South Side DJ keeps warehouse music scene spinning

Mr. Bobby keeps things moving./ Photo by Martin Godinez

Enter a warehouse party in the South Side neighborhood of Pilsen and chances are good, it is a Mr. Bobby event.

A disc jockey, event organizer, and party promoter since his teens, Bobby Hernandez, 26, a.k.a. "Mr. Bobby," is a genre-bending, crowd-moving master.

Back in the mid 1990s, Hernandez found his entrée into the music scene through his cousin, known as DJ Tecno. DJ Tecno spun the classics - the Midwest's underground "Italo" disco like Lime, The Flirts, and music produced by Bobby Orlando.

Hernandez' brother, Clennie, promoted and hosted events. The venues were pricey, reaching close to $1,500 for the night, but hundreds of people came, paying $10 each.

Hernandez began throwing his own parties before he started working as a DJ at them. In 1988 he bought a couple of turntables from his cousin, who also gave him stacks of CDs and records to start his own parties.

He began to organize punk rock showcases and themed warehouse parties, events that transform empty warehouses into impromptu dance bars where parties are announced only days in advance. Eventually Hernandez was offered stints as resident DJ at various Chicago bars and clubs.

This summer, he created the free weekly outdoor electronic music series "Summer Vibes"  in Pilsen.

Hernandez' briefcase is full of fliers from his other events, including shows at such venues as Congress Theater, Michelle's Ballroom and Orbit.

In between such events, Hernandez, like many DJs, works a second job as a barista at a local cafe.

Recently, he sat down with the Chi-Town Daily News to describe his work.
Q. How would you describe your typical audience?

A. People who have gone to my events have always changed. I like it that way though. The people who actually go tend to like different types of music, hence why I like to jump from genre to genre so much.

Q. So what is the scene like?

A. Mostly scenesters, hipsters, punks, Goths. I try to pull everyone together, and pull people out of their box. I love to mix a little of everything, jumping from genre to genre. But the true underground, you'd never get to hear that on the radio. The radio plays just one type of music and never mixes genres. I can go from industrial to house to punk to electro.

Q. Who have been some of your influences?

A. I guess ultimately the groups who have influenced me are Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, the Cure, Moby, Underworld, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, and Bjork of course. I could go on because you don't stop being influenced by bands. There are always new and fresh groups coming out with a whole new style to fall in love with like She Wants Revenge, VHS or Beta, The Rapture…

Q. With all those styles, how do you like to spin the music?

A. Now as far as how I like to spin ... very glad you asked that. A little surprised actually. But when I first started mixing, I only did blends which is easy and a little boring. What I do now is just keep messing with the songs. Jumping back and forth between different sounds, lowering them and highering them, cutting them off. Just like I like to call it: fucking the music up. I know I have messed up a few times but it's fun; I get carried away and forget to keep an eye on the time left on a song. Ha ha. Mistakes make people just look at you and smile. But I jump back in and just keep fucking up the music.

Q. Which have been some of your more successful events?

A. I've done things at bars, clubs, warehouses, anywhere and everywhere. I am first and foremost known as being one of the people from Profound Image who would put together parties at the Orbit and Congress back in the early 90s. This was before I started spinning. I put together a punk show in like '97. There were over seven local punk bands and there was this one homeless girl who simply played her violin everywhere for money and she came in and we had her play in front of everyone. I still have it recorded. I also put together Summer Vibes, which was a series of free parties every Tuesday this past summer. All the DJs played for free. No one else has done anything like that, and it turned out really great. Another one was Hangar16, there were so many different styles of people there; househeads, electroheads, death rockers, it was amazing. And a very sweaty time. Recently, I did They Live. Lots of different people. So many famous photographers. That was a theme party from the movie that starred Rowdy Roddy Piper, the wrestler. We put up signs saying "consume," "buy," "do not think," "juke."

Information on upcoming Mr. Bobby events can be found on his web page.