All photos by Kyle LaValley
A mighty wind
Despite venue hardships, Windy City Soul Club keeps blowing up dance-floors.
By Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 12.03.09
“I never knew this until a couple of years ago, but my dad played on one of the biggest Northern soul records of all time,” Ben Pirani says. He recalls asking his father if he’d ever recorded with famed Chicago-based R&B and blues label Chess Records and being met with a dismissive “I went and played a few times and I recorded with this folk singer one time,” Pirani explains. “That’s the most I could ever get out of him.” Turns out that folk singer was Terry Callier and the song was “Ordinary Joe,” an essential record in any respectable Northern-soul collection.
Pirani’s dad, a piano player and studio musician who died in 2003, left a clear mark on the native Chicagoan. At 32, he’s the spokesman for six-man DJ crew Windy City Soul Club (WCSC), which dedicates its monthly parties to obscure and dusty soul sounds, especially Northern soul—the mod movement from 1960s Great Britain that drew from the mostly black soul coming out of the States at the time. Pirani’s discovery of events in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Minneapolis and Seattle that emulated the ’60s scene led to WCSC. “These parties just opened my eyes to the fact that you can get college-age white kids to dance to this music and enjoy it,” Pirani says.
In anticipation of WCSC’s one-year anniversary party at Empty Bottle Friday 4, we meet Pirani at a downtown Starbucks to discuss the crew’s success, despite a string of venue problems. “I’ve always just wanted to throw parties. I never thought I’d be getting into city politics,” Pirani says. The city forced both of WCSC’s first venues—a loft space on Lincoln Avenue that Pirani calls “wildly illegal” and the Viaduct Theater—to stop hosting the party because of the size of its crowds, sometimes upwards of 400 people. “The first party, we did not expect what went down. It was chaos, but in the best way,” Pirani says, smiling.
(There's also an exclusive mix from WCSC after the jump)