This year marks the 40th Anniversary of house music, and with Chicago being the birthplace, it’s only right to make some noise. The city of Chicago will host a robust lineup of festivities, including a weekend of free programming by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCASE). 

The events will be sure to bring out House heads, as well as those who just want to get out, dance, and enjoy the city. 

The TRiiBE recently spoke with David Chavez, Head Programmer at Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), about the line-up. Taking a moment to remember the history of House music in its 40th year, Chavez said, “[It was] a big year for house in 1984, because a lot of records came out at that time.” At that time songs like “On and On” by Chicago DJ Jesse Saunders, along with a budding club scene, would soon put Chicago’s new genre on the map. 

“Frankie Knuckles and the Warehouse is a part of the origin story of House music. It was the foundation of what has come out now as House,” he said. The Warehouse was the booming West Loop club, promoted primarily by Black and queer DJs in the late 1970’s and 80’s, where House got its name. 

The special programs produced by DCASE, “celebrate those initial releases that defined and formalized the genre that we know to be House music today,” according to Chavez. 

The events kicked off on Thursday, May 30 at an Open House at the Chicago Cultural Center. The Open House featured different workshops, as well as DJ sets from DJ Kenny Ray, and DJ CTRLZORA.

People enjoying house music in Chicago
Photo by Patrick L. Pyszka and Samuel Sotelo-Avila.

The festivities will continue on Friday, May 31, with the Chicago House Music Conference, taking place at the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 E. Washington. The conference will consist of a selection of panel discussions commemorating the history, business, and art of House music. 

One of the panels will discuss how the House and underground dance music community can get a seat at the Grammy table. The discussion, which begins at 6:45 p.m., will feature three-time Grammy nominee, Terry Hunter; Grammy award-winning DJ and producer, Maurice Joshua; three-time Grammy winner, J. Ivy, and will be moderated by DJ and producer, Dani Deahl. 

Friday will also feature a keynote fireside chat from 8 p.m. until 9:15 p.m., featuring four-time Grammy nominated House music pioneer Steve “Silk” Hurley of S&S Records, as well as five-time Grammy winning producer, James “Jimmy Jam” Harris of Flyte Tyme. 

While the range of Jimmy Jam’s iconic career has brought us everything from S.O.S. Band classics like “Tell Me If You Still Care” to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, attendees will get insight on his earlier influences. “Jimmy Jam started his career as a DJ, and so we’re kind of charting that career trajectory from DJ to producer to super producer,” Chavez said. 

Saturday, taking place at Navy Pier, located at 600 E. Grand Ave, will be the Chicago House Music Festival Pre-Party, from 1 p.m. until 10 p.m. Performances will feature all Chicago artists, taking place at the Wave Wall Stage, which is at the base of the staircase to the Ferris Wheel. 

And all programming is free and open to all ages. ”Everything we do is open to the public and free of charge to attend: no age restriction, no boundaries, no barriers to attend, except for capacity,” Chavez confirmed.

House music pioneers, DJ Farley "Jackmaster" Funk (right) and DJ Alan King (left). Photos provided by DCASE.

The event-filled weekend will conclude on Sunday, June 2 at the Chicago House Music Festival, taking place at Millennium Park from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The festival boasts an impressive line up, split between two stages. 

The Chicago House stage, located at the North Promenade, will consist of DJs made right here in the city, featuring Flores Negras, Johnny Fiasco, and DJ Slugo amongst others. Showcasing the world-wide footprint of House music, the main stage at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion will feature acts from all over the world, like Anané from Cape Verde and New York City, Tony Touch from New York City, and Karizma from Baltimore. 

Chicago native Lori Branch will start the party at the main stage, located at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, at 1 p.m., and Ash Lauryn, from Detroit, will keep the vibes going at 2:15 p.m. The night will end properly with Chicago House DJs and pioneers such as, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Wayne Williams, and Alan King of the Chosen Few DJs. 

DCASE’s inclusion of acts from cities like New York, Detroit, Atlanta, and Baltimore pays tribute to the cultural hubs that have played a role in the evolution of House and its growth, according to Chavez. “It’s a really good celebration of the music that has inspired so many people globally, and has transformed dance music throughout the world.”

is a culture correspondent with The TRiiBE.