As the Reader has already reported, the future of beloved Bucktown bar Danny’s looks bleak thanks to a dispute with the building owner and landlord. This week two of the regular DJ events hosted by Danny’s have tolled their own death knells, entreating their fans to come out one last time: Clark Street Jams and Sheer Magic. Courtland Green and Scott Craig founded the latter in 1997, and back then the monthly shindig was simply called “soul night.” The following year Craig left town, and eventually Dante Carfagna, a true scholar of the genre, stepped in as Green’s DJ partner. On Wednesday they hosted their final monthly party.
Over the years I only caught a couple of their nights, but I’ll never forget them. I remember one in February when the packed bar was hotter and more humid than a Chicago day in August. The blasting music hit our bodies with exhilarating physicality, and each track—not one of which I’d ever heard before—was better and more propulsive than the last.
Carfagna wrote a short and justifiably self-congratulatory remembrance of Sheer Magic for the Numero Group’s blog:
It was a good run. When we started it, there were no other nights in the US like it, except for [Matt] Weingarden’s Botanica thing in NYC (and that shit never got as buck as Sheer Magic, ever). Now there are fuggin’ soul nights in Lafayette, Des Moines, wherever. It was a perfect case of right time, right people, right venue, right music. This was pre-Youtube, pre-Discogs, pre-Shazam, pre-everything really. You came to our night and heard sounds you simply could not hear anywhere else, much less find. Another factor was that there was no firecode installed, so you could pack as many people as you wanted in there. The marshal finally came in around 2009 to institute a limit. Throw in Shirley selling $5 weed muffins to the whole place and it was Kismet as fuck. So many of the records that are now “classics” across the globe were first played at Sheer Magic to utter enthusiasm. I remember playing Scorpio & His People at the peak of the night in 2004/5 and the whole place literally lifted off the ground several feet. When shit was on full throb, the floor would actually be waving from wall to wall to the point that they needed to reinforce it from the basement. I will also proudly admit to pioneering the slurred, heavily delayed mic style that came to be our signature. The key to a sick funk party was a healthy dose of psychedelia, a facet that EVERY current party misses.
I can’t say if the “slurred, heavily delayed mic style” was really the night’s signature, but I certainly remember enjoying the hell out of it, even when most of the ad libs were drunken shout-outs to the Chicago Bulls, including a couple mentions of coach Scott Skiles. Though I was never a regular at Danny’s, I enjoyed myself every time I went—including on the nights when Damon Locks and Wayne Montana of the Eternals held court. Here’s hoping that reports of the bar’s demise are premature.
At the allegedly final Sheer Magic, photographer Matt Jencik (who also plays in Implodes) was on hand to immortalize the vibe. Carfagna is in a gray shirt; Green is in an orange-pink shirt.