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Rockin' My Nightlife In 2009: Veronica

By Veronica Murtagh in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 1, 2010 6:10PM

The year has a been a tumultuous one for nightlife and electronic music in Chicago. Promoters had to think smart to pull in crowds with far less spending money and we lost our shining star, the always tasteful Sonotheque. With Lava Lounge set to relaunch in 2010 as a cocktail lounge and a long winter still ahead, many feel uncertain, yet curious, for what the new year will bring.

Instead of focusing on the downturns, I thought it more appropriate as we close 2009, to share my list of the people in Chicago who look past the obvious hurdles, sharing their musical, promotional or intellectual creativity through the filter of electronic music. Ranked in no particular order, here's who registered on my local radar most in 2009.

Veronica's Electronic Music Radar:
The Names Who Caught My Attention in 2009

2009_12_GhettoDivision.jpg Ghetto Division
We spoke with the up-and-coming family of South Side-based producers and DJs back in November. The principles of brotherhood and a common mission of creativity in the studio unite the group and spread their blend of production, DJing, outreach and party-throwing across all corners of the city. They may be young but they're talented, passionate and ambitious. With sharp tongues and an army of supporters, Ghetto Division aren't afraid to challenge the expectations of electronic music nightlife in Chicago.

2009_LonoBrazil.jpg Lono Brazil Lono Brazil is no newcomer to Chicago nor electronic music. Raised on the South Shore, Brazil logged time as a New York club promoter in the '80s and shares decades of disco appreciation at his monthly Danny's Tavern party, Disco Unusual Social Club. Nicky Siano, Larry Levan and David Mancuso inspire Brazil's curatorial approach to nightlife. If you missed Brazil's evening with Lee Douglas and Lovefingers, then you slept on the best show of Sonotheque's final year.

2009_12_HeyChamp.jpg Hey Champ
We are still waiting for a much-anticipated, full-length album from electro-rockers Hey Champ, but album or not, the band's sound has matured by leaps and bounds in 2009. It's not long ago that we remember seeing the young, unpolished act play to a small crowd of friends at the Empty Bottle. This year brought a Lollapalooza main stage performance, a massive tour with The Sounds and some of the most popular remixes to float around the internet. Hey Champ have been a Chicago band to watch for sometime, but in 2009 they became a band known nationwide. Now if we could just get that album in 2010.

2009_12_KidSister.jpg Kid Sister
Bloggers love to write about Kid Sister, DJs love to spin Kid Sister and everyone loves a live Kid Sister show. It's hard not to fall for the sociable, approachable and downright talented female hip-pop starlet. This year at long last saw the release of the Ultraviolet, the album we all thought would never see the light of day—and was actually worth the wait. Never shy about showing her love for her city, Ultraviolet is full of hometown pride, from shout-outs to production work from local juke beatmaker Gant-Man.

2009_12_MisterJoshua.jpg Mister Joshua
As the Nightlife Editor for Time Out Chicago, Joshua Ferguson (Mister Joshua) keeps Chicago abreast of happenings while lending intellectual critique and content to the internet at large. Also a DJ and member of The Chicago Workgroup, Ferguson brings his unparalleled taste to dancefloors and the runs best electronic music podcast in Chicago, Dialogue Incorporated. Ferguson taps into the serious and professional side of electronic music, proving nightlife isn't just for the kids.

2009_12_WillyJoy.jpg Willy Joy The greater economic struggles paired with a saturated nightlife scene have left their mark on clublife in 2009. Promoters struggled with attendance as budgets were often not in the cards for flying in headlining talent. DJ/producer Willy Joy managed to consistently keep his monthly Fly By Night party at Debonair Social Club fresh by calling upon his network of talented friends and collaborators. Artists from prominent labels Fool's Gold and Trouble & Bass regularly made appearances supported by Joy's handpicked roster of local talent.

2009_12_OnlyChildren.jpgOnly Children
From Ghetto Division to the Chicago Workgroup, 2009 has seen a rise in electronic music collectives. DJ, production and design collective the Only Children bring together the talents of established musicians Chris Baronner, Dino Balocchi, Jesse Hozeny and Mcrae Reed to spread their gospel of disco synth goodness. Mark our words, disco will dominate electronic music in 2010 in Chicago and the Only Children will be leading the good fight.

2009_12_GantMan.jpg Gant-Man
Despite juke's rising popularity as a Chicago-centric electronic niche sound, many still believe it to be relegated to a young, South Side audience. Garrard Wilson (Gant-Man) aims to spread Chicago's rich electronic music history through juke to all sides, and all demographics of the city. Over two decades of DJ experience in a vast array of genres, including house, have made Gant-Man one of, if not the most skilled purveyor of the juke sound. Production credits on Kid Sister's Ultraviolet further spread juke and Gant-Man's name to a waiting audience of eardrums outside Chicago's city limits.

2009_12_KateSimko.jpg Kate Simko
Kate Simko isn't a new talent, but an established player that warrants watching year after year. The hyper-talented, music degreed Simko adds techno with an international flavor to the roster of Michigan-based label Ghostly International. Though Simko plays few Chicago shows these days, she sets a high bar for both our city and women in electronic music. If you've never checked out Simko's music before, we recommend you start here.

2009_12_Rehab.jpg REHAB Mondays
It's impossible to run down a list of the biggest blips on Chicago's 2009 electronic music radar without including a mention of REHAB, the Monday night party that beat all the odds to become Paper Magazine's Best Party In America. Focusing on fun and friendship over big names and excess, promoters Derek Berry and Rick Carrico have found a way to make the weekend (and your hangover) last one more day. They're charming, infectiously enthusiastic and they just want to show everyone how to RAGE.