Launching a new late-night Monday party at a place with a dodgy name in the middle of a Chicago winter is foolish. Between the frigid weather, the magnetic power of the venerable Boom Boom Room, cutthroat competition and the fact that the real world—be it school, work or family—accepts few excuses on Tuesday morning, Monday night is no-man’s-land. But Rehab, a weekly at Evil Olive, is barely a month old and already rockin’ the youth until 4am. It counted more than 400 bodies for its second edition on one of the coldest nights of the year. Now who’s crazy?
Like the LCD Soundsystem of club nights, Rehab is an indie-dance party for rockers who didn’t know they liked dance music. Derek Berry, whose We Are the Weekend created and now promotes the party with help from online network Chicago Suicide Club and host CT Couture, isn’t a Chicago club veteran. As we learned when he called us, he’s a rocker—a professional one, in fact—who spends most of the year tour-managing hard-rock and metal acts like Vinnie Paul’s Hellyeah. Berry hails from Miami, where the lines between rock and dance music are drawn more boldly. “In Miami, the stereotype is that if you listen to techno you go to raves, you use glow sticks and do Ecstasy,” he says.
In Miami, Berry was part of the influential Revolver party, which brought an indie-punk sensibility to that city’s house-heavy scene. Eventually, the party got big and moved to the Pawn Shop, where, he says, it lost its edge—but not before bringing Felix Da Housecat, Justice and Peaches to the booth. In 2007, between tours, Berry threw several One Night Stand parties at Chicago’s Holiday Club, but remained on the lookout for the right DJ and a concept. “The day after One Night Stand, I was literally sitting on my couch with a couple of friends and I said I need rehab after that party last night,” he says. “They’re like, ‘Real rehab or is that a party name?’ I was actually talking about a drinking problem.”
After a post-Christmas trial run, Berry enlisted Debonair Social Club resident Jordan Z for his aesthetic—a mix of indie classics like the Smiths, new wave with recent dance-punk, new danceable indie, and a smattering of pop and hip-hop. “He reads crowds so well, just like the first day I saw him,” says Berry of Z. The Rehab mix is accessible but never rigid—the kids will dance to Le Tigre, Chromeo and OutKast, it turns out.
The combo of sonics and setting has scored with twentysomethings. “I see these kids I recognize from Wicker Park who walk around with their nose up in the air, but they let loose last night dancing to whatever came on. You got the Logan Square house-party kids and you got the Wicker Park people and you have the people coming to the open bar who’ve never heard of the Cure.” Count in some ex-goths, couriers and off-duty bottle-service servers and that’s Rehab.
Berry uses both the time-honored (a complimentary Svedka vodka cocktail hour draws the partiers before 11pm) and the techy (Going.com and Chicago Suicide Club websites) methods to get the word out. Key, of course, is that there’s no cover; the promoters get their dimes from a percentage of what the bar makes. Then there’s Berry’s hustle: “I am out six days a week flyering, freezing my ass off at 2am so people know about my party on Monday.”
It’s paid off. Rehab is a place to be seen—there’s even a photo wall in the club for portraits. Berry will wind down his touring to throw parties. He’s using his rock connections to line up guests like Mr. Pharmacist (Greg Foreman) for a Cat Power after-party on February 10. And he’s dedicated to keeping Rehab fresh: “It’s opening people’s eyes to what an indie-rock dance party can be.”
Check in to Rehab Monday nights at Evil Olive.