Chicago’s bastion of DJ cool, Smart Bar has maintained an intimate relationship with house music since it enlisted Frankie Knuckles—arguably our city’s most influential DJ—as its debut resident back in 1982. This month, with the launch of two new residencies, we look at how this tradition continues for a new generation of scenesters.
Queen! Sundays, 10pm. $5.
All good things come to an end, but in the Smart Bar world, it’s more like one great record ending and a new one being seamlessly mixed in. Such is the case with Queen!, Smart Bar’s new Sunday-night destination for underground-music lovers that takes the place of Dollar Disco, whose mirror ball stopped spinning on April 1.
Though it’s a gay night, Queen! should be thought of as a haven for leaders of alternative lifestyles, house-music devotees and people who fancy an unpretentious atmosphere where they can mingle with scene veterans and new faces. It should also be a relief to the many who frequented Green Dolphin Street’s now-defunct Boom Boom Room, as former resident DJ Michael Serafini and host Byrd Bardot are the party’s main organizers.
“There hasn’t been a gay-oriented night in the city for a while that focuses on house music and disco,” Serafini says during a recent phone conversation. “We wanted to have a night like that for a new generation of kids.
“We also want people to be able to come, be themselves and express themselves artistically,” he continues, speaking of partygoers he says are as interesting to look at as they are to talk to. “A lot of gay guys who can be that way don’t feel comfortable going out to straight bars, and some of the gay bars don’t really have the kind of music and artistic point of view we’re trying to put across either.”
With scene favorites like Derrick Carter and Chez Damier appearing regularly alongside younger talents like fledgling house label Stripped and Chewed’s Garrett David, this party will become a colorful new home for a lot of displaced night owls.
NU BREED Every third Wednesday, 10pm. Free.
We consider ourselves experts when it comes to house music in the city, but if you want a second opinion, devoted dance publication 5 Magazine is it. Run, in part, by knowledgeable party girl Czarina Mirani, the magazine is a one-stop shop for four-on-the-floor happenings around the city.
It’s also been a part of Smart Bar’s Wednesday-night party programming for almost two years. At the monthly 5 Magazine Presents, Mirani and company turn the spotlight on local artists and global trends in the music. The night’s success is such that the crew now has a second installment each month—every third Wednesday—and two of Chicago’s DJ greats—Cajmere (a.k.a. Green Velvet) and Chez Damier—on board as residents.
“Chez really wanted to do a regular residency in Chicago, and he and Cajmere are really close,” Mirani says by phone of her night’s partners, both integral players in the rise of house music in Chicago in the ’90s. “One night we had Chez at Smart Bar and Cajmere came. They started talking about building a new institution of young people and getting a new generation into something that will grow and have staying power.
“We’re getting new people to come and share with the music,” she continues. “I think with [Damier, Cajmere], their mind-set and some of their following, we’ll be able to get an exciting and different crowd.”
Queen! and NU BREED both get down at Smart Bar this week.