A tale of three Chicagos
The term Chicago house is mentioned a lot, but its definition is tricky to pin down. Over the weekend, three different events explored the main tangents of the sound that's given focus and direction to underground dance music for so long.
Knuckles loves New York
Saturday night, Boa-Redux welcomed back Frankie Knuckles , the man most associated with the term "house." It's derived from the Warehouse, the Chicago club where he was a resident in the late 70s and early 80s. Here's where it gets a bit confusing, though: Knuckles grew up and learned to DJ in New York in the 70s during the early days of underground dance music. In fact, the owners of the Warehouse were New Yorkers who wanted to bring their style of partying and music to Chicago. Over the years, Knuckles's sound evolved into something more specific to Chicago, but he's been back in NYC for so long, you can't really describe him as a Chicago DJ.
Got in the doors around 4 am, just as he took over the booth and played his first track of the night (and his best-known production), The Whistle Song. Overall, it was much more of a NYC-style set - big gospel vocals, pounding pianos, rolling disco bass lines and lush, spacey atmospherics. Very uplifting and joyful, but with a hard edge.
Earlier on Saturday night at Pulse Nightclub , Terra invited Chicago's Traxx to lay down some of his trademark audio insanity. Traxx is a little bit obscure and more than a bit eccentric, but he inspires a huge amount of love in the people who do get what he's about. Musically, his style is related to what came after the foundation that Knuckles laid down in Chicago. The owners of the Warehouse opened up another club, the Music Box, and hired Ron Hardy as the resident DJ. Catering to a younger and straighter crowd than the Warehouse, it's where the harder, more electronic side of house started to emerge.
Heavily inspired by Hardy and that era of house, Traxx isn't afraid to get really dark and scary when he plays, dropping everything from acid house to industrial to avant-garde disco oddities. From the moment he stepped into the booth and cranked up that first twisted acid classic, he had the crowd, who hooted and hollered all night, in the palm of his hand. A little too much smoke machine, and the Pulse sound system is a lot more painful than Boa's, but these are small complaints.
Welcome back, Carter
And now we come to what some might call the third wave of Chicago, the sound that emerged in the 90s when many of the clubs closed and the parties moved to lofts. Of course, the rest of the world was discovering raves around this time, too, so born-and-bred Chicago DJs were in high demand everywhere. Derrick Carter made his name during that era, which took the mutant disco of 80s house and chopped it up into little filtered loops. He's been a crowd favourite in Toronto for many years, partially as a result of his monthly residency at the now legendary Industry Nightclub.
In many ways, Boa-Redux is the closest thing we've got to Industry now, and sure enough, on Friday night Carter turned in one of his best sets since those days. He's still on that hiphop remix tip he's been exploring for a while, but he played more soulful and jazzy tracks than at his last bunch of local appearances. It was one of those sets where you'd keep trying to leave, but then he'd get you back on the dance floor with the next track. Let's hope he becomes a regular.