Dance crews show off their moves at the Beatdown House Litnic. Credit: Melissa Blackmon

On Sunday, August 4, I went to Dolton Park for DJ Clent’s Beatdown House Litnic, a free daytime party and barbecue celebrating ghetto house, juke, and footwork. In the park I noticed a couple other picnics with PA systems set up, but none of them compared to what DJ Clent had brought—nearly two dozen speakers, assembled into a massive sound system that stretched across the front of the stubby stage like a fortification. A couple tiny tents onstage protected two DJ rigs, set up to allow one performer to begin immediately after the preceding set, with little dead air. Three portable generators powered the whole setup, and Clent had rented a U-Haul truck to transport the gear to the southwest corner of Dolton Park.

Teklife cofounder DJ Spinn on the turntablesCredit: Melissa Blackmon

Clent also brought out a who’s who of Chicago house music from the late 80s to the present. I arrived in the early afternoon, just before Teklife cofounder DJ Spinn got onstage and laid down a set of old hits and newer material, linked by crisp footwork percussion that cut through the mix. His tracks left enough space between their throbbing bass and that web of percussion for dancers to step in and show off their footwork moves, and several did so rather casually. The Litnic had a low-key, welcoming vibe, with people slowly trickling throughout the afternoon, some carrying camping chairs and small tents. It just so happened that some of those people were also dance-music royalty—ghetto-house architect DJ Deeon, who was also scheduled to perform, showed up in the middle of Spinn’s set and took in the beginning of Clent’s from a nearby picnic table.

Three generations of DJs: DJ Clent with his 14-year-old son, DJ Corey, and his mother, Natalie Hill, who started it all in the 70s as DJ Chocolate StarCredit: Melissa Blackmon

This year’s Litnic, the third so far, celebrated the 22nd anniversary of Clent’s Beatdown House label and collective. I hope it continues for years to come, because most Chicagoans’ summers would be enriched by spending a day eating barbecued chicken and listening to some of the most important dance producers the city has produced—and I feel confident saying that most Chicagoans haven’t been to one yet. Photographer Melissa Blackmon also went to Dolton for the Litnic, and she’s shared her photos in the slideshow below.  v