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Chicago to Congress Theater: Turn Down for EDM

A new agreement with the city bans electronic dance music at the Logan Square venue. Here’s a handy guide to what might be permissible—and what might be verboten.

Photo: Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune

DNAInfo’s Darryl Holliday has the weirdest local scoop of 2014: the Congress Theater, the immense old venue in Logan Square which has been embroiled in a legal battle with the city over conditions inside and out, will no longer be able to play EDM, aka Electronic Dance Music.

The city’s Flashdance strategy is an old one, minimizing unwanted behavior by banning the kind of rag-time, shameless music that’ll grab your son and daughter. Mass-steria!

The city defines EDM as “music created by a DJ or multiple DJs primarily using specialized equipment and software instead of traditional instruments.”

“… And an EDM performance shall be defined as a performance of Electronic Dance Music or any performance by a DJ or multiple DJs featured the playing of prerecorded music. Performers that incorporate electronic beats or prerecorded music in their acts shall be allowed, provided those performers either sing vocals or play an instrument(s) (or do both) during their performance.”

To be fair, it’s a more sophisticated prohibition than the British government’s 1994 ban on raves, which targeted “‘music’ [that] includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats,” effectively including any outdoor concert that isn’t a Keith Jarrett improv set.

This raises all sorts of profound legal questions, like “wait, what?”; “does this apply to IDM, which is mostly standing-around music?”; “can Major Lazer be grandfathered in but not Skrillex?”; and, most importantly, "but Run-DMC first said a DJ could be a band, pursuant to Public Enemy v. Trad Rock (1988, Chuck D writing for the majority).”

I am not a lawyer, but then again I’m not aware of any firms that specialize in the precise legal definitions of what is and is not Electronic Dance Music. Until then, here’s a rough guide to navigating the new rules.

Underworld: Okay for the Congress Theatre!

Aphex Twin: Not okay

The Prodigy, feat. the scary guy with the hair: That’s okay

The Prodigy, before they let the scary guy with the hair sing: Not okay

The Postal Service: Okay

Dntel: Not okay

Devo: Okay!

The Rock-afire Explosion: Not okay

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