This past summer has been a fantastic one for Chicago’s fans of House music. Between all the festivals (Wavefront, Spring Awakening, House of Sol, Chosen Few, Silver Room Block Party, WestFest), Smirnoff’s Lunch Break series and not to mention the plethora of club events, we are inarguably still the mecca of House.
The city is now taking it a step further with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Wired Fridays, whereby every 1st Friday features House, the 3rd Friday features Juke. And it gets better… this will be going on starting in October for a full 8 months! I spoke briefly with Program Coordinator Chris Chalupsky to find out the impetus behind the House series:
Wired Fridays has been going on for some time now, and just in the past year you’ve decided to focus almost completely on the Chicago bred institute of House. What were some aha moments for you throughout the year that finally said okay, all House!
You know, when the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (DCASE) decided to incorporate DJ’s and electronic music into our lunchtime programming at the Chicago Cultural Center last winter, we recognized that not just House but other forms of dance music – and the DJs that create & play it – needed to be featured as artists, alongside the city’s classical, jazz, blues, etc. artists. As the Wired Fridays series progressed it became evident that the music that went over the best was the material that people recognized and could dance right away too. Since the shows are short (only one hour) it doesn’t leave much time to get the room warmed up or ease people into wanting to dance. You’ve gotta feel it right off the bat. House music does that. But at the end of the day, the decision to program strictly House on each First Friday, wasn’t about grading all the great artists that came through last season, it was about focusing in on what’s unique to our city. As you mentioned, House is native to Chicago, just like urban Blues music. We wanted to spotlight that.
What’s really fascinating to me is that you have given Juke just as much air time…
Again, another original Chicago art form. This one in particular, Juke, deserves to be spotlighted. The Chicago Cultural Center has the ability to host all types of events featuring all kinds of performers. I look forward to Wired Fridays being a hub for Footwork dancers to come to every Third Friday and showcase their art alongside the pioneering music of Juke artists honing their craft right here in the city.
Are you yourself a House fan? Honestly the number one thing that everyone has said to me in the past 8 years is hands down, we miss Summerdance!
I personally am a “song” guy. I believe music should be accessible to as many people as possible and often what that boils down to is good, relatable songs which are well-crafted by great songwriters and producers. Sometimes this viewpoint is critiqued as being too “pop”. I don’t buy into that at all, and so I do enjoy House music. The quickest way to get people’s feet tapping is to start in on a four-on-the-floor kick drum. The department (DCASE) was interested in presenting House music, along with Juke, because they are original Chicago art forms. I’ve heard the Summerdance remarks as well. The good news is we’re increasing the frequency of DJ’s at the summer series. This past summer – our 17th annual – we had a great show with DJ Boolumaster and we’re looking to continue the trend. Wired Fridays is a good venue to showcase House music and the crowds that attend for artists in this genre. So the hope would be if Wired Fridays proves successful at the Cultural Center we can carry that over to SummerDance.
Who makes up majority of your audience at the Wired Friday series? I imagine this is a fantastic way to bring in casual fans of House and making them transition from the Cultural Center to the clubs again.
The audience at the Cultural Center is always diverse. Wired Fridays attracts all ages/races/sex: students, casual lunch goers, tourists, school groups, parents & children, retirees, Loop workers, etc. Being a midday show you get people who just want to dance and move their bodies, you get people who mark it on their calendar when a specific artist is playing, and you get the people who just happen past. Though we have partnered with music venues in the city in the past to bring certain DJs in, it’s more of a side-effect that Wired Fridays may introduce more patrons to the clubs at night. I’m all for that though, and I would think the series would be a great environment to experience House music for the first time. In general, it’s just a good place to come to get your heart rate up a little on your lunch break.
How do you choose your DJs? Who were some of the House DJs you’ve had in the past?
There’s an online application on our website where artists can apply to be considered to perform for many of our programs. I also receive a good amount of referrals from trusted sources. Brian Keigher, who formerly worked for the Department of Cultural Affairs and booked a noon DJ series in Millennium Park a bit ago, was instrumental in providing historical artist background and some introductions. For House music though, there’s really no shortage of worthy high-caliber artists in town and I have a running list which only seems to be getting bigger. Last season we had people like Jesse de la Pena, Nate Manic, Romasoul and Kid Color, to name a few.
I love that there’s been almost a resurgence of daytime House related events brought on such as yours, the Lunch Break Series, the MCA’s First Friday House party. And thank God the city that birthed the sound is championing it! What is it that you’d like to tell our readers out there about what they can expect?
Expect to hear some good music and to move your body in ways you never expected. There’s no booze at these shows so expect to have a great time in a safe environment no matter what your age. Also, it’s the Cultural Center not a museum. We encourage interaction within the space, not stiffness. So dance!
The first event will begin this Friday October 4th with Chosen Few member Alan King at the Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Square/First Floor, 78 East Washington Street in Downtown Chicago. For more info, visit cityofchicago.org/dcase.
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