Future sounds of Chicago
Here's what's in store for nightlife, 2010.
While deejaying used to be an elite art for diehard enthusiasts with a seemingly endless record collection, digital technology now has changed the nightlife game. Budding DJs and producers can try their hand with a couple hundred bucks and an iTunes account. Sure, technological advances have diversified the scene, but while the raw talent of the MySpace generation has an easier time making it big, an army of lackluster wanna-bes has also flooded the market, watering down the music and the scene. So, with both ends of this spectrum in mind, we talked with some of Chicago’s most forward-thinking DJs, promoters and tastemakers to get their predictions for where the club scene is headed.
For a while, it seemed Chicago’s nightlife was going to remain impervious to the country’s economic woes. No such luck. “A lot of our better venues have closed recently,” says Shreyas Shah, founder of local cultural promotions company Good for Party. “On top of that, venues that have been open for a while aren’t what they used to be, and many of the new ones haven’t delivered on their hype.” With highbrow institutions like Sonotheque and Lava closing or closed, and spots like the Shrine and Zentra vying for mainstream appeal, outlets for cutting-edge DJs are seriously endangered, while populist digital jocks thrive.
“We will see more dive bars attracting unpretentious crowds and playing fun, eclectic music,” Shah continues. He’s right: In the wake of the recent closures, bars like Liar’s Club and darkroom have already started adding parties. Steve Mizek, moderator for Chicago-based electronic-music blog Little White Earbuds, also points to a reshuffling within the city. “More house bookings will likely go to Cuatro on the South Side, depending on how much Nate Manic feels house when programming Smart Bar,” Mizek says. Aside from techno, which is well represented at joints like Spy Bar, or the progressive and trance scene, which still holds its own at places like Vision and Excalibur, Smart Bar—and its music director, Manic—will be integral in keeping house, drum ’n’ bass and offshoots like dubstep alive in the city.
Thankfully, not all the trends seem so dire. In fact, in many of the clubs dominated by mainstream pop, the underground is bubbling to the surface. Now that European dance staples like David Guetta are snagging Grammy nominations, hit makers such as Sean Combs and Rihanna are jumping on the bandwagon, working with German electro innovator DJ Hell and U.K. drum ’n’ bass and dubstep producers Chase & Status, respectively.
And that acceptance makes it easier for DJs to push the boundaries of their sets. “Disco is dominating, and I can see it continuing in 2010,” says independent promoter and booking agent Scott Cramer. “House is also on the rise—not that it ever went away—but it definitely got a little quiet.”
Taking computer-driven, genre-defying sets to new extremes, the ten-man DJ crew Ghetto Division is mobilizing a new generation of club enthusiasts. The South Side collective gathers regularly at Metro for wildly eclectic 18-and-over dance parties that cover juke, Baltimore club, dubstep, bassline and the Mad Decent–style sounds of soca and dancehall. Five years ago, we would have never seen a party cover this much musical ground. Steve Reidell, one half of local mash-up kings the Hood Internet, sings the parties’ praises. “They have the whole gang, plus they bring in solid DJs like Kingdom from Fool’s Gold Records, and it’s just massive. The music they’re doing is awesome, and they’ve packed the room each time.”