By Dani Deahl
Mark Gertz describes brainchild Dark Wave Disco as “indie rock/electro/disco punk/hipster” but, he quickly notes, “for the record, I hate the word hipster.” However, judging from the crowd the night brings in every month, the term appears to be a necessary evil. Here ladies in rainbow knee socks jam next to androgynous men with aviators dangling on the tips of their noses (yes, inside Sonotheque at 1am), and sometimes if you look, you might catch the boys from Kill Memory Crash hanging by the booth. What this varied crowd does seem to have in common is that at every event they’re all laughing, yelling and dancing their little hipster butts off.
The idea for DWD arose a year ago when Gertz, tired of having a choice between house and house when going out, was driven to put something together to showcase new music for the next generation of club kids. This is not to say that Gertz doesn’t enjoy some good ole four-to-the-floor but rather that he was tired of watching everything else evolve while, in his mind, house stayed put. Thus Dark Wave Disco was born and Gertz recruited photographer Paul Rodriguez as well as fellow DJs Trancid and Greg Corner (of Kill Hannah) to seal the deal.
Although the night could have been considered a success from the beginning with the strong crowds and good buzz it immediately received, the hardest thing to counteract were those who just didn’t seem to get what the group was trying to do. Accused of being faddish trend-riders, Gertz and crew wound up spending as much time promoting their events as they did defending their legitimacy. Gertz remembers one instance the day after Junior Sanchez played for them when angry partygoers slammed the DJ’s performance online, accusing Sanchez of “jumping on the hipster bandwagon and abandoning his roots.” Gertz emits an audible sigh and, exasperated, says, “Look, Junior Sanchez was great, and he’s still great. [But, like him], we just want to expose people to the possibilities that are out there.”
Now, a year later, attendees understand more than ever what DWD is about. The night has gotten press in everything from BPM to Spin, and the attendance easily tops 300 with headliners like Traxx, Steve Aoki, Carlos D from Interpol, Assassins, Mount Sims and Lady Sovereign breezing through. Even though the enormous success in such a short period of time has catapulted DWD into the spotlight as the place to see and be seen, some part of Gertz still doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. “I don’t think the night is groundbreaking at all,” he says, “but there isn’t much else going on here. What we’re doing is nothing new in other cities. We’re just allowing Chicago to finally taste what New York and L.A. have already been doing with nights like Misshapes and Loose Tooth.”
Does this mean that DWD is popular simply by default? Although Gertz is overly modest in most respects, he would like to think that good planning by a good team has something to do with it. So perhaps what helps fuel it all is this lackadaisical attitude that Gertz and his crew carry with them. With no one scrambling to take the credit, they discuss each other’s virtues instead, explaining that it’s a group effort to the end, from graphic design to booking. Such a laidback feel makes one wonder if they are interested in creating their own version of the ultimate party atmosphere for just the actual fun of it. Gertz helps clarify this thought at the end of our conversation, blurting out, “We just want everyone to be dancing, fucked up and having a blast!”
This week’s Dark Wave Disco celebrates BPM Magazine’s 10-year anniversary with three-time DWD artist Tommie Sunshine and of course, residents Trancid, Gertz and Greg Corner. Even if you think DWD isn’t up your alley, the $2 beers, great music and a bevy of hosts who just want to get you trashed may make it worth your while to find your inner hipster.
Dark Wave Disco takes place at Sonotheque, 1444 Chicago, (312)226-7600, on July 14 at 9pm. No cover before 10pm, $10 after.