Move to It
Select clubs and dance parties
Dancers at Sonotheque
By Miles Raymer
September 22, 2006
THE BAD NEWS is that the glory
days of Chicago house are history.
There’s no more Shelter,
no more warehouse raves, and fewer
venues willing to let in under-21s,
which has pretty much meant the end
of club-kid culture. The good news is
that none of this has stopped Chicago
from growing a world-class danceclub
scene. Pull out Section 3, flip to
the “Dance” portion of the music listings,
and you’ll find DJs spinning a
couple dozen different kinds of music
at name-brand clubs, dive bars, and a
range of spots between the two.
If your idea of what a nightclub
should be is based solely on the
movies—all trance music, hot chicks,
thinking of what’s known cozily as a
“megaclub.” On one hand megaclubs
are obnoxious, overblown, and overpriced.
On the other hand, the spectacle
and cheesed-out decadence are
exactly what you need. The two that
can usually strike a pleasing balance
of quality and quantity of experience
are Crobar (1543 N. Kingsbury, 312-266-1900) and Sound-Bar (226 W.
Ontario, 312-787-4480). You’ll find
the same overly hair-gelled hordes as
you would at any big club in town,
but the talent these places bring in
are a step above, mixing a steady
stream of the kind of arena-level DJs
who in Europe are worshipped as
gods with the occasional surprise
underground act to bring out hipsters
who wouldn’t be caught dead
holding a Jager bomb.
When the sensory overload gets to be too much, head to the relatively
austere Sonotheque (1444 W.
Chicago, 312-226-7600). Its modest
size, intensely good sound system,
and nearly pitch-black lighting
scheme can foster a mellow listening
session or a small-scale dance riot
depending on the DJ. They regularly
host out-of-towners like Diplo and
Carlos D, and their residencies—from
a dancehall reggae night to the
electro-gothic Dark Wave Disco—are
a consistent good bet. Smart Bar
(downstairs from the live-music club
Metro at 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140) succeeds on a similar level. The
sound there sticks more to variations
on the four-on-the-floor beat, offering
regular appearances by Chicago’s
better-respected house and techno
DJs, and gigs with MSTRKRFT,
Matthew Dear, James Murphy, and
other dance tastemakers.
For the person who likes to dance
but doesn’t normally do dance clubs,
Chicago’s blowing up with your so-called
“hipster DJs.” Major Taylor, the
duo Flosstradamus, and a gang of
DJs working under the Life During
Wartime moniker all pack their sets
heavy on the kind of stuff—dance
punk, hip-hop, Prince—that turns
rock clubs like the Empty Bottle,
Hideout, and Double Door into
unlikely dance spots for unlikely
dancers. They’ve all got regular residencies,
monthly Get Out of the Hood parties
at the Town Hall Pub (3340 N.
Halsted, 773-472-4405) most consistently
take it off the rails.
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