Class of ’99, Vol. 8
The classic rave venue was an empty warehouse, unassuming and seemingly abandoned during the day, which came alive, secretly, in the middle of the night. The ephemeral (and illegal) nature of these events made the rave party a kind of temporary autonomous zone, where teenagers met in an empty space, made it into an actual place — which then evaporated the next day.
Other than warehouses, raves typically occurred in three types of venues:
- Civic centers in run-down municipalities that bordered Chicago. This would include the Harvey Expo Center, the Dolton Expo Center, and the Maywood Civic Center.
- Roller rinks, or former roller rinks, e.g. Rainbo or Route 66;
- Former ballrooms. Many of these were probably built in the ’30s or earlier, with dancefloors ideal for raving. Evergreen Ballroom and Grand Ballroom are two examples.
But there was one venue in a category all its own, the greatest rave venue of all time: Photon. Imagine lining up in a parking lot at 11pm, in the middle of nowhere, and then you walk in and see this:
Photon was a laser tag franchise that went bankrupt in 1989. In the mid-90s, an original arena sat just outside city limits, shuttered, surrounded by slumburbs, but preserved in its original state. Photon was discovered by party promoters and reinvented as the ultimate rave cave. It was already designed for lasers and fog machines, and the terrain included platforms, labyrinthine corridors, suspended cargo net hammocks, steep ramps, and tall balconies. It was a totally immersive experience. My first trip to Photon was for an alien-themed party called Unified, which I still count among my favorite parties ever.
Eventually, Photon got raved-out and fell into disrepair. Promoters kept renting the complex, but they’d have the party in this adjacent warehouse that wasn’t the same at all. The late 90s economic boom brought a lot of other warehouses back online, and the rest were converted into lofts. Once the rave scene died, there was a decent loft scene in Chicago that continued on for a few years. A bunch of friends would move into an unfinished loft, split the rent 6 ways, and throw parties to pay it down. Loft parties weren’t as good as actual raves, though, and no space would ever hold a candle to Photon.
About the cover
This month’s cover star is Justin Long, who I’ve mentioned before. Justin was one of the most popular DJs in the Chicago scene at that time.
Sun Trust — Windchimes (1999)
This is the third track from the Sun Trust EP that I've dropped in this series, so far. Be sure to tune in next month for the final Sun Trust track!
DJ Sneak — Keep On Groovin' (Pitch Disco Mix) (1996)
Strictly Rhythm is the quintessential 90s NYC house label. DJ Sneak, however, is a Chicago native.
I:Cube — Picnic Attack (1997)
I'm not sure what happens when you experience a "picnic attack", but it sounds more fun than a panic attack. "Picnic Attack" comes from the album of the same name, a significant release for the 90s French Touch scene. I don't recognize any samples here, but let me know if you do.
Daphreephunkateerz — Get Pissed On Brooklyn Bridge (1996)
I picked up This French E.P. right when I started deejaying, and then hawked it because I thought it was too slow. I was happy to rediscover it, years later, and put it to some use.
"Get Pissed On Brooklyn Bridge" samples "Music Makes You Feel Like Dancing" by Brass Construction, from Brass Construction 5.
Dimitri From Tokyo — Back In The Daze (1997)
"Dimitri From Tokyo" is, in fact, a pseudonym for Dimitri From Paris, whose name capitalized on the French house craze, and whose Shibuya Connection E.P. cashed in on the 90s Shibuya-Kei trend.
Chris Simmonds — Rush n Soul (2000)
I had pretty much walked away from the house scene when this single dropped, but I got the impression that it must have been a big hit, because I kept hearing it in the summer of 2000, blaring out of clubs and record stores. I bet this one was a lot of fun on the dancefloor.
Todd Edwards — EveryDay (1999)
DJ Phats — Phatman Boogie (Phat Club Mix) (1996)
DJ Phats is better known as half of Phats & Small, who enjoyed great, undeserved success in the late 90s for a string of uninventive disco dubs. In '99, they released the hacky, atrociously-named Now Phats What I Call Music, contributing to the decline of house music in general. I always liked this earlier single, though.
Fresh & Low — Besos De Los Angeles (Cool Side) (1997)
The Besos De Los Angeles EP was, in fact, conceived in the UK, and came into the world through Chicago's Guidance Records.
Atmosfear — Dancing In Outer Space (MAW Lunar Mix) (1999)
Masters At Work remixed this tune for an excellent album called Altered States, a collection of tastefully-remixed songs by jazz-funk band Atmosfear. This remix doesn't stray too far from the 1979 original, which you can get on the 1981 album En Trance.
Smooth Touch — Tripping (Trip Out Dub) (1997)
Here's another 12 inch from NYC's iconic Strictly Rhythm label.
We talked about the late-70s space disco phenomenon, but disco also experienced a far less-palatable crossover with Broadway showtunes. The most famous example of this style is "I Love The Nightlife" by Alicia Bridges—perhaps the worst disco record ever recorded.
The Knowledge — Until The Day (1997)
I don't have much to say about this single, but FFRR is a legendary British dance label who released some absolutely essential early rave albums (the Only For The Headstong compilation is the first that comes to mind).
Paul Johnson — Hear The Music (1996)
This one comes from a Paul Johnson full-length album called Feel The Music. PJ was a staple of the Chicago rave scene, a crowd favorite, and instantly recognizable as "the dude in the wheelchair". Sadly, Paul Johnson passed away in the summer of 2021.
DJ Rasoul — Night At The Top (1999)
This is the flipside to "Let Me Love You", which is considered a deep house classic in the San Francisco style. I like this side better, though. This is from Soul Searching Volume 3
I don't recognize any samples here, but let me know if you do.
DJ Rasoul — San Francisco Nights (1998)
Here's more of that SF sound, this time from Soul Searching Volume 1.
"San Francisco Nights" samples "Nights Over Egypt" by The Jones Girls, from the album Get As Much Love As You Can. The "I got something here" vocal is from First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder", from the album Delusions.
Glenn Underground — Do You Like It (1997)
DJ Duke — Just Can't Get Enough (1996)
Troy Brown — Instant Replay (1995)
Trax 4 Daze was another one of these fairly bland EPs from Toronto's fairly bland house scene. These Canadian platters offered a lot of usable mixtape fodder, though.