It’s 2 am on a dreary January night, deep in the north side of Chicago. I’m inside Smartbar, a small club two blocks north of Wrigley Field, sitting in the basement of a legendary independent venue, The Metro. Taking place over the course of five days in January, the Tomorrow Never Knows festival gathers some of the best local indie artists for some fun on what are usually cold, gloomy winter nights. As native Chicagoan Marea Stamper, better known as The Black Madonna, takes over the DJ booth, the crowd surges onto the hot dance floor, and winter is forgotten. She starts slow, getting the feel for the hyped up dancers.
Her recently released 12-inch, “He Is the Voice I Hear” is a reflection of Stamper’s love for dance music with an additional message of love scratched in the dead wax near the center that reads: “Uncle Frankie says get home safe” in all caps. She names the late Godfather of House in her liner notes in a sweet hand written essay that’s included. This is The Black Madonna's first new original production since 2013's Lady Of Sorrows EP. Made in collaboration with her studio partner Rupert Murray, the track features musicians Davide Rossi and Christoforo LaBarbera on strings and keyboard.
I’m standing on the couches on the side of the dance floor, and people keep streaming in, making a crowded club packed tight, nowhere for me to go but up. Stamper knows her business, she’s been traveling the world for the past couple of years, rightfully enjoying a rep of a “Don’t Miss” performer. The venerable NY Times paid homage to her within their 2016 Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit by mentioning her along with veteran performers as well as a photo of her beautiful face opening the online version. In December British dance publication Mixmag named her DJ of the Year, the first woman, with Stamper gracing the cover. She’s having a huge upswing in her career, and the setlist includes mixes of all her recent releases. It take me 10 minutes to cross to the other side of the club, and more than once I wish I could just dance instead of fight for a decent photo through the crowd.
You’ll have another chance to see her before she tours Europe on February 11 when she’ll be back at Smartbar. Get tickets here.
This article was written by Laura Sedor.