A melting pot of dance lovers from around the globe will fellowship Saturday in Jackson Park for 13 hours of nonstop house music.
The Chosen Few DJs Picnic and Festival, now in its 28th year, boasts an estimated attendance of at least 45,000. Attendees arrive as early at 4 a.m. to claim their spots, set up tents and barbecue grills and get ready for the euphoric feeling that many say only house can provide.
Chosen Few DJs Picnic and Festival
When: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Jackson Park, 63rd Street at Hayes Drive
Price: $40 – $175
The Chosen Few DJs — Mike Dunn, Andre Hatchett, Tony Hatchett, Terry Hunter, Alan King, Jesse Saunders and Wayne Williams — will share the lineup with songstress Terisa Griffin and Chuck “The Voice” Roberts, among other guest DJs from around the nation, all ready to feed the souls of house music fans, also known as house heads.
For Chicagoans, the love for house music dates back to the late 1970s at The Warehouse and the revered DJ Frankie Knuckles. Knuckles, affectionately known as the “Godfather of House Music,” would spin his mixes nonstop and wow legions of house heads, from teens to adults.
The Warehouse is where Hunter became a believer in the genre, at age 12.
Raised by his grandparents, Hunter recalled listening to the songs they constantly played, but mixed by Knuckles. He was instantly drawn to the sound and feeling of house music.
“The way Frankie was able to mesmerize and control the crowd with his mixes … I knew then that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t know anything about DJing, but I went home and told my grandfather I was going to be a DJ,” said Hunter.
Well, he did know a smidgen about it. His grandfather owned the Family Lounge on Division Street and played records all the time, but none were mixed.
Hunter honed his craft, which took him across the nation and overseas to produce and mix music. He returned to the states and started doing more sets in Chicago. Already longtime friends to the original group of Chosen Few DJs, Hunter joined the roster in 2006, followed by Dunn in 2012.
Asked to describe or define the genre, Hunter says you can’t, it’s “undefinable.”
“I tell people all the time that it can’t be defined. It’s more than just words, it’s spiritual. It’s a feeling,” he said.
If you’ve never heard of Roberts, you’ve heard him. He’s the infamous voice of house music.
When you hear, “In the beginning, there was Jack, and Jack had a groove … “ Yes, that raspy voice that sounds like a Southern baptist preacher in the middle of the altar call, or winding down his sermon to let you know “the doors of the church are open.” When you hear that voice say, “And this is fresh,” that’s the equivalent of the church doors opening to new members, and there’s no turning back.
Last year house heads finally got the chance to put a face with the iconic vocals.
Roberts surprised all at the festival when he came from behind the turntables on stage and spoke the words that get the crowd hyped every time. It was the first time in three decades Roberts said those words in front of a crowd.
“It was like a dream come true, because I left house music to do other music. But, there was always something missing. So, you know, like the prodigal son, I had to return home. House music is my thing, you know what I’m saying? And the Chosen Few was a godsend to me,” he joyously said.
Roberts, a music producer and huge house fan, said the words were birthed from a feeling he felt every time he went to The Factory, a now-shuttered nightclub on the West Side in the late 1980s. One day in 1987 in a studio at the nightclub, a couple of producers wanted him to hear a new track they laid, but it was missing something.
They needed Roberts to channel his Baptist upbringing to seal the deal.
“They said, ‘Chuck, bro, we need this to have some feelings and some emotions. And you being from the church, we know you can get this thing. It’s the spirit I’ve been needing,’ ” Roberts said.
He channeled every feeling that came over him when he listened to house, and observed how others took to the music.
“I just told my side of the story; how I viewed house music. From going to different house parties and seeing things at the club, I saw how it affected people. It was infectious. It’s more than just music, just like in the beat. It’s a feeling; it’s a vibe,” said Roberts, echoing Hunter’s sentiments.
“If you’re not careful, house music is going to pick you up and take you somewhere that you’ve never dreamed.”