We begin a new feature based on RA's In Residence event series with a trip to Chicago's best club.
In 2016, RA's In Residence series will celebrate club culture by throwing a month of parties at 12 of the world's best clubs. Clubs are the beating heart of dance music, and these are the venues that keep their local scenes thriving. Week-in, week-out, they open their doors to play the music we love.
The series began last weekend at smartbar in Chicago. The city is, of course, the birthplace of house music, and since 1982, smartbar has been one of Chicago's key venues. This rich sense of history made smartbar an obvious place to begin our journey.
As we settle in for a month at each of the clubs we'll be running an accompanying feature that, through a combination of different mediums, will provide a lasting document of these iconic spaces.
Mar 05 RA In Residence, smartbar, Chicago
feat. DJ Nobu, Eric Cloutier, Jeff Derringer
Mar 12 RA In Residence, smartbar, Chicago
feat. Roman Flugel, Tin Man, Olin
Mar 19 RA In Residence, smartbar, Chicago
feat. DJ Harvey, The Black Madonna
Mar 26 RA In Residence, smartbar, Chicago
feat. Mood II Swing, Analog Soul, Michael Serafini
- 01Address3730 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60613 USA
- 02Building completed1927
- 03Club opened1982
- 05Music policy"If it works on a dance floor, then play it"
- 07Resident DJsDerrick Carter, The Black Madonna, Olin, Chrissy, Jeff Derringer, Michael Serafini, Justin Long, Garrett David, Sassmouth, Jason Kendig, Phillip Stone, Hugo Ball
Jason Garden, AKA Olin, began working at the club as Marea Stamper's assistant, and he's now the club's full-time talent buyer, a position he balances with studio time (he's released music on labels like Argot) and an increasingly busy DJ schedule. He's also serious about sound. One of the first things you notice at smartbar is the huge Funktion-One rig.
Size isn't everything, of course—the rig must be tuned for the room as well as the DJ playing on any given evening. "For disco you want a nice, flat, balanced sound, there's so much more mid-range," Garden says. "There's tons more spectral content to push through. For techno I'll usually boost 65hz or so, dip 200hz or so (less boxy kicks), dip 4khz, and then roll off the very highs quite a bit. You want the overall system volume lower and the bass higher. House is somewhere in the middle between flat and that deep boost techno requires." As with most audio tweaks, there's a little common sense involved. "It's mostly just standing in the middle of the dance floor and adjusting."
Garden's worked on the system obsessively for three years, but says this level of attention to detail should be standard practice. "It's caring how things sound and realizing that different situations require different solutions. I think of it more as we aren't fucking up than doing something remarkable." His main inspiration is Richard Long, who designed the systems at Paradise Garage, Studio 54 and David Mancuso's The Loft. "We're just doing the same thing with much better technology."
- 4 x Infrabass 18" (218)
- 4 x Infrabass 15"
- 4 x 8" mid boxes
- 4 x AX88 tops
- Crown Amplification
- X01 Audio Management System
- Midas M32R Console
This mix took a lot of forethought, simply because of how long and varied smartbar's history is. Everybody's first thought is our resident DJs—Frankie Knuckles, Joe Smooth, Derrick Carter, Colette, The Black Madonna, among others, have called this club home—but smartbar is more than just the world-class house music venue that this list implies.
The club was also a big part of Chicago's alternative/industrial scene in the 1980s—the scene that birthed Ministry, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Revolting Cocks etc—and in those days smartbar helped to break loads of important synth pop, new wave and techno legends as well.
The current music policy is wide-open: if it works on a dance floor, then play it. In making this mix, I wanted to represent both our history and our eclecticism, so I spoke with former and current residents, staff and regular patrons about what they remembered hearing over the years, and compiled this set of smartbar anthems that hopefully encapsulates what we have always been about.
The Flirts - Calling All Boys (O Records)
Doctor's Cat - Feel The Drive (Il Disc 8)
Nitzer Ebb - Warsaw Ghetto (Power Of Voice Communications)
Front 242 - Masterhit (WaxTrax!)
A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray (Rham! / Warlock)
Derrick L. Carter - A Hope (Over U) (Classic)
Loose Joints - Is It All Over My Face (West End)
The It - Donnie (DJ International)
Klein & MBO - Dirty Talk (Zanza / Rams Horn)
Liaisons Dangereuses - Los Niños Del Parque (Mute)
The Invincible Limit - Push! (Last Chance/ ZYX)
ESG - Moody (99 Records)
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult - A Daisy Chain 4 Satan (WaxTrax!)
Rhythim Is Rhythim - Strings Of Life (Transmat)
Adonis - No Way Back (Trax)
Paranoid London ft. Paris Brightledge - Paris Dub 1 (Paranoid London)
Jaydee - Plastic Dreams (R&S)
Gino Soccio - Remember (Celebration / Atlantic)
SFIRE - SFIRE2 (CockTail d'Amore)
Charlie - Spacer Woman (Mr. Disc / Dark Entries)
New Order - Confusion (Factory)
Meat Beat Manifesto - Helter Skelter (Play It Again Sam)
DHS - House Of God (Hangman)
Robert Hood - Clash (M-Plant)
DBX - Electric Shock (Accelerate)
Steve Poindexter - Work That Mutha Fucker (Muzique Records)
Jody Finch - Jack Yo Big Booty (BHQ Acid Vocal) (Lets Pet Puppies)
Cajmere ft. Dajae - Brighter Days (Underground Goodies Mix) (Cajual / Emotive)
Frankie Knuckles presents Satoshi Tomiie f. Robert Owens - Tears (FFRR)
Vicious Pink - Cccan't You See... (Parlophone)
New Order - The Perfect Kiss (Factory)
Jamie Principle / Frankie Knuckles - Your Love (Trax)
Choice - Acid Eiffel (Fragile)
Joe Smooth ft. Anthony Thomas - Promised Land (DJ International)
Floorplan - Baby Baby (M-Plant)
Underworld - Born Slippy (NUXX) (Junior Boy's Own)
Octave One ft. Ann Anderson - Black Water (430 West)