The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

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All Tomorrow’s Parties

Illusion and Disillusion at “Klubnacht Presents: LUVNACHT”
Third-years+Will+Tom+and+JD+Allen+at+Klubnacht+Presents%3A+LUVNACHT.
Evgenia Anastasakos
Third-years Will Tom and JD Allen at “Klubnacht Presents: LUVNACHT.”

Part 1: Premonitions

Every tornado starts with a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere, and every wild night starts with a quiet morning. That is why, when I learned that I was covering “Klubnacht Presents: LUVNACHT”— the Valentine’s Day-themed iteration of a legendary basement techno rave at 62nd and Kimbark—I knew I had to seek out the rave’s denizens early in the day, and watch Klubnacht take form in utero. I found them eating bagels under the pipe-studded ceiling of Robust Coffee Lounge. They had just come from a rehearsal for their nascent, still unnamed, indie rock band.

“I think Klubnacht has historically been a place that really brings beautiful romantic relationships. After the last Klubnacht I ran home and did snow angels on the Midway. And I lost my hat,” said third-year Zach Ashby with a wistful smile, fiddling with a giant pair of sunglasses in his hands.

“I didn’t know it was happening until really recently,” bleary-eyed fourth-year Eli Wizevich admitted. “I went there only once to drop someone off, and while I was there I had to use the bathroom, and it kind of looked like [the building] was habitated but also really moldy, and the door didn’t have a lock or a latch on it […] when I walked outside there was someone drinking vodka and milk, so I left.”

Wizevich brightened at this pleasing recollection. Meanwhile, Klubnacht organizer fourth-year Oscar Dorr offered a more philosophical description of the event.

“We want to provide the transcendent experience,” the curly-haired and bouncy Dorr rhapsodized. “We realized that most people don’t possess the social skills to gather in a big room and actually talk to each other, so we decided that if we played music loud enough, it’d encourage people to dance; they could have some semblance of fun without ever having to actually meaningfully interact with another person. So, hence, from that, and with our glorious leader Will Tom embodying that principle more than anyone else, Klubnacht was born.”

Dorr had uttered the name whose monosyllabic components would be repeated by patrons of Klubnacht like the beat of a techno song—Will Tom.

“He learned to DJ, he bought nice DJ decks and all sorts of accoutrements. He bought lights; he bought a smoke machine,” Dorr elaborated.

The students withdrew into their breakfast sandwiches, but I had heard enough. It seemed that Klubnacht was a microcosm of life itself, bringing out the snowy angels as well as the vodka and milk-drinking demons in the human psyche, all under the direction of an elusive architect—third-year Will Tom—willing to stop at nothing in his quest for the perfect basement techno rave.

 

Part 2: A Black Cat; A Winged Cupid

I was greeted at the entrance to Klubnacht by a black cat, perched on a small ledge beside the door. The door itself was hard to find, labeled only with a handwritten sign in grammatically incorrect German. The black cat gazed into my eyes. Whether it was daring me to enter, or asking to be let in, I couldn’t tell.

Inside, blue and yellow lights swept over the tarp-covered ceiling. Two bartenders served original cocktails—with names like AphroDJac and Sex on the Subwoofer—on a plastic folding table while a volunteer laid out free Narcan kits on a washing machine. A pile of coats grew by the door.

The dance floor opened up beyond this improvised lobby. It was only about 10:15 and fairly empty. But if the room was wanting in attendees, a DJ known only as “love doctor” provided more than enough feeling. She sported a black fur hat and played R&B-based mixes behind a turntable setup, which looked like a digital pulpit at the back of the room: stately, its dials and switches flashing under the love doctor’s fingers. The side wall played a video art installation, spliced and assembled from romantic scenes in famous movies. I was moved to dance, waving my arms in the projector’s beam, twisting and writhing to the chuckles of revelers trickling in.

Until one very important reveler arrived: fourth-year Harrison Knight, wearing a frilly red skirt, a white tank top, and a pair of angel wings, waving a pink bow and a heart-tipped toy arrow in the air. If Will Tom was the architect, Knight was the embodiment, the mascot, the soul putting “LUV” in LUVNACHT. And blessed by love shall be whomsoever his arrow pierces. I sincerely hoped that, by the end of the night, dawn’s own arrows would pierce the sky and illuminate newfound lovers in the alleys, lawns, and porches of Hyde Park.

 

Part 3: Hypnosis

There is a peculiar quality to parties, to raves and hootenannies. It is a hypnotic state that comes not from silence and tranquility, but from an overwhelming surge of noise, conversation and movement.

That is why I missed Will Tom’s DJ set entirely. His gut-punch bass-drum techno beats greeted many of Klubnacht’s visitors: he DJed during the period of steepest increase in attendance. But, caught up as I was greeting people and getting lost in the thickening crowd, I missed him—save for a glance of his thick, jet-black hair and mottled dark t-shirt clinging to his narrow frame as he threaded his way outside for a breath of fresh air.

And yet his legend grew. “It’s very confusing. I don’t know, it just is. He’s indescribable, he’s incomparable,” stammered first-year Henry Ridley when asked about Tom.

“I’ve been telling him you’re going to do some gonzo journalism, and he said he didn’t know what that meant,” second-year Evgenia Anastasakos divulged. Anastasakos had arrived at the venue hours earlier to soundproof the space against noise complaints, which had proved pesky in the past. When I asked her how she got roped into all this, she laughed and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she admitted.

The clock passed midnight and Klubnacht ballooned. “Pedro,” the DJ handle of third-year Pedro Bernal, his shaven head adorned with an industrial piercing, took his position behind the turntables, followed by second-year Kofi Graves, his dark curly hair bobbing between the speakers. The techno music continued, thousands of rod-straight drumbeats rippling through hundreds of feet planted on the concrete floor. Cigarettes traded hands. People spilled out into the yard and the alley. I lingered in the cold because it provided the opportunity for conversation.

Yet it always circled back to the techno vortex we were all swimming in.

“It’s just unimaginable; the way the beats resonate with me as a person,” an expansive, grandstanding Ashby declared.

“Will [Tom] is the mastermind. Will is the true Klubnacht connoisseur,” said second-year Ruby Velez.

Knight drifted past me in his cupid costume. I stopped him and asked if he’d brought any lovers together yet. “No, because I have this drink in my hand, and I haven’t been able to shoot any arrows. But once I start shooting, I think that I’ll bring incredible amounts of love to the community,” he answered.

It seems that the “LUV” remained pent up in Knight’s unused plush arrows. Will Tom was nowhere to be found. I was getting lost in Klubnacht’s hypnosis. And its legend of transcendent love was starting to unravel.

 

Part 4: Denouement

In the wee hours of the morning—one, perhaps even two a.m.— the DJ set of third-year JD Allen, “jd,” concluded. The assembled DJs started trading places haphazardly, appearing behind the turntable throne in new permutations every couple minutes.

The conventional parameters of space and time can’t describe Klubnacht’s denouement. I thought 15 minutes had passed; a look at my phone told me it was 45. A whooping dancer took his shirt off in a gesture of primeval joy. Two people, in a trance, fanned each other with a handheld fan. Cans flattened like paper underfoot. Friends hugged and kissed, in the throes of guaranteed oblivion. The unraveling threads of Klubnacht burned at their extremes.

I squatted down with my back against the wall and let the projector’s soft blue light wash over my eyelids like a mother’s caress. I thought of an old Velvet Underground song—“What costume shall the poor girl wear to all tomorrow’s parties?”

Probably the same costume as tonight. And every time 3:00 comes around, there’ll be the same peace in the whirlpool of sweat, unused plush arrows, base impulses, and very loud music. A peace of odorous armpits and sore knees, the peace right before you realize you’ll feel sick in the morning. The next thing I knew, I was in a free Lyft back to campus.

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Nick Rommel, Grey City Reporter
“He toes the line between Cronkite and Kerouac,” Nick Rommel once thought of himself during a Sunday afternoon reverie, a cold beer in one hand and a pencil in the other. Boozy braggadocio? Perhaps. But toeing that line has taken him through cushy offices, pulsating dancehalls, and lonesome beaches. It has introduced him to scholars of freshwater fish, administrators of healthcare behemoths, and the town fiddle players of remote Indian reservations. It’s taken him everywhere from Deutschland to the Dakotas, all in pursuit of a story. But even Nick’s toes get weary. That’s when he finds a comfortable home in the Chicago Maroon’s creative long-form Grey City section. His writing has also appeared in memoryhouse magazine. His radio work appears bi-weekly on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. It appeared for one glorious summer on Prairie Public, North Dakota’s NPR affiliate station. It will continue to appear where you least expect it.
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