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  WINDY CITY TIMES

"Stonewall50: Back to the Wall" celebration to capture essence of Stonewall
by Matt Simonette
2019-06-25

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Chicago DJ Marc Moder has been since last year collaborating a Pride weekend event that is both an "informative and reverential" celebration of the 1969 Stonewall uprising.

"We want to speak to a generation that was not even born yet," explained Moder, an occasional Windy City Times contributor. "We want to take them back for a night, in a respectful way. We understand that things weren't easy at the Stonewall Inn. People were fearing for their jobs. Some people had arrest records. Some feared for their safety."

The upcoming party, Stonewall50: Back to the Wall, will be not be "so easygoing that we ignore the struggle that happened," Moder added. "We want to create a realistic atmosphere of what Stonewall might have felt like that night, without it being too over-the-top."

Jeffrey Roscoe is preparing a film montage from vintage footage, while Clayton Terrill is the host. Regine Phillips and Dida Ritz will be the featured performers. The event takes place Friday, June 28 from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Meeting House Tavern, 5025 N. Clark St.

In the early parts of the evening, partygoers shouldn't expect the conventional '70s dance anthems that contemporary audiences might expect. Moder consulted two books—Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979, by Tim Lawrence, and Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out by Martin Aston—to verse himself music that might have been heard in bars in the era before Stonewall took place.

"People of my age think of music in gay bars as having begun as soon as 'I will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor came out," Moder said, noting that DJs using records became commonplace in New York right around the time of the uprising.

"They brought in DJs to spin 45's and 33's because it was cheaper than a band, and a lot of bands wouldn't play gar bars," he added. "The jukebox industry was also extremely crooked and run by the mob."

DJs spun an eclectic mix of tunes for bar patrons, among them African dance pieces and standards by Peggy Lee, Judy Garland and Leslie Gore. Motown also was a huge part of many gay bars' playlists.

"The first half of the night will be music from up to Stonewall, then at midnight we'll switch to post-Stonewall, into disco and the '80s and '90s, culminating in the anthems that we know today," Moder added.

Of the footage Roscoe is preparing, Moder said, "We're hoping that people of my age or before can come and really recognize something of themself in the footage that they haven't seen in years. We also hope that younger people can come and really get an idea for what the area was actually like."

He added, "We don't want to blow off the fact that people of color, trans women and a very diverse group of people went through for us to get to where we are today," added Moder. … I think there are a lot of people who are under 50 who don't think about Stonewall when they think about Pride. I think it's something that we need to drill home every Pride, what the struggle was back then."

For more information, see www.facebook.com/events/396319071209599/ .


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