I've got a whole city to hold down

December 13, 2004

Best of 2004: DJ Wednesdays at the city's SummerDance series

Reader David Drake (author of I'm So Sinsurr and contributor to We Eat So Many Shrimp) writes: One of the biggest stories in Chicago music in 2004 was the series of house DJ nights at Chicago's SummerDance series. Finally acknowledging the legacy of Chicago's very own house music, the city not only allowed artists like BadBoyBill and Steve "Silk" Hurley to DJ in Grant Park to crowds of thousands, but it even recognized the godfather of Chicago House, Frankie Knuckles, with a street-naming ceremony.

The nights in Grant Park were magical: "Silk" Hurley's entrance, accompanied by a Martin Luther King a capella that had the whole crowd yelling "Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" Bad Boy Bill's filter-disco fever dreams. Green Velvet dropping "Personal Jesus" in the middle of a set of his own classics, including the "Percolator." And the final night of the SummerDance DJ series, where Frankie Knuckles, DJing for a massive crowd in the sweltering heat and mud and rain, played record after record. Even when lightning hit the Sears Tower - sending cheers through the crowd - he played on. It seemed he was controlling the weather as well as the music that moved your body.

David's right on - these shows were special. Best of all was the inescapable sense that showgoers were part of one great egalitarian, communal democracy. These were massive and eclectic crowds, but divisions of race, gender, geography and sexual orientation were demolished by the beat. Whether dancers, DJs, tourists or activists (and with the election season simmering, political cause-pushers were everywhere in those crowds), on those Wednesday nights we were a vibrant, powerful and unique community - the Chicago we aspire to be.

By the way, we loved David's first-blush recap of the Frankie Knuckles gig, published on his blog in August. While we're at it, here's Bob Mehr's Reader tete a tete with the mind behind DJ Wednesdays, DJ Warp/Brian Keigher.