Let It Shine

photo by Katherine Jinyi Li

photo by Katherine Jinyi Li

Chicago-based party collaborative Dale Shine knows there’s no better way to bring people together than a cozy space and good music. Boozy chelas? Check. Crackling chicharrones? Definitely. Thudding cyber ritmos? Claro.

It’s six o’clock on a Thursday night in Caminos de Michoacán, Pilsen’s neighborhood bar, where small groups of friends both young and old have already gathered for the evening’s rounds of hearty five-dollar micheladas and, from aguardiente to rumchata, a wide selection of alcohol that any latin@ would yearn for. Salvador Torres, the bar’s owner of over thirty years, bustles about making sure that everybody’s got a steady stream of complimentary fried pork skins and unshelled peanuts, leaning against the counter every once in a while to watch the baseball game or chat with those at the bar.

The customers don’t seem to notice Dale Shine’s three DJs in the back of the room, putting together their sets for the night’s musical event: “Otra Onda: Cyber Ritmos.” As the music starts, more groups of people gradually fill up the bar until every table is crowded with dancing people, snacks, and buckets of beer. Blanca Méndez, aka DJ Blancateli, is up first with a mix of Chilean pop, Argentinean electrocumbia, Chicano classics featuring Selena and even some bilingual Beyoncé.

photo by Katherine Jinyi Li

photo by Katherine Jinyi Li

A Tejana and graduate of Northwestern’s journalism program, Méndez began the Dale Shine party series with an eye on other urban music projects. She drew inspiration from DJ Geko Jones’ QUE BAJO?! of Brooklyn, which mixes traditional Latin beats with the greater party scene, and the DJ wars of Ghe20 G01k, also based in New York City, which provide a safe common space for all kinds of people to have a thoroughly good time. Dale Shine strives to bring that same sort of multi-community party to Chicago. “We want to show that Latin music and culture is just as much merengue as it is technopop,” says Méndez. “We value our diversity–it’s showcasing new Latin sounds, bringing out the queer community, providing a space for all kinds of musical and artistic expression.”

Dale Shine started off last autumn with a Chicago-wide call for DJs, artists, writers, community activists, and generally music-savvy individuals on the independent Latin music blog Club Fonograma, where Méndez is a regular writer and host of the Fonocast compilation series. Among those who responded are tonight’s DJs: Calixta, a Pilsen resident and community organizer who suggested Caminos de Michoácan for the event, and DJ Cavrita, a native of both Mexico City and Aurora, as well as a former contributing journalist on Pilsen’s independent youth station Radio Arte.

Dale Shine has only hosted two events, the first of which, Muerte Midi, involved local DJs and a large-scale celebration of Día de los Muertos on Chicago’s North Side. Although Dale Shine’s members come from across the city and the collaborative is not located in or affiliated with any particular Chicago neighborhood, Méndez does note that Pilsen as a neighborhood “fits well with what we’re about.” As for the name “Dale Shine”–literally “give it shine”–it’s hard to describe exactly what the phrase means in all of its popular contexts. To understand Dale Shine’s true fabulosity and flavor, Chicago will just have to go for it.