Article | Zebo | Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt

Put an X at the Booty Up, because Zebo's weekly party is worth its weight in music gold.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 03.08.12

The concept of being a DJ’s DJ is about as tired a cliché as someone pantomiming record scratching when referencing the art form. Yet, the turn of phrase is apt for Zebo, a ubiquitous Chicago DJ whose kaleidoscopic selecting and impeccable blends mean he’s equally comfortable opening up for indie-disco duo Holy Ghost or dubstep pioneers Skream and Benga. What DJ can’t admire that level of versatility? 

Voted best local DJ by the Chicago Reader the past two years—and hoping for a hat trick in 2012—Johnathon “Zebo” Gust’s skill and music expertise have scored him a position at Columbia College, where he teaches Club DJ classes to a new generation of dance-music lovers. They’ve also landed him at Wicker Park late-night mecca Evil Olive, where his Friday-night residency the Booty Up recently marked five years of steamy dance mayhem. 

Debuting in 2007 with then partner Travas Machel, a.k.a. Pr3-Frosh, the Booty Up has been Gust’s main party outlet in the city. “People just started to notice that we’re doing something different,” the 31-year-old says over lunch at Small Bar in Wicker Park. “Being that it’s a four o’clock spot, the only options were Nick’s, where you could hang out with the jukebox, or go to Ohm and pay a ridiculous cover and maybe not get in.” Gust’s night offered a more eclectic late-night party. That reputation remains. 

Looking like the new millennium twist on a ’50s greaser with a dirty-blond pompadour, handlebar mustache and a jigsaw puzzle of tattoos—including “true love” inked across his fingers—a humble Gust points to the Booty Up as the origin of Evil Olive’s hold on Wicker Park nightlife. “We really don’t cater to a Top 40 vibe. It would range from classic hip-hop to new dance, electro and banger house. That was really what got Evil Olive going as a whole,” he says. 

Traversing multiple managerial and lineup changes that until recently included Marco Morales, a partner in Zebo’s Hot Dog Records, Gust has proven an invaluable musical ally for the club. “After running Evil Olive and hosting every style of party you can imagine, there was always one person that fit the bill without the possibility of disappointment,” says former manager Eric Bollard. “He’s a hometown hero with a great head of hair.”

Check out the latest from Zebo's Hot Dog Records, Chicago project Echodroides:


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