Growing up in Chicago, I found myself drawn to a few different scenes. Queercore and Riot Grrrl were huge influences but underground house and the loft party scene in Chicago were crucial as well.

It was the music going on in Chicago that drew me to some of it’s gay clubs. I got into Foxy’s on the North Side when I was 15 to see Derrick Carter spin, and I went to see Dajae perform at the black gay clubs on the South Side of this heavily segregated city. At night we’d go to the loft parties at 1355 N Milwaukee and eventually to the events in warehouses put on by the House Preservation Society and various other folks who threw parties. There is some excellent history here on Mark Farina’s site.

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This was House music’s second wave (and arguably it’s creative apex) in the 90’s. Chicago House and Detroit Techno were the name of the game. There were outlaw parties, raves, and loft parties. These were not events sponsored by Red Bull. The loft party scene was my favorite. House music was getting very hard and tracky, albeit still soulful and funky. This was also an aggressively inclusive scene where people pushed to the margins of society were heralded and celebrated, and normies and conformists were mostly “tolerated”. You had your DJ’s/musicians/producers, b-boys and b-girls, sophisticated urban house aficionados, gay kids, trans folks, club kids, and ravers. It was a largely illegal scene. On my 16th bday they broke up a party and loaded us all into paddy wagons and took us to the station to be processed. I was signed out by a friend who was 18. These events, aside from the club spots were not sanctioned, and they happened strictly by word of mouth.

I’m leaving Chicago to move to Oregon this month, and it’s Chicago’s house music that is the musical heritage that I really think about. It’s come as a bit of a surprise to me. I consider myself mostly a punk rocker. I take pride in The Effigies being from Chicago. Or the No Wave scene of the 1990’s happening in Chicago. There are great labels and record stores holding it down here, but as I’m packing records and leaving town I’m most prideful when I look at 12″ singles on the Cajual Records imprint. Or my Steve “Silk” Hurley remix 12″s. R&B was pretty wack in the 90’s. It was extremely popular, overwrought and overproduced. The vocal house coming out of Chicago was extremely funky and often sounded like some raw ass gospel flavored r&b.

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June 22nd at The Metro in Chicago there’s a great show where many of these legends are set to appear. Steve “Silk” Hurley and Cece Peniston have top billing and righfully so. Hurley topped the pop charts in the UK with his cut “Jack Your Body” before concentrating more on the remix/production/artist development side of things. To be fair, while this music is rooted in Chicago and Detroit, it was England that was first to make this sound truly bubble up from the underground, (in part by making it whiter and less gay).

Hurley continued to refine his sound and by the 1990’s it was all over the Top 40 when he was working with Jomanda, CeCe Peniston, and Kym Sims. He can really bend and rework a track to make it a better piece of music. At their worst, remixes seem unnecessary and superfluous. At their best, they become the definitive version of a song. The majors knew Hurley for excelling at the latter, and he can do it without compromising a sound that resonates at the clubs. Labels brought him on to do remixes for Michael Jackson, Mary J Blige, Janet Jackson, and Madonna. Peniston had a slew of chart hits, including US Billboard top 5 with “Finally”. It’s her house cuts with Steve “Silk” Hurley at the helm that really shine.

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Dajae and Cajmere are the pride of underground Chicago house and “You Got Me Up” and “Brighter Days” were crossover hits on pop radio in Chicago in the 90’s. These records are as important in the pantheon of important works in dance music as anything by Giorgio Moroder, Kevin Saunderson, and Kraftwerk. Dajae is also set to appear at Metro on June 22nd. Go hang with these legends and Jack your Body.

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“Since 2013, the resident DJ’s at Queen! – which included the recently passed Frankie Knuckles, aka “The Godfather of House Music” and a pioneer of the Chicago house sound – along with Midwest house heads, the drag community and weekly regulars have kept the flame of house music alive in the vein of old school, underground 90s house parties. Red Bull Presents: Queen! will be the first time that Queen! will cater to a younger 18+ audience and will take place at larger sister venue The Metro (3730 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613) where its 1,000 person capacity will make this a crowning moment for the weekly party.”

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Courtney DelMar

Aside from writing about bands for 50THIRDAND3RD, CJDelMar runs the Girlsville Records imprint out of Portland, OR. Girlsville is home to bands like COACHWHIPS, HOOD RATS, TOWANDA, MR. AIRPLANE MAN, VIRVON VARVON, & THE PRISSTEENS. girlsville.bandcamp.com

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