Class of ’99, Vol. 17

My bedroom, circa 1996
A portrait of the blogger as a young man: pictured is myself at 16, my girlfriend at the time, and my bedroom circa 1996.

What killed the rave scene?

Several factors contributed to rave’s decline in Chicago and throughout North America, but the biggest was probably the epidemic of drug abuse. The late ’90s saw the rise of GHB, or “liquid-G” as a fashionable designer drug. I even knew a kid named Jesús who started spinning under the moniker “Liquid G-sus,” which he thought was really cool but we all ended up calling him “Liquid Jesús” in the Spanish pronunciation, and the nickname stuck. Anyway, liquid G spiked both in popularity and in notoriety as a “date rape drug.” It definitely seemed to affect girls differently than boys, and claimed a series of female casualties. One such victim was a teenage girl named Laddie, who, in 1999, dropped some liquid G at a party on the south side, overdosed, and had to be rushed to the hospital.

This would prove to be the most consequential incident in the downfall of Chicago raves: as it turned out, Laddie’s father was Richard M. Daley, the mayor of Chicago! After this, our fate was cast.

Chicago began drafting ordinances and legislation to effectively ban raves, with the surrounding municipalities following suit. We knew it was coming, and tried to organize against it, with an organization called CEMA, or Chicago Electronic Music Alliance—organized by myself and my best friend, Matt; Chris Gin, from Thousand Words magazine; a representative from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (of Grammys fame); and others. CEMA arranged a meeting before of City Council, and we assembled a group of speakers to testify on our behalf which included legendary house producer Steve “Silk” Hurley. But Chris wanted at least one party promoter represented at the meeting, which I strongly recommended against. Still, against my better judgement, I started reaching out to promoters for support.

Because of the outlaw nature of raves, it naturally followed that the most successful promoters were notoriously shady, often connected to drug dealing and organized crime. The average promoter wasn’t pulling permits, or paying taxes, or playing by any of the rules—making him the worst possible liaison to an already-hostile administration.

I happened to know these two promoters who were sisters. They lived at home in a big mansion in the exurbs, their father was a mafia pimp, and they had a high profile in the rave game. The elder sister agreed to speak at city hall and it went about as well as I assumed it would: she used the floor to brag about herself, came across as the racketeer she essentially was, and made the rest of us look bad. With a combination of prohibitively stringent standards, unobtainable permits and harsh penalties for non-compliance, the city council regulated raves out of existence in May of 2000.

The Aftermath

Once outlawed, former rave atendees went in two directions: into the clubs, and into the lofts. Somehow, Matt got a bare-bones industrial pad in Fulton Market back when it wasn’t even zoned for residential habitation and the whole neighborhood reeked of livestock. He lived there with several other guys and they threw parties together to make rent.

In 2001, Chicago passed a law that if you had more than 15 pills of ecstasy on you, you could go to prison for 30 years. Nevertheless, one of Matt’s roommates got the bright idea to fly to Amsterdam and FedEx a jar full of pills to his own address. Since they were living in what was supposed to be a vacant building in the meat packing district, FedEx assumed the address was wrong and then re-routed the package to their central facility downtown. Fearing that the contraband within the undeliverable parcel would end up in the hands of the auhorities, the panicked roommate convinced him to go downtown and claim it in person. Matt said it was one of the most anxiety-inducing things he had ever done, and he was sure that when he reached out to receive the box he would get the handcuffs. Instead, he received the package without incident.

Class of ’99, Volume 17: Everybody In The House
Download the mix (MP3, 43 minutes, 99 MB)

About the cover

This graphic comes from a flyer for a 1998 party called Step Into A World.

Step Into A World flyerStep Into A World flyer, reverse

Track List

Follow these links to read more about the selections:

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