When 48-year-old Joseph “Pepe” Porter came of age on Chicago’s southeast side in the 1980s he was submerged in the world house music. “There’s a very large amount of DJs who, during the origination of house music back in the early 80s [came] from the southeast side, who’ve gone on to 30-plus-year careers,” Porter says. According to Porter, each block had about two or three house DJs, and they’d spin at local parties—they provided Porter with ample opportunity to dive into the culture in his backyard. He tried his hand at DJing, “but mostly I was a partygoer.”
In the early aughts Porter moved back to the same block in Calumet Heights where he grew up, and his new house was sandwiched between his sister’s place and a former neighbor’s residence. Porter pitched an idea: “I was like, ‘We should throw a party—we should throw a three-backyard party.'” In the summer of 2004 they launched 3 Yards Bangin’, and house music reigned supreme across the three properties. This year Porter and company are upping the ante on their party—it’s now a more formal festival called 3YB House Fest, which kicks off its inaugural run Saturday afternoon. As much as it’s a continuation of the summertime jamboree that preceded it, the event is also a celebration of the southeast side’s contributions to house-music history.
Porter had ambitious goals for 3 Yards Bangin’ since that first party; he wanted “a sea of people just rocking out and having a good time,” he says. According to Porter they achieved that goal in the first year: “We had about 300 people come out to the event.” The party grew from there, with 3 Yards Bangin’ returning near the end of summer every year—though in 2012 Porter and company took a break. “We came back in 2013 with even more fans there because the event is anticipated,” Porter says. “People view this as a way to end their summer, from an event point of view.”
This year’s festival isn’t in Porter’s yard, but the new location is figuratively in his backyard—it’s at 2300 East 87th Street, which is the east end of Chicago Vocational High School, which Porter graduated from in 1985. True to the spirit of the fest the 3YB team will present an award to southeast-side native and house hitmaker Steve “Silk” Hurley. Of course, there will be house music: among the DJs spinning throughout the day are Hugo H. and First Lady, Vern Vinyl, DJ Cheez, and Dave Maze, who runs a south-side youth music program called Master Mix Academy.
Maze’s program will be on hand at the fest to give DJ lessons to kids during the early part of the afternoon. The fest runs from 4 to 10 PM. Tickets are $20 at the gate, $10 in advance, and $5 for teenagers; children 12 and younger and senior citizens can get in free. Like the Chosen Few Picnic, this house festival is family friendly.