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Wired Fridays at the Chicago Cultural Center

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ free LunchBreak concert series features electronic music from DJs.

Seated on the carpeted floor inside the Chicago Cultural Center’s Randolph Café, a twentysomething woman motioned frantically at respected Chicago-based DJ Striz: “He should speed it up.”

Not one to start an argument with a stranger, I smiled and happily nodded my head to the downtempo mix. In retrospect, I hope my passive ways didn’t lead her to believe I concurred.

It was the debut showing of Wired Fridays, a free midday electronic music concert and dance-party series for tourists, students, lunchgoers and anyone looking for a respite from their afternoon routine.

This revamped take on the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ long-running LunchBreak Series—which features live multi-genre music performances—piggybacks on electronic music’s mainstream popularity. It’s a follow-up to last summer’s inaugural outdoor concerts, Loops and Variations, which had a number of electronic-music performers. According to Cindy Gatziolis, DCASE’s director of public relations and marketing, the City of Chicago also wanted to fill the post-holiday void and jazz up programming. “She’s [the Chicago Cultural Center] an old gal and we want to keep her fresh,” says Gatziolis. “We want the building to be active, not seen as a museum only.”

From January until May, passersby can drop in to hear DJs Frankie Vega, Chris Widman and DJ Warp and get down on the newly added dance space, which was unfortunately vacant for a 20-minute stretch of Striz’s impressive afternoon set.

Dancers who were initially applauded for being courageous enough to hit the dance floor had now claimed their spots as wallflowers or were seated among the crowd.

Though you might assume a vacant dance floor is equivalent to a stand-up comedian bombing on stage, Striz seemed unfazed. He did what any respectable DJ would do: He kept spinning.

If moving the crowd is a DJ’s ultimate goal, then consider Striz’s performance a success. I, for one, went from a little side-to-side head nodding to swaying back and forth, which prompted a gentleman to ask if I wanted to dance. “Perhaps next time,” I said. It was time for me to return to my cubicle. From the looks of it, people seemed to be enjoying themselves, taking advantage of the Wi-Fi, snapping photos of other dancers on their cell phones and engaging in some serious head bobbing. All of which probably trumps their usual midday routine.

Drop in for the next Wired Fridays on Friday 18.

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