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  SOMA 5.26.00
by Sabrina Sexton Weil

Venue: Fifth Floor - Chicago, IL

Sabrina Sexton WeilJason and I were so excited to be able to see talented Atlanta DJ Gene Carbonell play over Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. We arrived at the club early to catch Chicago DJ Christopher Robin's set. We walked into the club to part floor-to-ceiling white curtains that billowed in the nighttime breeze that was making its way through the open entrance. Once we entered, we were struck by the classy elegance of the club, with its minimal lighting, nice furniture, and built-in loft areas for VIP lounging. We got a brief tour of the club and as we left the main room — which was small enough to be intimate but designed to focus on dancing, not drinking — we were amazed at the way the room poured itself into another room nearly the same size, and a doorway led from that room to another tiny room ("This is the VIP VIP room," we were told)...everything was washed in hues of red and accented with hip, minimal furniture that was functional yet comfortable. The tiny "VIP VIP" room had two murals painted on the walls that were stunning. One was a screaming butterfly-woman; I can't quite remember what the other mural was, but I think it was some sort of evil-looking character.

Through this entrance walk some damn friendly people.There certainly was nothing evil about Fifth Floor, or Christopher Robin. He started out playing a little of everything — from Everything But The Girl to some old school-ish break-y stuff. It was the perfect music to play to a steadily filling club as old friends greeted each other and the club staff. It seemed like most of the early arrivals knew each other, and they looked so happy to be out on a chilly Friday evening. The theme for the evening was some sort of Hawaiian luau, so the cute bartenders had traded their normal clothing for grass skirts, coconut bras and lovely flowers in their hair. The guys on staff were wearing festive leis. It was neat to see that in a club so posh it could easily have been pretentious, the staff was encouraged to have fun and make the atmosphere a bit more freespirited than that of most clubs.

Erin and Steve Right around midnight, Christopher Robin had built the crowd into a pretty good dancing mood, and Gene Carbonell took over. He brought them back down a bit with some deeper, groovier house, and then he proceeded to take them on a ride of sorts — through a few old favorites that had everyone screaming and clapping, to some newer tunes including Red Shift's "Neptune Calling" that you can't get anywhere. He also played the new funkier remix of "Dreaming" that I actually like. (Not that I didn't like the original...but I like this one much's a lot more fun.)

I was amazed at how responsive the crowd was. They were all soooo into it! It was really awesome. And they were so friendly and engaging too. I never would have expected such hospitality from the people of a big city like Chicago.

Gene Carbonell and Christopher Robin After Gene's set, we had to head out and hit the sack. We had such a great time at SOMA and were thoroughly impressed by Fifth Floor and its staff and patrons. We commented that we wished there was a club like that in Atlanta...where people went to just get down and be real, and that was a bit more upscale than the massives you can go to every weekend. In any case, if you're ever in Chicago on a Friday night, I would highly recommend checking out SOMA at Fifth Floor. A down-to-earth yet classy atmosphere (with visuals like those trippy gel projections and a door guy named Devo who offered to buy me a drink on his birthday) make it totally worth your while.

And do you know what "soma" is? It's the drug everyone wants in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Entirely appropriate.

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