When 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.
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.
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.