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Paradigm brings Tuskegee to Chicago
The Second Article in the \”Chicago: Deeper than a Drop\” Series.
By: John C.

A Sense of Culture

In the last article of this series, we highlighted the history of house music in Chicago with a focus on the cultural impact that had shaped its birth. House music, from its origin, was never a product of pop culture. It would be more accurate to describe house music as the product of a subculture, developed in response to a transitional period in pop music.  Throughout house music\’s early history it developed a strong sense of identity amongst it\’s fans, from the regulars at the Warehouse to the Acid Rave attendees of the UK, for whom the music stood for both freedom from discrimination, (welcoming people from all races, sexual orientation and levels of wealth), and the unity of music that brought them together.

In today\’s scene, we are experiencing a rapid expansion of all electronic based genres. As the wave of ‘EDM’ popularity continues to escalate, the market is becoming flooded with new tracks, new artists, new parties and new festivals on a nearly daily basis. While it would seem that this is a good thing for a fan of electronic music, not everyone is in agreement. One of the loudest voices of concern comes from a DJ from Detroit who has witnessed the scene’s shift as he progressed from a electronic music fan to a highly respected DJ. Despite his increasing fame (Resident Advisor poll has placed him in the top 10 DJs worldwide since 2009), Seth Troxler has continued to remain an icon of the underground music scene by remaining true to himself and the vision he has for his music. To DJs like Troxler, the culture that supports our music scene is just important as the music that drives it. While his criticisms of pop culture\’s adaptation of electronic music may seem brash to some, Troxler\’s passion for the scene he grew up with is what drives his ambition to defend it.

Seth is not alone in his passion to preserve the cultural aspects of the music. Two brothers from the Bronx, Chris and Steve (Jr.) Martinez, collectively known as the Martinez Brothers, have also risen to international fame while maintaining their underground credentials. To the Martinez Brothers, music was not simply a hobby but a way of life. That life style saw it\’s birth during their youth, when they would often play drums for their community during ceremonies held by their pastor father. As their unique drumming engaged the crowd, the Martinez Brothers were able to identify the power that music can have on it\’s audience. The decision to DJ was never about traveling the world as a high class DJ or being featured on the cover of music magazines. For the DJ duo, the music was defined by those they were able to share it with and the house music scene provided an adequate fit. It allowed them to find an outlet for their musical expression that continued the intimacy and cultural appreciation they had come to expect in musical performance.

Different roots, same heritage to live up to

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It would seem unlikely that a Detroit area native and two brothers from the Bronx would be able to join forces in an effort to preserve heritage, but that is exactly what brings Seth Troxler and the Martinez Brothers (TMB) together. While their passion for dance music unites their creativity, Seth and TMB also share a bond through their common experiences as minorities in the electronic music scene. As their music became synonymous with their cultural identity, they decided to collaborate on a project that would allow them to unite their similar influences and showcase the culture they pride themselves in belonging to. The result of their collaboration was the formation of Tuskegee, a collective label that will allow them to release music and host events that celebrate the African American and Latino involvement in the house music scene of the 90s.

While their prominence as an influential voice in electronic music is undeniable, it is no small task that Tuskegee aims to accomplish. While Americans, especially minority Americans, can claim responsibility for the genre\’s existence today, the expansion of \’EDM\’ has overshadowed house\’s historical context to many new comers and many of the producers and DJs that cater to a similar audience can be found serving residencies overseas where they have a larger demand. For Seth Troxler and the Martinez Brothers to properly present the potential of this project, they would need to do it the way they know best: by bringing the project to the dance floor and giving their fans a taste of what Tuskegee has to offer.

When the underground goes big

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It is not only DJs who are responsible for the integrity of the music scene. Behind the scenes, events are put together by teams of individuals who are responsible for booking the right acts for their audience, providing an accommodating environment and establishing enough reputation amongst event-goers to allow for the event to be a success. While the role may seem \’fun\’ from the outside, it is certainly not for everyone.  Those who have followed the local scene long enough, have likely noticed the trend of new promotion companies appearing, only to fade out  a few months later. To be a successful event promotion company, it\’s members must possess a deep understanding of the scene they cater to and the experience to not only organize the events but ensure they run smoothly. Luckily, there is a promotional company in Chicago that has has both prerequisites and is using them to put on unparalleled shows. If you are unacquainted with Paradigm Underground, it\’s time to start paying attention.

Paradigm Underground has been able to establish its credibility through it\’s commitment to feature artists on the forefront of electronic music. Their success  should come as no surprise to those familiar with Chicago\’s electronic music scene. The team consists of Chicago industry veterans who have contributed to numerous other music projects in the city including Wavefront Music Festival and every tech-house head\’s favorite Chicago club, Spybar. If preservation of the culture and integrity of the music is a measurement of success for a promotional company, Paradigm Underground has hit a home run. This year alone Paradigm has hosted the likes of Dixon, Maceo Plex, Tale of Us, Matthew Dear and many more international icons. When the event calls for a change of scene, Paradigm takes their audience from the club to the underground, offering warehouse/loft style parties that keep the music pounding while the city sleeps.

A Perfect Match

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Seth Troxler has previously stated that when it comes to performing in a Chicago club, Spybar is the only place he will play. It seems only fitting that when Seth and TMB decided to bring Tuskegee performances to America for the Coming to America tour that they entrusted Paradigm Underground to host the event. With a solid foundation in hosting events amongst the team, including running Spybar (which was named a top 10 club in America by Rolling Stone), hosting large scale festivals such as Wavefront and Riverwest, as well as non traditional roof top and loft space ventures, Paradigm seems to be the perfect fit for the Tuskegee event. Settling on the Lacuna Artist Lofts as a venue, Paradigm set the stage for Tuskegee\’s first performance in Chicago.

It only took an hour into their back to back set to conclude that I would be reviewing the event as part of the Chicago: Deeper than a Drop series. It seems everyone can remember those nights out that everything comes together in a manner that will never be forgotten. Sometimes it is seeing a particular artist with friends or being introduced to a new artist that quickly earns his or her place on your favorites list. As someone who has the pleasure of attending a lot of shows,  I can look back at different events and remember which nights were my absolute favorite.  From a music perspective, however, this night made all of those prior memories seem lackluster.  I had extremely high expectations of this show; expectations that I wasn\’t sure the event would be able to live up to. Paradigm Underground not only met those expectations, but exceeded them. Nearly every aspect of the show was executed flawlessly.

The Lacuna Artist Lofts provided the perfect venue for the event. The space was large enough to be comfortable, yet small enough to maintain the intimacy that fit the show\’s context. The various art pieces both inside and surrounding the venue provided the proper setting for enjoying the show\’s artistic direction. The crowd of people that gathered for the event was amongst the best I have been a part of. It seemed nearly everyone in attendance was there for the music as they danced into the early hours of the morning. The typical stereotypes that plague the club and festival scene, from dance floor text message addicts to the \’bros\’ in search of a good fight, were no where to be seen. When you wanted to be alone with your friends and the music, you were able to do so without interruption.  If you were looking to strike up a conversation with someone, they were always willing to discuss music, the venue, or anything else that the conversation would evoke. It would seem that Seth, TMB and Paradigm found success in establishing an environment that reflected the culture and community they passionately defend. The audience included Chicago-favorite DJs, such as Inphinity and Steve Gerard, amongst many others Chicago based artists that made it out to the event. An event of this magnitude doesn\’t go without attracting attention. In addition to the Chicago-based DJs in attendance, was a guest appearance from one of the Disclosure brothers, who joined the party after his Lollapalooza after party had ended.

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I would be doing a disservice to an interested reader by not mentioning the production quality that Paradigm Underground brought to life at the Lacuna Lofts. The lights and LED screens utilized for the set\’s visual component would easily put most permanent club installations to shame.  From the sound activated colored spot lights that danced throughout the area above the dance floor to the LED screens that would transition from sound activated patterns to more intense visuals as the music demanded, it seemed that no corner was cut in ensuring that this event provided attendees with a unique experience. The production effort\’s success was not limited to it\’s visuals. The sound was loud enough to carry through the event, actively monitored to ensure no clipped signals or distortion, and powerful enough to make sure that every bass element was felt. I have been to warehouse parties before, but I have never been to one that could compare with the sound and lighting that the show was outfitted with. The party may have been presented in a Loft during after hours, but it was far from stereotypical of the scene.

It always comes to an end

As with any show, there is always the inevitable point when the fun comes to an end, the lights come on and it is time to go. Although we are not quite at the end of the year, I feel fairly confident that this night will remain my favorite of 2014. After a year of attending club events nearly every weekend and a total of 5 Music Festivals (From Riverwest to EDC Vegas), that is certainly saying a lot, but its validity is undeniable. Two of my favorite DJ acts, a positive crowd experience, production quality that matched the talent on the stage, all in an Art Loft during the best hours for music – after hours. The formula is obvious but very rarely does it all come together as well.

The event provided an incredible night of music that owes a big thank you to Seth Troxler, the Martinez Brothers, Paradigm Underground and Lacuna Lofts.

For further information:

Interested in attending a Paradigm Underground event?
Follow them on  Facebook: Paradigm Presents on Facebook

Their next event, Rumors on the Rooftop, features Guy Gerber, Moodyman and Delano Smith. Event information and tickets can be found here:
Resident Advisor – Rumors on the Rooftop
My tickets are already purchased – maybe I\’ll see you there!

Chicago: Deeper Than A Drop
I hope this series is as enjoyable to read as it is to write. If you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions for a future article, please let me know. I can be reached on Twitter:  @312_JohnC

If you haven\’t had a chance to read the intro to the series, which discusses the history of house music, check it out:
Chicago: Deeper Than a Drop – The History of House Music

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