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History Museum to Explore Chicago House Music's LGBT Roots

By Paul Biasco | January 23, 2014 7:35am
 DJ Alan King is one of the founders of "The Chosen Few" House music crew.
DJ Alan King is one of the founders of "The Chosen Few" House music crew.
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Alan King

LINCOLN PARK  The Chicago History Museum will be turned into a club for a few hours next week to explore the deep Chicago roots of House music, specifically in the LGBT community.

Some of the biggest names in House music’s Chicago history, including DJ Alan King of “The Chosen Few” crew, producer and DJ Derrick Carter and Robert Williams, founder of The Warehouse, will be spinning and speaking at the event.

“To see this music that’s always been sort of thriving underground be recognized in a historical museum of this significance, it’s a very important day,” King said.

The event, "The House that Chicago Built," is part of the museum’s "Out at CHM" programming, which holds three LGBT-focused events a year.

The Jan. 30 celebration and discussion of House music kicks off at 5:30 p,m, with an open bar cocktail reception until the panel discussion begins at 6:30 p.m.

The night will finish off with a dance party until 9 p.m.

“That’s the museum going wild for you,” said Jill Austin, curator at the museum.

"With this topic and these presenters, there was no way we could limit ourselves to just an hour of music," said Michael Cansfield, the museum’s grants manager and administrator of the Out at CHM series. "We will get it kicking again after the formal presentation."

Tickets are $20, and $15 for members and students.

The history of house music in Chicago can be traced to many of the city’s underground venues that were filled largely with gay and black clubbers, King said.

Most notable was The Warehouse, where DJ Frankie Knuckles rose to fame in the late '70s.

“They were really pushing a more underground, more soulful form of disco music,” King said. “The LGBT roots are very, very strong and important.”

The upcoming event at the history museum will kick off with a DJ set by King followed by a panel discussion on the diversity, progression and impact of House music in Chicago, featuring two music historians alongside King, Williams and Carter.

In recent years house music has seen a resurgence on the national scene.

While most fans of electronic dance music are aware of its Chicago origins, many new listeners don’t know of the important role the gay community played.

“There’s a renaissance going on, if you will,” King said. “The EDM thing is big. A lot of people are focusing on that, but electronic music is really just another form of House music.”

King’s legendary crew continues to host The Chosen Few Picnic in Jackson Park each year for 30,000 people, which it has been doing for 23 years.

“Chicago is very proud and protective of our roots in the music,” King said, “all of the old-school classics that we all kind of came up on.”

The museum first began hosting its Out at CHM events back in 2004, and The House the Chicago Built will kick off the 11th year of the programming.

Its strong dedication to LGBT programming peaked in 2011 with the “Out” exhibit, but has not let up since.

The museum has also hosted the Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame reception the last three years, and waived the rental fee for the night.

“That’s all part of the ongoing commitment that I feel we have from the museum leadership,” Cansfield said.

The rest of the 2014 Out at CHM series includes a program titled "Dangerously Explicit: Painting the Gay Male Experience" on March 27 and "Lesbianography: Lesbians and Sex" on May 8.