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‘House City’ series brings pop-up music events to Chicago neighborhoods this summer

One of the DJs, Selah Say, is excited about spinning beats outdoors, where ‘you can’t control where the music goes.’

Walter S. Mitchell III, Samuel Sotelo-Avila
Fans dance at the 2019 Chicago House Music Festival. This year’s replacement, the “House City” pop-up event, is taking place in Chicago neighborhoods such as South Shore, Englewood, and North Lawndale.
City of Chicago

Summer in Chicago is salvageable for local “House Heads” after all.

Instead of the Chicago House Music Festival — and the Chosen Few Picnic & House Music Festival, which has gone virtual for consecutive years — the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is highlighting the locally created genre’s contributions to modern music with “House City,” a free, 10-part pop-up series that began July 4.

The pop-up events will take place in Chicago neighborhoods such as South Shore, Englewood, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park and Lake View, among others. The Aug. 28 date is sponsored by the Protect Chicago Music Series, and Chicago SummerDance in the Parks is a part of the Sept. 12 South Shore event.

While announcing the suspension of the popular house, jazz, gospel and blues festivals in Millennium Park, DCASE and Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month unveiled a summer slate of alternative cultural events that city officials said will follow the latest public health and safety guidelines.

“Chicago’s arts landscape has been devastated by the pandemic, but I’m excited to see our music clubs, theaters and festivals come back to life and energize Chicago,” said DCASE commissioner Mark Kelly in a news release. “During this 2021 Year of Chicago Music, our ‘Chicago in Tune’ festival will emerge as a joyous monthlong celebration of Chicago’s amazing music scene. Our ‘Chicago Presents’ and other neighborhood programs will animate our entire city with music, theater and dance. The arts have suffered greatly, but culture is coming back to Chicago — big time.”

Chicago-based DJ Selah Say will headline the North Lawndale slate of “House City.”
Lili Fang

Selah Say, a Chicago-based DJ, is headlining the North Lawndale slate of “House City” on July 16. Say says she has an unconventional backstory when it comes to house music, and when she moved to Chicago, she heard all about house music when studying its importance to the city.

“When I first got to Chicago as a DJ, I had to take some time to really study house music because house music is an institution here in Chicago and I did not want to disrespect the movement,” said Say, a South Carolina native. “And once I realized what was going on in Chicago with house — and the spirit of it — and the legacy of house, to be asked to do an event like this, that is celebrating house music but also targeted to make sure that it goes to every corner of Chicago, I couldn’t be more thrilled because people need to know about house music and know about the roots, and actually get to experience it in sonic form.”

Say says she’s going to bring a different spin to the event because of her Southern heritage, and because so many Chicagoans have roots in that part of the country.

“It’s like playing for Southerners who don’t know that they are Southerners, and so it’s a different flavor that I can bring into it as a DJ,” said Say. “This is a series that’s gonna be outside, so that’s another great thing because once [music] is outside, you can’t control where the music goes; everybody [who] hears it is in that space or in that area. [Music] gives me an opportunity to put these jams on Earth and in a natural environment.”

Here’s the schedule for the remaining “House City” slate of events (with some locations not yet announced):

  • Austin Town Hall Park, 5610 W. Lake, July 8: 3–4 p.m., DJ Slick Rick da Master; 4–5 p.m., DJ Traxman x HouseofWurkz; 5–6 p.m., DJ Deeon; 6–7 p.m., Dance Down featuring Silent Threat, Bringing Out Talent, Aggression, Final Alert, Geek Skquad, Dance Force and DJ Corey
  • North Lawndale, July 16: 4-7 p.m., DJ Selah Say
  • South Shore, 6760 S. Stony Island, July 23: 3–9 p.m., DJs Elbert Phillips, Duane Powell and Lori Branch
  • Southeast Side, July 31: 2–6 p.m., House Kidz, hosted by Lizzie G and featuring kid DJ Kobe One Kenobi, and a house dance lesson
  • Humboldt Park, Aug. 14: 3–9 p.m, DJs Lugo Rosado, DJ Phatman and Julio Bishop; hosted by Yvette Magallón
  • Kennedy-King College, 6301 S. Halsted, Aug. 28: 12–7 p.m., Chosen Few DJs
  • Lake View, Aug. 29: 3–9 p.m.
  • South Shore, Rainbow Beach Park, 3111 E. 77th, Sept. 12: 1–6 p.m. DJs Torin Edmond, Rae Chardonnay and DJ Kobe One Kenobi; hosted by Ronda Flowers; dance instruction with Boogie McClarin
  • Bronzeville, Sept. 19: 3-9 p.m., DJs Mike Dunn, Daryll Mellowman, and JStar; hosted by TheWayWeWere