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Monday, September 16

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Airbags

A year ago, two fledgling Chicago DJs looked around and decided they were fed up with all the apathy. They saw it at shows, where the kids stood around with their arms crossed, barely nodding to the music. They saw it in politics, where, after one brilliant night when protesters shut down Lake Shore Drive, activism all but disappeared from the radar. And they made it their mission to get people up off their asses, onto the dance floor, and into the voting booth.

The duo created Life During Wartime, an ongoing series of dance parties now in residency at the Hideout with additional sporadic shows elsewhere, both with other DJs and touring bands. Chris Baronner, otherwise known as DJCB, came up with the concept and the name, which he says serves as a reminder that "while all this horrible stuff is going on elsewhere... most [people in the U.S.] are living it up." He envisioned a night when people could have actual fun while being politically active.

Baronner knew Chess Hubbard (a.k.a. DJ Mother Hubbard) from the offices above the Metro where they both work, and he knew she was just starting to build her turntable chops. He liked her style and recruited her to join him in this exploit. Hubbard liked the plan of putting politics together with partying: "It's like brainwashing," she said.

The pair spin whatever comes to their fingertips. They'll play new wave, punk, hip-hop, or even, as Hubbard blushingly confessed, Justin Timberlake, anything to get people to dance. One of Baronner's personal slogans says it all: "Bush is out. Dance is in."

Hubbard said she feels particularly strongly about raising people's consciousness about American politics because not long ago, she wasn't really aware herself. "I'm ashamed, but I didn't vote in the last election," she admitted. "I felt like it would be a good idea to get involved, to reach people like me out there who feel like they can't make a difference."

Initially, Baronner and Hubbard focused on building a loyal following. Besides their Life During Wartime parties, they have both DJed solo at shows in support of bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Rapture. Now that they've got a reputation, they've got to start backing it up with action. The primary focus of their efforts is in promoting voter registration. "We feel the audience we're promoting to will want to make a change in '04," Baronner said.

"I know most people come because it's a good time," Hubbard added, "But we hope they also support our views."

In addition to getting out the vote at their parties, Life During Wartime's website offers a chance for political activism of a sort as well. It features a politics section where the pair invite fans to take advantage of the First Amendment by submitting rants and raves. In a recent column, Hubbard and LDW associate Jen Haistar debate the pros and cons of voting. Reason number one not to vote, according to Hubbard: "Enables you to continue gliding through life oblivious to the treachery your indifference and laziness contributed to." And the number one reason to vote? Haistar wrote, "When faced with Ultimate Judgment Day, can say at least you tried to prevent the destruction of the universe (this only works if you do NOT vote Republican)."

Underneath the cool beats and witty commentary, however, there's a serious point to all of this, which Baronner and Hubbard never forget. It shows through in the next phase of their plans: turning the currently free parties into fundraisers, with profits going to people in war-torn countries. "So it's not just a little dance party," Hubbard explains. "I want what we do to benefit people who are affected by the U.S. being at war with them."

That's what LDW boils down to: getting hipsters to change the state of the union instead of just complaining about it over their PBRs. The point, Hubbard says, is "to create an awareness of what's going on, what you can do on an individual level." As we march into an election year, CB and Mother Hubbard have only begun the party for the right to fight.

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Comments

Andrew / February 13, 2004 3:22 PM

So how do the DJs introduce their political message into the dance party? Do they just interrupt the music and talk about the election?

Disc Jockey CB / February 13, 2004 5:22 PM

As far as introducing the politics into the dance party, we don't do too much directly while we're spinning. Afterall, our goal is to not throw our views down on people right after we've spun a fun set of music they thoroughly enjoyed. Rather, we try to encourage people to look into what's going on around them and in thiscountry, through essays on our website, links to other websites, and through the messages/slogans we use in our promotional materials (posters, buttons, stickers, etc.). We want to increase the political part of L.D.W., but we don't want to scarifice the dance part. A fine line, indeed...

brian peterson / May 19, 2004 2:46 PM

Hey thought claires story was great! Writes as good as any article in the trib! Anyways, I think I know her, or well use to. If it is the same Claire, which the writing seems the same, I used to date her, a couple of years ago. If you could, tell her I said hi, and or have her email me. Well, thanks for your help.

brian peterson / May 19, 2004 2:46 PM

Hey thought claires story was great! Writes as good as any article in the trib! Anyways, I think I know her, or well use to. If it is the same Claire, which the writing seems the same, I used to date her, a couple of years ago. If you could, tell her I said hi, and or have her email me. Well, thanks for your help.

 

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