Slo ’Mo is celebrating five years of soothing the fine people of Chicago with soul, hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and 70s funk. Billed as “slow jams for homos,” the group consists of No Small Plans event producer, Kristen Kaza and Erin Jackson (aka Audio Jack). They have performed in some of the most distinguished corners of the city—most recently at Voyager 2017, the annual New Year’s Eve Canvas bash.
Kaza (middle in header photo) took the time to answer a few questions about Slo ’Mo, its purpose, and why collaborating with Canvas and Chicago is noteworthy.
What’s the origin and motivation behind Slo ’Mo?
I started Slo ‘Mo as an experiment. I wanted a more intimate space for queer women to be together—a space that was sexy, and not necessarily “turned up.”
Walk me through a performance. How does it start for example?
We start at nine, as in nine on the dot. Sometimes we start even earlier. We’re not young guns. Like a lot of our community, we’re in our thirties. People really do show up at nine for the party. Having chill vibes in the beginning is a great way to ease into the evening. It’s nice to have a few phases. It’s more natural, and it feels better for a lot of people. As the night goes on, it gets progressively more turnt.
What’s the collective’s intent?
Slo ‘Mo was created to build community, both in providing spaces to create joy and also a platform for DJs who are developing their craft. We’ve had over 25 guest DJs over the years. In fact, Jack was a regular guest DJ at Slo ‘Mo before officially becoming a resident with us.
What kind of community does Slo ’Mo like to foster?
We have “family” that’s been coming to Slo ‘Mo for over five years. New people come every month. Usually, it’s a majority of women, most of whom are queer identified, but it’s a space for all. Our axiom is “slow jams for homos and their fans,” meaning that friends are welcome. However, it’s important to note that the space is prioritized for queer women.
Where do you think Slo ’Mo fits into the LGBTQ community?
For a lot people, it’s a place where you can let go and feel good. Especially in the last few years, where we’ve had to witness and experience a lot of loss, stress, and death culturally. It’s a place where you can leave it on the dance floor. It’s also one of the only parties that’s mostly made up of queer women, and that’s extremely important.
Why do you think that’s significant?
We have almost nothing. There are very few bars and even fewer parties directed toward queer women. Slo ’Mo has been pretty sacred for lesbian, bi, and queer women who want to be in a place they can be themselves and see themselves. Representation matters! All kinds of folks come to the party however, I think it’s known and respected that it’s a space that prioritizes lesbians.
Slo ’Mo had a residency at Logan Square bar and music venue, The Whistler, what was the reasoning behind that decision and how do you think it helped you understand the collective better?
I wanted an intimate space that didn’t feel intimidating. At the time, The Whistler was one of the only cocktail spots in the neighborhood. We filled a void. There weren’t any queer-centered dance parties in Logan either. Due to the bar’s small space, Slo ’Mo grew significantly and we had to move the party down the street to the Slippery Slope for eight months.
We figured out, though, that what made the residency special was largely The Whistler environment. People wanted to go back, even with the line around the block. Slo ‘Mo was never supposed to be huge. It’s the intimacy that makes it so special. Maintaining it is crucial to preserving the safety and identity of the party. There was an unequivocal support for that decision because it feels like home at The Whistler. No disrespect to the Slope, but it didn’t quite fit the vibe of Slo ‘Mo.
What other projects or residencies does Slo ’Mo have?
We have amped up what we call “Satellite Slo ‘Mos,” which are sporadically hosted parties, programs, and classes at places like the Promontory, Soho House, Empty Bottle, and many other places. We also have a year long self-care program called Slo ‘Mo Sundays at my studio, Reunion in Humboldt Park.
How would you describe Slo ‘Mo’s vibe?
When you walk into the room it is all love. It feels like home. Over the years we’ve seen people fall in love at Slo ‘Mo and make their first friends in Chicago. It makes the line worth it. It’s a space where magic happens.
Why is Slo ‘Mo so drawn towards R&B?
R&B music is so nostalgic and emotive, and, of course, it’s sensual. It makes people feel good and brings us together. When SWV’s “Weak” or Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy” comes on—or any other given R&B classic—people let go and sing all the lyrics. It’s a really beautiful thing. We might play some jazz too, and definitely the old, old school jams like Curtis Mayfield or Sade or Minnie Ripperton.
How did you come to perform at Voyager 2017?
Voyager was big opportunity to show how our worlds can come together. We’ve hosted what we called “the Mothership.” It’s was a Slo ‘Mo lounge that “orbited” above the main floor party with seventies-disco-spaceship vibes. In addition to Audio Jack, we’ll have Lady D, and the amazing CQQCHIFRUIT joining us from Chances Dances and Trqpiteca. It will be a cosmic respite from the wild times on the main floor.
How would you describe the impact Slo ‘Mo has had on your life?
Slo ‘Mo gives me life! Seeing people connect, feel good, sometimes get down (and there’s a lot of getting down at Slo ‘Mo) makes me happy. When someone shares with me a memory, or how the space has positively impacted their life it makes it worth it.
Now, after five years, I really can kick back at Slo ‘Mo at The Whistler. It is my favorite night every month, and I just love it. It’s not even close to stale. It’s changed some, but it’s still classic and reliable. I’m involved and I continue with the project because I know how much it means to people to have the space.
We have to have places to feel joy, connection and lightness. I feel like my role is to keep us moving, and to continue to find opportunities for the community to come together to connect, learn something new, and feel good.
How will Slo ’Mo’s look toward the future?
Parties get stagnant if you don’t grow. At the same time, Slo ‘Mo is classic and simple. The people and the music make it. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re having Slo ‘Mo hosted parties and programs throughout the city. Also, this year we will venture into hosting Slo ‘Mo in other cities. With our current cultural climate we need to be there for the community.
What do you think Slo ’Mo brings to Chicago?
Slo ‘Mo brings Chicago together, and I think that is what makes it so special. The staff—not just at our residency at The Whistler but many other venues we’ve worked in—will say that we have one of the most respectful and kindest crowds. It’s joyful, cathartic, and empowering. It’s like a little slice of utopia.
When the world feels like it’s on fire, it’s a respite from some of the really difficult things we sometimes have to navigate.
Slo ‘Mo is really diverse, and I wouldn’t usually use that word because, at this point, it’s become a marketing ploy. But it’s true at Slo ‘Mo. There is a beautiful representation of people of all genders, expressions, races, styles, and it feels good. For a city that can be sometimes divisiveness, it’s restorative to have an environment that represents so much of Chicago and that’s Slo ’Mo.