Standing outside Primary nightclub in sub-zero weather, the Chicago wind whipping our ears into frozen submission, we all buried into each other, waiting for the doors to open. They were thirty minutes late, still doing sound check, but despite the fact that we were all icing over, no one minded. After all, this was Boiler Room Chicago.
When news hit that Boiler Room was finally going to do an official night in Chicago, we could feel the excitement collectively hit in a wave. When we were told it would be two consecutive nights, there would be a resulting mini documentary AND some of the city’s founding members of house music would be playing, the fandom level peaked, and hard. With everyone clamoring for spots, the second night at Primary nightclub featuring Phuture, Kevin Saunderson, Gene Hunt, Paul Johnson, and Glenn Underground reached over 1,500 RSVPs within hours. And so here we were, shivering, but grateful for a spot, outside of Primary while we heard sporadic kick drum thumps as they tested the sound.
Once finally inside, people settled in, taking pictures in front of the Boiler Room LEDs, of Gene Hunt still setting up, and the very rare behind the scenes camera shot. We were quickly ushered behind the booth to start filling in space and Gene began playing as they were still setting up his monitor. While the crowd may have been slow to start, the turning point might have been when the Underground Goodie mix of Cajmere and Dajae’s “Brighter Days” was dropped. There was a collective whoop and within ten minutes there was nowhere to move, people whistling and holding on to the ceiling.
As the night continued, the feel turned more into a loft party with old friends. Bunchlox owner Karl Almaria was spotted as well as Angel Alanis and Robert Williams, the man behind Chicago’s legendary Warehouse nightclub (known as being the birthplace of house music.) Words like ‘legendary,’ ‘spiritual’ and ‘family’ were overheard being used to describe the night. Kevin Saunderson played alongside his son Dantiez, Paul Johnson grinned from ear to ear throughout his entire set, and I watched as men literally cried towards the end of the night when Phuture began to perform.
It was clear that this represented more than an average night or showcase for Chicago, and the excitement spread beyond the city borders – Boiler Room said it was one of their most talked about events in history. Local promoter Davey Dave, who put on the show with Boiler Room, tried to pinpoint why it tapped into something deeper for everyone, “people dropped all the ego and politics to get back to what got them into this music in the first place. We were all wide eyed geeky fans at some point early on, and it took something like Boiler Room to bring out that feeling again.” Derek Specs, partner at Primary Nightclub, agrees. “It was everything that embodies our culture and what I love about it. Getting together with old and new friends and escaping in those moments with the music we love mixed by the DJs that pioneered it.”
Now that Boiler Room mania has passed, what does Davey hope the result will be? “Hopefully it helps tell the story to a new audience that in turn will hopefully inspire people to dig further to try and learn about it. With this whole EDM phenomenon taking hold, it’s always important to educate the next wave of fans.” Of course, no one summed it up quite as nicely as Paul Johnson himself, who simply said, “We all got to show the world what’s up here.” Amen.