Electronic Reminiscence: The Chop Shop

Alex Calhoun —  September 16, 2013 — 5 Comments

280qs07When I think back to the raves of yore, one of the most stunning things about being a part of this culture in the 90’s was the whole “I don’t believe this is actually happening” feeling of going to warehouse parties, and being in awe at the sheer size of such a quasi-legal event. The whole I-don’t-really-give-a-fuck attitude of promoters at that time is legendary in Detroit, and this led to raves being thrown in some of the most out-of-the-way, abandoned, and all together disused places in the city. For several years spanning the transition from the 20th to 21st centuries, one of the most frequented and controversial “venues” was the Chop Shop.

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Tucked away in an industrial strip on the city’s west side and bordered by blighted neighborhoods, questionable warehouses, and a freeway, the Chop Shop was a place of many great parties, rumors, and memories. Getting its name from the alleged daytime function of the building, the Chop Shop was a go-to spot for a long time and hosted some rather legendary Detroit parties. Adding to the mystique of this place was a DJ booth built from pieces of a chopped car. I spent a greater part of my later high school years hearing DJs from all around the world and dancing my ass off in this sprawling warehouse. Even today I still run into old heads who reminisce about some of the crazy times had at the Chop Shop.

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As with all former rave venues, at some point the Chop Shop fell on hard times. Increased Detroit Police attention on raves, coupled with a constant stream of shady promoters and the hard reality of being an illegal venue plunged the place into the lexicon of Detroit rave history. Sometimes I wish we still had a spot like this, as it seems the only place I hear techno is in a bar or club these days. But like all musical phenomenon, if the Chop Shop had existed at a different time in history it may not have become as legendary and unique place as we remember it to be.

Alex Calhoun


Alex Calhoun is a writer, vinyl collector, and lover of all things odd and electronic. He currently lives in the Detroit Metro area.
September 2013
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5 responses to Electronic Reminiscence: The Chop Shop

  1. Great places, whore house, Mack & Bellevue, slaughter house, Packard plant and my favorite”under the bridge”

  2. Agreed Mack & Bellevue, Chop Shop, Slaughter house, Fire house, Under the bridge, packard plant, the theater on the east side all amazing memories for me and my friends.

  3. Ditto those comments. That is the essential list. Add to it studio 95 and that list is almost complete. I know I went to other venues, but they didn’t have the iconic names that go with them. My favorite place is still the Theater at Van Dyke and Harper: 1) because it was where I went to my first party and 2) because I knew the people throwing the parties so I got to wander upstairs and down by the stage area. I don’t think any new venue would count these days. It would have to be dirty and dank. It was all part of the ambiance back then. The first feeling I can remember having was “This is OK? This is acceptable? Holy shit I’m in love.”

  4. Yep- and also under the bridge, the house (cybotron), mound and outer drive, butternut and Tillman. Remember the True Masters parties?!

  5. Wow, those venue pictures taken for my old party list sure got spread far and wide…

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