and Aunt.


We asked Ben how he got his start in music, and wound up hearing story upon story about his family before even learning that he started playing guitar when he was 14. 


The first thing he did was tell us a story about how in the 70s, his Dad would record songs one at a time onto a reel-to-reel, bring that reel to a party, and play it on a machine. The original playlist.


Next we learned how growing up he was constantly doing all sorts of projects with his Uncle and his Dad. Repairing the roof on his house, working with light fixtures, everything you can imagine. 


It’s these skills, and this hard working “get it done yourself” attitude that formed the bedrock of what was to come. 

Founder and Director DZ Fest, the DIY Chicago Music Festival, DZ Records, Professor at ISU.
Ben, smiling. Traditionally dressed for a chilly Chicagoan.
Ben's family. He had his first of 3 kids when he was......just kidding he's one of the little kids in this
Ben hustling
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I bet they were happy that one really muscular guy in the picture showed up.

Music next:

Ben was a union worker, doing working class jobs as his family had done before him. He was always passionate about music and recording music, and in spite of the confusion and skepticism of those around him, started to invest more and more time into that pursuit.


Around the age of 17 he had the idea of putting on a music fest and from there was a ricochet of idea after idea until he put on his first festival at the age of 22.


He went for a jog, saw someone was throwing out the deck from their pool. Got the wood, and used that to build the first DZ Fest stage. 


Ben then took wood from fallen trees in his yard and built the steps to the stage. The painting curtain from when he used to paint his house became the banner for the fest. 


The people around the neighborhood all knew his family who had been there for 70 years and he had a reputation of being helpful, kind, and always picking up after himself. 


10 Years Later:

DZ Fest 2022 had: 40 bands, 40 artists, local food vendors, and porta-potties. 

Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and Riot Fest are not DZ Fest

Comparing DZ Fest to Lollapalooza is like comparing your Grandma’s homemade Chicken noodle soup while you’re sick, to Campbell’s Canned Soup.


When you walk into Ben’s home you see art. And I mean art dripping from every corner and crevice of every wall that had all been made for DZ Fests. 


If you want the chance to make friends and be part of something homemade, grassroots, and bigger than yourself, go to DZ Fest. 


For homemade culture, follow Ben.

Ben is someone who had a vision and dream that he made come to life.


And he keeps doing this year after year, spinning new dreams and fantasies into reality, and assembling an epic team to help him do this. 


You can trust that ethos of family, community, and warmth will be there in whatever he embarks on. That’s why so many people are excited to be part of whatever is next.


DZ Records

This is our Chicago version of Tiny Desk Concerts. Ben has been prolifically filming and recording bands for the past 10 years under his brand DZ Records.


Ben films, records, and edits them entirely as a one-person show. What’s cool about this is if you like the music there is a good chance they are local and you can go to one of their shows!


Trick the algorithm into showing you something that actually feeds your soul: Subscribe to his YouTube channel:


What does "DZ" stand for?

You have to come to the Jan 6 ArtNight to find out :) HAHA


Follow Ben here:


Bring it on, haters

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Much of the art in Ben's home had been custom made for DZ Fest

A job well done.

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