My First Club takes us back to the beginning, transporting DJs and producers back into the depths of their memory, asking them to take us on a trip to those pivotal first nights in clubland. Following entries from the likes of Eats Everything, Herve, MK, and Billon, this time around we spoke to an integral part of the Dirtybird crew—J.Phlip.
I had heard about this club in my hometown of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois called The Orchid. I would drop off my co-worker there after we would close down the deli I worked at. He was this free-spirited, wandering-soul, skater guy. I would look at the outside of the club—a dark dingy mysterious two-story building,—dreaming about the world inside. Eventually, when I was 17, I befriended some raver kids who threw house parties. They would party at The Orchid every weekend, so it was official—I had to find a way in. It really wasn't too difficult, I copped an older friend's ID and was ready to go clubbing!
The whole night was really like out of one of those rave or clubbing movies. I remember picking up my best friend when she got off work and getting ready together, dancing, drinking, playing music… we really were like, "Yes this is THE night I've been waiting for! I can feel it!" I fell completely, totally, 100 percent in love with this world the minute I walked in the door.
The people inside The Orchid came from so many different walks of life, some were nerdy and some hot, there was spiked bleached hair, phat pants, super oversized Ecko hoodies, dreads, piercings everywhere—nipples and all. Even some sorority and frat types could get down there too. Nobody was judging. Everyone mixed together in this place in order to create this vibe, lose themselves, dance, and feel the music through their entire bodies. Nothing else mattered until the sun came up. I found my religion, and it was the religion of fun.
A look into The Orchid in 2000. (J.Phlip not included.) Video courtesy of VJMC on YouTube.
My friends were really into liquid dancing and poppin' and lockin'. I wasn't ashamed to try, I was feeling pretty cool, on top of the world really, and I was ready to try anything. The energy flowed around the room, everyone was facing different directions, dancing with everyone else, and only occasionally turning to the DJ. But he was just doin' his thang and even though he controlled the room, he wasn't the focus of everyone's energy.
I can't remember who was playing that night. Honestly at that point I hardly even knew one genre from the next! Some of the regulars who came through to play there were Paul Johnson, Paul Anthony, Mixin' Marc, DJ Colette, and Slater Hogan… but my favourite was the local DJ Impact, known for playing that straight-up Chicago house. Actually, when I eventually started playing, he was my DJ hero. (I love you Nicky DJ Impact.) The owner of the club, Kosmo, ended up giving me my first gig a few years later at his new club, Barfly.
We had a dope little scene in Champaign-Urbana. In my small hometown city, I really found this whole culture there. After I turned 21, Smart Bar in Chicago became my new club home. I had never experienced anything like a Funktion-One. Whoaaaaaa! @#$%^….. Eventually, I was spending every weekend there and digging at Hot Jams and Gramaphone—which is great and legendary and everybody has heard of it. It is one of my all time favourite clubs, but I didn't need all that fancy stuff to pop my clubbing virginity [winks].