All photos by Chris Taylor
You’re in a dimly-lit warehouse surrounded by billowing cosmos and extra-terrestrial wonders, illuminated by soft, galactic blue light. As you float through the crowd, you pass below glowing neon creatures strewn around a massive, spinning spaceship in the center of the vaulted ceilings. As the lights drop low, a spotlight hits the crowd where the guest of honor, Rowgelia the giant chicken, sits in an inflatable rowboat atop a sea of hands, spewing confetti like the designated flower bird at ET’s wedding—wait…what?
Looking closer, the Milky Way above you devolves into madness. What once looked like a nearby planet is actually a melty, droopy fried egg. And is that a dislodged eyeball zooming past a Magic Eight Ball where Jupiter should be? It’s hard to tell because your gaze is instantly interrupted by a smiling astronaut in a glowing, groovy space helmet, towering over you on skyscraper-size stilts.
It wasn’t a dream. It was ROWSattacks at Radius Chicago, the funkiest tech-house space party this side of Mars, inspired by the classic Tim Burton film, Mars Attacks! Tucked in a quiet, industrial corner of the city, Radius is Chicago’s answer to a city-wide demand for a proper house and techno venue to celebrate the longtime heritage and influence that hails from the Midwest. Hosting the latest Elrow event on Nov. 20 had the already-sleek warehouse looking out of this world.
The only thing wilder than this space-y sight was the extended range of deep, bumping bass to crispy techno. Bastian Bux—a regular at clubs in Ibiza, Amsterdam, Las Vegas and other global hotspots—welcomed our fellow Chicagoland aliens into the event with contagious, happy hi-hats. Much like the party-planning masterminds behind Elrow, Bux hails from Barcelona, Spain. Doors opened at 8:00 p.m. for this all-night rager, and if you didn’t get there early, you missed out.
Following with her unique brand of dazzling, piano-laced house music, LP Giobbi took the stage at full force. You may recognize her name from collaborations and a recent global tour with Sofi Tukker, or maybe you’re familiar with her non-profit organization, FEMME HOUSE, focused on the advancement of equality and representation in electronic music. House music’s leading lady of the night mesmerized on the decks and dropped the crowd favorite, “Take My Hand.” Plus, she did it all in a Chicago Cubs t-shirt, shouting how happy she was to be back in her favorite city.
The celebrity sightings were red-carpet worthy. ET wandered the crowd before busting out the flow toys on stage, whipping light-up fans between long, spooky fingers. The squeaky Toy Story alien of “the claw!” fame sat inside a looming, trippy spaceship behind the decks, while far-out Storm Troopers in tie-dye fringe wiggled to the deep, funky bass. The aliens were hooping, the space soldiers were juggling and the bug-eyed, brainy Mars Attacks! aliens bent an already distorted reality with mysterious floating orbs and mind games. For being engulfed in such an alien environment, it was all too familiar.
The party lasted through the wee morning hours before closing out at 5:00 a.m., but there was only one way to measure time in this galaxy – confetti blast! Huge confetti cannons showered the crowd in endless chaos every time an artist unleashed their hottest drop. Where did it keep coming from? Did your face hurt from smiling as much as mine? It was as if the crowd would have to swim out of this colorful, papery bliss. But the confetti meant another thing – the finale of one set, and on to the next!
Following LP Giobbi, SKREAM threw down b2b with Dennis Ferrer. Ferrer pushed through with that good creepin’ music – you know the stuff: that soulful, dirty tech-house that’s best enjoyed in the dark, throwing out your back and knees for the sake of getting low. SKREAM counteracted it with energetic, high techno, bringing our hands to the ceiling in a rhythmic ocean. About halfway through the set, the two dropped a locally-produced, precedent-setting house track by a legendary Chicago icon, Paul Johnson. The contagious dance track “Get Get Down” reached far and wide after its release in 1999, topping dance music charts all over the world, from Australia to Belgium. Our beloved Paul Johnson left us just a few short months ago in August 2021 following a struggle with COVID-19 complications at the young age of 50. This extended tribute was the most beautiful and appreciated celebration of his life, and SKREAM and Dennis Ferrer gave this man’s legacy all the respect it deserved. We miss you, Paul, but we could feel you there.
A couple confetti blasts later, Michael Bibi took over the decks with experimental sounds and heart-racing tech-house beats. The London-based DJ has collaborated with SKREAM in the past, and it was incredible to see the friendship between exchanging artists on stage. As the night went on, the crowd on stage grew larger and larger. Dancing fans, friends and family intertwined with the ever-escalating number of more aliens. Seriously—where were they hiding before this?
By the time Jamie Jones took the stage, there may have been an equal amount of dancers flooding the stage as there were on the floor. This was the pinnacle of the celebration, and the energy from all corners of Radius was palpable as the crowd bounced in synchronicity. A founder of another global event series himself, Jones highlighted all of the best traits of the night. Funky bass, long building rhythms and the weirdest experimental sounds. This is the highest compliment – all anyone wanted was to get weird, and get weird, we did. The crowd dwindled as the dawn approached, but not by much, because no one could bare to pull themselves away.
It took Chicago far too long to snag it’s very first Elrow party, and if the success of this one says anything at all, it’s the start of many more to come. We can only hope to soon be graced with the presence of Rowgelia and friends again, transporting us to another world when we need it the most. Learn more about the long, historic origins of Elrow’s fantastic journey here, and make sure you never miss another event again!