By Allison Matyus
Once a month, the vinyl spins on the turntable, the cork pops on the wine bottle and friends gather at whatever place is up next for Chicago’s Wine & Vinyl events.
Think of Wine & Vinyl as the ultra exclusive dinner party that everyone is invited to, with the wine flowing and the good music playing. Wine & Vinyl creator Kevin Hsia said the monthly events showcase Chicago’s diverse DIY scene.
“It’s about meeting like minded people that appreciate arts and culture,” he explained. “Music always brings people together and creates an orchestra of feelings.”
Hsia started Wine & Vinyl two and a half years ago as a “mature” house party to bring his close friends together in a low-key environment. Having been a DJ for many years, he told his friends to bring their own vinyl and he would spin whatever was there. The concept spread between his group of friends, and to their friends and soon, there was a demand for monthly events.
What makes Wine & Vinyl so unique is that it’s not trying to be anything other than what it is: a gathering of people to share each other’s music while sipping on wine (or whatever their drink of choice is, although wine is encouraged). The event can be described as an evening for those who don’t like going to the bars, but still like to mingle and meet new people.
At the latest Wine & Vinyl event on the last day of September, the vibe was brought back to its original roots. Hsia’s friend, Dan Cortes, hosted the event in his Humboldt Park apartment, just like the good ol’ days.
When the party started around 8 p.m., a Frank Sinatra-like vinyl was spinning on the turntable, but Cortes said that the classy atmosphere usually takes a turn by the end of the night.
“As the night progresses, we usually move into different music,” he said. “It moves into hip-hop or EDM or funk…whatever really.”
The vinyl collection lined up for the night included anything and everything from Taylor Swift to Modest Mouse, James Blake to Local Natives, Sufjan Stevens and some unrecognizable disco-funk record sprinkled in. Hsia said that depending on the venue of the event, the music changes with it.
“We’ve had some interesting spaces in the past,” Hsia said while describing the time he turned an office space into a mellow lounge for the night. “We curate the sound to the evening…that’s what makes it unique is every single event is different in its own way.”
Other spaces have included a vintage consignment shop, Knot Standard, Shuga Records and coming up on a date still to be determined at the Emporium Arcade Bar in Logan Square. Events range from an intimate gathering of 20 people to larger events with up to 200 guests.
“It’s really whatever the space wants. We work with them to ensure that we are respectful and keep it classy during the event,” Hsia said.
Next on the to-do list for Hsia is to incorporate daytime events for “Coffee & Vinyl.” He said he is excited to work with more groups and venues concerning this new initiative.
By now, a 1950s Motown 45 RPM was filling up Cortes’ apartment, and more people were dropping by, wine in tow.
“I just came for the vinyl,” said one guest, a classic rock LP in hand.
“I come whenever I can to support Kevin,” said Ben Canfield, who has known Hsia since high school. “It’s awesome to see how big this has become.”
Whether the conversations turned to politics, the Chicago music scene, professional gab or “Hey, how have you been?!” it didn’t matter who you were or if you knew what record was spinning: everyone was welcome.