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Dark Wave Disco feature

| October 31, 2007 | 2 Comments

Dark Wave Disco
Redefining Partying In Chicago Two Years At A Time

For every party, club night, or DJ event that launches in Chicago with any level of staying power, there are countless more that vanish into the night, leaving behind nothing more than a trail of desperate, screaming flyers strewn outside Crobar at 5 a.m.

So when a local DJ party crosses the two-year mark, it’s not only impressive, it’s almost unheard of. Which makes the Chicago party Dark Wave Disco’s two-and-a-half year march toward a more celebratory, electro-laden tomorrow all the more remarkable.

Dark Wave Disco began as a monthly held in the city’s West Town neighborhood, at hipster haven Sonotheque, a club that’s laid back on the inside and non-descript on the out — except when Dark Wave takes over. Then it’s not uncommon to see lines stretching down the block, all waiting to get inside and hear sets spun by not only the DW residents, but the likes of The Faint, Lady Sovereign, and Tommie Sunshine. It’s a party with a repeat fanbase who regard the event — and its offshoot weekly and one-off parties — must-attend affairs.

Of course, a large part of DW’s appeal, to speak nothing of its longevity, can be attributed to the team behind its production, a virtual Chicago nightlife supergroup. The brainchild of Chicago DJ and indie/electro music aficionado Mark Gertz, alongside promoter/visual artist Paul “In Chicago” Rodriguez, the night was born, like so many great ventures, from someplace between necessity and boredom.

“Chicago, at that point, was so just flooded with house music parties, and — I know house music is from Chicago and it’s great, but — there weren’t even any good house music parties at that point,” Gertz recalls, equating his dissatisfaction with Dark Wave’s catalyst for launching. “Like there are these couple, little-tiny one-off parties, and there’s the thing Miguel [Martin] played at, at Big Wig on Sundays, but they never really were that advertised, and, never that out in the open, and it was like, ‘We need to change this and put together a party for the kind of music that we like.'”

From there, Gertz went about assembling his dream team, hand picking players from their respective, established nights: Big Wig’s Black Sundays yielded Miguel “Trancid” Martin, a veteran electro DJ; from Blue Mondays at Tre Via (now Debonair) came Kill Hannah bassist and hipster-indie aficionado Greg Corner; and Darkroom’s Brit-pop monthly Panic groomed visual artist Arturo Valle. For Gertz, each member is an essential component to Dark Wave’s continued success.

“Greg, I kind of knew like around from Wicker Park. He and I had identical music tastes, just kind of grew up in the same scenes, went to raves back in the ’90s, liked The Cure,” he recalls. “Miguel I just would see out all the time DJing. I mean, Greg wasn’t necessarily at that point a true DJ in the sense of being a DJ, but had great musical tastes and I knew would play, come in, play great songs. Him and I could just play songs for the first maybe hour or two of the night, and then Miguel — “Trancid,” that is — was a really talented DJ, and played all the great new electro stuff, and music that was coming up and not big yet, and getting fresh and starting to get play in Chicago, but still be underground at the same time. He was an insanely talented DJ. So, I was like, with those two it’ll be a perfect combination, and then I just love music and kind of had this vision of what I want a party to be, and where I want it to go, and the kind of people I want there, and with, I’d say, Andy Warhol as my inspiration, looking at what he did, the parties he threw at his Factory, and the bringing together of fashion, art, music, film, but not mainstream pop-culture, sort of like, obscure sub-pop culture.”

Pop culture, certainly; obscure, not so much. Since its launch, Dark Wave’s presence throughout Chicago has grown, with Gertz and Martin DJing, usually together, at multiple nightlife functions throughout the week. Not only that, the DW circus has taken to the road, already invading Milwaukee and even doing a week-long stint in Los Angeles.

Yet, for all the lines outdoors and L.A. nights, Dark Wave — and its proprietors — remains consistently engaging and refreshingly down-to-earth at each event, maintaining surprisingly personal connections with many of its attendees. It could be the night’s crew is in it for all the right reasons: a shared love of music and a desire to provide the city with a type of event that didn’t exist a few short years ago. Or it could just be, unlike party scenes elsewhere, Chicago crowds prefer a different type of party.

“I’ll preface this by saying I love the scenes like ours in New York, London, and L.A., but in Chicago people are far more concerned, for the most part, with music, and actually what you’re playing,” Gertz muses. Not that L.A. or New York shun music, but, as far as Gertz is concerned, “in Chicago, it’s a little more, it’s the Midwest, so people are a little bit more, for lack of a better word, real, and are seriously going there to hear the music. They’re going there mostly for the music, because they know we’re going to play good music at the party, so that’s the main reason [for repeat attendance].”

Indeed, music factors heavily into Dark Wave Disco. Over the years, the party has drawn its share of notable names, ranging from the underground and indie elite to the more credible end of the mainstream spectrum. Past Dark Wave DJ and performance talent includes members of Spank Rock, Moving Units, noted hipster rocker Carlos D of Interpol, New York party monsters The Misshapes, scenester popstress Uffie, and more.

Of course, such success is sure to spawn imitators, a development Gertz has taken in stride.

“I think there are a lot of other parties that are electros now, which is a good thing, it’s good to see people catching on to the music we like,” he begins, choosing his next words carefully. “But, I think, we’re solid, the five of us that do the party. I think the five of us are friends and we stick together, and it’s really well structured, and we have an idea every month of what we want to do, and how it needs to be, and that’s what,” Gertz pauses, before going on to add, “Other parties come and go. People start things up, get flaky, it doesn’t do well for a couple of months or a couple of weeks if it’s a weekly, and they just end up fizzling out, like, ‘We’ve hit a couple of low points,’ but then like, ‘No way we’re going to just come back next month bigger and stronger.'”

It’s easy to believe Dark Wave Disco will continue to grow and evolve. It’s also just as conceivable, even as they do, the party will remain just as personable inviting as ever before. Then again, maybe one explains the other.

— Jaime de’Medici

Category: Features, Monthly

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  1. nicko says:

    about time! these shows demand attention. chicago is an up-and-coming dance scene, yet, we INVENTED house music! how is it that europe embraced it so hard and we -collectively- forgot all about it? it’s great to see a scene so dedicated and consistent.

  2. f***ing scottie says:

    There has been one thing a month that stays on my mind for the past 2 1/2 years. ‘when is the next Dark Wave Disco?’ Its not only me, it is all the regulars that share the same love for the electro scene in Chicago. Mark Gertz, Miguel “Trancid” Martin and Greg Corner have never met me down. Aurturo’s visuals and the over the top personalities of Paul “the worlds tallest dancing Mexican” Rodriguez add to the vibe of something Chicago has been missing for as long as I’ve lived here. Lets not forget the the newly added host CT for adding colour to every event. with his outfits, make up and flamboyant greet at the door set the tone of whats to happen inside.

    Dark Wave is more than just music. It’s a lifestyle. Leave your inhibitions at the door. Sh*ts going down once it gets moving. There is a saying in the Dark Wave community, “I think I got Dark Waved ” Meaning you just had the time of your life. Once you start going month after month you see the same faces and a few new ones every single time. It is family and we all love each other. Its the “hippie” era gone electro. I met a lot of my close friends there. We all hang out together and have become “Dark Wave Groupies” in a way. Debonair Thursdays feature the DWD DJs and who is there? Us groupies. Nobody moves me like these guys do.

    The feature artist they bring in are amazing. Too many to list that have rocked my pants off, but I have only been let down once and that was nobodies fault except for the little drunk girl who couldn’t pull off her set, so walked off the stage.

    What I’m saying is… Dark Wave has changed the face of the Chicago music scene the same way House music did and before that the industrial scene created by Wax Trax in the late eighties and early nineties.

    Thank you guys for making life that much better in the city of Chicago.

    -f***ng scottie-.

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