I’m a Raver Baby, So Why Don’t Ya Kill Me

20 years ago today I went to my first rave, the flyer for that party + fly­ers for (nearly all) of the par­ties I ever went to are below:

eRave1 eRave2 eRave3 eRave4 eRave5 eRave6 eRave7 eRave8 eRave9 eRave10 eRave11 eRave12 eRave14 eRave15 eRave16 eRave18

We’d been col­lect­ing these trippy dig­i­tally designed fly­ers at our favorite record shops. With proper con­di­tions– driver’s licenses and the per­fect alibi of sleep­ing over at each other’s houses on Sat­ur­day nights before our 9 am Early Col­lege Pro­gram ceram­ics class at the School of the Art Insti­tute– we were able to make this a real­ity. We called the hot­line on the back of the flyer, which I believe led us to Wax Trax on Damen to buy tick­ets and get the address for a sec­ond check­point where we’d pick up a map to the actual loca­tion of the party. I can­not tell you where this party was– (though a post on this mes­sage board recounts it being a sub­ur­ban loca­tion and that it got busted, nei­ther details I recall) we pulled up on a des­o­lated stretch of an indus­trial cor­ri­dor and were hur­riedly waved down a dark alley by a shad­owy fig­ure, the tell­tale thump, thump, thump sig­nal­ing to us that we were headed on the right course and not about to get jumped.

Once inside the ware­house, there was some famil­iar ambiance from our already-growing-up-too-fast-in-the-suburbs lifestyle– nitrous oxide tanks hiss­ing, inflat­ing giant punchy bal­loons and Lawn­mower Man being pro­jected onto a white sheet. The deeper we pen­e­trated the thick crowd, things got con­sid­er­ably more exotic– club kids in three foot tall plat­form shoes, naked flesh, chill out rooms drip­ping with sex and out-in-the-open drug use. The main dance floor was a wall to wall throb of too loud bass and jack­ing bod­ies. This was an urban crowd and there were all kinds of peo­ple los­ing them­selves in the orgias­tic rhythm. I remem­ber not being intim­i­dated, not like my first indus­trial con­cert a few years before, but feel­ing exhil­a­rated and a lit­tle bit jit­tery. This was a safe space to get freaky. We let our­selves go and joined the pul­sat­ing hive.

Unfor­tu­nately, the sub­se­quent 20 or so raves we attended were not quite as idyl­lic. At our sec­ond party, who did we run into within a half hour of step­ping foot into the ware­house, but the same ass­holes who were push­ing us down the stairs at school a few years ear­lier. The same kids that were cop­ping our Min­istry and Red Hot Chili Pep­per t-shirts, co-opting all of the sub­cul­tural expres­sions that we had to work so hard to dis­cover and estab­lish our­selves as dif­fer­ent from them and proud of it. Those were the times– Loll­palooza, alter­na­tive rock radio, recre­ational drugs– it was cool to be weird. At least we really were weird, and onto cool stuff a year or two before those jocks. There was a sea change in the rave scene. We’d been the first wave of sub­ur­ban kids gen­tri­fy­ing a vital urban cul­ture and it just kept going that way come 1995. The par­ties even moved to the sub­urbs, I remem­ber one in a park­ing lot of a truck­ing com­pany like a mile from my high school. I’m stoked we got to see a party like Lady­bug– to have a taste of the hal­cyon era of the early 90s that seemed to be the nat­ural pro­gres­sion of the utopia of House. Sure there were other good nights– the right con­coc­tion of a good buzz, cute looks, and com­mu­nal vibes focused on the dance. But for the most part, when these par­ties weren’t get­ting shut down by the cops, they looked like open air drug mar­kets with zomb­i­fied sub­ur­ban kids, dress­ing the part with the over­sized polos and visors, becom­ing prey to dope ped­dlers (per­haps con­nected with the pro­mot­ers) who scammed their parent’s cash in exchange for god-knows-what (the ecstasy was also very expen­sive, we could never afford designer drugs after shelling out $20– $25 at the door. My only cash flow at the time was sell­ing Fimo beads at school). This was not PLUR, kids.

But I’m glad I was there. I took pride in pulling together out­ra­geous out­fits– the over­sized plas­tic wal­let chains, GIANT pants, tiny tops repur­posed from stuffed ani­mals, all sorts of home made jew­elry. Inclu­siv­ity and indi­vid­u­al­ity were high pri­or­ity val­ues for me through­out my teens and early twen­ties and I con­stantly desired sup­port­ive scenes. These ideals were cer­tainly a major appeal of Ox-Bow for me. There’s some­thing prag­matic about the utopia of the rave– for one night, no mat­ter who you were, you could dress up, get high, and dance and every­one around you was a part of this whole. In the morn­ing, you’d drive home, go to bed, wake up and go back to work or school. The one nighter.

And of course, the music. After many years of liv­ing in the city, I’ve come to savor the imper­sonal, some­times harsh qual­ity of elec­tronic music, it reflects the land­scape. Herein lies the other dystopic/utopic flip of rave– an embrace of the urban sit­u­a­tion. Redi­rect­ing the iso­lat­ing hos­til­ity of city life and mak­ing a party of it.

Back then it was nearly impos­si­ble to fig­ure out what we were danc­ing to. I was too shy to approach the DJ booth (and back then in the white label era, DJs guarded their tracks) so mix­tapes were the only access to tak­ing the jams home. In my two years rav­ing, the music changed a lot as well. At Lady­bug and my other favorite par­ties, the DJs were play­ing hard, min­i­mal house sounds and some­times nudg­ing into faster Euro­pean techno. If you look at the fly­ers and know these DJ names, it will make sense as you scroll, I pre­ferred the Chicago vets like Der­rick Carter and Mys­tic Bill. Terry Mullen and Hyper­ac­tive were the two we fol­lowed most closely and they were very pro­lific at the time. I col­lected all of the Hyper­ac­tive mixes, which were a mix of old school Chicago acid house and more con­tem­po­rary hard­core. By 95 every­thing was get­ting faster and harder and there were more and more Euro­pean DJs fly­ing in from the Dutch, Bel­gian, and Ger­man hard­core scenes. And then jun­gle hap­pened which seemed to divide the scene fur­ther by 96. I like a lot these styles, but the old school Chicago will always be close to my heart. I could lis­ten to Acid Tracks every­day and it would sound dif­fer­ent every time– cold and alien, yet seduc­tively organic. We are Phuture you can’t defeat us.

Seem­ingly a life­long quest, I am still hunt­ing down the uniden­ti­fied ear worms that are fos­silized deep in my mem­ory banks. I started DJing about 10 years ago and have col­lected a lot of old school Chicago stuff by dig­ging through every­thing I can find on labels like Trax, Dance­ma­nia, and Relief/ Cajual. Also, for­tu­nately, on web­sites like ravearchive.com you can down­load many of these clas­sic mix tapes and with the handy tech­nol­ogy of Shazam, I’ve been able to track down a bunch of the clas­sic dance floor bangers of the era. Here’s a list of my favorite rave jams:

Phuture– Acid Tracks

And of course the flyer art. If you scroll up and down this blog, you will see the last­ing impres­sion bad old dig­i­tal design will always have on my work.

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9/27: Eric May for Trunk Show: “I Dine Al Trunko”


Sat­ur­day Sep­tem­ber 27th, 12pm– 3pm

Meet at Eck­hart Park on Noble St., just north of Chicago. Tour will depart from there. Car­pool­ing is encour­aged. Please bring $15– $20 for chow.

To dine “Al Trunko” sim­ply means to dine off the trunk (or hood) of one’s car. Typ­i­cally this is a means of neces­sity when din­ing at estab­lish­ments that do not pro­vide appro­pri­ate accom­mo­da­tions (though noth­ing is stop­ping you from eat­ing off your car if its a sunny day or you are just not in the mood to pay gra­tu­ity). The term “Al Trunko” was coined some­time in the mid-2000s– likely over sty­ro­foam trays of South Side BBQ– by the com­mu­nity of Chicago– based food chat site, LTHForum.com, of which Eric (screen name “Jefe”) is an active member.

Join us on Sat­ur­day, Sep­tem­ber 27th for a tour of native South Side del­i­ca­cies, enjoyed Al Trunko in their nat­ural habi­tat. The tour will meet on the near north­west side and head down panoramic S West­ern Ave. to kick off the day right with a Mother-in-law at Fat John­nies (as seen on “Anthony Bordain’s” No Reser­va­tions). We will then head to the pic­turesque Mount Green­wood neigh­bor­hood on the city’s far south­west side for a taste of Eric’s favorite child­hood Ital­ian Beef at Pop’s. The tour will con­clude over­look­ing scenic Mar­quette Park for a sam­ple of the fabled Jim Shoe from the neighborhood’s fine Super Sub establishment.

Please note: it is highly advised to pack an Al Trunko Sur­vival Kit as detailed in the schematic above.

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WHAT: Eric’s Ger­many Kitchen presents: OKTOBERFEST

WHEN: Sat­ur­day Sep­tem­ber 20th, 5– 8 PM

WHERE: Roots & Cul­ture 1034 N Mil­wau­kee Ave.

WHY: Chef Eric needs an occa­sion to address his cul­tural her­itage. Also, you will be par­ty­ing all week­end because of the art fair any­way and will need some cheap, greasy food + more drinks. ALSO, it hap­pens to be real OKTOBERFEST weekend.

WHAT ELSE: $10 gets you: bratwurst, Ger­man potato salad, home­made pret­zel, kraut, + 1 beer. $20 gets you din­ner + a lim­ited edi­tion stein with free refills.

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5/6: Citric Benevolence Cartel at MCA


Goi Ga, meyer lemon, chicharron

Goi Ga, meyer lemon, chicharron

Jicama and mandarina salad with mint

Jicama and man­da­rina salad with mint

Cebiche, cara cara, cancha

Cebiche, cara cara, cancha

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Mexico Drug War

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E-2-tha-Z presents: The Citric Benevolence Cartel


Chicago: April, 2014. Your tacos are served with, what’s this, a wedge of lemon? You won’t find limes with your in flight gin-and-tonic these days either. What’s the deal? Lime prices have nearly tripled in the past year from $45/ case to $125/case. The cause? The Mex­i­can lime crop, which accounts for 95% of Amer­i­can lime sup­ply, has had an excep­tion­ally ter­ri­ble year: hard hit by heavy rains and bac­te­r­ial infec­tion and then hijacked by forces more sin­is­ter: Michoacán’s Knights Tem­plar car­tel. The car­tel has been seiz­ing cit­rus ship­ments and extort­ing farm­ers, con­trol­ling the indus­try. This is the same car­tel respon­si­ble for un-mentionable atroc­i­ties towards ene­mies and civil­ians alike, the bour­geon­ing Mex­i­can meth indus­try, and close ties to the dis­rep­utable Sinaloa car­tel, who has cozily set up shop in Chicago as its home base for its thriv­ing Amer­i­can nar­cotic trade.

Do we really want our cit­rus bud­get bankrolling these blood­thirsty mur­der­ers and ped­dlers of soci­etal detri­ment? The Cit­ric Benev­o­lence Car­tel (E-Dog + Z-Dog) is here to strike back and help you iden­tify alter­na­tives. How about Meyer lemon in that mar­garita, blood orange in your ceviche, fin­ger lime in your papaya salad? Look to domes­tic sources, grow our own… It’s time we take cit­rus on our own terms and add guilt-free, eth­i­cal zest to our favorite food and bev­er­ages. Join the CBC on May 6th at the MCA for more infor­ma­tion and a sam­pling of benev­o­lently tart dishes.

May 6th, 6–8 PM

Museum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, 220 E Chicago Ave.

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