Duane Powell

DJ Duane Powell grew up between the Roseland and Auburn Greshem neighborhoods, on 81st and Wolcott. With uncles who were DJs, and a mother who was friendly with members of The Emotions (Pop Staples would come to Powell’s church), his world was full of soul music and r&b. In 1980, he bought his first record, TS Monk’s “Bon Bon Vie,” and in 1983 his sister took him to his first dance party at Mendel. By the mid-1980s Powell was excited by both the industrial/punk sounds coming out of Wax Trax! records on the North Side, and the rare jazz, funk, and alternative played in sets by Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy. While attending Corliss High School, he had an informal social club called Generation 2000 that used to emulate the cutting-edge styles of crews like London’s Blitz Kids on the dance floor of Medusa’s during Lil Louis sets. By 1994 Powell had tried his hand as a promoter for The Reactor, and was getting deep into acid jazz. In 1997, along with Anthony Nicholson, and club owner Joe Brill, he started promoting a weekly acid jazz night at Funky Buddha Lounge, a venture through which he hoped to bring more new soul music to Chicago. By 1998 he was also working at Hyde Park’s Dr. Wax Records. Powell played an outsize role as the store’s de facto personal shopper, specializing in independent soul music. He was also promoting live shows at venues like Custom and The Hot House using what he learned about the local market from the record store. Recently Powell has moved from being a curator of music, to be a selector, playing soulful sets rooted in house music’s punk genre-defiance at The Dark Room and at the rooftop bar at Reggies.



Sneaking into The Bistro

When he was a teenager, Duane Powell and his friends used to go to The Bistro for Thursday dollar drinks night. A lot of times the venue's bouncer wouldn't card him, but when they did, Powell and co would go around back and climb into the club using the fire escape. Powell remembers the first time he snuck in he was wearing an outfit covered in large polka dots, including a big polka dot wrap hood. He spent the whole night nervous that he would be caught with his conspicuous outfit.

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